When two Navy F-14 Tomcats engaged and shot down two Sukhoi Su-22 jet fighters in 1981, they drew on experience and tactics that they had learned from a previous encounter with MiG jet fighters. The difference between the two encounters was that in the first, the enemy fighters were flown by American pilots assigned to a top secret squadron hidden at a remote airfield in the ultra-secret Tonopah Nuclear Test range, Nevada. In the second, the Sukhoi fighters were flown by Libyan pilots attempting to enforce Colonel Qadaffi's 'Line of Death' over the Gulf of Sidra.
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. Following underperformance in the Vietnam War, the USAF began to study MiGs in order to improve fighter pilot training. This then developed into the "black" Constant Peg program. In this program, MiGs were secretly acquired, and made airworthy, a difficult task without manuals or parts. A secret base was found to operate the planes from; and then ace pilots were found and trained to not only fly the assets, but fly them as they were flown by America's enemies. Finally, a program of exposing American fighter pilots to the MiGs was developed. In all, more than 1,600 American fighter pilots would train against America's secret MiGs between 1974 and 1989.
Uncovering the story of the secret MiGs in America during the Cold War, and specifically Constant Peg and the 4477th Test & Evaluation Squadron, is a challenge because much of the information has been destroyed, or remains classified. To piece together the story of this group of men who provided America's fighter pilots with a level of training that was the stuff of dreams, author Steve Davies has interviewed over thirty of the Red Eagle pilots, along with other members of the squadron. This paperback edition includes new material on HAVE IDEA and other HAVE programs; making the MiGs airworthy in 1977 from the maintainers' perspective; and the intelligence activities of MiG expert at the Foreign Technology Division Mike Coyle. The result is a fascinating glimpse into a "black" program that enabled American fighter pilots to go into combat having already met and defeated their first MiG.
Hardcover edition ISBN: 9781846033780.
About the Author
Steve Davies is a freelance aviation journalist and photographer living in Cambridge, England. He is the author of F-15E Units in Combat 1991-2005 (Osprey), F-15C Units in Combat (Osprey), F-15C/E Units in OIF (Osprey), F-15E Strike Eagle: All Weather Attack Aircraft (Airlife), and F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle: Combat Legends (Airlife). He is also a regular contributor to the aviation press including International Air Power Review, Combat Aircraft, Air Forces Monthly, Aircraft Illustrated and Air Pictorial.
"Davies' Red Eagles is a fitting tribute to [the pilots who died flying the Mi-Gs], and to all those who flew and supported the MiG training effort. His is a wonderful tale, superbly told, unveiling one of the last great unknown cold war stories." -Richard P Hallion, Air & Space (March 2009)
"...a notable achievement ... a powerful survey." -California Bookwatch, November 2008
"...the book benefits from recently declassified information. ...[The stories of] over 30 pilots and crewmen that participated in the unit ... makes [for] an interesting read." - Air Classics
"Every once in a while, one runs across a book that simply sucks one into the story from page one until the end of the book. This is one of those ... So good is this book that if you buy only two or three aviation books a year, this one needs to be one of those." -Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com (October 2008)
"This is an engaging combination of an adventure story and a case study in military reform...Davies' 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."- Publishers Weekly (July 2008)