From the mid-1960s until the end of the Cold War, the United States Air Force acquired and flew Russian-made MiG jets, eventually creating a secret squadron dedicated to exposing American fighter pilots to enemy MiGs. In this program, MiGs were secretly acquired and made air-worthy, before selected ace pilots were trained to fly the assets as they were flown by America's enemies. This book tells the fascinating story of the Red Eagles, using recently declassified information and firsthand accounts from the pilots who took part in the program.
This is an engaging combination of an adventure story and a case study in military reform. The Vietnam War showed the U.S. Air Force's neglect of air-to-air combat training in the belief that it was outmoded by nuclear war. Repairing that damage required a training system using Soviet bloc planes as well as air-combat tactics. Davies, a freelance expert on military aviation, explores fresh sources to begin telling how the U.S. acquired the aircraft, put them into flying condition and established a top-secret program that gave generations of young pilots something approaching experience in the realities of dogfighting. Davies eloquently describes the forceful, colorful personalities at the sharp end of this high-risk maverick operation. The book provides a perceptive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of mid-generation Soviet MiGs that significantly expands understanding of the Arab-Israeli and Indo-Pakistan encounters involving those aircraft. Davies's major achievement is his demonstration of the Red Eagles' role in facilitating the USAF's development into a potent instrument of air supremacy that remains important even in the current era of antiterrorism.