Wednesday, October 10

We review Reid Air Publications "The Early Viper Guide: The F-16A/B Exposed"

The people from Reid Air Publications sure do love their F-16’s – they have no less than five titles covering this – the backbone of the airforces of the western world. The Fighting falcon or “Viper” as it is more commonly known by it’s pilots is arguably one of the prettier fighters of all time  - and whilst we wait for their new book on one of the less “pretty” planes (their new opus on the modern A-10) I thought I’d show you this little gem….


Written by: Jake Melampy
Languages: English
Pictures: Colour
Pages: 196
Format: Soft cover landscape (10.9 x 8.3 x 0.5 inches)
ISBN: 978-0979506482
RRP: $39.95 from their online shop

Reid Air Publications have set a good reputation for themselves as quality publishers of books that real aircraft enthusiasts cherish, and the author of this book Mr Jake Melampy has been known for his excellent plethora of photo illustrated books on modern jets. It sounds like another interesting marriage. This book – called  “The Early Viper Guide: The F-16A/B Exposed” sets out to do exactly what I says on the tin. Let’s examine inside

The book comes in a softcover landscape format just slightly shorter and wider than A4 size – perfectly portable and just over a centimetre thick the book is crammed full of coloured pictures printed on glossy paper of good quality. This book travelled with me on a cross country trip across Europe last week and came out unscathed – it has a quality feel of heaviness to it as it weighs in at one hundred and ninety six pages.

The book is broken up into several sections to help you know your early viper all the better. The best books in the detail market are the Squadron “Walk Around” and the “Aero Detail” books amongst some others – but the quality of the innards of this book came as a welcome surprise to me when I started to examine further inside. They seem to eclipse these other books in some ways even. Indeed there really aren’t that many detail series books on modern jets – so this book was a welcome treat to me, and no doubt manna from heaven for the fast jet guys who are covered in every make of the F-16 in Reid’s books. This book however deals with the early F-16A & B marques – from the first block 1 batch production to the MLU and IDF variants through to the Block 20 ships – this book covers thirty years of the production and upgrading of the world’s favourite fighter jet.

The first part of this book compares the differences of each of these the early Vipers. In an easy to understand manner you are shown in text and some pictures the differences – sometimes minor and others more easy to spot – the differences between production batches. The author shows and tells you why some changes were made and why in some cases the export customers and special variants were kitted out how they were. Interesting particularly are the upgraded versions and the changes that were made to bring them more into parity with later block F-16s and indeed their competition from other makes of aircraft. 
The second small part of the book explains which export customers got which aircraft and indeed sometimes why they missed out on their aircraft. There are several procurement programs and initiatives by the US government to buy favour with foreign countries here which nearly always start with “Peace …..” – This that or the other. Interesting is what happened to Pakistan’s F-16 force and who got them – who gave them back and who didn’t! This is a fascinating little side show into political manoeuvres and the aircraft’s history. It is however just a foretaste of the great knowledge delved out in this book that is to come.

 Starting at the sharp very pointy end of the aircraft and ending at the afterburners and wheel wells the next section of the book is what we all came for one hundred and fourty pages of detail – in sometimes the most minute detail from the smallest indicator to the larger parts of the airframe there is every part of this aircraft photographed – most often different airframes to show the comparison between the same aircraft and how they age – this is just really excellent reading and viewing.

 I have been critical of some publisher’s dry comments that explain the pictures they accompany. The author must be heartily commended as he has done an extraordinary job here of keeping your interest as you look at yet another open panel from a different angle – he constantly gives you interesting details on how the sum of the parts operate, how they change and wear under constant use why a part is there in the first place.

I learnt several things reading this – why the radardomes all look a slight different colour – why some probes are heated and the differences that subtly tell one aircraft variant from another, Indeed the difference in the blocks are shown on separate pages right after another – things like the contrast in early to the later cockpit upgrades are really insightful. Another good feature of this whole book which is made apparent is the author grouping all of the applicable parts together so continently – you never really get lost even while looking at a non-descript internal bay because the galleries and comments are in a good order. Great also is the ease at which you can find – just say the MLU front cockpit – which is on page 73 – all the galleries are neatly listed in the contents at the start of the book.

 The pictures are in excellent quality – focussed and well lit. They are diverse in nature in subject aircraft and cover all of the countries who operate the Viper so you can be looking at an ANG bird one second then a Norwegian Viper the next.  It is great to see many different aircraft captured in this. Great to see as well that nothing really is left out of the detail captured – from small data plates to important airframe parts the detail here surpasses most all other aircraft detail books I have read.

The last section of the book shows you the external ordinance and that they are mounted on. Starting on the most basic of “dumb” bombs and early missiles, the aircraft’s weapon stations are also shown in their entirety and what they are mostly used for. The development of these pylons into their latest streamlined shapes are shown as well. Pretty much every type of ordinance from elliptical centre drop tanks to training wingtip pods and bomblets are on display and explained. This part of the book is just as useful and I learnt a lot from it – especially about the newer systems this older aircraft deploys now.

Well there you go – that is what the sum of the parts entail – having never read one of these books from this series and this publisher before I can now see what people rave about. More detailed than any aircraft detail book I have read. Written in an interesting and engaging fashion and very well.

This makes me want to get out an F-16 kit and make it – or at least make a start on it – and isn’t that what a book like this is supposed to do – inspire you? A great tome for Modellers and aircraft enthusiasts alike – I loved it.

BTW at Reid’s website they are selling some of their books in special combo deals that make them cheaper than individual titles – I would have a look if you like what you see here…

Thanks to the people at Reid Air Publications for sending us one of the better detail books we have read.