Viper Pilot – a memoir of air combat

Viper Pilot

A memoir of air combat


One of America’s Deadliest F-16 Aviators, U.S. Air Force Fighter Pilot Dan Hampton


 Published By HarperCollins Publishers, New York, N.Y.

Viper Pilot


AUTHOR: Dan Hampton

“A sharp, cold spear shot from my belly, through my chest, and I tried to swallow but couldn’t, I had just caught my first glimpse of the Elephant. Seeing the Elephant, a symbol of combat since Hannibal crossed the Alps, is looking death in the face. Your first real glimpse of your own mortality.”

The words that appear above are quoted from Dan Hampton’s book Viper Pilot, A memoir of combat, by “one of America’s Deadliest F-16 Aviators”. According to the book’s cover, and if you believe what Jack Broughton (USAF Retired), Dale Brown author, and retired Air Force Brigadier General David L. Moody, says Hampton is a courageous and consummate air warrior as well.

Dan was taught to fly by his dad who was a former Marine fighter / attack pilot, but he never pressured his son to fly. Actually young Dan went to college to become an architect. But as he said, that flying was just something they did. He said he remembered the first bit of flying advice his dad gave him: “If the trees are big pull back till you see blue.” followed shortly by, “pull up now or we’re going to die!”

Certainly, we are all influenced by advice we are given, things we hear and especially those things we read. Why else would I be writing a book review? You read book reviews, to determine if you desire to spend your money on a certain book or not. You inquire if the book is worth investing your time in reading it or not. This book is worth your time. It is instructive, informative and very interesting.  

First of all, we send our young men and women to a school we have created, to teach them to fly the most lethal and deadly Aircraft ever devised by man, then we send these young men and women to war, and tell them to kill without conscience, Bomb without hesitance and destroy without dread. We make them Sky-Warriors, Gladiators, if you will, we continue to tell them, over and over again, they are the best in the world, we convince them they must be aggressive to survive, then “WE” have the unmitigated gall to call them arrogant, cocky, egotistical or say they are “full of themselves”? Oh common give me a break!

A Fighter Pilot has got to develop the confidence to make a split second decision, a process to survive, one he cannot hesitate to second guess himself or he becomes dead real fast, especially in the business of U.S.A.F. Wild Weasel SAM hunters. Along with that comes a certain “swagger” and a perceived arrogance which is manifested because of confidence.    

Dan Hampton is one hell of a writer and can bring the excitement and emotion to the page. Yes, of course he has all the tools we have ask him to acquire as one of the best, because that is what it takes to be the best. He brings that swagger and confidence in his writing, but more than that he is telling his own story and the emotion of that story.

Dan Hampton Starts his book with an exciting prologue that grabs us buy the throat and won’t let go until the end of the book. No where does he lose the reader in a fog of boredom. In fact we are often gulping for breath as he sucks oxygen through his mask in the cockpit. The “G” force pins us to our chairs as we turn pages on and on. 

Hampton develops his characters well and paints the scenes with vivid colors upon the canvas without him having to try to prove his prowess of intellect or wordsmith ability.  

The reader is brought through the various jet training schools Mr. Hampton goes through and he explains the curriculum and the technical information just enough for the reader to understand but not so much the reader will get bored. Each chapter moves along right well, and the reader advanced with the author toward the ultimate goal of becoming an F-16 Fighter Pilot. Remembering if he “washes out” the reader also does. Therefore it becomes the reader’s adventure as well.

Becoming a Wild Weasel is becoming the best of the best, and the mission is vital to modern air warfare. It is also the most dangerous. The Weasels are the first into a war zone. Their job is to attract the attention of the Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) sites and get them to fire the missile and destroy them before getting shot down by the SAM.  

I like the way the author describes the flying sequences, he does a good job keeping the reader involved and buckled in the seat feeling the G’s and the sweaty seat, swinging his head around watching for the missiles and other aircraft, just like the pilot and the GIB would. (What would that make the reader, the GBGIB the guy behind the GIB?  (ya gotta read the book to understand that one?)  

Lt. Colonel Dan Hampton Flew the F-16 “Viper” led the first flight into the Iraq invasion of March 19, 2003 to strike Baghdad. He flew more the 150 combat missions during his twenty years in the USAF and has been decorated many times including the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross, and many other metals. Hampton has published many articles and Viper Pilot is the first of hopefully many books to come. I understand one is ready to be published and another following soon thereafter.

I predict Dan Hampton will become one of those names to added along side of Broughton, Brown, Moody, Berent, Broyhill, and Pettit (along with so many others).  

This book is well written. Dan Hampton has a good command for written presentation and the transition of his storyline. At no time does the reader get tangled in a web of staging a scene or building the characters. There’s no assumption of technical detail taken for granted but neither is there boring tedious uninteresting detail, indeed there is a balance of understanding which is grand for the reader.

I recommend this book for the aviator and aviation enthusiast. It is definitely a niche book, but that is not to say that someone with a little insight an imagination couldn’t enjoy it, they surely can because it is well written. I applaud William Morrow / Harper Collins Publishers for another great call.  

Book Review by, JR Hafer, aviation writer

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