Review – Republic F-105 Thunderchief

1/8/2013 • Vietnam Magazine

Republic F-105 Thunderchief, by Peter Davies, Osprey Publishing, 2012

Originally conceived as a nuclear strike fighter during the Cold War, the Republic F-105D Thunderchief dropped the lion’s share of conventional ordnance on North Vietnamese targets—or such targets as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration would authorize it—throughout Operation Rolling Thunder, thereby becoming one of the iconic aircraft of the war. So when Osprey decided to launch a specialized variation on its hardware-oriented “Vanguard” series called “Air Vanguard,” the “Thud” was chosen for the second book of the series.

A1C Rick Diaz/U.S. Air Force
A1C Rick Diaz/U.S. Air Force

Peter Davies sums up the F-105’s evolution from Alexander Kartveli’s P-47 Thunderbolt and guides readers through the plane’s technical details, with photos and illustrations to show everything from ordnance to the dual option of probe or receptacle in-flight refueling that was unique to the F-105. A section on operational use makes liberal use of aircrews’ firsthand accounts to put the reader in the cockpit during the Cuban Missile Crisis—a first combat mission that fortunately was never launched—and through its Vietnam deployment. The latter includes both the often frustrating and costly missions by F-105Ds, and the duels between the two-seat F-105F and F-105G “Wild Weasels” and North Vietnam’s SA-2 surface-to-air missiles and their radars.

Artwork includes a three-view, interior cutaway, profiles of representative Thunderbolts and two action paintings—one on a low-level exercise over the Libyan desert in 1962, the other showing Major Ralph Kuster’s Thud shooting down a MiG-17 on June 3, 1967, probably killing North Vietnamese Lieutenant Phan Tan Duan and capturing the moment in one of the best-known camera gun photos of the conflict. Republic F-105 Thunderchief is packed with detail and will interest pilots or enthusiasts of the old Thud, Vietnam-era or otherwise.

—Reviewed by Jon Guttman

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