The Author, Cdr. Ade Orchard of the Welsh Navy, wrote an essentially honest account of his 4 month tour of duty as a Gr7 Harrier pilot in Afghanistan. A blurb by the "News of the World" on the cover states "Gripping .. a white-knuckle ride in the face of intense fire." While I realize the author is not responsible for the blurb, just to give you potential readers an idea, this is the number of times he or any of his squadron's pilots were shot at or faced hostile fire during their entire time in the skies over Afghanistan: ZERO.
Yes, that's right. ZERO. The missions consist of him or his squaddies flying out in their Gr7s and acting as mobile artillery and then flying back, occasionally, *gasp*, low on fuel. Physically brave in some sense? Sure, absolutely. Compelling reading? After you get the basics of how the system works, well, then, no. Mostly, it's about as interesting as the story of a boy stepping on an anthill as told by the boy.
We see in the author a characteristic so common of fighting men these days. He is not dumb. At two points in the book he pauses to reflect upon the futility and unwinnability of the war in Afghanistan (something that has come to pass as i write this review in 2012). I cannot help but think that such men are physically brave but somehow ethically less so. While he does ultimately come up with a theory that their presence does have a legitimate purpose in giving the fledgling Afghan democratic government time to grow, the reality is that even then its corruption and lack of popular support were well understood. This man outsourced his ethics - some might say that's the very definition of "duty", che sera sera and quite literally "went along for the ride" to the point where the "climax" of the book, so to speak, is when he finally got to drop some bombs, as if he had just beaten the boss in super mario brothers. Yay, let's cheer for him because now he'll get less ribbing back at the Army and Navy club at Pall Mall. Hooray!
To top if off, while he's probably a nice guy personally, he's also a bit unaware of his hypocrisy and borderline racism. When *he* needs to get to his plane for a mission, it's apparently ok to break base rules and belittle a military cop. when a cargo plane makes an approach to Kandahar not to his liking but admittedly legal and non-conflicting, on the other hand, the other pilot is a rule-breaking muppet operating dangerously. Do the cargo pilots get respect for delivering vital supplies using outdated equipment? No, they're not Welsh Navy or Welsh Air Force and not even the grudgingly tolerable Americans, so they get the lash. Comes across as a jammy wan-kah at times, he really does.
Some interesting detail about how the harrier pilots work with ground forces. After some initial bit about landing on a carrier is done with, no information whatsoever about how the harrier's unique vertical/stol capailities are used in theatre, if they are indeed used at all. Some interesting discussion as to why the pilots are unlikely to ever face a stinger missile in afghanistan, theoretically their biggest threat.
This large print book can be read over the course of a few hours. If you're interested in a throwaway read on a rainy day, it's fine. Beyond that, it ranks as as average to below average in a genre where the standard for publication is quite low already.
Incidentally: you may be wondering why I refer to him as belonging to the "Welsh Navy." Well, there are close to 50 places in the book where he refers to people and things that should be referred to as "Soviet" (Army in Afghanistan) or "Ukrainian" (Antonov aircraft) as "Russian." The term "Soviet Union" doesn't appear to be in his vocabulary. If he can't be bothered to give the bare minimum of respect to others by getting their name right, then he should get no better.