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Operation Rolling Thunder was the campaign that was meant to keep South Vietnam secure, and dissuade the North from arming and supplying the Viet Cong. It pitted the world's strongest air forces against the MiGs and missiles of a small Soviet client state. But the US airmen who flew Rolling Thunder missions were crippled by a badly thought-out strategy, rampant political interference in operational matters, and aircraft optimised for Cold War nuclear strikes rather than conventional warfare.
Ironically, Rolling Thunder was one of the most influential episodes of the Cold War – its failure spurring the 1970s US renaissance in professionalism, fighter design, and combat pilot training. Dr Richard P. Hallion, one of America's most eminent air power experts, explains how Rolling Thunder was conceived and fought, and why it became shorthand for how not to fight an air campaign.