#ResearchResources – Recent Articles and Books (August 2021)

#ResearchResources – Recent Articles and Books (August 2021)

Editorial note: In this series, From Balloons to Drones highlights research resources available to researchers. Contributions range from discussions of research at various archival repositories to highlighting new publications. As part of this series, we are bringing you a monthly precis of recent articles and books published in air power history. This precis will not be exhaustive but will highlight new works published in the preceding month. Publication dates may vary around the globe and are based on those provided on the publisher’s websites. If you would like to contribute to the series, please contact our Editor-in-Chief, Dr Ross Mahoney, at airpowerstudies@gmail.com or via our contact page here.

Articles

David Stubbs, ‘The Direction, Planning, and Implementation of the Operation Iraqi Freedom Air Campaign, 19 March–2 May 2003,’ War in History (2021), doi:10.1177/09683445211034535.

America’s leaders, who anticipated that Operation Iraqi Freedom would end Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, wanted to leverage technological advances to wage a ‘light-footprint’ ground war. This expectation obliged air, land, and naval planners to balance their strategic and tactical targeting options and to concentrate their activities on tactical support to ground forces, delivered at a speed designed to undermine the ability of the Iraqi forces to offer a coherent defence. The air campaign plan that emerged has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted as a blunt instrument, but it was actually underpinned by the desire to minimise civilian casualties.

Chapters

D. Blinder, ‘Falklands/Malvinas’ Air Warfare and Its Consequences: A Critical Geopolitical Approach’ in E.E. Duarte (ed.), The Falklands/Malvinas War in the South Atlantic (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).

This chapter investigates the aerial dimension of the Falklands/Malvinas warfare and the post-war condition of technological restrictions imposed upon Argentina. The analysis proceeds from a critical geopolitical perspective to conceptualize the geopolitical drivers of diffusion and the manufacture of military industry and technology. It assesses the British official documentation on export licenses to Argentina between 1997 and 2018 and the corresponding Argentine measures to deal with those restrictions from Alfonsín to Macri’s presidential administrations. I argue the UK controlled the exports of military technology or dual-use technology to Argentina, developing a “web of technological limitation,” which extended from British defense and trade governmental apparatuses to international institutions.

Books

Lee Cook, Dirty Eddie’s War: Based on the World War II Diary of Harry “Dirty Eddie” March, Jr,. Pacific Fighter Ace (Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2021).

Dirty Eddie’s War is the true account of the war-time experiences of Harry Andrew March, Jr., captured by way of diary entries addressed to his beloved wife, Elsa. Nicknamed “Dirty Eddie” by his comrades, he served as a member of four squadrons operating in the South Pacific, frequently under difficult and perilous conditions. Flying initially from aircraft carriers covering the landings at Guadalcanal in August 1942, he was one of the first pilots in the air over the island and then later based at Henderson Field with the “Cactus Air Force.” When he returned to combat at Bougainville and the “Hot Box” of Rabaul, the exploits of the new Corsair squadron “Fighting Seventeen” became legendary.

Disregarding official regulations, March kept an unauthorized diary recording life onboard aircraft carriers, the brutal campaign and primitive living conditions on Guadalcanal, and the shattering loss of close friends and comrades. He captures the intensity of combat operations over Rabaul and the stresses of overwhelming enemy aerial opposition.

Lee Cook presents Dirty Eddie’s story through genuine extracts from his diary supplemented with contextual narrative on the war effort. It reveals the personal account of a pilot’s innermost thoughts: the action he saw, the effects of his harrowing experiences, and his longing to be reunited with the love of his life back home.

Tom Cooper and David Nicolle, MiGs in the Middle East – Volume 2: Soviet-designed Combat Aircraft in Egypt and Syria 1963-1967 (Warwick: Helion and Company, 2021)

Hundreds of fighter-bombers of Soviet design and manufacture served in the air forces of multiple frontline Arab states during the first half of the 1960s. Not only older Mikoyan i Gurevich MiG-15s and MiG-17s, but also newer types such as the MiG-19 and MiG-21 were acquired in continuously increasing numbers, concurrently with Ilyushin Il-28- and Tupolev Tu-16 bombers, transport types such as the Antonov An-12 and Ilyushin Il-14, and trainers designed by Yakovlev. Nowhere else did they – and their pilots – play as important a role for the future of the local air forces – or entire nations – as in Egypt and Syria from 1963 until 1967. Whilst the period in question is still frequently described as a ‘peaceful decade’ in Israel and the West, they saw almost uninterrupted action: in Egypt, in Syria, as well as in Yemen, and especially in continuous incidents with Israel.

