063 – A-5 Vigilante

There may be no more enigmatic naval aircraft than the North American A-5 Vigilante. Originally designed to be a carrier-based strategic nuclear bomber, it served primarily as an unarmed reconnaissance asset, substituting its nuclear rear-loaded payload for extra fuel tanks and collections gear.

On this episode, former Vigilante pilot Bob Jellison, retired U.S. Navy Captain, joins us to describe the A-5 and his 100+ missions in it over North Vietnam. Our guest co-host Andy King (@andrewkingdrums), not a former guest or military aviator himself but a listener of the show and Vigilante aficionado, helps us further understand the aircraft. Check out his two favorite A-5 books here and here.

During the listener question segment, Andy asks host Jell-O why some navy VFA squadrons are based on the West Coast of the U.S. but deploy with East Coast air wings (and vice versa), whether he would rather fly the F4U Corsair or F6F Hellcat, and if he thinks strategically the US Navy is weaker due to its insistence on using the Hornet platform for multiple roles.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper announcements by Clint Bell / opening song by Jaime Lopez, closing song “Skeleton” by Reader (@readerseattle). This episode was produced by our friends at The MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.

061 – F-22 Raptor

There may be no better fighter in history or currently flying than the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. Designed as an air superiority fighter to replace the F-15 Eagle, the Raptor combines advanced sensors, stealth, and exquisite flight controls and thrust vectoring into a lethal platform.

On this episode, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Terry “Stretch” Scott joins us to describe the Raptor’s amazing features, weapons, performance, and more. He also helps answer a listener question on what it’s like to fly a fighter during extended ocean crossings, often lasting 12 hours or more!

Returning to the show as a guest co-host is episode 59 star Dave “Chip” Berke, retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and former F-22 exchange pilot. During the listener question segment, he discusses historical paradigms of aircraft design, what is included when discussing the bomb weight classes, how to handle not getting your first choice in flight school, and the difference between blue and green / brown water flight operations.

At the end of the episode we say goodbye and thank you to Sunshine, who hangs up his co-host hat as his day job demands more of his time and attention. Fair winds, shipmate!

Episode artwork photo credit to Daniel Vorbach. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. This episode was produced by our friends at The MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.

060 – MiG-29 Fulcrum

Arms races have existed as long as humans have been warring and the Cold War was no exception. In the late 1970’s the U.S. fielded the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet air superiority fighters. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, fielded its own advanced fighter that was in many ways superior. With amazing agility, a high thrust-to-weight ratio, and a helmet-mounted sight with associated high off-boresight weapon, the MiG-29 Fulcrum was a credible opponent to the West.

On this episode, retired Indian Air Force Air Marshal Harish “Fulcrum 1” Masand phones in from Central India to describe the MiG-29 and his key role inducting the Fulcrum into the IAF. He describes the variants, weapons, and how it was so easy to fly that he was able to put on aerial demonstrations with only 20 hours of experience in the Fulcrum. Read more about Air Marshal Masand’s experience flying the MiG-29, fighting it against a Mirage 2000, and why he lovingly referred to the it as the “Super Hunter.”

Guest co-host Darin “Wang” Chung from episode 26 joins us after the interview to describe his experiences training against Malaysian MiG-29s during one of his Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet unit deployments. There is no listener question segment in this episode.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. Episode artwork adapted from original photography by Rich Cooper. This episode was produced by our friends at the MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.

058 – Eurofighter Typhoon

If someone asked you about the modern delta-wing European fighter jet with canards, you might rightly respond, “which one?” To be sure, the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab Gripen all share similar features. Why is that? And how do we distinguish between them? Thankfully we found someone to help.

On this episode, German Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Lorenz “Enzo” Schaffelhofer shares how to distinguish his favorite, the Eurofighter Typhoon, from the other aircraft and why he feels it is the superior fighter. Hold on tight while we describe the amazing performance of this cutting-edge fighter and how, with a more capable missile than the AIM-120D AMRAAM, it could be even more lethal.

During the listener question segment, host Jell-O and cohost Sunshine discuss military aircraft lots versus blocks, thoughts on a choice for Canada’s CF-18 Hornet replacement, some broad ideas on how to succeed in ROTC, and differences between East and West Coast Navy squadrons.

Don’t forget to do your homework prior to the next episode! Catch our future guest Dave “Chip” Berke’s previous appearance on the Jocko Podcast. We’ll be delving into his time as a ground FAC in Ramadi, Iraq.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. Episode artwork adapted from original photography by Rich Cooper. This episode was produced by our friends at The Muscle Car Place Podcast Network.

