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Vipers in the Storm: Diary of a Gulf War Fighter Pilot


During Operation Desert Storm, Captain Keith Rosenkranz piloted his F-16 "Viper" in 30 combat missions. Here he recounts these experiences in searing, "you-are-there" detail, giving readers one of the most riveting depictions ever written of man and machine at war.
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Vipers in the Storm: Diary of a Gulf War Fighter Pilot

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During Operation Desert Storm, Captain Keith Rosenkranz piloted his F-16 "Viper" in 30 combat missions. Here he recounts these experiences in searing, "you-are-there" detail, giving readers one of the most riveting depictions ever written of man and machine at war.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Air operations in the Gulf War of 1990-1991 have most frequently been either the subject of theoretical analysis or presented from a cockpit perspective. This first-rate memoir bridges the gap, telling the story of life in a front-line squadron while integrating a first-person account into the wider contexts of modern air warfare. Rosenkranz was a captain flying Vipers, F-16 fighters, out of Al Minhad, Saudi Arabia. He takes his readers through the autumn buildup; his own questions about what it meant to kill people; the importance of mail from home; the constant waiting for a call that finally came on the night of January 18, 1991. He conveys the irony of men trained for years in air-to-air combat being committed to ground strikes--the most dangerous kind of mission for an F-16. Rosenkranz flew against Baghdad, against Iraqi troops and tanks before the ground war started, and against the fugitives fleeing from Kuwait City along "Hell's Highway." He emphasizes the synergy of modern electronics and human skills required when seeking out small targets while running a gauntlet of anti-aircraft fire. He also establishes beyond question that, talk of "smart weapons" to the contrary, his was not a "technowar" of smoothly pushed buttons. Bombs failed to explode. Target information was incomplete. The sky remained unforgiving of mistakes. Rosenkranz accepted the legitimacy of America's commitment in the Gulf, but neither he nor his squadron mates were happy warriors. They were professionals who wanted to do their jobs and go home alive--in that order. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Rosenkranz gives a personal account of his career as a pilot of the F-16 fighter plane (nicknamed the "Viper") and his experiences in combat during Operation Desert Storm. Rosenkranz begins his story with a training exercise in the US that is interrupted with news of the Iraqi buildup along Kuwait's border. From there, the story escalates as rumors of his unit's possible deployment are heard. Rosenkranz deftly tells of his own mixed feelings about possible combat-on one hand, excitement, as this is the mission he has been training for, on the other hand, apprehension about leaving his wife and twin infant daughters. Interjected into the narrative is a thumbnail history of the nation of Iraq, the Iran-Iraq war, and the regime of Saddam Hussein, which provides invaluable background for the story (and for more current events). Rosenkranz offers a near-epic account of the flight of his unit (it took 17 hours and 10 aerial refuelings) to their station in the United Arab Emirates. The tale's high point, however, is not the combat itself, but rather the anticipation of combat as President Bush and the UN coalition drew the line in the sand and waited for Iraq to back down. Rosenkranz describes with insight and clarity the feelings of men who have been trained to fight a war but have never done so, and the intense feelings that built up among the air crews as they sat in the hot desert waiting for war. Despite the surprisingly clichéd accounts of aerial combat (which sound like they're straight out of Top Gun), Rosenkranz (who works today as a commercial pilot) paints a vivid picture of an airman's service in the last Gulf war. Former secretary of defense Dick Cheney contributes aforeword. (25 illustrations, not seen) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071400404
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/28/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 325
  • Sales rank: 587,474
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Captain Keith Rosenkranz was a top-rated flight instructor and, subsequently, Top Gun in F-16 fighter training. He served in South Korea and then flew 30 combat missions—the bulk of them at night—during the Gulf War. Rosenkranz scored ten maverick missle kills on the infamous "Highway of Death." He was awarded four Air Medals and two Aerial Achievement Medals. He is currently a pilot for a major airline and lives with his family in Texas. His e-mail address is ROSEYF16@GMAIL.COM. For more information about this book, visit

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Table of Contents

Foreword viii
Chapter 1 Green Flag 1
Chapter 2 Oil and War 8
Chapter 3 Viper 13
Chapter 4 The Storm Gathers 25
Chapter 5 Waiting for Saddam 30
Chapter 6 First Leg 37
Chapter 7 Incredible Journey 45
Chapter 8 In Country 57
Chapter 9 Unexpected Transfer 63
Chapter 10 Grounded 72
Chapter 11 Black Widow 84
Chapter 12 LANTIRN 91
Chapter 13 Tactics and Morale 96
Chapter 14 T-Rack Steps In 102
Chapter 15 Belonging 108
Chapter 16 Thanksgiving Comes--and Goes 112
Chapter 17 Crowded Skies 119
Chapter 18 We Own the Night 126
Chapter 19 A New Year 131
Chapter 20 Fallen Warrior 139
Chapter 21 The Inevitable 147
Chapter 22 War Begins 158
Chapter 23 Defining Moment 165
Chapter 24 Mission from Hell 178
Chapter 25 Mother of All Battles 188
Chapter 26 Phase Two 194
Chapter 27 The Mailman Delivers 201
Chapter 28 Patriotism 210
Chapter 29 Friendly Fire 218
Chapter 30 Killer Scouts 227
Chapter 31 Edge of the Envelope 233
Chapter 32 Maverick 243
Chapter 33 Proposal for Peace 252
Chapter 34 Play Time 258
Chapter 35 "Altitude...Altitude" 270
Chapter 36 Highway of Death 283
Chapter 37 Welcome Home 296
Afterthoughts 306
Acknowledgments 309
Glossary 311
Sources 317
Index 319
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