Helion's Libyan Air Wars Part 1: 1973-1985

Author/Artists: Tom Cooper, Albert Grandioli & Arnaud Delalande


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 64 pages, softcover, over 130 images
ISBN 978-1-909982390

When it comes to Libya, most American readers will concentrate on two events in the 1980s as well as the recent overthrow of the nation's strong man and the devolution of its government into virtual chaos (which seems to happen in this part of the world when a dictator is overthrown with the help of western forces).

However, Libya has been in conflict with its neighbors for a considerable time, particularly when Muammar Gadaffi took over power in a coup in 1969. It was about this time that oil companies found considerable resources in the Libyan desert, allowing Gadaffi to start spending money on modernization of the nation and that included the air force. Prior to this the US military had been providing support in building up the Libyan Air Force in terms of aircraft, training and developing Wheelus air base where the US had been operating since the early 1950s. Your editor lived in Tripoli with his family in 1952/3 (there was no base housing) when his father was posted there to manage the communications station. It left an indelible impression, even at such a young age. The USAF used the base for weapons training as much as anything else, but once Gadaffi took power, it wasn't long before the US left in 1971.

Gadaffi had ambitions of uniting Saharan nations, with himself taking a major leadership role. As such, he needed to be able to either convince or force surrounding nations to join. However, he was sorely lacking in terms of an effective military. This was especially true of the air force. Gadaffi went on a major weapons buying spree purchasing far more equipment that he would ever be able to use. Most of his equipment came from either the French or the Soviets with training of his pilots being held all over Europe. Meanwhile, his planes were flown by pilots either seconded from other nations (Pakistan, North Korea, and for a bit, Egypt).

Eventually, there were enough to start building up his units. Where Gadaffi couldn't get cooperation, he stirred up trouble. This included Tunisia and Egypt. He tried border incursions with Egypt, but was soundly trounced, as much due to the lack of skills and experience of his commanders as anything else. Where he did have success of sorts was in Chad and much of this book covers his exploits in this nation. Of course, Chad was a former French colony and frequently the French came to aid when asked with the expected results.

While those in France are undoubtedly aware of all the actions in Chad during this time, many outside the nation probably know little about it and so will find much of what is in this edition to be new to them. This one also includes the Gulf of Sidra events of 1983 along with a ton of superlative photographs of both the aircraft and the men involved in all of these conflicts. I found it to be a superlative book, one where the authors obviously did their research. it is the sort of thing that appeals to both modelers and historians alike. If you are interested in some of smaller conflicts involving air power, this is the book for you. Highly recommended.

September 2016

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

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