Based on official documentation and extensive interviews with dozens of veterans, and richly illustrated with exclusive photography and colour profiles, MiGs in the Middle East Volume 2 is a uniquely compact yet comprehensive guide to the build-up and operational history of Soviet-made aircraft in Egypt and Syria during this period. Prepared by authors that have established themselves as top authorities on the Arab air forces, and supported by custom-drawn colour profiles and detailed maps, it provides an exclusive, in-depth study and a single point of reference for the operational history of the Egyptian and Syrian air forces, their organisation and markings of the mid-1960s.

John Dillon, Bombers at Suez: The RAF Bombing Campaign during the Suez War, 1956 (Warwick: Helion and Company, 2021).

In October 1956 the British government, together with the French and Israelis, launched an attack on Egypt in response to President Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. The agreement between these three governments, the Sèvres Protocol, was a low point in British diplomacy and a factor in the ending of Prime Minister Eden’s political career. The military commanders had to plan for and launch Operation Musketeer, some 2,000 miles from the UK, while their political masters gave them only limited information on the arrangement made with France and Israel.

The RAF squadrons allocated to the operation came from the UK and Germany where their jet bombers, Canberras and Valiants, were intended for nuclear war against the Warsaw Pact countries rather than conventional war with Second World War bombs in a desert environment.

When Anthony Eden took the decision to launch Operation Musketeer the RAF did not have the forces required in the Mediterranean. At short notice, squadrons had to train for high level, visual bombing using techniques that would have been familiar to Lancaster crews in the Second World War. Also, the navigation aids fitted in the bombers were those required for the European theatre, not the Egyptian desert.

This account uses Cabinet Minutes, Squadron Operation Record Books, reports written by the Commander-in-Chief and personal accounts by aircrew who flew over Egypt, to detail the involvement of the RAF and is richly illustrated with photographs from the conflict and original colour artworks.

#highintensitywar and Alliances

#highintensitywar and Alliances

By Dr Alan Stephens

Editorial Note: Between February and April 2018, The Central Blue and From Balloons to Drones, will be publishing a series of articles that examine the requirements of high-intensity warfare in the 21st Century. These articles provide the intellectual underpinnings to a seminar on high-intensity warfare held on 22 March by the Williams Foundation in Canberra, Australia. In this article, Dr Alan Stephens considers the importance of alliances in supporting smaller powers involved in high-intensity conflicts.

It was the 19th century British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston who famously remarked that in international relations there are ‘no eternal allies […] only interests.’

Palmerston’s hard-headed worldview has particular relevance for small- and medium-nations that find themselves drawn into high-intensity warfare. The October 1973 war in the Middle East and the 1982 war in the Falklands illustrate the point.

The 1973 war began on 6 October when Egypt and Syria launched a sudden attack against Israel. Over-confident Israeli commanders were shocked when their previously dominant air force found itself unprepared for the quality and tactical disposition of the Arabs’ ground-based air defence system. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) started the war with about 290 frontline F-4 and A-4 strike/fighters, and within days some fifty had been shot-down. It was an unsustainable loss rate.

McDonnell_Douglas_A-4F_Skyhawk_Ayit_F_(468970264)
A Douglas A-4F Skyhawk of the Israali Air Force. (Source: Wikimedia)

A week later, as the war in the air began to turn and the Israelis started to assert their expected dominance, it was the Arabs’ turn to experience unsustainable losses.

Now, both protagonists faced the same urgent problem: neither had the reserves nor the local capacity to rapidly reinforce their fighting units.

There is a limit to how much a nation can spend on otherwise non-productive war industries and stockpiles. Governments have to make fine judgments regarding how many weapons – which represent stranded assets until they are used – they can afford to have parked on ramps or stored in warehouses against the possibility of a contingency that might never arise.

