Home Bookend - Where reading meets review Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, from the Red Baron to the F-16 by Dan Hampton

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

by Venky


An acclaimed “Viper” Pilot himself, Dan Hampton in this racy read provides a ringside view of the origin and continuing evolution of the Fighter Jet and the aviators handling them. From an era of piston powered lumbering but able winged wonders to the current day sleek killer machines, the Fighter has captured the imagination of both soldiers and scientists in equal measure. The superiority of a tactical airspace advantage, although evident by the end of the First World War, was only accorded its rightful place of honour during World War II. The formidable German Airforce, the ‘Luftwaffe’ ran absolute riot against a hapless combat force strung forth by the Allies. Innovative technology, ingenious methods of manufacture and the inordinately fortunate participation of the United States of America in the bloody War, ultimately tilted the scale of balance as the Luftwaffe was routed, trumped and literally shot out of the English, France and Russian skies.

Dan Hampton traces with wonderful eloquence the advent and origin of the fighter beginning with the exploits of the French Ace, Roland Garros flying a Morane Saulnier L. In a systematic manner, the author traces the development of the fighter aircraft in tandem with the emergence of aviation technology. Fokker Eindeckers, The Royal Aircraft Factory SE-5s; Sopwith Snipes; Polikarpov I-16s; Stukas; Messerschmidts; Spitfire MK 1s; MiGs; Mirages; and the F-16s all make resounding appearances. For the entranced reader, it is a virtual display of fly past by these powerful machines as they strafe the grounds of Berlin, Tokyo, Vietnam, Basra and Baghdad.

The highlight of the book however, is the description of the unbelievable exploits of some of the grand aces flying their toys. The merit of honour of the German Ace Hans-Ulrich Rudel runs like a riotous imagination right out of an adventure epic. Digest this:

Combat Missions: 2,350;
Kills: 519 tanks; 4 trains; 1 battleship, 2 cruisers; 1 destroyer, 800 miscellaneous vehicles and >150 artillery pieces:
Decorations: Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves

Hans-Joachim Marseiller arguably the greatest combat pilot ever since the Red Baron was an incorrigible playboy, who in addition to falling foul on a regular basis with his superiors shot down English planes for sheer fun. A stupendous record of 18 downed fighters in a mere 10 minutes stands unbroken and unparalleled! This Lord of the Sky was a mere 23 when a combat downed him and put him perennially to rest. He lies interred in the soil of Libya at Tobruk with a single philosophical and apt word adorning his tombstone, “Undefeated”.

This book by Hampton not only celebrates the lives of many an immortal soul that has sacrificed his/her (the case of the famous women squadron of the Russian fighters) life for the betterment of the world, but also demonstrates in precise detail the utter futility and purposelessness that is frequently resorted to by man to annihilate his fellow species.

“Lords Of The Sky” – Soars high on elegant wings!

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