Lords of the Sky
Dan Hampton
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Buy *Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16* by Dan Hamptono nline

Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16
Dan Hampton
William Morrow Paperbacks
640 pages
June 2015
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Thousands of books have been written about air-to-air combat, books that cover the earliest air encounters over France in World War I to the jet-on-jet engagements of the wars of the latter half of the 20th and early 21st century. This book attempts to cover that entire history from the Red Baron to the F16--or so the title proclaims

As the main title states, Lords of the Sky takes a grandiose swipe at the entire history of air-to-air combat and badly misses on multiple fronts like an NBA basketball player missing both free throws.

The authorís writing style is sophomoric, thin, and one-dimensional. Perhaps that style (or lack thereof) is appropriate for his abbreviated after-flight reports, but for a lengthy book intended for public enjoyment, it quickly wears thin. It is like reading a bad batch of high school term papers.

In addition to the less then polished writing style are inaccuracies in historical facts. As an example, the author states that the Israeli Air force used the American F86 Sabre Jet. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) never flew the F86. Errors like that throw a dim light over the accuracy of all the other details that are discussed in this book.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this work is the omission of the single greatest air-to-air campaign ever waged in warfare. The book as positioned by the author is the history of fighter-on-fighter warfare. The key metric that determines the effectives of that type of combat is a number called the kill ratio (it sounds bloodthirsty, but we are discussing warfare). The kill ratio is how many enemy planes you shoot down versus how many you lose. As an example, the kill ratio for the U.S. Air Force over the North Koreans in the Korean War was approximately 12:1. In other words, the USAF shot down 12 North Korean planes for every plane the U.S lost. (As a footnote, that number is now wildly in dispute, and it is believed to be closer to 6:1).

During the 1982 Lebanon War, the Israelis had to take and maintain air superiority over the Syrians based in Lebanon, primarily in the Bekaa Valley. Using the first truly comprehensive command and control (many of the lessons were improved upon and later utilized by the USAF in the first Iraq war of 1991), the IAF highlighted the first effective use of drones, and via the skill and experience of their fighter pilots, the Israelis had a kill ratio of 82:0.

That is correct. They shot down 82 Syrian planes and did not lose a single aircraft: the highest ratio ever scored in an air engagement. The author never even references this historic achievement. Instead, Hampton describes an event of the 1973 Mideast War about an Israeli close air support plane (A4) and how it operated. This book is about air-to-air combat, right? His omission is like writing a book about the history of rock and roll and mentioning Paul McCartney as being the bass player for Wings and also a solo artist but never mentioning a small band called The Beatles.

Even if you try and ignore the lack of writing quality, dearth of accurate details, and the omission of key points of air-to-air history, you are left with a bandit on your six and in dire trouble. Take a pass on this book. It will be time and money well saved.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Mick Rosen, 2016

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