Osprey's B-52 Stratofortress vs SA-2 Guideline SAM


Peter E Davies


Osprey Publishing


$20.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover
ISBN: 978-1-4728-2362-5

This latest matchup in Osprey's popular Duel series concentrates on two adversaries that met each other in the skies over North Vietnam. The B-52 and SA-2 were both developments of the 1950s with the SA-2 being a bit younger.

The Stratofortress was one of America's triad of nuclear deterrents, though by the time of the later years of the Vietnam war, its importance had been reduced by the advent of submarine and intercontinental missiles. Still, the later versions were still performing alerts, while the earlier D models had been modified to carry iron bombs in the conventional bombing role, a task they had been performing in South Vietnam and Laos for much of the war. Yet they had not really met the SA-2 in combat.

The SA-2 was the Soviet's first really capable surface to air missile and gained some fame by being able to shoot down the U-2s that overflew the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s. By the time of the Vietnam war, the system was showing its age. It was vacuum tube technology that, while it could be quite effective, required some rather intense training to become proficient. Unlike today's 'fire and forget' missiles, the SA-2 often needed to be manually tracked to target. The system's fire control radars were fairly easy to jam and were constantly under the thread of Wild Weasel anti-radiation missiles.

The SA-2 was also a lot more successful against other aircraft types in terms of what was shot down, but this book concentrates on the Linebacker II missions where the B-52 was under attack of the SA-2 for the rather brief span of their operations over North Vietnam.

I read this book shortly after reading Ospreys Air Campaign book of Linebacker II and aside from the the initial parts of the book on the history of the two adversaries, found that the combat portions of this book were very much the same as in that previous title. Perhaps not so much on the screwups of SAC commanders, but still quite a goodly amount of repetition. On hindsight, it is not all that unusual for this to be the case as they both pretty well cover the same ground. The book is well written and provides insight into both sides of the conflict. Those who have not read much on the North Vietnamese side of the story will find that to be very interesting and while there is still much that has not been brought to light, it shows that these men were just as dedicated and skilled as the American airmen who were forced to fly some very dangerous missions until wiser heads were able to take the planning away from SAC HQ and in the field where it belonged in the first place. A great read and one I know you will like.

November 2018

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