Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review - Arab MiG-19 and MiG-21 Units in Combat

Recently, I purchased a MiG-19 on a whim. It was a good price and the arms race going on in Lebanon 1982 was heating up as Mark was showing off his A-4. So in defense the pro-Syrian side purchased the MiG-19. My total knowledge of this MiG came from the Internet. And while much of the information on Wikipedia is good (better than nothing) I was looking for even more. Osprey having in general good monographs, I purchased Arab MiG-19 and MiG-21 Units in Combat by David Nicolle and Tom Cooper.

On first reading through this short work I was disappointed. As I was trying to put this post together I reread many of the sections and my opinion improved.

I find the book to have two key strengths. The book is a rare find as it is coming from the Arab/Egyptian point of view. As little is written about either the Egyptian or Syrian air forces this book is an asset to anyone interested in the Arab Israeli Wars from 1967 to the present. I assume that if I read Arabic I may have a better chance finding sources on their militaries. While many of the reported air-to-air battles are sketchy in the book they do allow a gamer to set up historical battles to game. I look forward to using these for a Bag the Hun meets Bag the MiG.

Unfortunately the books weaknesses were more academic. There are no maps so figuring were the airfields are located is a problem. There are also no notes on sources. While this is common for many of the Osprey publications I find that this subject is so unique that they really need to be there.

The authors also start out with the thesis that the Arab/Egyptian forces did better than what was reported in the West. Their lack of documentation and possible charts make it difficult to determine if they proved their point. I do understand they Arab/Egyptian units were very brave as it takes courage to take off in a jet while your airfield is under attack. The Arab/Egyptian were also not help in many ways by their Soviet allies.

While they labor the points that Israel claims of losses to AAA were really lost to Syrian or Egyptian fighters, it does not reverse the fact that the losses were weighed heavily towards the Arab/Egyptian forces. Also the US in Vietnam had similar problems with reports on reasons for losses.

Over all I am happy with the purchase as it fits a hole in my collection. I hope when the authors release their book on MiG-15 and MiG-17 units that there will be improvements.

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