Readers of veteran aviation writer Boyne will know what to expect in this update of The Wild Blue (1998): an enthusiastic account of American air power, rich in personal anecdotes as well as descriptions of weaponry, battle action, political infighting and important air force figures, but light on criticism.
The author tells an impressive success story. Having hastily demobilized after 1945, America endowed the newly independent Air Force with aging World War II aircraft and weapons plus a share of a declining military budget. Its only abundant resource turned out to be talented leaders, but these proved critical as they guided their service through three great transformations, beginning with reliance on nuclear weapons to fend off the USSR’s overwhelming conventional forces. Stimulated by the frustrations of Vietnam, the Air Force transformed itself again by moving both backward, to develop conventional close-support aircraft, and forward, to the age of stealth, precision-guided munitions and high-tech reconnaissance. Prompted by experiences in Iraq, the Air Force has sped up its third transformation into an unbeatable force using cutting-edge information technology to integrate command, control, intelligence and surveillance. Boyne has no doubt the Air Force won the Cold War and may soon deliver weapons with enough precision to win battles without the aid of infantry. He make no secret of his love for his subject, reserving his disapproval for its enemies, from the Soviet Union, Ho Chi Minh and Saddam Hussein to any American leader aiming to cut the Air Force budget or restrain its freedom. Readers looking for stories of air combat will not be disappointed, but these occupy relatively few pages in a book packed with organizational, political and technical details.
Dedicated military buffs will appreciate this avalanche of information, but average readers may learn more about the Air Force than they want to know.