Helion's Libyan Air Wars Part 3: 1986-1989

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


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 72 pages, softcover, over 150 images
ISBN 978-1-910294-54-3

So this is the third volume on the various military involvements with Libya during the 1970s and 1980s. In line with the previous two volumes, it continues the conflicts both with the United States and with the French and Chadian forces in Chad during these three years.

One could basically divide this book into two major and one minor sections. The first one involves whate ended up being operation Eldorado Canyon. In this instance, it was basically a USAF show were F-111E and F-111F aircraft from bases in the UK were sent to attack military targets in Lybia. This is a much more complex operation than many of us believe. Not only were the logistics of the operation  quite involved, but there was a definite lack of support from any European ally.

Rather than being given permission to overfly France from the UK, the strike force and all its tankers had to fly out into the Atlantic, down the western side of Europe, through the straight of Gibralter (Spain denied overflight as well as did Italy) and then along the north African coast to their target. Then after the operations, this had to be repeated on the way back. While the Sixth Fleet was there to offer support in terms of AWACS, SAM suppression, and top cover, they basically provided support. Not only that, but the attacks did not go as planned and few of the strikes were actually completed due to various issues. Those that were successful were very much so. All this was for the loss of a single plane that was probably shot down by a SAM.

The second part of the book involves Lybia's continuing operations in Chad. Despite being soundly thrashed earlier, the desire was there. This time, things did not go well. The Chadians had firm support from both France and the United States in terms of equipment. They developed tactics that were more well suited to desert warfare including the use of armed Toyota pick-up trucks or 'technicals' that had speed and maneuverability and were able to get in, cause mayhem and get out. They were fast enough so that Lybian tanks could not track them with their turrets. They also used the element of surprise and got behind Lybian defenses causing total chaos. If one believes the stats, the results were quite one-sided against the Lybian military. While the LAAF did its best to help the situation, the aircraft losses were higher than they'd have liked and having a base in southern Libya over run and destroyed did not help matters. The Chadian government wanted more arms and equipment to properly invaide Lybia, but when that happened, the French withdrew support and those plans died on the vine.

The third portion is the short event of Lybian MiG fighters against USN Tomcats in 1989. Unlike previous times when the LAAF played cat and mouse with the USN, Navy pilots were given the OK to fire at will without having to get permission first. The results were as expected and two of the LAAF's MiG-23s were quickly shot down as the Tomcats of VF-32 got off the first shots. Thus ended Lybia's overt attempts at confrontation with the US and France. It was by then painfully obvious that the ploys were not working so Ghadaffi tried other methods, which included funding of groups who carried out terrorist attacks. So well hidden was the Lybian involvement that it sometimes took more than a decade after the event to prove them culpable and in some cases their involvement was never proved.

This is a very brief look at what the book explores in much greater detail. We get to read about all the planning and the operations themselves with information provided from all sides of the various events. In line with the other book, the primary research in this one is first rate and does not rely on propaganda or hearsay as one often finds in popular media.

This all makes for a superlative book, well researched and chock full of great photos. It is a book that will appeal 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.

December 201616

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