Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Book Review - "Hornets Over Kuwait"

ComNavOps has offered occasional book reviews and I’ll try to include a few more in the upcoming year.  ComNavOps loves books written by the men who were there.  There’s nothing like hearing it from the horse’s mouth.  Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that the horse is right but it’s a pretty good start.  One such book is “Hornets Over Kuwait” (1) which, as the title indicates, is about a Marine Hornet pilot in Desert Storm.  The pilot was, at the time, a 30 year old Marine Corps Captain flying with VMFA-451 (Warlords).  The book is written from the day to day perspective of the pilot rather than attempting to delve into the larger strategic or operational picture.  As such, we get a fantastic glimpse of the pilot’s limited but up close view of the war. 

He describes:
  • The striking degree of confusion and uncertainty surrounding the initial movement to the Gulf and the sheer magnitude of the logistics required to get a squadron into theater.
  • Problems caused by women deploying with the unit.
  • Interesting assessments of the F-18 including a somewhat surprising comparison of its air-to-air capabilities against the F-15 Eagle and F-16.
  • The monotony of endless, routine CAPs.
  • The adrenaline and terror of the first strike mission and the feelings associated with being shot at by AAA and SAMs.
  • The Hornet’s air-to-ground performance.
  • The overwhelming importance of tankers on nearly every mission.
  • Interesting thoughts about the two seat F/A-18D which the author deems useful for FAC but not much else.
  • The confusion of the Close Air Support (CAS) effort and the lack of peacetime training for the task.
  • Aerial communications problems and overuse of the radio.
  • Intel and bomb damage assessment (BDA) as being woefully lacking due to lack of peacetime training.
  • The high and unexplained dud rate for iron bombs and the failure of electrical fuzes.
  • Base life between missions which consisted of TV, cards, food, and mail and packages from home, among other activities.

The book is as noteworthy for what it doesn’t describe as what it does.  What it doesn’t describe is peer-opposed air operations.  Instead, the book clearly conveys that Desert Storm was, essentially, a live fire exercise conducted in a leisurely manner, the more so after the first few days.  The author/pilot even acknowledges this in his preface and throughout the book.  Thus, the applicability of the author’s experience to a peer level war is quite limited.

The author has done a magnificent job of providing a head down, lower level perspective of a pilot in Desert Storm combat.  The gems and insights scattered throughout the book make for a completely absorbing tale that is every bit as entertaining as fiction but carries with it the fascination of reality.  I highly recommend it.


(1)“Hornets Over Kuwait”, Jay A. Stout, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1997, ISBN 1-55750-835-6


  1. Well, that was good enough for me! It's on order. Also just ordered Spy Pilot: Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 Incident, and a Controversial Cold War Legacy written by his son, he's a member of our FB aviation book club so pretty cool!

  2. This is another one from that conflict that I recommend. One interesting thing that came out was A-10s flying in escort to AC-130s having to leave station to tank up instead of being able to fuel with probe & drogue right off of the AC-130.


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