Book Review: Red Eagles

Message posted by Theran Davis on July 13, 2010 at 18:28:26 PST:

If you haven't read the book "Red Eagles: America's Secret MiGs" by Steve Davies, you need to. I just finished reading it, and it is a FASCINATING look at the MiG fighters that were secretly acquired by the Air Force and flown from Groom Lake and TTR in the '70s and '80s.

The book touches briefly on the "acquired" MiGs that were flown by the Red Hats out of Groom, but spends most of the time detailing the operations afterward, when the planes were flown out of TTR by the Red Eagles, against other Air Force and Navy fighters for training. I had no idea of the extent of these operations...thousands of sorties, dozens of aircraft (literally!), and years of participating in Red Flags. It spends a lot of time talking about the details of the various MiGs, as well as the individual pilots who flew them, but I think the really interesting parts of the book are when it talks about how the Red Eagles interacted with their counterparts at Groom and how the TTR facility grew from a bunch of trailers to the base we know today (there's a great aerial photo of Tonopah before construction for the stealth fighters started). The stories about the MiGs were used as a cover story for the stealth fighters are very revealing! It also details how the MiG operations were probably the biggest secret that every American fighter pilot knew about, with literally hundreds of them actually flying against genuine MiGs over the years.

We've all heard about the secret MiGs at Area 51, but this book tells the story, and also tells you it was much MUCH more than a few test pilots flying a couple of stolen aircraft! Peter Merlin is one of the people interviewed by the author for the book, but the majority of the narrative comes from experiences from actual Air Force MiG pilots from the 4477th TEF. (It even tells you the origin of the number 4477, which is pretty interesting.) It gives you a whole new perspective about the Aggressor squadrons in those early years of Red Flag!

The book is out of print, but there are plenty of used copies to be found on the internet. It's definitely worth it!



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