In the 1960s, the US Air Force lacked both the equipment and properly trained pilots to assure air superiority because the Tactical Air Command (TAC) had become little more than a handmaiden to the Strategic Air Command (SAC). TAC focused primarily on the interdiction of enemy bombers and virtually ignored its other responsibilities, such as providing close support of ground troops with conventional weapons and the interdiction of enemy fighters over the battlefield. Its aircraft were designed to fly at supersonic speeds and shoot long-range, radar-guided missiles at large, lumbering bombers and not to engage in dog fights with highly maneuverable MiGs. Its premier fighter, the F-4 Phantom, lacked an internal cannon that was so crucial to the accomplishment of TAC's mission, and its pilot training programs were ill-suited for the air war over Southeast Asia. The arrival of surface-to-air-missiles in North Vietnam in 1965 also found the Air Force with neither the tactics nor the weapons needed to neutralize that threat. Hannah explains how TAC struggled through the war in Vietnam to emerge in the 1970s as the best-equipped and best-trained tactical air force in the world. He side-steps politics and inter-service rivalries to focus on the nuts and bolts of tactical air power. The result is a factual, informative account of how an air force loses its way and finds its mission again.
The book is published by Texas A&M University Press.