The United States Air Force has some very powerful fighter aircraft in its arsenal. From the supersonic light fighter 3rd generation F-5 Tiger II that was introduced into service in 1962 to currently the only active 5th generation stealth aircraft, the F-22, and F-35. Outside of the U.S. there are equally powerful aircraft, like the 4th generation MiG-29 Fulcrum built by other countries and operated by many governments not as friendly to NATO member states. As we have shared in our #JetFriday section of our website in the past, there is a lot of good information on the Internet to educate you about the F-5, F-15, F-16, and the MiG-29. Whether it be describing a single jet’s capabilities or comparing several different platforms, finding articles about military fighter aircraft is pretty easy.
But how interesting would it be to get first-hand knowledge from someone who can compare these aircraft? There is a USAF pilot with a unique background of not only flying one of these fighter aircraft but most of them during his illustrious service. In a career that spans from 1981 until 2004, Lt. Col. Fred “Spanky” Clifton has acquired more than 4000 flight hours flying the F-5, F-15, F-16, and was the first American pilot to fly the MiG-29 Fulcrum. Clifton was also a graduate and instructor at the USAF Fighter Weapons School.
Lt. Col Clifton has acquired 900 hours in the F-15, 510 hrs in the F-5, 500 hrs in the MiG-29, and 2030 hrs in his favorite aircraft, the F-16. Given the opportunity he has had to fly so many different supersonic fighters, he shares his unique knowledge of each aircraft and how the American fighters match up against the Russian made Fulcrum. A brief part of his description of the MiG-29 was that this highly capable dogfighter “had low fuel capacity, a head-down, knob- and switch-congested cockpit, a so-so radar, and not much versatility.”
It’s a long but worthwhile read. We know you will enjoy his interview with Jalopnik, How To Win In A Dogfight: Stories From A Pilot Who Flew F-16s And MiGs