Former Air Force officer Wilcox (Wings of Fury, 1997, etc.) depicts the aerial teamwork and harrowing exploits of the Navy’s Black Aces squadron during the 1999 air war over Kosovo.
Fighter pilots in modern warfare need tactical savvy as well as bravery, the author reminds us in this insider’s account. Interviewing pilots aboard the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt as the Kosovo conflict was winding down, he learned that many of the Navy’s young pilots began their tour without the type of combat experience necessary to face the sophisticated armaments of an ex-Soviet bloc country. According to Wilcox, this lack of experience confronted the Black Aces with two initial problems: young pilots failed to use their equipment properly in the heat of battle, and naval planners had no effective plan for engaging Serbian ground combat forces. His interviews clearly chronicle how the pilots quickly developed techniques for dodging surface-to-air missiles while simultaneously raining smart bombs upon strategic Serbian command posts. The narrative also captures the naval officers’ innovative solution for acquiring timely intelligence about well-camouflaged and highly mobile ground forces: right before an air strike, they sent out dangerous low-altitude missions with state-of-the-art imaging systems. As interesting as the author makes the Kosovo air campaign’s history sound, he grips the reader most with his portrayal of the close-knit community of fighter pilots. By the time Wilcox describes the Black Aces’ successful decimation of enemy armored columns at the campaign’s end, he has transformed the aviators from Top Gun clones into brave individuals overcoming tremendous challenges.
Action-packed descriptions of modern air combat combined with detailed tactical analysis: an intriguing account for general readers as well as valuable for military specialists.