Book Review
From F-4 Phantom to A-10
From F-4 Phantom to A-10 Warthog Memoirs of a Cold War Fighter pilot
  • move

by: Adie Roberts [ IN_WAR_AND_PEACE ]

Brief History

The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1961 with the Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it was also adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, and by the mid-1960s had become a major part of their air arms.

The Phantom is a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2. It can carry more than 18,000 pounds (8,400 kg) of weapons on nine external hard points, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. The F-4, like other interceptors of its time, was initially designed without an internal cannon. Later models incorporated an M61 Vulcan rotary cannon. Beginning in 1959, it set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record and an absolute altitude record.

The F-4 was used extensively during the Vietnam War. It served as the principal air superiority fighter for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps and became important in the ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance roles late in the war. During the Vietnam War, one U.S. Air Force pilot, two weapon systems officers (WSOs), one U.S. Navy pilot and one radar intercept officer (RIO) became aces by achieving five aerial kills against enemy fighter aircraft. The F-4 continued to form a major part of U.S. military airpower throughout the 1970s and 1980s, being gradually replaced by more modern aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon in the U.S. Air Force, the F-14 Tomcat in the U.S. Navy, and the F/A-18 Hornet in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat, twin turbofan engine, and straight wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic for the United States Air Force (USAF). It is commonly referred to by the nicknames "Warthog" or "Hog", although the A-10's official name comes from the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, a World War II fighter-bomber effective at attacking ground targets. The A-10 was designed for close air support (CAS) of friendly ground troops, attacking armoured vehicles and tanks, and providing quick-action support against enemy ground forces. It entered service in 1976 and is the only production-built aircraft that has served in the USAF that was designed solely for CAS. Its secondary mission is to provide forward air controller-airborne support, by directing other aircraft in attacks on ground targets. Aircraft used primarily in this role are designated OA-10.

The A-10 was intended to improve on the performance of the A-1 Skyraider and its lesser firepower. The A-10 was designed around the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon. Its airframe was designed for durability, with measures such as 1,200 pounds (540 kg) of titanium armour to protect the cockpit and aircraft systems, enabling it to absorb a significant amount of damage and continue flying. Its short take-off and landing capability permits operation from airstrips close to the front lines and its simple design enables maintenance with minimal facilities. The A-10 served in the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), the American led intervention against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, where the A-10 distinguished itself. The A-10 also participated in other conflicts such as in Grenada, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and against Islamic State in the Middle East.

The A-10A single-seat variant was the only version produced, though one pre-production airframe was modified into the YA-10B twin-seat prototype to test an all-weather night capable version. In 2005, a program was started to upgrade remaining A-10A aircraft to the A-10C configuration, with modern avionics for use with precision weaponry. The U.S. Air Force had stated the F-35 would replace the A-10 as it entered service, but this remains highly contentious within the USAF and in political circles. With a variety of upgrades and wing replacements, the A-10's service life can be extended to 2040; the service has no planned retirement date as of June 2017.


Acknowledgements vii
Forward ix
Nickel on the Grass: A Prologue xi
Introduction xiii
Chapter 1 Flight Training: Bug Smasher to Combat-Ready 1
Chapter 2 Getting There Was Half the Fun 27
Chapter 3 My Personal War: An Anti-Climax 46
Chapter 4 Squadron: The Fighter Jock’s Tribe 56
Chapter 5 The ‘Lucky Devils’ 68
Chapter 6 The Wonderful World of Instructing 97
Chapter 7 FWIC: The PhD in Fighter Aviation 105
Chapter 8 Death and Related Unpleasantries 119
Chapter 9 Iran: Training Fred’s Air Force 122
Chapter 10 Enter the Hog 133
Chapter 11 Dritte Staffel (Third Squadron) 178
Chapter 12 Berlin: Cold War Personified 191
Chapter 13 The Eureka Moment 203
Chapter 14 Paradise Regained: Back to the Weapons School 205
Chapter 15 The Staff Job: Fighter Pilot Purgatory 222
Chapter 16 The Overseas Fighter Wing 246
Chapter 17 Command and Senior Rank: Good News and Bad News 250
Chapter 18 Flying Safety is Paramount 253
Chapter 19 The Idyllic Cruise that Was not 265
Chapter 20 The Peace Divided 267
Chapter 21 Air Warrior: The Last Hurrah 269
Epilogue: Ode to the missing man
Appendix I: Glossary of Terms
Appendix II: Glossary of Referenced Aircraft
Appendix III: Chronology of Assignments
Appendix IV: Maps
Appendix V: Simplified Organisational Chart
Appendix VI: USAF Rank Structure
The book is a hardbacked glued spine with pagination of 310
Published by Pen & Sword
Author Colonel Steve Ladd USAF (Retired)

