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The latest addition to Osprey’s Combat Aircraft series, F-105 Thunderchief Units of the Vietnam War, will probably leave U.S. Air Force veterans wondering why it took so long. From its first mission in Laos on December 15, 1964, through the plane’s drawdown in 1969, the Republic F-105D Thunderchief, or “Thud,” was the bombing mainstay of the Vietnam War, forever associated with Operation Rolling Thunder. Largely as a result of Rolling Thunder’s peculiar combination of maximum effort with frequently changing rules of engagement, the Thud was also the most frequent victim of North Vietnam’s deadly triad defense of MiG fighters, surface to air missiles (SAMs) and anti-aircraft artillery. Of a total of 753 built, 397 F-105s were lost, leading to its being the only American combat plane to be withdrawn from front-line service as a result of attrition.

British author Peter E. Davies writes authoritatively about how a supersonic plane designed to carry tactical nuclear weapons in an internal bomb bay was reconfigured for its Vietnam role, with the interior devoted to extra fuel, and the bombs—and extra fuel tanks—carried externally, to the detriment of acceleration and maneuverability. He describes the plane’s hazardous missions over North Vietnam, including the epic efforts to bring down the remarkably durable Tanh Hoa and Paul Doumer bridges, and the actions that earned Medals of Honor for a number of Thud pilots.

Separate chapters deal with two paradoxical reminders that the F-105, with its “F” for fighter designation, was far from helpless. Although they were less nimble than the MiG-17, F-105s were credited with downing 27 MiG-17s in 1966-67. Seven F-105s fell to MiG-17s, but another 15 were downed by Mach 2 MiG-21s. Two-seat F-105F and G variants also took on the SAMs in the Wild Weasel role.

Loaded with firsthand accounts by the pilots—and even a few from some of their MiG adversaries—and supplementing its scores of photographs with 27 color profiles, this book is an important addition for any student of the air war.

Osprey Publishing, 2010