I haven’t put up any new book reviews lately, so it’s time to correct that. Here’s an overview of a few books I’ve read in the not so distant past:
“Ten Years Flying the F-105”
By: Randolph S. Reynolds
Independently published (2015)
This is a very readable and accessible book written by a retired F-105 Thunderchief pilot. It’s written in a straightforward and informative way that is free of bravado and has a minimum of unexplained jargon.
While the majority of books on the F-105 Thunderchief focus on the type’s use over Vietnam, the author himself flew them in that conflict, this book is a refreshing departure from that pattern as Reynolds has opted to put the focus of this work on his post Vietnam flying career in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command (AFRES) and the twilight years of the F-105’s service career. As such, the reader is given an insight into life and operations in a lesser covered branch of the U.S. Air Force and what F-105 operations were like on a daily basis outside of combat.
I can easily recommend this book to anyone with a general interest in the F-105 and what it was like to work around. The straightforward, no-nonsense style of writing is informative and not at all esoteric or alienating in feel.
If you’re looking for thrills and edge-of-your-seat reading, this isn’t your book. If you want to know what living and working around the mighty F-105 Thunderchief in peacetime was like, you should enjoy it.
“Out of the Blue”
Edited by: Ian Cowie, Dim Jones and Chris Long
Halldale Media Group (2011)
This is the first of a two book set of flying stories and memoirs of Royal Air Force members from their service careers. The compilation covers a wide time period from just after the Second World War to the end of the Cold War.
This is a very well edited compilation of stories that keeps the focus on living and working around the various aircraft. All the tales take place in the squad rooms, hangars,flightlines or cockpits. There are, thankfully, no stories of off duty alcohol induced misadventures or skirt chasing to be found in this book.
These are all proper flying stories in the truest sense. The historical width and breadth this book covers ensures that the reader gets a good taste of how life in the RAF changed over the years and how the demands on pilots increased as the technology in aircraft increased as well.
As you might be able to tell, I very much recommend this book!
The book was published with the intent that the proceeds from sales would go to benefit the RAF Benevolent Fund and other British military veteran charities.
You can find it for purchase on the RAF Benevolent Fund website:
Out Of The Blue
“Out of the Blue Too”
Edited by: Ian Cowie, Dim Jones and Chris Long
Halldale Media Group (2014)
This is the follow up volume to “Out of the Blue”. As with the first book, it covers the post World War Two and Cold War years of the RAF quite well and gives a decent cross section of the different aircraft types and changes in life in the RAF through that period.
However, this book lacks a certain focus that the first one had. While the first one had solidly aircraft and active duty stories at the heart of it, several of the stories in this second volume seem only tenuously connected with either. Additionally, some of the stories in the second book go on a bit longer than necessary and could have benefited from a bit tighter editing.
Despite the shortcomings, I still recommend this one. As with the first volume, it was published with the intent that the proceeds from sales go to the RAF Benevolent Fund and other British military veteran charities.
It can be purchased through the RAF Benevolent Fund website:
Out of the Blue Too
“The Red Knight of Germany: The Story of Baron von Ricthofen”
By: Floyd Gibbons
Garden City Publishing (1927)
While certainly not a new book, this one will give you an insight into Manfred von Ricthofen that very few other books on the man could. It’s precisely because it was written and published less than a decade after the First World War ended that it can give such insights.
The author, Floyd Gibbons (1887-1939), worked as a war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Gibbons was known for a dramatic and detailed writing style, and it shows in this book. Having witnessed the conflict first hand and lived in a time when access to veterans of the conflict with still fresh memories could be found, Gibbons could write this book with an immediacy that later books on the subject lack.
Additionally, Gibbons had access to Ricthofen’s mother and the museum she had constructed in the family home in memory of her son after the conflict. The Ricthofen family home in Poland still stands today, but the museum was dismantled just prior to the Second World War and many parts of it’s collection went to other museums around the world or are still unaccounted for.
The book contains recollections of men who fought the Red Baron and lived to tell their tales as well as those of men who served alongside the man and remember him as a commander or squadron mate. Excerpts of his own letters home to his mother are also frequent in the book.
The book does get a little dry in places, but overall it gives anyone with an interest in the man or First World War air combat a rather unique perspective on both.
Towards the latter half of the 1950s, NATO identifed a need for a new long range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) to counter new seaborne threats that the Cold War was bringing with it into western European waters.
NATO produced a specification for such an aircraft in 1958 and out of 21 designs presented to fulfil it, the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic from France was unanimously selected the winner.
While French in origin, the Br.1150 would form the heart of a multi-national consortium known as SECBAT (Société d’Étude et de Construction de Breguet Atlantic) that when established in 1961 was initially made up of companies from Belgium, France, Netherlands and West Germany. Two companies from Italy would join the group in the late 1960s.
In the history of MPA development, the Atlantic holds the distinction of being the first such aircraft in the world designed for the purpose from the ground up. The aircraft was not of bomber or airliner ancestry as most aircraft in the MPA category tend to be.