Colonel STEVE LADD, DFC, MSc, BSc was a career USAF officer fighter pilot and commander for 28 years. During his career, he amassed over 4,400 hours’ flying time, equally split between the F-4 Phantom and the A-10 Warthog. His Phantom credential includes over 400 hours (204 missions) of combat experience over North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Since retirement from the USAF, he has been employed as a CAA Aerodrome Inspector, Operations Director of Cardiff International Airport, Fast Jet Curriculum Development Lead for Ascent Flight Training, Ltd., and adjunct Professor of Aviation Science and Management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


Flight training: bug smasher to combat-ready
I entered the Air Force in March of 1967 as the Vietnam War was accelerating The Air Force having been limited to producing 1889 pilots in 1966 solar light bulb come on and frantically lobbied the Department of Defence for more training capacity to support the war effort. pilot production in 1967 was accelerated also to 3500 saturating the nine undergraduate pilot training bases in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia and the fodder assembly line went into high gear.

My road to an F4 cockpit began in 1966 my final year at USC whereas a student enrolled in the Air Force reserve officer training Corps (AFROTC) I was subjected to the torturous Air Force officer qualifying test (AFOQT) This unpleasant little detour from drinking beer and chasing sorority girls contained 526 test items divided into the following 13 subtests:

Quantitative Aptitude consists of items involving general mathematics arithmetic reasoning and interpretation of data presented in tables and graphs.
Verbal Aptitude consists of items involving, verbal analogies, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and understanding of the background of current events.
Officer Biographical Inventory consists of items pertaining to experiences, preferences, and personality characteristics related to measures of officer effectiveness.
Scale Reading consists of items in which readings are to be taken or various scales and gauges, many of them calling for exceptionally fine discriminations.
Aerial landmarks consist of pairs of photographs showing terrain as seen from different positions of an aircraft in flight. Landmarks indicated on one photograph or to be located on the other.
General Science consists of items pertaining to the basic principles of the Physical Sciences with an emphasis on physics.
Mechanical Information consists of items related to the understanding of mechanics and knowledge of the function or operation of mechanical devices.
Mechanical Principles consists of drawings of complex apparatus and requires the ability to determine the effects of prescribed operations of the apparatus.
Pilot biographical Inventory consists of items pertaining to background experiences and interests related to measures of success in pilot training.
Aviation Information consists of semi-technical items concerned with types of aircraft components of aircraft and operation of aircraft.
Visualisation of Manoeuvres consists of pictorial items calling for the identification of the attitude of an aircraft in flight after executing verbally specified manoeuvre.
Instalment Comprehension consists of items like the visualisation of manoeuvres except that the manoeuvres are specified by readings of a compass and artificial horizon.
Stick and Rudder Orientation consist of sets of photographs of terrain as seen from aircraft executing a manoeuvre the proper movements of the control stick and rudder bar to accomplish this manoeuvre are to be indicated.

Say what? Hell, I just wanted to climb into the cockpit and do my impression of John Wayne in the flying leathernecks. I could not imagine how all these terrifying trivia could possibly contribute to that goal. Nevertheless, filled with much trepidation I found my seat and leapt into the abyss. After five hours of scratching my head picking my nose and selecting multiple choice answers with my eyes closed, I walked out of the room secure in the knowledge that my future as a whale faeces researcher or are you roadkill collector was assured and reluctantly or perhaps not went back to the beer and the sorority girls.

Getting there was half the fun
As a fresh-faced Lieutenant and proud recent graduate of both undergraduate pilot training (UPT) and the F4 replacement training unit (RTU) I was savouring the delights of bachelorhood and anticipating the challenges of taking my Phantom to war. Between me and glory, however, were a couple of less satisfying events in the form of Air Force survival training courses.