057 – C-2 Greyhound

Everyone loves the sleek fighter jets, hovering attack planes, and other glamorous war machines that make the headlines and capture our attention, but few give more than a fleeting thought to the many other aircraft that perform crucial, yet unremarkable missions. One of those missions is logistical support, and only one airplane in history has been designed from the beginning to perform that mission to and from aircraft carriers.

On this episode, retired US Navy Lieutenant Commander Julio “JLO” Galvan joins us to discuss the Grumman C-2 Greyhound and the crucial carrier onboard delivery role it plays for carrier strike groups around the globe. Although not as flashy as a frontline fighter, the Greyhound performs a vital role in moving personnel, equipment, supplies, and even mail from ship to shore and vice versa. It can even be used to deploy parachuting SEALs, as depicted in this YouTube video.

During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine again discuss collateral duties in a Navy single-seat F/A-18 squadron, what constitutes a flight hour, whether the flight training pipeline does a good job of weeding out unfit student aviators, and if the “right stuff” actually exists.

New “cargo” bumper song by Jaime Lopez. Bumper announcements by Clint Bell. Artwork by patron Mark Myers.

056 – AV-8 Harrier

The Harrier is unique in that it is capable of taking off and landing in extremely short distances—or even vertically—thanks to swiveling exhaust nozzles and augmented flight controls. This feature, originally adapted for a cold war scenario, is particularly useful for shipboard amphibious operations.

On this episode, retired US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Jeff “Magwa” Scott explains how the Harrier came to be, what it’s like to fly (and hover), and how it is in some ways preferable to the F-35B currently replacing it. DCS players will be thrilled to know Razbam is giving away three Harrier modules for our listeners. Click here to enter.

During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine discuss aircrew interactions with other aircraft carrier personnel, mental exercises prior to flight, whether aircraft float, and how speedbrake placement is decided during aircraft design.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. Episode production by The MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.

054 – V-22 Osprey

When it comes to military aircraft, most enthusiasts are familiar with the subcategories airplanes and helicopters, and the differing ways they generate lift. The former propels one or more stationary wings through the airstream and thus requires a relatively high minimum flying speed. The latter rotates multiple overhead wings, which facilitates flight in a stationary hover but typically at the expense of a relatively slow top speed.

A less-well known third category combines the best features of airplanes and helicopters into one highly effective platform. Powered Lift air vehicles feature short or vertical takeoffs and landings as well as high top speeds—offering a tremendous advantage in military operations. The powered lift category features only three aircraft: the AV-8B Harrier, the ‘B’ variant of the F-35 Lightning II, and the subject of this week’s show: the V-22 Osprey.

On this episode, US Marine Corps Reserve Major Josh “Sweet Pea” Smith joins us to discuss the Osprey in depth: from its tumultuous development, to the variants flown by three of the four US military branches, to its weapons systems, and more. Sweet Pea further describes what it’s like to pilot an Osprey—whether loaded with Marines or in the service of our country’s top governmental leadership.

During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine discuss supersonic flight restrictions, carrier obsolescence, ordnance selection for uncertain mission tasking, and whether Cold War and older aircraft will be featured on coming episodes.

New Powered Lift bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper announcements by Clint Bell.

053 – F-4 Phantom II (part 2)

And we’re back!

On this episode we conclude last week’s discussion with former F-4 pilot John “Tiger” Kerr and RIO Jack “Fingers” Ensch, both retired US Naval aviators. Hold on to your hats as we talk Vietnam-conflict shoot downs, shot downs, POW stories, and how they earned their callsigns.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell.

052 – F-4 Phantom II (part 1)

Few aircraft so prominently define their eras as the McDonell F-4 Phantom II does the 1960s and the Vietnam conflict. Initially imagined as a fighter and later an interceptor, the Phantom II eventually entered service as a fighter-bomber that set numerous speed and altitude records, was responsible for much of the bombing and air-to-air kills over Vietnam, and was later used extensively in SEAD and reconnaissance roles. The F-4 was a truly versatile—and effective—aircraft.

On this episode, former US Navy F-4 Phantom pilot Rear Admiral John “Tiger” Kerr and RIO Captain Jack “Fingers” Ensch, both since retired, join us to answer our standard ‘aircraft series’ questions on this iconic aircraft and what it was like to fly and fight it. They return on the next episode to continue the stimulating discussion.

This week, hosts Jell-O and Sunshine catch up on phoned-in listener questions offering advice for getting the most out of the ROTC program, answering when we will feature certain aircraft on the show, opining on career paths for TOPGUN graduates, and discussing what happens when military aircraft crash into civilian infrastructure.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.

