At the start of the Vietnam War, the US Air Force and Navy suffered losses to Soviet aircraft and missiles over North Vietnam. By 1968, about 22% of American planes were lost to MiGs alone. Their losses could be partially attributed to the pilots’ lack of training in air-to-air combat, with just ten flight training sessions in total.
Unsatisfied with the results, Col. Gail Peck developed a better program called “Constant Peg.” The program aimed to train US airmen in classic dogfighting supplemented with newer combat tactics. As such, the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron was activated and nicknamed the “Red Eagles.”
The US first captured MiG-17s and MiG-21s before entering a deal with Indonesia to exchange the new F-5 Tiger for 12 MiGs. Soon after, Korea, Pakistan, and Cambodia also offered their MiGs to the US. By 1985, the Red Eagles had 26 MiGs composed of the 17s, 21s, and 23s.
While Based In Nevada
During their first training exercise, the pilots were accustomed to spotting an approaching MiG, helping diminish the first-time shock they felt in real dogfights. They were then trained in flight maneuvers and learned thorough information about the aircraft. Meanwhile, their last training stage involved applying the tactics they learned in a simulated dogfight.
Abandoned and Disbanded
The Red Eagles’ final flight occurred on March 8, 1988, due to a lack of funding. After disbanding in 1990, the MiGs were used in target practice, exhibits, or stored in hangars. In total, the squadron flew 15,000 sorties and trained almost 6,000 airmen.