By: Nigel Walpole
Pen and Sword (2004)
The Supermarine Swift is a largely unsung and frequently derided aircraft which served the Royal Air Force briefly in the 1950s. While it had troubles being the fighter it was intended to be, it excelled in the low level tactical reconnaissance role.
Nigel Walpole spent a good amount of his flying career at the controls of the Swift, so is certainly a qualified voice to be giving the aircraft the fair hearing it deserves.
While the first few chapters go a long way to explaining the Swift’s problems and are quite interesting in their coverage of the aircraft’s conception, development and entry to service; they are about the only “Justice” the aircraft gets.
The book quickly enough slips into a clichéd and tiresome cycle of alcohol fueled off duty stories and skirt chasing escapades that any pilot of the time assigned to any squadron flying any aircraft could relate.
Those tales are punctuated by some stories of how well the Swift performed at NATO reconnaissance competitions and the esprit de corps within the Swift squadrons. However, relatively little of the book goes deeply into what the aircraft was actually like to work with on a day to day basis.
After reading Mr. Walpole’s excellent volume on the F-101 Voodoo, I was very much looking forward to what he had to say about the Swift. Sadly, the focus and cohesiveness of the former does not seem present in the latter.