051 – SR-71 Blackbird

There are military aircraft that contribute to shaping US foreign policy. There are some that usher in cutting edge technology. Others set speed and altitude records. A few capture the lifelong imaginations of children and aviation enthusiasts alike.

And then there’s the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

Brainchild of legendary aeronautical engineer, Kelly Johnson, the Blackbird did it all as we learn on this episode with retired US Air Force Brian “Punchy” Shul. Known for his infamous ground speed story and numerous books—including Sled Driver—Brian offers a detailed look at what it took to build and fly the Blackbird, and how it played a significant role in shaping President Reagan’s negotiations with the Soviet Union. The SR-71 Blackbird is a truly iconic aircraft.

Now a renowned key note speaker, author, and aviation and nature photographer, Brian is the curator of Gallery One in Marysville, Calif.

Please support our sponsors by visiting Call the Ball Simulators. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Announcements by Clint Bell. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.

050 – F-8 Crusader

The first recorded account of two aircraft engaging in aerial combat occurred in late November 1913 during the Mexican Revolution. The pilots, both American ‘soldiers of fortune’ on opposing sides of the conflict, engaged each other (unsuccessfully) with handheld pistols in otherwise unarmed aircraft.

The gun—and soon after, the cannon—quickly became the primary weapon for air-to-air “dogfighting” and was incorporated in various calibers and locations into virtually all combat aircraft for the next 50 years, through two world wars and numerous armed conflicts. Until the advent of the air-to-air missile, the gunfighters ruled the skies.

On this episode, retired US Navy Commander Jerry “Turkey” Tucker joins us to discuss the “last of the gunfighters,” the Vought F-8 Crusader. Designed as a supersonic dogfighter, the Crusader ushered in the era of A/A missiles and, indeed, most of its kills in the Vietnam conflict were achieved with early versions of the AIM-9 Sidewinder. Turkey regales us not just with what it was like to fly and fight the Crusader but the many other aircraft he flew, including the F-4 Phantom II and A-4 Skyhawk as a two-time demonstration pilot for the US Navy Blue Angels.

Due to the length of the interview, no listener questions are addressed on this episode. For those craving a second helping of Turkey, another serving can be found on our Patreon page where edited parts of the interview are available as bonus content.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell.

048 – Panavia Tornado

Anyone who watched early superhero shows years ago recalls opening scenes where bystanders gawking skyward exclaim, “Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird!… It’s a plane! It’s…” (…of course, we all know, it’s Superman!).

But when the subject of today’s episode blasts overhead, folks might similarly cry, “it’s a fighter!… “It’s a deep interdictor striker!…” “It’s a reconnaissance craft!” …Well, which is it?

On this episode, retired Royal Air Force flight lieutenant Cameron Mckay (and his alter ego, “Dangerman”) joins us to explain that the Panavia Tornado is all of those, and so much more. Jointly designed by the UK, Italy, and—at the time, West Germany, the Tornado admirably served these three nations and Saudi Arabia for over four decades, seeing action in numerous armed conflicts. Today, the aircraft is on its way to retirement but the “Fin,” as aircrew lovingly referred to it, is still a favorite.

During the listener question segment Jell-O (Sunshine is away) discusses F/A-18 angle of attack probe contingencies, mission specialization among US Navy and Marine Corps VFA squadrons, and ‘newbie’ yellow shirt considerations.

Opening audio taken from an actual Tornado strike on an Iraqi airfield during the 1991 Gulf War. Opening “attack song” and closing “fighter song” composed and performed by Jaime Lopez. Special thanks to Clint Bell Productions for the bumper announcements.

047 – A-6 Intruder

They say fighter pilots make movies while attack pilots make history. So, what happens when a former attack pilot writes a book—his first ever—that so accurately and engagingly captures Vietnam combat operations that it ends up on President Reagan’s desk before soaring up New York Times’ best seller charts? That’s right, they make a movie out of it.

On this episode, the Fighter Pilot Podcast is honored to host world renowned author and retired US Navy Reserve Commander Stephen “Cooter” Coonts. With nearly 50 aviation-themed books to his credit—including his out-of-the-gate runaway success, Flight of the Intruder—Mr. Coonts not only regales us with how he came to be such a prolific writer but, oh yeah, continues us along our aircraft series with a detailed explanation of the Grumman A-6 Intruder.

At the end of the discussion Mr. Coonts offers a sneak peek into what projects he is working on next, including a diversion from his typical fictional accounts for his latest work, Dragon’s Jaw, due out May 14, 2019 and available here.

