Military Channel launches series on historic aerial dogfight
In his day job, Air Force Maj. Paul "Max" Moga straps into the cockpit of a supersonic F-22A Raptor, one of America's deadliest new fighter aircraft. In his free time, Moga steps in front of a video camera as the host of "Showdown: Air Combat," a 10-episode series airing Sundays 10-11 p.m. on the Military Channel. From the Red Baron's German Fokker Dr-1 tri-plane to the cutting-edge swept-wing Russian MiG-15 jet fighter, the series provides viewers the opportunity to see these actual planes take to the skies.
A member of the Air Combat Command's 1st Fighter Wing, Moga offers insight into each vintage aircraft's strengths and weaknesses, its place in the timeline of aircraft design and the ground-breaking dogfight tactics employed in each confrontation.
Moga recently talked with The American Legion Magazine.
Q: How did you, an Air Force fighter pilot, land a television role like this?
A: The folks at Travelling Light and the Military Channel were looking for a host who could lend credibility to the series. They were intent on achieving historical accuracy to the degree that they found actual vintage aircraft and talked to experts and pilots about the dogfights they wanted to re-create. They wanted an active-duty Air Force pilot. The producer of the series, Adam Friedman, heard about me through a mutual friend, and he met me at an air show in California.
Q: What persuaded you to take the part?
A: A significant part of my job right now is outreach. I try to get the message out to as many people as possible about the Air Force. It took some time for the proposal to wend its way through the Air Force leadership, but ultimately it was recognized as a great opportunity for us to tell the Air Force story. The Military Channel adds credibility to its production. The Air Force gets access to a huge audience. And the public has the opportunity to witness accurate re-creations.
It is absolutely crucial to start grooming the next generation. I'm convinced that the best Raptor pilot the world is ever going to see is sitting out there in his or her fourth grade wondering what they want to do with their lives. I hope "Showdown: Air Combat" will spark an interest.
Q: How do today's air-combat tactics differ than those of previous wars?
A: Tactics have evolved with capabilities. Technology advances have driven tactics. World War II and Korean War air-to-air fighting was a very close-in, phone-booth type activity. Combatants were getting up close and personal. When friend and foe saw each other, they knew one of them was not going home. In Vietnam, close-in combat ultimately gave way to the air-to-air missile age. Today's technology offers pilots an opportunity to set up a hundred miles away and work their way in, hopefully making a kill without ever having visual contact.
Q: How do today's fighter pilots differ from their predecessors?
A: Technology and tactics have certainly evolved, but the warrior ethos has not changed. That's something the Air Force has made a very conscious effort to preserve throughout our history. It doesn't matter if you are flying an F-22 or you're back flying a P-51, the one thing that, cannot change is the fighter pilot warrior mentality.
The Air Force is very aware of that and we start grooming the young ones at an early stage.
Q: What is "Showdown" really about?
A: The show is a really great way to pay honor and tribute to folks that are responsible for the country that we live in today. The guys featured in the episodes defied the odds and rose to meet life and death challenges time and time again. They are all true heroes.
- James V. Carroll