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 email@example.com or via our contact page here.
Krzysztof Dabrowski, Defending Rodinu – Volume 2: Build-up and Operational History of the Soviet Air Defence Force, 1960-1989 (Warwick: Helion and Company, 2023).
In the 1950s, the Soviets had managed to grow a major Air Defence Force (PVO) capable of covering the entire airspace of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The PVO was able to field interceptors and surface-to-air missiles to intercept even high-flying foreign reconnaissance aircraft. By the early 1960s, the Soviets managed to theoretically, seal their airspace to unwanted visitors. Nevertheless, multiple foreign intelligence agencies and air forces continued seeking to penetrate the airspace of the USSR by means ranging from non-steerable ‘spy blimps’, via strategic bombers, to high-speed tactical reconnaissance aircraft. This activity kept the PVO on constant alert so that time and again it reacted mercilessly, even to entirely innocent passenger airliners, causing several major international incidents.
Defending Rodinu Volume 2 provides the operational history of the Soviet PVO from the early 1960s until the late 1980s – a period of continuously escalating tensions of the Cold War. Using documentation and publications never before released in the English language and richly illustrated, it provides a comprehensive, single-source point of reference for historians and enthusiasts alike.
Mark Galeotti, Afghanistan, 1979–88: Soviet Air Power against the Mujahideen (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2023).
The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan was fought as much in the air as on the ground. From the high-level bombing raids that blasted rebel-held mountain valleys, to the Mi-24 helicopter gunships and Su-25 jets that accompanied every substantial army operation, Soviet control of the air was a crucial battlefield asset. Vital to every aspect of its operations, Mi-8 helicopters ferried supplies to remote mountain-top observation points and took the bodies of fallen soldiers on their last journey home in An12 ‘Black Tulips’.
But this was not a wholly one-sided conflict. Even before the Afghan rebels began to acquire man-portable surface-to-air missiles such as the controversial US ‘Stinger,’ they aggressively and imaginatively adapted. They learnt new techniques of camouflage and deception, set up ambushes against low-level attacks, and even launched daring raids on airbases to destroy aircraft on the ground.
Featuring information previously unknown in the West, such as the Soviets’ combat-testing of Yak-38 ‘Forger’ naval jump jets, Soviet-expert Mark Galeotti examines the rebel, Kabul government and the Soviet operation in Afghanistan, drawing deeply on Western and Russian sources, and including after-action analyses from the Soviet military. Using maps, battlescenes and detailed ‘Bird’s Eye Views’, he paints a comprehensive picture of the air war and describes how, arguably, it was Soviet air power that made the difference between defeat for Moscow and the subsequent stalemate that they decided to disengage from.
Daniel Haulman, Misconceptions about the Tuskegee Airmen: Refuting Myths about America’s First Black Military Pilots (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2023).
Once an obscure piece of World War II history, the Tuskegee Airmen are now among the most celebrated and documented aviators in military history. With this growth in popularity, however, have come a number of inaccurate stories and assumptions. Misconceptions about the Tuskegee Airmen refutes fifty-five of these myths, correcting the historical record while preserving the Airmen’s rightful reputation as excellent servicemen.
The myths examined include: the Tuskegee Airmen never losing a bomber to an enemy aircraft; that Lee Archer was an ace; that Roscoe Brown was the first American pilot to shoot down a German jet; that Charles McGee has the highest total combat missions flown; and that Daniel “Chappie” James was the leader of the “Freeman Field Mutiny.” Historian Daniel Haulman, an expert on the Airmen with many published books on the subject, conclusively disproves these misconceptions through primary documents like monthly histories, daily narrative mission reports, honor-awarding orders, and reports on missing crews, thereby proving that the Airmen were without equal, even without embellishments to their story.
Jeff Pedrina, Wallaby Airlines: Twelve months flying the Caribou in Vietnam (Newport, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2023).
Jeff Pedrina’s book provides a very personal and thoughtful account of his twelve month’s service in Vietnam with No 35 Squadron – ‘Wallaby Airlines’. While the story is primarily about the people, and the personalities, he encountered during his tour of duty in Vietnam, it is also the story of a remarkable aircraft, the de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou – the first mass-produced short take-off and landing (STOL) aircraft of its size. For seven and a half years it was the backbone of the airlift effort in the highlands of Vietnam, and was operated by the Royal Australian Air Force until November 2009, forty-five years after it first entered RAAF service.
First into the theatre in 1964 and last out in 1972, the Caribou aircraft and its air and ground crews were the RAAF’s quiet achievers in Vietnam. In the course of seven and a half years, Wallaby Airlines achieved an excellent operational record and reputation as a tactical transport squadron. This book in its original format was first published in 2006, having been awarded Special Mention in the 2005 RAAF Heritage Awards. This new edition is intended to bring the experiences of Jeff Pedrina, and the exploits of the Wallaby Airlines and its venerable Caribou aircraft to life for a new generation of reader.
Usman Shabbir and Yawar Mazhar, Eagles of Destiny – Volume 1: Growth and Wars of the Pakistan Air Force, 1956-1971 (Warwick: Helion and Company, 2023).
Eagles of Destiny Volume 2 is a detailed account of the transformation of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) with the help of the first US assistance program, and how its leadership utilised this opportunity to create a modern air force. It provides detailed coverage of the PAF’s participation in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, based on official documentation and material from private collections that were previously not available to the public. The story of the Pakistan Air Force during this period is concluded by the coverage of the first build-up with the Chinese support, against the backdrop of US sanctions, highlighting and discussing the challenges and response.
Finally, the book provides detailed coverage of PAF operations during the 1971 War with India, including several first-hand accounts by key officers. Between 1956 and 1971, the PAF inducted a number of new weapon systems, including US-made F-86 Sabres, French-made Mirages, and Chinese-made F-6s. These developments and PAF’s strategy are all discussed in great detail.
Richly illustrated, and almost entirely based on accounts never published before, Eagles of Destiny Volume 2 provides a unique insight from professionals who were either directly involved, or witnessed the affairs in question.