Harpia Publishing's Arab MiGs Volume 4

Author/Artists: Tom Cooper & David Nicholle


Harpia  Publishing


$64.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 256 pages, softcover,
ISBN 978-0-9854554-1-5

I saw this title on one of the mailings I get from Casemate Publishing and was immediately intrigued. The book covers two subjects that I find fascinating; MiGs and their operation by the Arab nations of North Africa and the Near East. This particular volume covers the period of what is known as the 'Attrition War' from the end of the June 1967 war until the beginning of the October 1973 conflict between what was then the United Arab Republic and Israel.

Just because the overt ground was was over after the June 1967 war, did not mean that there was no further combat. On the Arab side, there was a lot of change that was needed as well as considerable rearmament, for like the Israelis, Arab forces, particularly Egypt and Jordan, had lost a considerable number of aircraft and quite a bit of their air defense infrastructure.

The only place that Egypt could get replacement equipment was the Soviet Union, and like before, the Soviets were unwilling to provide their best stuff. Eventually, both the Egyptian Air Force was brought up to levels that were sufficient and their air defense infrastructure was also improved.

Throughout this time, there were numerous attacks back and forth across the Suez Canal by both Egyptian and Israeli forces. Though Egyptian aircraft were pretty much second-rate compared to what the Israelis had in terms of range, maneuverability and fire power, Egyptian pilots were determined and things were not as one sided as is often portrayed in other accounts. There was a lot of purging of inept and unqualified leaders in the EAF and a huge increase in the emphasis on training was started. The EAF had a lot of Soviet advisors to help with this, but they felt that the Soviet way of operating was too limited and so their training was a mixture of Soviet and Egyptian ways of training. The end result was one of the most professional and highest trained air forces in the Arab world. One that was innovative and while still outclassed, was able to give nearly as good as it got.

Meanwhile, the air defense sector grew and SAM sites (mostly SA-2 but later some SA-3 systems) grew in number and grew closer to the Sinai. Egypt frequently moved its sites and set up many dummy sites so that when the IAF decided to attack an Egyptian site, it was often a dummy. Egyptian technicians had gotten so good at moving that overnight, they could be at another location with a complete dummy site set up in its place. Egyptian pilots also worked out methods of successfully attacking Israeli Hawk SAM sites and putting them out of commission so that raids nearby could be performed free of the worry of Israeli SAMs. All this without dedicated anti-radiation missiles.

In other countries, there was reequipping to do  as well with both Syria and Iraq procuring systems from both the Soviet Union and from Czechoslovakia. Raids back and forth with Syria still occured though not at the level as with Egypt. Meanwhile, Jordan had decided to seek assistance from the US after committing itself to not attacking Israel and fighting a near war with the Palestinians and Syria.

The book is quite similar to the last one in its tone and in the sort of coverage it provides. The authors have done a superlative job of researching this volume. They have talked to those who fought in the war, have poured over available documents in all the nations involved, and were able to piece together a very interesting picture of what occurred nearly fifty years ago. Any and all conclusions drawn are based on the facts they were able to obtain and where the information is not clear, it is presented as such.

It covers not only the main Arab nations, but also the events in Libya, Morrocco and Lebanon. I particularly found the section on Egypt's involvement in Yemen to be of interest as so little has ever been written about this, and the involvement of Saudi Arabia in the events of the time is also interesting. Few realize that the Soviet Union sent an entire squadron to Egypt to help in their air defense as well as provided other resources such as long range reconnaissance, air/sea services and some modern bomber types, though few of these were every involved directly in combat.

The book also busts the myth of the Nesher being the result of Israeli intelligence obtaining plans for the plane and building it themselves. At the time, the Israeli aircraft industry was quite incapable of building a plane from scratch as they did not have the equipment nor the expertise. Despite the French government putting an 'embargo' on shipments to Israel, the Mirage 5Js that Israel paid for were clandestinely shipped to Israel by Dassault and assembled with the help of French and US personnel. There is more to it than that, but I'll leave that for you to read yourself when you get the book.

The book is not a quick read, but it is one that I highly recommend to those interested in the topic and with open minds. There are a lot of great photos, charts and maps included as well as some color profiles that will be very useful to modelers and enthusiasts alike.

February 2015

Review book courtesy of  Casemate Publishing, where you can order your copy at this link.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.