151 combat missions
21 hard kills on surface-to-air-missile sites
Four Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor
One Purple Heart
Sure to rank as one of the greatest aviation memoirs ever written, Viper Pilot is an Air Force legend's thrilling eyewitness account of modern air warfare.
From 1986 to 2006, Lt. Col. Dan Hampton was a leading member of the Wild Weasels, the elite Air Force fighter squadrons whose mission is recognized as the most dangerous job in modern air combat. Weasels are the first planes sent into a war zone, flying deep behind enemy lines purposely seeking to draw fire from surface-to-air missiles and artillery. They must skillfully evade being shot down - and then return to destroy the threats, thereby making the skies safe for everyone else to follow. Today these vital missions are more hazardous than direct air-to-air engagement with enemy aircraft. Hampton's record number of strikes on high-value targets make him the most lethal F-16 Wild Weasel pilot in American history. This is his remarkable story.
Taught to fly at an early age by his father, Hampton logged twenty years and 608 combat hours in the world's most iconic fighter jet: the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", or "Viper" as its pilots call it. Hampton spearheaded the 2003 invasion of Iraq, leading the first flight of fighters over the border en route to strike Baghdad. In the war that followed, he engaged in a series of brilliantly executed missions that earned him three Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor; he notably saved a U.S. Marine unit from certain death by taking out the surrounding enemy forces near Nasiriyah. Two years earlier, on 9/11, Hampton's father was inside the Pentagon when it was attacked; with his dad's fate unknown, Hampton was scrambled into American skies and given the unprecedented orders to shoot down any unidentified aircraft. Hampton also flew critical missions in the first Gulf War, served on the Air Combat Command staff during the Kosovo War, and was injured in the 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist attack.
With manned missions rapidly giving way to remote-controlled UAV drones, Viper Pilot may be the last memoir by a true hero of the skies. Gripping and irreverently humorous, it is an unforgettable look into the closed world of fighter pilots and modern air combat.
©2012 Ascalon, LLC (P)2012 HarperCollinsPublishers
This is the type of Fast and Furious I can support. The Wild Weasles help the make life of ground forces a bit easier. Written in the first person, it draws you into the world of the fighter pilot. As I listened, my appreciation for this group of men grew and I was totally fascinated at what they are able in accomplish in mere seconds. I thought the narration was rock solid . So if fast paced books and first hand accounts are your thing, you will love this one!
After having read several reader reviews, I decided to give Viper Pilot a listen with some trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised. You have to accept Hampton's natural arrogance--he flew Lawn Darts and that's hardly a rare trait amongst that crowd. That said, he had an interesting career that anyone who flew fast jets can relate to. And if you just wish you'd had that privilege, you'll be left with a pretty good impression of what it's like to fly fighters in today's Air Force, both the good and the bad. If you like your books politically correct and giving the impression that everyone is wonderful--well, this is probably not going to be your cup of tea--but tell me if you get it so I can come watch your head explode! :-D
The account of launching out on an FCF only to have his (single) engine crap out shortly after takeoff and bring it back around to a safe landing within a couple of minutes takes longer to read than it actually took. This gives you a real appreciation of the kind of skill and knowledge it takes to strap on a modern fighter.
GREAT narration! Pruden actually nailed ALL the acronyms, something you don't often hear in audiobooks. Made the listen MUCH more enjoyable.
Please God, Tom Cruise isn't going to be in this, is he?
Middle aged; long University course (science based), and long service as a professional. Cynical and very interested in the real world.
I was transfixed by the detail and honesty in this book. The flying stories were wonderful and hair raising at times. This man is a true master of his art and his story needs revisiting... and revisiting.... an aviation classic!
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
The sheer brutal, cocky honesty that Hampton writes with is a breath of fresh air. I was expecting a murky, Pentagon-redacted, boring account of his adventures, but was I wrong! Hampton pretty much looks down on everyone that's not a fighter pilot, and yet this confident honesty sucks you right in. You see the world through his point of view, and you actually start "thinking like a fighter pilot".
This no-holds-barred account of a lesser known side of the military is not only fascinating, but exciting as hell. The air combat scenes are spectacular. There aren't many books out there, where the ex-military author truly speaks his mind, without giving a crap what others think, but this is one of them. Deserves 5 stars just for the mere fact that he bucked the trend and didn't write some politically-correct fluff piece about the Air Force.
Narrator is great.
I love the old WWII aircraft stories. Viper brings those stories into present time. I enjoyed the story and learning the differences between then and now. Some things are still the same, but not much.
This book kept me listening. The adrenaline filled battle engagements were described with incredible detail.
John Pruden’s narration rode the wave of emotion that Dan Hampton described.
I particularly appreciated the educational beginning that evolved into full blown combat.
Thank you Dan Hampton for your book but mostly for your service.
Dr. Jim Fox -- Former College Professor and Mental Health Therapist
This is a great book on what it is like. He tells the good and the bad. This is a short book and I unusually read Sci-Fi. But this was one of the most entertaining, honest and hard hitting books I have read (listen) to!
High school history and psychology teacher and coach
It's definitely full of action, and Hampton's career has been long and varied enough to provide a view from the cockpit in many different scenarios, from training, through Desert Storm and the "intermission" as he calls the time between the wars, through 9/11 to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It gives you a view to a lifestyle most of us will never see very closely.
As someone who worked alongside (I'm sure Hampton would say "under") the F-16 jocks out of Prince Sultan Airbase as a member of the Army medevac detachment in Operation Southern Watch, I can definitely say he nailed the voice of a fighter pilot, and he pronounced everything correctly, not to be taken from granted when acronyms and middle eastern locations are involved. His tone carries the right amount of arrogance and derision for non-fighter pilots to be a believable voice for the author.
I understand that separating a long military career from politics is difficult. But the editorializing became too frequent and a bit distracting. (If you're wondering, the author applauds George W. Bush's strong and resolute leadership in going to war, but badmouths Clinton's maintenance of the no-fly zones as an attempt to distract the public from his marital indiscretions, and his line of reasoning in how 9/11 led to OIF in the first place is an exercise in jingoism over logic.)
As these political asides begin to pile up, you start to wonder if this guy has a long-term beef with civilian control of the military, one of the basic tenets of US military policy from its inception. This can be seen in other military memoirs - the otherwise outstanding No Easy Day comes immediately to mind - and I know from experience that the "ours is not to question why" attitude is hard to maintain when it seems like your life and death are a political poker chip, but that's ultimately part of the job.
Overall? The action and the revelations are very, very good, but by the end of the book, you might not like the protagonist very much. I came away with great respect for his "particular set of skills," but not for his professionalism outside the cockpit.
I bought this one for my husband and I to listen to on a road trip---it did not disappoint me, and my husband (retired Naval Aviator, R & D pilot with 2 combat cruises to VN) smiled a lot during the listen---and I'm not sure if his expression was in recognition, admiration, or disbelief. For exciting descriptions of the aviator's experience as well as a look into the recent desert wars, this account works very well.
I have listened to this book twice and will probably will listen to it again.
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