That economic imperative is especially pronounced in the war in the air, in which platforms and weapons are exceedingly expensive. Moreover, in high-intensity fighting, extreme loss and usage rates accompany extreme unit costs. Thus, during the nineteen days of the October War, the Israelis lost 102 strike/fighters and the Arabs 433, and the Arabs fired 9,000 surface-to-air missiles. Those numbers alone amounted to thirty aircraft and $560 million per day.

What that meant was that neither the Israelis nor the Arabs were capable of fighting a high-intensity air war for more than about a week without direct assistance from their American and Soviet sponsors. Moreover, that is precisely what happened. On 9 October, the Soviets started a massive airlift to resupply the Egyptians and Syrians with missiles, ammunition, SAM components, radars, and much more; shortly afterwards, the US did the same for Israel. The US also made good the IAF’s aircraft losses by flying-in about 100 F-4s, A-4s and C-130s, some of which arrived still carrying United States Air Force markings.

Without that resupply, Israel and the Arab states could not have sustained such a high-intensity conflict.

This point bears emphasis. Israel was far superior militarily to the Arab states, and its excellent indigenous industry enabled it to develop essential capabilities (such as electronic warfare counter-measures) during the conflict. Nevertheless, it is not unreasonable to suggest that, had Egypt and Syria been resupplied and Israel had not, the war would have ended differently.

Sustainment in the form of aid from an external source was again crucial during the 1982 Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina.

FKD 2100
A formation of Royal Navy FRS1 Sea Harriers from three of the Fleet Air Arm Squadrons that served in the Falklands War. Viewed from front to back are aircraft of No. 800 Naval Air Squadron, No. 801 Naval Air Squadron and No. 899 Naval Air Squadron. The aircraft at the front is equipped with a Sidewinder missile. (Source: © Crown copyright. IWM (FKD 2100))

The UK’s armed forces are among the world’s very best, and the nation is one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful. Argentina in 1982 was a dysfunctional, second-world nation led by an incompetent cabal of military dictators. According to both the key foreign affairs advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Lord Charles Powell, and the US Assistant Secretary of Defense, Richard Perle, ‘Britain probably would have lost the war without American assistance.’ That assistance extended to providing vital intelligence, and to ‘stripping part of the frontline US air forces’ of the latest version of the Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

Argentina, by contrast, found itself the dismayed subject of Lord Palmerston’s unsentimental characterisation of alliances, when it was abandoned by two nations which, until the day the shooting started, it had believed were its friends. The first, the US, cut-off intelligence and diplomatic assistance; and the second, France, which had sold the Argentine Navy Super-Etendard strike fighters and Exocet missiles, withdrew the technical support needed to make that capability fully effective.

In the event, the Argentines managed to fire five Exocets, sinking two ships from the British war convoy and severely damaging a third. It is feasible that, with better targeting information and only a half-dozen more operational missiles, the Argentines might have inflicted sufficient damage on the convoy to have compelled it to turn back before it got within 100 kilometres of the Falklands.

Should Australia become involved in a high-intensity conflict in the next ten years, we can confidently expect that our air power would be well-trained and well-equipped. Those attributes would be insufficient in themselves, however, if they were not underwritten by a strong and reliable alliance.

N.B. This article was first published in the April 2018 issue of Australian Aviation.

Dr Alan Stephens is a Fellow of the Sir Richard Williams Foundation. He has been a senior lecturer at UNSW Canberra; a visiting fellow at ANU; a visiting fellow at UNSW Canberra; the RAAF historian; an advisor in federal parliament on foreign affairs and defence; and a pilot in the RAAF, where his experience included the command of an operational squadron and a tour in Vietnam. He has lectured internationally, and his publications have been translated into some twenty languages. He is a graduate of the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, and the University of New England. Stephens was awarded an OAM in 2008 for his contribution to Australian military history.

Header Image: Flight deck operations on board HMS Hermes during the Falklands War, c. 1982. A Sea Harrier takes off from the ski-jump while various missiles, helicopters and vehicles crowd the flight deck of the carrier. The arms front to back include 1000lb GP bombs with type 114 ‘Slick’ tails, 1000lb GP Bombs with Type 117 parachute ‘retarded’ tails, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and Sea Skua air-to-surface missiles. (Source: © Crown copyright. IWM (FKD 127))