Helion's Air Wars between Ecuador and Peru: 1981

Author/Artists: Amaru Tincopa


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 64 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-913118709

Helion has made a reputation for itself by providing well researched books on the lesser known conflicts around the world. South American was by no means isolated from conflict and many nations had wars that were primarily based on border disagreements. This is not as unusual as it might seem as often these disputed areas were either highly mountainous or somewhere in the Amazonian jungle.

A case in point is the disagreement of Ecuador with its larger southern neighbor Peru. Of the two, Peru was much more wealthy and so had a considerable military and air force. Ecuador was originally fairly poor so military expenditures were only a small percentage of what Peru could afford. However, Ecuador was able to find petroleum and this helped to spark an ability to provide more modern equipment for its forces.

All of this happened in the forty years since the 1941 war and by the early 1980s, Ecuador apparently thought that it would be able to take over some of the disputed territory. This was also fueled by a perception that they had gotten the raw end of the stick in the 1941 agreement.

While the conflict in 1981 was fairly low key as these things go, it provided the Peruvian military with the opportunity to see how well it would react to the take over and building of Ecuadoran posts on the Peruvian side of the border. Since that was a fairly isolated area in the Condor mountain range, all equipment and troops had to be flown in.

Fortunately for Peru, the intervening years had enabled them to re-equip with some modern aircraft. They had French Mirage 5 attack aircraft, Soviet Su-22 fighter bombers, Mi-8 and Mi-6 helicopters along with Canberra bombers, A-37s and Bell 212 aircraft. On the Ecuador side, they had Jaguar fighter bombers, A-37 attack aircraft and a fair number of Alouette II helicopters. Clearly the Peruvians had an advantage in equipment numbers this time around as well.

The conflict was fairly bloodless as neither Ecuador nor Peru really wanted things to escalate. There were some combat losses in terms of troops on both sides and aircraft were lost or damaged. The only real dogfighting that occurred was between the A-37 attack aircraft as depicted on the cover of this edition. Due to the mountainous topography, the larger aircraft were unable to be properly utilized so it was mostly A-37s and helicopters that provided the offensive firepower.  

As is often the case in this series, the author has done a magnificent job straightening everything out for the reader so that we can follow not only the twists and turns on the ground, but also in the political arena. While the majority of the photos and the entire dialogue of the war comes from the Peruvian side, this is due to the author's access to Peruvian archival records, something that, once again, he was not able to do with the Ecuadoran side of things. I wonder what it is that makes the military archives of Ecuador so difficult to access for historical content, but this was an issue he had with the earlier volume as well. While not as convoluted as those conflicts involving insurgencies, politics plays a part in every war and it is important to see why each side did what they did.

The book is basically divided into two sections. The first half covers the changes in the militaries of both nations including the various aircraft that were obtained since the 1941 war and how the various choices were made. Small Air Force fans will find this part particularly interesting. The second half is on the war itself.  When you add in the great period photos, excellent charts and maps along with a nice selection of color work on the aircraft involved, you have a book that makes for a great read.

This one is very much recommended to those who have an interest in this sort of conflict or this part of the world. Pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

July 2020

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