Due to having a distinguished visitor on the show, there is no listener question segment on this episode. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.

045 – F-16 Fighting Falcon

The Sopwith Camel, P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, and F-4 Phantom II may all be the quintessential fighters of their era, from World War I through the Vietnam conflict. And from Desert Storm to today, few would dispute the aircraft that most deserves to join such an esteemed group is none other than the General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon—better known as simply, the Viper.

On this episode, retired US Air Force Reserve Colonel Mike “T-DAY” Torrealday, who amassed over 4,000 flight hours in nearly every block and variant of the Viper over a 29-year career, joins us to discuss this amazing fighter as a continuation of our ‘aircraft series.’ T-DAY describes the many variants, flight envelope, ordnance inventory, and so much more. Read about the F-16N here.

During the listener question segment, we discuss wristwatches, multi-mission aircraft versus specialized aircraft, and dogfighting the F/A-18 versus other ‘teen’ fighters.

Bumper announcements by Clint Bell / music by Jaime Lopez. Artwork by Janek Krause.

044 – A-10 Thunderbolt II


The sound of an aircraft cannon firing is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, depending on which side of the barrels a person finds themselves. And while most combat aircraft have featured guns and cannons since the dawn of aerial battle, no aircraft is more known for—or respected for—its gun than the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II and it’s tank-busting 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon.

On this episode, retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Luke “Supa” Fricke joins the Fighter Pilot Podcast to discuss the purpose-built Warthog—as the pilots affectionately refer to it—and answers all our usual questions featured in the ongoing ‘aircraft series.’ As an added bonus to this discussion for DCS players in the audience five copies of the Enemy Within 3.0 campaign created by team member Baltic Dragon will be given away. Click here to enter.

During the listener questions segment, we discuss aircraft carrier alert postures, officer-enlisted relationships, and the rudder’s importance in ACM.

New episode bumper announcements provided by Clint Bell. Music by Jaime Lopez. Artwork by Janek Krause.

043 – F-5 Freedom Fighter / Tiger II

Everyone recognizes the F-14 as the star of the 1986 hit movie Top Gun, but few can readily identify the Western fighter that acted as the Tomcat’s nemesis—a role it was perfectly suited for and still performs for the US Navy and Marine Corps daily.

On this episode, retired US Navy Reserve Commander Paco Chierici joins us to describe how the Northrop F-5 began life in the 1950’s as the ‘Freedom Fighter’ but became and is now known as the Tiger II, still flying 60 years later as a capable adversary aircraft. Paco—the mastermind behind the naval aviation documentary Speed & Angels and author of the upcoming novel, Lions of the Sky—not only answers our standard ‘aircraft series’ questions but goes on to tell us about the time he was involved in a mishap in the F-5 that nearly cost him his life.

During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine opine on why a bachelor’s degree is a requirement to be a military pilot and who would have prevailed had the two of them dueled it out in the skies. Negative G limits, reasons for the Blue Angels’ flight control modifications, and entry-level pay and benefits for military pilots are also covered.

Click here to read the Flying with the Aggressors article mentioned in the interview and check out our Patreon page for bonus content with Paco.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.

042 – F-14 Tomcat

Of all the fighter planes to ever take to the sky, perhaps none is more recognized, more revered, than the venerable Grumman F-14 Tomcat. Made popular by movies such as The Final Countdown and, of course, Top Gun—not to mention real world heroics off the coast of Libya in the 1980s and Desert Storm in the early 90s—the F-14 is no stranger to attention.

But what was it like to fly? Why is it so big? Why did the A model have one brand of engine and subsequent models another…?

On this episode, former US Navy F-14 pilot and RIO crew Commander Roy “SYFH” Wylie (retired) and Captain John “Cosmo” DePree join us to address these questions and many more—including several listener questions, such as the rivalry between Tomcat and Hornet squadrons, bird strikes around the carrier, the procedures for when a weapon fails to release, and large explosions.

The in depth look at this illustrious aircraft comes just in time for the Heatblur Simulation F-14 release for DCS World. For more information check out the Heatblur website or our DCS SME Jabbers’ YouTube channel.

Bumper music by Slater Aiello of Jam & Slate. Episode artwork by Janek Krause, using F-14 photograph by Rob Tabor.

041 – Dassault Rafale

The SEPECAT Jaguar, Vought F-8 Crusader, Mirage F-1, Mirage 2000, Dassault Étendard and later the Super Étendard were all remarkable aircraft designed to do one or two missions well. But what may be most noteworthy about these aircraft is that they were all replaced by just one model: the incredibly-capable Dassault Rafale.

