Tiger Check

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Tiger Check

Hardback
, 448 pages

45 b&w photos, 30 line drawings

ISBN:
9781421423272
October 2017
$79.95

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Tiger Check

Automating the US Air Force Fighter Pilot in Air-to-Air Combat, 1950–1980

Spurred by their commanders during the Korean War to be "tigers," aggressive and tenacious American fighter pilots charged headlong into packs of fireball-spewing enemy MiGs, relying on their keen eyesight, piloting finesse, and steady trigger fingers to achieve victory. But by the 1980s, American fighter pilots vanquished their foes by focusing on a four-inch-square cockpit display, manipulating electromagnetic waves, and launching rocket-propelled guided missiles from miles away. In this new era of automated, long-range air combat, can fighter pilots still be considered tigers?

Aimed at scholars of technology and airpower aficionados alike, Steven A. Fino’s Tiger Check offers a detailed study of air-to-air combat focusing on three of the US Air Force’s most famed aircraft: the F-86E Sabre, the F-4C Phantom II, and the F-15A Eagle. Fino argues that increasing fire control automation altered what fighter pilots actually did during air-to-air combat. Drawing on an array of sources, as well as his own decade of experience as an F-15C fighter pilot, Fino unpacks not just the technological black box of fighter fire control equipment, but also fighter pilots’ attitudes toward their profession and their evolving aircraft. He describes how pilots grappled with the new technologies, acutely aware that the very systems that promised to simplify their jobs while increasing their lethality in the air also threatened to rob them of the quintessential—albeit mythic—fighter pilot experience. Finally, Fino explains that these new systems often required new, unique skills that took time for the pilots to identify and then develop.

Eschewing the typical "great machine" or "great pilot" perspectives that dominate aviation historiography, Tiger Check provides a richer perspective on humans and machines working and evolving together in the air. The book illuminates the complex interactions between human and machine that accompany advancing automation in the workplace.

Steven A. Fino is a US Air Force command pilot and a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons School. He is currently assigned to the Pentagon.

"Thoroughly researched, well organized, and masterfully written, Tiger Check takes readers inside the cockpit to really get a feel for the complexities inherent in—and the technological and cultural evolution of—fighter aviation."

"Until you read this book you will never fully understand how the marriage of fighter pilot culture and technology, often marked by deep disagreements, has nonetheless survived in the long term to produce the world’s greatest fighter aircraft and fighter pilots."

"Taking his readers into the cockpits of Air Force fighter planes, Fino ably describes how the automation of flight controls and of the aircraft’s guns and missiles altered the experience, and even the meaning, of being a pilot. Tiger Check contributes not just to the history of aviation but also to the history of the computerization of human labor at large."

"Tiger Check is a masterful account of how the advent of new technologies changed the face of air combat during the twentieth century. But it’s a good deal more than that. Author Steven Fino excels at identifying and explaining complex social tensions and relationships that existed within the US Air Force as the introduction of increasingly automated equipment challenged the reigning myth of the heroic fighter pilot and its implications for air-to-air combat. His findings are very compelling."

"Ultimately, this work is one of the best works of air power (and technology) history that this reviewer has read in quite some time, and will likely become a standard of the field. It certainly sets a very high bar for other historians. For those interested in pilot culture and/or aircraft technology, this is required reading, while still pointing towards directions for future scholarship."

"Fino has truly written a very fine and well-researched academic book that will appeal across disciplines and military services. Tiger Check proves that aggressiveness and being a good stick, are still the hallmark of being of fighter pilot, but adds switchology and scientific skills needed to the traits necessary to operate a modern fighter aircraft. If the Sabre pilots were tigers, then today’s fighter pilots are tigers in lab coats. Fino should be mandatory reading for fighter pilots, especially those who are not familiar with the genesis of the tactics and tradecraft that they ply today. Though highly technical in some sections, it is an imminently readable tome that will also appeal to air power and technical aficionados, and those who seek to understand the origins and the changing nature of air-to-air combat."

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