A Memoir of Air Combat
By Dan Hampton
William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062130358, 336pp.
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
151 combat missions
21 hard kills on surface-to-air-missile sites
4 Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor
1 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 downand 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.
“Offers a gripping cockpit view of modern air combat ... Hampton is a vivid writer and an unabashed warrior. ... An outstanding work.”
-Booklist (starred review)
“Viper Pilot is an awesome adrenaline rush. If you love action packed modern day war stories then strap yourself in and get ready for a gut-wrenching, g-force defying thrill ride!”
-ALEX KERSHAW, New York Times bestselling author of THE FEW
“Viper Pilot is fantastic. Lt. Col. Dan Hampton offers a personal, irreverent, no-holds-barred look into the life of an Air Force fighter pilot. A great read!”
-DALE BROWN, former USAF Captain and New York Times bestselling author of A Time for Patriots
“Viper Pilot is an instant aviation classic. Dan Hampton’s thrilling portrayals of combat missions kept me glued to the story, and he has captured the essence of Wild Weasel fighter operations as no one has before.”
-BRIGADIER GENERAL DAVID L. MOODY (Retired USAF)
“Dan Hampton’s Viper Pilot truly impressed me--if you’re a combat vet, it’s sweaty palms again; if not, strap in and get ready. Filled with lots of action, here’s a real and up-close look at modern fighter combat, told straight from the cockpit.”
-COLONEL JACKSEL BROUGHTON (USAF, Ret.), recipient of the Air Force Cross for extraordinary heroism and author of Rupert Red Two: A Fighter Pilot's Life
“Hampton’s one of the most decorated pilots in Air Force history... we may never see his like again”
-New York Post
“A rare riveting memoir of a highly-decorated fighter pilot that’s packed with grit, swagger-and great humor. Do not miss this one!”
-W.E.B. GRIFFIN & WILLIAM E. BUTTERWORTH IV, bestselling authors of The Spymasters and Empire and Honor