The first of these was the UASF survival evasion resistance and escape course at Fairchild AFB in Washington find state and was designed to quit the combat aircrew to cope with the most fearsome scenario of all: being shot down over enemy territory and scooped up by angry little people who weren't at all delighted to host someone who had recently been dropping bombs on them Fate would have it that my completion of F-4 fighter training in Florida and subsequent reporting date in South Vietnam. Resulted in a survival training date of November 1968. This was poor planning on my part as winter temperatures in the Northwestern US would test the most robust of Arctic explorers. I was a mere apprentice fighter pilot adept at lounging in front of the television set at the USC's Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house with a cold beer and more recently basking in the balmy breezes of South Florida while learning to fly the ‘Phabulous Phantom’.

My personal war an anti-climax
I mentioned my father in a previous section of this book he was a quiet man intelligent and athletic with a dry wit that did not surface often but very modest. He was always my hero. (Dad served in the South Pacific during the Second World war as a navigator on a B24 Liberator. I didn't hold that against him, but we never missed an opportunity for a round of good-natured fighter pilot versus bomber navigator insults. It was during this tour but dad and his fellow crew members and to B-24 ironically named ‘Round Trip’ was shot down by a Japanese zero fighter and he spent a few idyllic days feasting on coconuts on a tiny uninhabited island until the good guys arrived to rescue them. Not many years later when the Korean War came along, he was there as well flying night interdiction missions in A-26 Intruders.

Fraternising with the enemy
On the 6th of September 1976, a twin-engine jet abruptly appeared out of the thick clouds near the Japanese city of Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaido. It was an enormous hulking grey aircraft emblazoned with the red styles of the Soviet Union on wing and tail. No one in the West had ever seen one before. The aircraft a MiG- 25P (NATO code name: Foxbat) touched down on Hakodate Airports runway, which unfortunately was not nearly long enough to accommodate its landing roll. The jet departed the runway end, ploughing onwards through the turf for hundreds of feet before finally coming to a stop near the airport perimeter. After the engines had wound down the pilot climbed out of his cockpit and fired two warning shots from his service pistol to warn off Japanese motorists who had been as you might expect taking pictures of this strange drama from the public highway just outside the airport perimeter. When police and airport officials finally reached him from the terminal the 29-year-old pilot Flight Lieutenant Victor Ivanovich Belenko of the Soviet air defence forces dropped his pistol raised his hands and announced that he wished to defect to the USA. Adhering scrupulously to international law and convention the Japanese government return the aircraft to the Russians but not until US intelligence operatives had pored over every plate and rivet and actually operated many of the aircraft's systems including the engines and avionics suites to determine just how good this super fighter really was. It turned out to be underwhelming in a number of important areas, thus mitigating to a large degree the insecurity surrounding Soviet aircraft capabilities within the Department of Defence the sleek and impressive MiG 25, delivered so dramatically to the West by Flight Lieutenant Belenko was subsequently shipped back to its rightful owners in 40 oversized containers.


This book from Pen & Sword Is more or less just a reading book rather than reference it does, however, contain several pictures showing different locations where Colonel Steve Ladd had either been based or had flown from. The book is a delight to read as he goes back through his life as a fighter pilot it takes many different twists and turns as he explains all the different things that he had to go through before he became a pilot. Some of the chapters nearly had me crying with laughter as he explains certain situations that he had got into I found it extremely difficult to put down when I started reading it he takes me almost on the same journey in my imagination, such is his ability through writing to get over his days as a Cold War fighter pilot. For anyone who is interested in the cold war, I am sure that you would certainly learn a lot about the Phantom and the warthog I highly recommend this book.
Highs: Such a good read and two of my most favourite aircraft the book just flows from chapter to chapter explaining his journey
Lows: Would have been better with a few more pictures especially of a certain defected pilot and his MiG-25P
Verdict: Seriously a fantastic read witty intelligently written but easy enough to read and enjoy
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 1526761246
  Suggested Retail: £25.00
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Nov 15, 2020
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Pen & Sword Books!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

View Vendor Homepage  |  More Reviews  

About Adie Roberts (In_War_and_Peace)

I am disabled after a terrorist bomb I have in the past made models for TV and film and work with local museums making new models for display. I also take on commission builds for people

Copyright ©2021 text by Adie Roberts [ IN_WAR_AND_PEACE ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Click image to enlarge
  • move
  • move
  • move