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Book Review
F-105 vs MiG-17
USAF F-105 Thunderchief vs VPAF MiG-17 Vietnam 196568
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Conventional wisdom about the Vietnam air war is that the sophisticated F-105 was shot out of the air by the obsolescence MiG-17. In fact, F-105s killed more MiGs in the first 18 months of the Rolling Thunder campaign than the F-4 Phantom, achieving a kill-to-loss ratio against the Soviet fighter worthy of World War II pilots. This book details the clashes between the MiG-17 and F-105.
    Fully illustrated with stunning artwork, this book shows how these two aircraft, totally different in design and purpose, fought in a series of duels that cost both sides dearly.
Modelers and historians should be excited about USAF F-105 Thunderchief vs VPAF MiG-17 Vietnam 196568, a new book from Osprey Publishing LTD. It is the 95th title in the series Duel. Authored by Peter E. Davies and illustrated by Jim Laurier and Gareth Hector, the 80-page book is coded with Osprey's short code DUE 95 and ISBN 9781472830906. Formats available are paperback, ePub, and PDF.

Osprey introduces the book thus:
    The F-105D Thunderchief was originally designed as a low-altitude nuclear strike aircraft, but the outbreak of the Vietnam War led to it being used instead as the USAF's primary conventional striker against the exceptionally well-defended targets in North Vietnam and Laos. F-105 crews conducted long-distance missions from bases in Thailand, refuelling in flight several times and carrying heavy external bombloads.

    The MiG-17 was the lightweight, highly manoeuvrable defending fighter it encountered most often in 1965-68 during Operation Rolling Thunder. A development of the MiG-15, which shocked UN forces during the Korean War, its emphasis was on simplicity and ease of maintenance in potentially primitive conditions.

USAF's primary mission for the F-105 through Operation Rolling Thunder was that of a bomber. It suffered terrible losses to flak, surface-to-air missiles (SAM), and Vietnamese People's Air Force (VPAF) MiGs. I have been waiting for a detailed account of the F-105 fights with MiGs and was thrilled when this book was announced. Despite the legend of the F-105 air-to-air performance, it did acquit itself well. Time to see what the book reveals.

USAF F-105 Thunderchief vs VPAF MiG-17 is told through 80 pages of 10 chapters and subsections:
    Design and Development
    Technical Specifications
    The Strategic Situation
    The Combatants
    Statistics and Analysis
    Further Reading

The book is well organized and clearly written. It contains first-hand accounts. Two pilot profiles are included: USAF Col James H. Kasler; VPAF Capt Tranh Hanh.

Introduction and Chronology are only 5 pages although they contain information that set the stage, such as the MiG's extraordinary maneuverability, as documented during US Navy flight tests of a captured MiG-17. Design and Development is eight pages, including images.

Next, Technical Specifications of the MiG-17 and F-105 are examined through 12 pages. It explains the shortcomings of the early heat-seeking air-to-sir missiles, gun sights and radars, physical manufacturing characteristics, particular design qualities, air-to-air cannons and other weapons, among other topics. America's M61 20mm Vulcan cannon is an awesome weapon and the author details just how amazing it is, as well as its problems over Vietnam. F-105 did occasionally carry heat-seeking missiles for defense against MiGs, and Col "Jack" Broughton recalled:
    We were always short of Sidewinders. If we had them, we loaded them. They were always nice to have in case you got on a MiG and had tome to set up the switches to get the missile ready to fire.

The Strategic Situation sets up the air war through seven pages. The Combatants examines at the difference between USAF and VPAF pilots, including training and "ramping up." There was also a difference between the first groups of F-105 pilots and their replacements. This chapter recounts kills and claims by various pilots, including dates and aircraft numbers.

Fourteen pages later the subject is the arena of Combat. This chapter chronicles that while F-105s tried to avoid VPAF fighters, F-105s occasionally transitioned from the hunted to the hunter, paradoxically aggressively hunted MiGs and even engaged in some lengthy yank-and-bank dogfights. It reinforces that the complex procedure of switching from air-to-ground to air-to-air lost potential kills, even against MiG-21s. And despite those complexities or gun sight failures, some F-105 pilots used good old "windage and elevation" to gun down their MiG.

Statistics and Analysis summarizes and also expands upon the previous 71 pages of information. The author sums up the overall kill and loss statistics for the F-105 which, despite its sophistication and power, suffered horrific losses to MiGs, flak, and SAMs. The MiG-17 was a threat but did not down as many F-105s as one might believe. Yet this chapter recounts that from June 1966 to December 1967, F-105s out-killed MiGs more than 5-to-4 over F-4s, achieving better than a 4-to-1 kill ratio against the MiG-17. Not bad for a bomber!

Well written as the book is, I found two typos. One cites dates out of order, e.g., "1965 to 1958." The other is a nuance - referring to a high-scoring MiG pilot as a "MiG killer."

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Osprey supports the text with an excellent gallery of photographs and artwork. Plenty of photographs are color. Plenty are from Vietnamese sources. Modelers will find some choice subjects such as looking through a MiG rear fuselage of a VPAF airframe/powerplant technician working inside the fuselage, between Frame 14 and Frame 28. Both MiGs and F-105s had gun cameras and there are combat stills from both sides.

Artists Jim Laurier and Gareth Hector created more than a dozen unique illustrations:
    1. 3-view: F-105D Thunderchief, 44th TFS/388th TFW, used to kill a MiG in May, 1967.

    2. 3-view: Shenyang J-5 (MiG-17F) "Red 3012", 923rd FR, Kep air base, 1968.

    3. QRC-160A ECM Pod: primary electronic countermeasures pod used by F-105.

    4. AIM-9B Sidewinders: the rare F-105 twin Sidewinder mount.

    5. F-105D/F Cannon: profile cut-away showing the M61A1 "Gatling gun."

    6. MiG-17F Cannon: planform cut-away showing the 37mm Nudel'man N-37D and Nudel'man-Richter NR-23 cannons.

    7. M61A1 cannon: USAF black-and-white illustration, keyed to 19 components.

    8. M61A1 belted ammunition: USAF black-and-white illustration.

    9. Map: Railway and Bridge targets, Operation Rolling Thunder.

    10. Map: Air bases: USAF and VPAF.

    11. F-105D Cockpit keyed to 71 components.

    12. MiG-17F Cockpit keyed to 54 components.

    13. Combat centerfold depicting MiG pilot Vo Van Man shooting down 1Lt Diamond during a 15-minute dogfight.

    14. Engaging the Enemy: pilot-view cockpit scene of a MiG-17 firing upon an F-105, with a narrative.

    15. Diagram MiG-17 formation.

    16. Diagram High-speed yo-yo and Low-speed yo-yo: F-105 tactics compensating for the MiG's greater maneuverability.

USAF F-105 Thunderchief vs VPAF MiG-17 is another fascinating book from Osprey. It fills in gaps and answers questions presumably not covered in four other F-105/MiG-17 titles from Osprey. It was easy and absorbing to read. The two typos are minor.

Whether one is oriented towards models or history, I think this book should be a prize for your air war and Vietnam War bookshelf. It is full of excellent information supported by an excellent gallery of photographs and artwork. Recommended.

Please remember to mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this product here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: Full of excellent information supported by an excellent gallery of photographs and artwork.
Lows: Two minor typos.
Verdict: Whether one is oriented towards models or history, I think this book should be a prize for your air war and Vietnam War bookshelf.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: DUE 95, 9781472830
  PUBLISHED: Sep 25, 2019

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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