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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.
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Viper Pilot again? Why?
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
What was one of the most memorable moments of Viper Pilot?
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.
What does John Pruden bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
GREAT narration! Pruden actually nailed ALL the acronyms, something you don't often hear in audiobooks. Made the listen MUCH more enjoyable.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
Please God, Tom Cruise isn't going to be in this, is he?
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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!
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
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!
6 of 7 people found this review helpful
I almost didn't pick this one because there were some mixed reviews. I'm sure glad I did as this was one of the better first-person accounts I've read. The author writes with such incredible detail that you feel as though you are in the cockpit next to him.
IMO this book serves a a lesson to today's generals as well. First- we succeeded in the gulf wars because we had trained to fight a super power (Russia). Also, in an era where many rear echelon generals are in charge of the military, and claiming that robot plains will replace fighter pilots and ground troops - we must never forget that wars will always be won through a combination of combat pilots AND infantry working towards a common objective.
The book was informative and entertaining and I'm certainly glad I selected it.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Viper Pilot in three words, what would they be?
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This is a great memoir. Lt. Col. Hampton writes with the suspense and drama of a fiction writer. The opening of the book has Hampton nearly out of gas, low on ammo and a sandstorm building; he is trying to help some marines being overrun on the ground. Then out of ammo and nearly bingo on fuel he heads for a tanker but cannot find it in the haze from the storm. Then Hampton leaves us hanging and tells the story of his military life and how he got to this point in the Iraqi war. At the end of the book he finally completes the opening story.
I learned about the role of the Wild Weasel Fighters. Hampton tells the history of the Weasels and the various planes modified for use hunting SAMs (surface to air missiles) over the years up to his last plane, the F-16 Fighting Falcon also called Viper. Col. Hampton also gave an overview of the modern Air Force, descriptions of the various schools he attended from pilot school to the prestigious Fighter Weapons School as well as a general overview of the Air Force.
The book is very well written. Hampton’s method of writing has the reader sitting in the cockpit with him. The reader can see, hear, feel and smell everything Hampton does. Hampton comes across as a typical macho fighter pilot, cocky, arrogant, irreverent and invincible. Hampton is one of the most decorated fighter pilots in the Air Force and that only adds to the story. Hampton writes great combat scenes. I agree with Hampton that there should be an ACE category for destroying SAMs, as more pilots are downed by SAMs than by other planes. John Pruden does a good job narrating the book.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
A friend of mine asked me if I had a copy of "Viper Pilot". Since my friend and I have similar taste in books, I thought that I would give it a try. I was hooked on this book. "Viper Pilot" is self written by Dan Hampton, who is a combat pilot during several wars, including Iraq. Lt. Col. Dan Hampton is such an excellent writer that I felt like one of his wingman in Wild Weasels in the Air Force. I will be passing this title along to my friend to borrow. "Viper Pilot" was so well written that I really thought that I was in the cockpit in the F-16, dogfighting in the air.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
loved it. really good to see the life of a viper pilot from his own eyes and experience.
At last I can get an early nights sleep. This is a real, Just 5 more minutes book.
Puts you in the cockpit, exciting stuff
Glad I'm English and not French, he doesn't like the French ha ha ha
A great insight into these brave and extremely talented pilots and the missions they undertook
A real pilot in a real world hell happily with talent and guts, fast paced
A truly great listen and insight into a world
Few enter a less leave amazing .... Enough said