The Atlantic was also significant in being the first mutinational aircraft project of it’s category and scale within NATO. As such, it carried with it the importance of showing that nations that had been combatants less than two decades prior had made peace and could cooperate.
Into Uniform and Further Development
The prototype Atlantic took to the air for the first time in October of 1961 with delivery of the first production standard machines, designated ATL.1, to French and West German navies commencing in 1965 and continuing until 1968.
At the outset of the program, only France and Germany had been interested in acquiring an actual aircraft for service; Belgian and Dutch interests centred on bringing work to their respective domestic aviation industries.
The Netherlands only showed interest in purchasing a fleet of Atlantics in 1968, just as the production line was about to be closed; Interest in the aircraft as an MPA for the Italian military was shown in the same time period. The combined interests of the two nations plus the desire of two Italian companies to join the SECBAT consortium was enough to keep the production line open until 1974 to produce a second batch of aircraft to the ATL.1 standard.
While the ATL.1 was designed with the intent to be used widely among NATO nations, only four member states ultimately used it. Outside of NATO, the only Atlantic user was Pakistan.
The Dutch used a fleet of nine Atlantics from 1969 to 1984 and eventually sold six of the aircraft back to France in that period. Subsequently, France refurbished three of the former Dutch aircraft and sold them on to Pakistan in 1976. The choice to retire the Dutch Atlantics and replace them with the Lockheed P-3 Orion stemmed from a series of three crashes in the late 1970s and early 1980s that were attributable to elevator control linkage problems and ongoing corrosion issues.
In the late 1970s, France proposed and updated variation of the Atlantic. The new aircraft, eventually designated ATL.2, took the basic ATL.1 design and added a revised tail fin and a completely updated sensor and avionics suite.
The ATL.2 first flew in 1981 and production started in 1984. The first ATL.2 was delivered to the French navy in 1989 and a total of 28 were built. Germany gave some consideration to purchasing the ATL.2 in the early 1990s, but ultimately opted to purchase used Dutch P-3 Orions in 2004 instead. As such, the ATL.2 is used exclusively by France though some technology from it was used to upgrade the Italian ATL.1 fleet.
In the 1990s a third generation of the Atlantic, the ATL.3, was proposed. It included a modern flight deck, new engines and new propellors among other upgrades. The ATL.3 failed to generate much interest and it was cancelled by 2005.
The Atlantic in Action
While a maritime patrol and anti-shipping platform by design, the Atlantic has taken turns as a transport, bomber, electronic intelligence platform and airborne command post in it’s lifetime.
During the early stages of Opération Épervier, an operation which lasted from 1986 to 2014 and was initially put into action by France to counter Lybian military incursions in to Chad, a French navy Atlantic fitted for intelligence gathering was used as an airborne command post. In that capacity, the aircraft was able to intercept and rapidly decode Libyan military signals and accurately guide actions against them.
Through the 1990s, German navy Atlantics fitted for intelligence gathering were used to monitor communications and enforce the United Nations embargo against Yugoslavia.
During the closing stages of the Kosovo War, which lasted from February of 1998 to June of 1999, Atlantics of both the French and German navies were used for surveillance flights over the area of battle.
A smaller battle in 1999 was the Kargil War between India and Pakistan that lasted from May to July of that year. Approximately a month after the war had ended, a Pakistani navy Atlantic strayed into Indian airspace and was subsequently intercepted and shot down by a pair of Indian MiG-21 fighters.
The crash of Air France Flight 447 in June of 2009 brought the Atlantic’s MPA role to the fore when France dispatched several of the aircraft to fly from Dakar, Senegal to aid in the search for the wreckage of the Airbus A330 involved.
Since early 2013, French navy ATL.2 aircraft have been involved in the international effort to fight Islamic militant groups in both Africa and the Middle East.
Opération Serval, which lasted from December 2012 to July 2014, was initiated to stop Islamic militants in Mali from taking the capital of the country and overthrowing the government. The Atlantic’s roles in that operation included intelligence gathering, surveillance and dropping laser guided bombs.
At the time of writing this Blog piece, French Atlantics are part of Opération Chammal. This operation, which was initiated in September of 2014, is the French contribution to the ongoing international effort to fight Islamic State (IS) actions in Iraq and Syria. As the operation has progressed, the Atlantics have been primarily tasked with air strike and long range reconnaissance duties.
The Atlantic Today and Learning More
In French naval service, the ATL.2 is projected to serve into the 2030s. However, the ATL.1 is largely a museum piece as of 2016.
Although Italy is the only user of the ATL.1 which continues to fly the type, they are in the process of replacing it with an MPA version of the French-Italian developed ATR-72 commuter airliner.
Germany retired the last of their Atlantics in 2010 and Pakistan followed suit in 2012. Both nations replaced their Atlantics with the Lockheed P-3 Orion.
The following link will take you to the Dassault Aviation website and information on the origins of the Atlantic. Dassault acquired the Atlantic through a merger with Breguet in the 1970s:
This link will take you to a brief, but interesting summary of the Atlantic’s service in the Dutch navy:
While somewhat dated, this document gives a good overview of the entire Atlantic program including technical differences between the variants: