Into the wild blue yonder with Clancy as a knowledgeable, even solicitous, escort. As he did in earlier disquisitions on the silent service (Submarine, 1993) and armored cavalry, the author of bestselling technothrillers offers a detailed handbook on one of America's nonpareil military units. Before getting down to brass tacks on the outfit in question (the Air Force's 366th Composite Wing), however, he provides a detailed survey of air power from the time a venturesome Italian pilot first bombed Libyan rebels in 1912 down to the Star Wars present. His crash course encompasses aerodynamics, airframes, avionics, ordnance, power plants, radar, sensors, and a host of allied subjects. He assesses the flying machines themselves and covers guidance systems that make smart bombs of general-purpose munitions, electronic countermeasures, antiradiation missiles, and tomorrow's hardware. In the final third of his informed text, Clancy profiles the 366th, an elite group based in Mountain Home, Idaho, which combines tactical fighters, B1-B bombers, and logistical aircraft in a single self-contained wing that can be rapidly deployed to combat zones or trouble spots in the furthest reaches of the world. Having reviewed the 366th's history (which dates back to WW II's European theater) and current operations, he follows the so-called Gunfighters as they participate in a brutally realistic exercise at Nevada's Nellis AFB in 1994. For a crowd-pleasing windup, Clancy calls on his considerable skills as a novelist to deliver a vividly plausible account of how the 366th might be employed during a potentially explosive crisis in Southeast Asia circa 2000. Complete with a wealth of line drawings, maps, and photos, verbatim interviews with top Air Force officers, and cogent explanations of high-tech hardware and latter-day doctrine, a most attractive package for armchair air marshals or taxpayers interested in what sort of bangs they're getting for their aviation bucks.