Red Eagles Over Nevada

Red Eagles Over Nevada: For more than 10 years, Gaillard “Gail” Peck and his fellow airmen in the 4477th Test and Evaluation Flight flew more than 15,000 sorties in the skies near the desert mining town of Tonopah, Nev.—only their fighters didn’t bear the roundels of the US Air Force, but the red stars of the Soviet Union—cast in the role of aggressors for USAF, Navy, and Marine pilots. A small airfield constructed in the late 1970s (which initially served the Department of Energy) became home to the men who flew in the highly classified “Constant Peg” aggressor program in which reconstituted and obtained Soviet fighters, such as the MiG-17, MiG-21, and MiG-23, were flown by USAF pilots in training operations. Speaking Tuesday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, Peck, a retired USAF colonel, USAF Weapons School instructor, and author of the new book “America’s Secret MiG Squadron,” helped constitute the program by cobbling together support within the Air Staff and Pentagon. He said the program was the next step after the HAVE DOUGHNUT effort which tested and recorded performance specs of MiGs obtained by the US. Pilots could find this information by reading reports, but he noted he and others believed a full-up aggressor effort would be “icing on the cake.” Getting information about dog fighting MiGs from a manual was like “learning to play the piano by reading a book” it just wasn’t the same thing, Peck said. An airfield was built to support this program and also serve as the home for the HAVE BLUE aircraft— which became the F-117 program. MiGs flew from Tonopah during the day, and stealth fighters at night, Peck recalled.