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4.8 out of 5 stars24
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 17 December 2012
Disclaimer: I know the author and also flew Phantom back-seat (luckily we never flew in the same aircraft !).

I've read quite a few Phantom books over the years; some I found dreary, others were quite good, but none ever captured what it was really like to do the job, day-in-day-out. The author has captured what it was really like being part of an air defense Phantom squadron at the height of the Cold War, and really shows why this ageing aircraft remained such a capable fighter in the European theatre for so long. It was a fantastic aircraft to fly, with bucketloads of capability in it's radar & weaponary.

A book can never replace the physical experiences of course, but if you are interested to know what is was like as a Phantom Phlyer, I can vouch that this is a definitive record of life as RAF Phantom aircrew in the 80's. Good job.
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on 9 February 2013
I have been a fan of the Phantom ever since one flew over me at low level on a family holiday on the Norfolk Broads in 1975. Since then I have collected a lot of books on the aircraft and those who flew it and to my mind this is one of the best. It is all the more interesting because David Gledhill was a navigator rather than a pilot. He takes the reader on a journey of his experiences of flying in the Phantom across a range of missions and types of operation all the while offering a revealing insight into the way the plane and it systems worked or often didn't work. The aircraft suffered from serious flaws but Gledhill clearly has a huge affection for the beast and learns to make the best of what was was a tremendously powerful and effective machine. Much of what I read here was completely new to me. For example operations at the F4's training unit, the Falklands, RAF Germany and how poor the Warsaw Pact's aircraft were found to be once the Cold Ward had ended. Although the Phantom is, as the title suggests here, the focus it is important to remember that it didn't exist in a vacuum. It was part of an air defence system and Gledhill provides what I think is the best description I have read of how the UK's air defence system worked and the part that each of the different components played. There is a wealth of information here. In addition to a large degree more than any other fast jet aircrew book that I have read, this volume enables the reader to understand just how highly trained and talented fast jet crews have to be. This is not Gledhill boasting - far from it - but instead a matter of fact illustration of how demanding the standards are and why so few people succeed in becoming pilots or navigators.
Many of the illustrations are from the author's and others' private collections and all the more welcome for it as opposed to some writer's use of standard RAF or MoD publicity images.
Other reviwers have commented that some of the narration is rather dry; I would agree with that. Similarly the lack of diagrams illustrating certain types of combat manouvres make it difficult to mentally picture what is going on when Gledhill is discussing air combat tactics. The adage of a picture being worth a thousand words comes to mind.
Those who want a story of his life in the RAF as a navigator will be disappointed. The plane is the story here. Some of the anecdotes he provides are fascinating and personally I would have liked more of them. The tagging of a USAF RF4C as an "E" variant is a surprise as I didn't think the USAF ever used RF4E's but can be overlooked in a book that is a heavyweight in every sense and makes for a thoroughly worthy addition to Phantom literature alongside Robert Prest's and John Trotti's books. Please can David Gledhill now write a book on the Tornado that he flew after he left the Phantom force.
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on 9 January 2013
David Gledhill had a long and successful RAF career including many many hours in the Phantom and thus is in best position to produce this excellent account of the Phantom in RAF service during the most important period of its life. Plenty of great photos, both black and white and colour. Thoughtful examination of the aircrafts good and bad points, operational procedures and the world of a 1970s and 80's navigator. The detail is fantastic! Comparisons with contemporary aircraft both Western and Warsaw Pact. Any criticisms are relatively minor, an index would be helpful and descriptions of combat tactics can be difficult to visualise so diagrams would be very helpful for those of use who have not had the privilege of flying in this wonderful aeroplane, also the book seems to lack the usual gallows humour of RAF aircrew, which can make this a bit dry to read. (hence the four stars) That aside I would recommend this book to anyone with any more than a passing interest in this aeroplane, the RAF and the Cold War and is one I will revisit on on many occasions. Thank you David Gledhill this is a very fitting account on what was the best jet fighter the RAF ever had, with the possible exception of the Typhoon. It is also the only, as far as I am aware, RAF post war fighter to achieve an air to air kill, unfortunately the victim was an RAF Jaguar, an incident the author examines in some detail to explain how and why.
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on 29 April 2013
I have read many books on the F4 Phantom in service both from the pilots point of view and external experts. However they are always lacking in the mention of the role carried out by the guys in the back seat.

Davids easy but informative style of writing backed up with excellent hands on technical detail makes this book very user friendly.

I can't recommend highly enough and look forward to his future works. Well done and great to have a book written about the RAF in Germany and UK on QRA during the height of the Cold War
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on 28 November 2013
This is written by a navigator (weapon systems operator), and gives a good perspective of how the plane would be used as a weapons system - guided approach, use of radar, planning an interception, use of different missile types. Much more considered than the usual books which say more about how the plane flies. Includes interesting stuff about the difficulties of operating on the front line in West Germany, and the hostile actions of the guys over the border.
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on 14 November 2013
I was flying on a sister Squadron alongside Dave Gledhill in Germay in the early 1980s. No one has written a better account of the day-to-day challenges of operating the F4 Phantom.
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on 31 March 2014
I was a techy on the F4 OCU at the same time that Dave was going through his F4 training although I have to say he would just have been another stude to me (sorry!). This book is a fascinating insight into what went on during those 90 minute sorties. I must admit I had vague notions of them just flinging themselves around the sky, I had no idea just how technical the flying was and how close to the edge it was at times. This is an excellent book and was an eye opener for me. I know Dave, by one of those odd coincidences we were members of the same flying club before he wrote this book and he's a top guy. Highly recommened reading if you want to know what they got up to when they disappeared over Tatty Castle.
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on 21 May 2013
I just want to say I regret never joining the RAF. I regret it each day and with the turn of each page of David Gledhill's wonderful book casting his eye over the day-to-day operations of a very special aeroplane.

The Phantom was indeed THE Cold War Warrior, serving with the RAF for near on 25 years and is held in great affection still by those who flew and maintained the mighty beast some 20 years after it's retirement and this comes across clearly in this great account of the service life of the aircraft and crews.

If you want the nuts and bolts technical details, there are plenty of other publications for that, this is the biography, the diary, the everyday life, the heart and soul of the British Phantom. This well written account, by someone who was lucky enough have his office turned upside down regularly in the back seat of the Mighty Phantom, will grace the book shelves of anyone with an interest in aviation or this "interesting" period of history.

No more superlatives, just buy it and enjoy it, you will find it very worthwhile!
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on 21 April 2013
I don't know Dave and have never met him, however I had the pleasure and honour of flying the beast in the late 80s.

The attention to detail is second to none, and I am astounded at Dave's recall and memory. A very enjoyable and accurate read. I also now have an idea about what the guy in the back seat was doing over the 4 years I flew the mighty F4 :-).... !
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on 25 July 2015
As a 'Phantom Phanatic' I was looking forward to reading this first hand account of the authors time spent as a navigator in the back seat of such an iconic aircraft. His tales of life on a squadron take in those years spent in Germany, as part of Britain's front line defence during the Cold War. The text is able to hold the readers attention, but annoyingly he refers to the many photographs in the book by plate numbers, none of which are identified as such in the book alongside the illustrations. Photographs are of variable quality but considering many must have been taken at the time by the author and therefore previously unpublished they provide the reader with a flavour of the tales told in the text. Some of the technical aspects are laboured at times and several times , the reader is given the same information. Not a classic book on the subject but we'll worth a read
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