A Marine pilot chafes under Lyndon Johnson's politically calculated limitations of the Vietnam air war. The author of DEFCON ONE (1989) flies again. Marine fighter pilot Brad Austin, temporarily attached to a carrier-based Navy F-4 Phantom group, has shown himself to be one of the best young fliers in the country. An Annapolis graduate, the son and grandson of Navy admirals, Austin joined the Marines to set himself apart from any hint of family influence in his career. Influence has no place in the day-to-day air battles over Hanoi and Haiphong, where Austin's first-class flying skill is all that matters. The young Marine's growing resentment of the White House's micromanagement of the war without military advice is set aside temporarily for a brief encounter in Hawaii with the beautiful daughter of an antiwar physician. Then it's back to the war, where Austin at last goes outside the rules in order to shoot down the Vietnamese ace who has terrorized the skies for years. All the highly placed relatives in the world may not be enough to save Austin's career. Hampered by instructional-film-style dialogue, Boy Scout romance, and stock characters, this collection of midair adventures will be of interest primarily to retired fliers.