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Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat Hardcover – October 2, 2012
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*Starred Review* This autobiography of a retired USAF F-16 pilot will remind seasoned readers of Jack Broughton’s classic Thud Ridge (1969). It certainly offers the same gripping cockpit view of modern air combat, in this case over Iraq in two wars and patrolling U.S. skies after 9/11. Hampton recounts his training as a pilot, then his selection for F-16s—officially the Fighting Falcon but known in the USAF as the Viper—and finally his training for the most demanding flying done in the F-16, the Wild Weasel missions. These missions are dedicated to the neutralization or, preferably, destruction of enemy air defenses and date back to the first encounters with SAMs, in the Vietnam War. As the radars and missiles on the ground have improved, so have the technology and skills of the Wild Weasel pilots, who must keep themselves and their comrades alive in an air full of high-tech hostility. Hampton is a vivid writer and an unabashed warrior, and, like most such, he has doubts about the future of American armed forces if they are to be commanded by men who are neither warriors themselves nor particularly empathetic toward those who are. An outstanding work. --Roland Green
“A rare riveting memoir of a highly decorated fighter pilot that’s packed with grit, swagger, and great humor. Do not miss this one!” (W.E.B. GRIFFIN & WILLIAM E. BUTTERWORTH IV)
“Hampton’s one of the most decorated pilots in Air Force history. ... We may never see his like again.” (New York Post)
“Offers a gripping cockpit view of modern air combat ... Hampton is a vivid writer and an unabashed warrior. ... An outstanding work.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Viper Pilot is an awesome adrenaline rush. If you love action packed modern day war stories then strap yourself in and get ready for a gut-wrenching, g-force defying thrill ride!” (ALEX KERSHAW, bestselling author of The Liberator and The Few)
“Viper Pilot is fantastic. Lt. Col. Dan Hampton offers a personal, irreverent, no-holds-barred look into the life of an Air Force fighter pilot. A great read!” (DALE BROWN, former USAF Captain and New York Times bestselling author of A Time for Patriots)
“Viper Pilot is an instant aviation classic. Dan Hampton’s thrilling portrayals of combat missions kept me glued to the story, and he has captured the essence of Wild Weasel fighter operations as no one has before.” (BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID L. MOODY (Retired USAF))
“Dan Hampton’s Viper Pilot truly impressed me--if you’re a combat vet, it’s sweaty palms again; if not, strap in and get ready. Filled with lots of action, here’s a real and up-close look at modern fighter combat, told straight from the cockpit.” (COLONEL JACKSEL BROUGHTON (USAF, Ret.), recipient of the Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism and author of Rupert Red Two: A Fighter Pilot's Life)
“Dramatic. ... Viper Pilot delivers 300 pages of aviation fireworks.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“The best air combat memoir I have ever read... An incredible look into the unique culture of Wild Weasels.” (Tyler Rogoway, Foxtrot Alpha, a Gawker Media site)
Top customer reviews
Hampton can also write. He takes you into his mind as well as the cockpit, strapped down and festooned with gear, for a strenuous eight-hour ordeal with five mid-air refuelings, attacking ground targets and dodging ground-based missiles: just one mission of many. He doesn't pretend he is fearless; he forces himself against all instinct to act as though he is. In one instance he admits that despite his cockiness his breathing matches his pulse rate
A few prior reviews have criticized the writer for arrogance. Not so. Machismo, yes. His book knocks non-pilots, other pilots, foreign pilots. As an ex-fighter pilot in the RAF I'd say that's how fighter pilots are, and you're supposed to get it.Still, he knows he and his comrades are insufferable. In an episode in the Officers' Club between missions, charged with "testosterone, adrenaline, and alcohol," he portrays himself as a jerk who gets dressed down by a more senior, battle-hardened fighter pilot.
So if you can sink yourself into this book you will have an experience. But don't expect Lt. Colonel Hampton, the USAF's most decorated F16 pilot -- with twenty years' service, 151 combat missions in Iraq, Kosovo, and the first Gulf War, 21 kills, 12 medals, and a Purple Heart, to be a shrinking violet.
Having experienced combat at a much closer range, i.e. 100 yds. 24/7 vs 5000 ft. at 500 mph, for 2 hrs. I take exception to a number of his egotistical statements regarding fighter pilots compaired to us lesser beings. But one statement I take very personally is his assumtion that in no other human endeavor, except for being a fighter pilot, would another human willing give up his life to save his brother. There are HEROES through all of the services and all the wars we have fought that have without hesitation done excatly that. Some have been rewarded with medals and others have gone unrecognized. The United States Air Forces is, without doubt, the best in the world and I can truthfully say they saved our butts on several occasions, however I would ask Col. Hampton when was the last time fighter pilots secured, defended, and held their own airfield. The Col. might want to reflect on the cost and sacrifes made to secure the real estate he and his Prima Donnas set their arrs down on! Semper FI, Kenneth Meier USMC Korea 1951.
If I had one criticism it would be how the depictions of various strike missions tend to blur together. When you are reading your fourth or fifth description of an air-to-ground strike on a surface-to-air missile site, it's nigh impossible for the average reader to keep track of what's north, south, east and west, up, down, who's inverted and who's not. I am not sure how to correct this flaw except to dial back on the (in some cases) excruciating level of detail.
A wonderful experience for anyone wanting to know what goes on inside the canopy of these super airmen.