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U.S. Combat Aircraft Fly-Off Competitions

U.S. Combat Aircraft Fly-Off Competitions Book Review

By Davd L. Veres

Date of Review July 2016 Title U.S. Combat Aircraft Fly-Off Competitions
Author Erik Simonsen Publisher Specialty Press
Published 2016 ISBN 9781580072274
Format 228 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $44.95


Project and prototype expert Erik Simonsen takes a great idea -€“ and makes it better.

The putative premise appears conventional enough. U.S. Combat Aircraft Fly-Off Competitions chronologically and competently distills ten post-WWII production contests:

  • 'Jet Engines and Swept Wings'
  • 'Medium Jet Bombers': XB-45, XB-46, XB-47, XB-48,
  • 'Journey To Jets': AJ-1, B-45, CF-100, XB-51, B-57
  • 'Penetration Fighter': XF-88, XF-90, YF-93A, F-101
  • 'Heavy Bomber Comes of Age': YB-52, YB-60
  • 'Cold War Tactical Fighter': YF-105A, F-107A
  • 'Phantoms and Crusaders': F4H-1, F8U-3
  • 'Pursuit of Close Support': YA-9A, YA-10A
  • 'Lightweight Fighters': YF-16, YF-17
  • 'Advanced Tactical Fighter': YF-22, YF-23
  • 'Joint Strike Fighter': X-32, X-35

But the copiously illustrated compendium from Specialty Press saunters several steps further. Subtitled 'Winners, Losers, and What Might Have Been', it sports dozens of Simonsen's gorgeous, photo-realistic digital views of competition losers in operational guise.

That's what makes it different.

How about that 'B-51B' in 'all-black scheme with bright red USAF markings'? Or a 'Golf' version of the same bird in Southeast Asia camouflage? Or an export 'PR.10 Marauder II' iteration in RAF livery?

I've always loved all things B-36. And Simonsen's illustrations of operational B-60s sent me scheming to convert Hobbycraft's 1/144 Peacemaker to Convair's B-52 competitor.

Talk about flights of fancy!

Is it 'complete'? Well, not really. Simonson restricts coverage to post-WWII competitions. So don't expect, say, an operational Northrop 3A in hypothetical Philippine combat garb.

But - wow - what cool, counterfactual fun it is. Simonsen's superb study sports lots of spellbinding stuff - like details of off-the-shelf components in prototype designs. Sections also include development notes, test results and political issues. The terrific tome further features helpful annotations, sidebars, specifications, performance data and an index.

I loved U.S. Combat Aircraft Fly-Off Competitions. If you like prototype and 'what if' aircraft, you will, too.

Robustly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Specialty Press for this review sample!