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RAF and East German Fast-Jet Pilots in the Cold War (Paperback)

Thinking the Unthinkable

Aviation > Royal Air Force Colour Books Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Cold War Photographic Books

By Nigel Walpole
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 352
Illustrations: 300 black and white
ISBN: 9781526758385
Published: 28th September 2020



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RAF and East German Fast-Jet Pilots in the Cold War is the result of ten years of research, involving many visits to the former German Democratic Republic by a small Anglo/German team of military specialists. Their purpose was to explore the lives of RAF and East German fighter and fighter-bomber pilots, in the air and on the ground, at work and play, during the Cold War in North Germany.

The book is based largely on personal testimony from these pilots, coupled with facts drawn from official archives and comment from other historical sources. Where possible, political considerations have been avoided and no outright criticism has been intended, readers being left to draw their own conclusions on the thinking, strategies, equipment and tactics discussed. Far from being an intellectual polemic on the Cold War, the text and photographs merely record a slice of history as seen through the eyes of a select few who took up arms in the defence of their respective homelands – and faced each other daily across the Iron Curtain.

In an insightful conclusion, Nigel Walpole reassess the threat that both sides believed was genuine during those tense decades of the Cold War and examines the possible course and nature of a conflict which neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact wanted but both actively planned for.

With an emphasis more towards the East German Air Force, the writer has avoided politics where possible, and in doing so reassesses the threat and uncertainty - and ultimately the fears - both air forces faced. It's truly fascinating.

Flypast May 2021

Thinking the Unthinkable is undoubtedly a major and very valuable work, not least in the quality of analysis with which the author brings the book to its conclusion.

Journal of the RAF Historical Society

This book is filled with many never before seen photos, first person accounts, and tactical diagrams. All of the photos are black and white but the abundance and rarity make up for that. The majority of the book is about East German aircrew and its a fascinating look into a lesser known subject. The book reads very well and is superbly organised. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in the East German Air Force during the Cold War and how it compared to RAF defences in Germany. Nigel once again has published a definitive look at a intriguing aspect of the Cold War and it will leave you wanting to know more about “thinking the unthinkable!”

Todd Shugart

Article: Beyond the Iron Curtain

As featured by

FlyPast, May 2021
 Nigel Walpole

About Nigel Walpole

Nigel Walpole joined No.26 (Hunter Day Fighter) Squadron in 1955, served on Swift and RF-101 (USAF) tactical reconnaissance squadrons, commanded No.234 (Hunter FGA), No.II (Hunter FR10) and No.12 Buccaneer Squadrons, before his appointment as OC Operations Wing at RAF Brüggen in 1977, flying Jaguars. He gained another perspective of air power as Brigade Air Support Officer, 16 Parachute Brigade, was made responsible for fast-jet operational training in the MOD and completed his career as the Assistant Chief of Staff Offensive Operations, Second Allied Tactical Air Force, in Germany. Retiring from the Service in 1988, he became the air weapons adviser to British Aerospace.

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