Red Eagles: America's Secret MiGs

Published: February 21st, 2012     
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Author: Steve Davies
Reviewed by: Ben Guenther - IPMS# 20101
ISBN #: 978-1-84603-970-6
Other Publication Information: 6.5” x 9.5” x 1.5”, 400 pages, 89 photos (5 B&W, 84 color), four appendixes, glossary and index
Price: $29.95
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

During the Vietnam War, it became apparent that the tactics used by American pilots were not working well. An effort was made to analyze all US vs. MiG engagements, which became known as the Red Baron reports. The study recommended that Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) was needed and, further, that the Air Force needed to give its fighter pilots realistic training with enemy aircraft or realistic substitutes. Aggressor squadrons were formed, assembled and put to use training and flying T-38s and F-5s to provide the Air Force fighter pilots DACT training. The Navy also formed TOPGUN as an Adversary training squadron to do this same training. The last part of the Red Baron recommendations did come about with the acquisition of MiG assets and American pilots to fly them in realistic training with CONSTANT PEG. The American pilots flew as members of the 4477th Test & Evaluation Flight and became known as the Red Eagles.

This is a revised 2nd edition, which came about from publishing the original work in 2008 when more pilots, maintainers, and others became willing to talk to the author about their roles and experiences during CONSTANT PEG. In addition, new declassified material came to the author's attention that helped correct a few errors in the first edition. 30,000 new words, five new chapters, and close to 50 new pages were added to this new edition to flesh out the details of acquiring the MiGs during HAVE DOUGHNUT, HAVE DRILL, and HAVE FERRY in the late 60s and how the Red Eagles and CONSTANT PEG came about in the mid to late 70s.

First and foremost, this is a book about people. The pilots and maintainers worked long hours, with little or no spare parts or training manuals, and put their lives on the line to give other American pilots a chance to fight against real MiGs in training that pushed man and equipment to the edge and beyond. The pilots describe the merits and faults of various aircraft that they flew - Mig-17s, Mig-21s and Mig-23s. The author conducted interviews with as many of the Red Eagle Bandits (pilots) as he could and it is reflected in their stories through this book. Because of that, it is rich in acronyms and fortunately has a glossary in the back for frequent referrals. During CONSTANT PEG's decade of training, 69 pilots, including Navy and Marine Corp pilots, flew 15,264 sorties and exposed in excess of 5,900 American aircrew, giving them skills they would need to face the enemy in real combat situations. While officially disbanded in 1988, it seems new pilots are flying Mig-29s and Su-27s to teach a new generation of American fighter pilots how to fight and survive in this new century.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in combat flying and Soviet aircraft. There are numerous stories, far too many to mention, but it is a book that will grab you and you will want to read from cover to cover. I want to thank IMPS/USA and Osprey Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.

  • Sample pages
    Sample pages

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