Soviet Rocket Fighters


Yefim Gordon


Midland, 2006


$36.95 from Specialty Press


Scott Van Aken

Notes: ISBN 1-85780-2453-8, 128 pages, over 300 photos and drawings

We all know that Yefim Gordon is one of the real experts on Soviet/Russian aviation and this one is one of his best. It covers the little-know Soviet rocket fighter program that actually started prior to their entry into WWII. Along with the German invasion came a rather frantic requirement for anything that could help to stem the German onslaught and that included a rocket fighter called the BI-1 that was just getting underway. Given the nearly impossible task of having a flight ready prototype in a mere 5 weeks, it was amazing that the team was able to do it in 6. The biggest problem facing Soviet designers was not so much the airframe, but the engine. The use of nitric acid as one of the two components to the fuel meant that engine life was short and the fuel itself hazardous to handle and to use. The result was a number of rather spectacular explosions both on the ground and in the air caused by the inevitable leaks and mis-handling. A really fascination story all in itself, but there is much more to the book that this one aircraft.

The author has also taken a look at paper projects, those that reached mockup and those that reached flight testing. This includes captured German Me-163s and further development of the DFS-346, a most fascinating story.

There are lots of superb period photos, most of which I've not seen published before and alone make it worth the price of the book. It also includes both modern and period drawings of the various craft and their systems, which only adds to the value.

 It is a fascinating story of the trials and tribulations of working on new technology, made even more poignant by having to do this under a rather cruel and uncaring dictatorship where failure means imprisonment or worse. In short, this is really one of those books that you have to have. I know you will not be disappointed.

December 2006

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