Clashes: Air Combat Over North Vietnam, 1965-1972
A retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran makes full use of recently declassified U.S. documents in this first comprehensive study of fighter combat over North Vietnam. His balanced, exhaustive coverage describes and analyzes both Air Force and Navy engagements with North Vietnamese MiGs while simultaneously discussing the SAM threat and U.S. countermeasures, laser-guided bombs, and U.S. attempts to counter the MiG threat with a variety of technologies. Accessible yet professional, Clashes is filled with valuable lessons that are as valid today as they were in the 1960s and 1970s. Some sixty-five photographs, tables, pie charts, maps, and diagrams of American and North Vietnamese formations and tactics are included. Beginning with the first air-to-air engagements of Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, Marshall Michel describes the initial American successes against the MiGs and the stunning turn of events in late 1967 when the North Vietnamese began shooting down more U.S. aircraft than they lost. He explains how in 1968, at the end of Rolling Thunder, the U.S. Air Force ignored problems with their tactics, formations, and missiles, while the U.S. Navy undertook a complete reassessment of its air-to-air operations and formed its famous Topgun course. The second part of the book, covering Operation Linebacker in 1972, examines the results of these two approaches and how the Navy scored heavily against the MiGs while the Air Force continued to suffer losses to MiG-21s. Michel offers extraordinary insights into events that led to this situation and the Air Force's efforts to reverse the trend. This combination of descriptions of actual dogfights with authoritative analysis of the tactics, pilot skills, high-level decision making, and shortcomings - more than 57 percent of U.S. air-to-air missiles malfunctioned and less than 13 percent scored a kill - will prove indispensable to everyone with an interest in an combat, the war in Vietnam, and Navy and Air Force aviation in general.
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