We conduct our first remote interview this week, welcoming Lieutenant Pierre “Até” Chuet of the French Navy who phoned in from the United Kingdom to answer our standard ‘aircraft series’ questions. Até paints a remarkable picture of the one aircraft that replaced so many others and currently serves as the frontline fighter for the French Navy and Air Force, as well as export countries.

During the listener question segment, we discuss the psychology of killing in war, personal camera regulations, left-handed F-16 pilots, and overhead break permissions at the ship. DCS aficionados: keep an eye on our Patreon page for developments and be sure to check out our new team member Baltic Dragon’s Facebook page.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.

040 – H-60 (Black / Sea) Hawk

Few Western aerospace design and manufacturing firms can boast an aircraft so successful that it is flown by every branch of the US military, plus the Coast Guard and dozens of countries, with over 4,000 aircraft being built in dozens of configurations. No, it’s not the Lockheed C-130 Hercules or Bell UH-1 Huey. We’re talking the Sikorsky H-60 helicopter.

Joining us this episode to discuss the numerous H-60 variants (Blackhawk and Seahawk primarily, but also the Jayhawk and Pavehawk) is US Navy Commander Jeremiah Ragadio. “FRANK,” a career Seahawk pilot currently in training to assume a leadership position in a sea-going MH-60R squadron, offers a fascinating look at not only all the H-60 variants, but its armament and performance as well.

During the listener question segment we discuss land-based Navy squadrons, S-3 radio limitations, and aircraft carrier landing F/A-18E/F weight limits and ordnance considerations. Click here to read the latest ‘Musing’ on our website and here to view our inaugural ‘Deep Dive’ video.

Bumper announcements by Jim Hendershot; bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.

039 – A-7 Corsair II

In the early 1960’s the US Navy began a program for a carrier-based attack aircraft to replace the A-4 Skyhawk. Two requirements were specified to ensure a lethal platform at the lowest possible cost: accurate weapons delivery and a design based on an existing aircraft. The Ling-Temco-Vought team’s winning proposal, based on Vought’s F-8 Crusader, became the LTV A-7 Corsair II.

This week, retired US Navy Captain Tom “Demon” Mitchell joins us to describe the single-engine Corsair II—including the variants, armament, strengths & weaknesses, and more. You’ll be amazed at Demon’s stories, not just of the Corsair II but of the life and experiences of a career carrier aviator during the tumultuous 60s and 70s.

During the listener question segment, we discuss mishap involvement, faith, the importance of FCLPs, and how improperly dispensed expendables are handled. Don’t forget to check out the SHOP page on our website for Fighter Pilot Podcast-themed apparel and household items.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode art by Janek Krause.

038 – S-3 Viking

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union fielded a formidable navy—both above and below the surface. In response, the United States Navy required a carrier-based, fixed-wing aircraft with long on-station time and an extensive air-to-surface and -subsurface avionics sweet and weapons capability. The result was the twin-turbofan, high-wing Lockheed Martin S-3 Viking.

On this episode, retired US Navy Commander David “Deke” Slayton joins us to discuss S-3 variants, which weapons it can carry, why it looks the way it does, and much more. And turns out, Deke was an S-3 instructor when co-host Sunshine received his initial fleet training in the Viking—an aircraft he would fly before later transitioning to the F/A-18 Hornet.

During the listener question segment, we dig a little deeper into the Mutha trophy, discuss the purpose of exchange programs, talk about the relevance of a gun on combat fighters, stereotypes for military pilots, the need to self-assess before flight, and brushes with death.

Click here to check out Wings Over America and support scholarships for military dependents. To compliment the interview, click here to order Brad Elward’s authoritative book, S-3 Viking in Action.

Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.

037 – F/A-18 (Super) Hornet

What was it designed to do? What does it do well? What ordnance does it carry? Why does it look the way it does…?

…These are a few of the questions retired US Navy Lieutenant Commander Q “BBQ” Sterling answers while explaining the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet on this, our inaugural ‘aircraft series’ episode. These same questions will be posed to guests during future episodes on a variety of military aircraft.

The unique, dual designation fighter and attack Hornet is renowned for its lethality and reliability. The follow-on, larger Super Hornet offers improved systems and avionics, with two additional weapons stations and more “bring back” than its predecessor. Click here to learn more about Brad Elward’s authoritative book chronicling the Super Hornet development.

During the listener question segment, we discuss aircraft selection regrets, aircrew anthropometric limitations, where Sunshine and Jell-O were on 9/11, and what the Mutha trophy is.

Bumper music by Jaime Lopez. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.