Helion's Wings of Iraq Vol 1
|Author/Artists:||Milos Sipos & Tom Cooper|
|$29.95 MSRP from Casemate|
88 pages, softcover, over 100
This latest addition to Helion's Middle East War series concentrates on the Iraqi Air Force from its formation in 1931 until 1970. Like many of the lands controlled by the British Empire, Iraq had what was basically a puppet government. The UK acquired control of Iraq after WWI when a deal was made with France over control of what had become the Middle East. Much to the dismay of the populace of Iraq, none of their concerns or desires were taken into consideration when the Ottoman Empire collapsed as Iraqis had hoped to be self-governing. Such was not the case.
Iraq was not an easy nation to govern. There were long-standing differences from the various tribes and religious groups that often boiled over into conflict. This was particularly true when it came to the Kurds in the north. Much time was spent by the British in 'air policing' Kurdish controlled territory. It was also not helpful that the Iraqi government, who was technically in charge, changed as often as one changes one's socks. This became even more of an issue once the British decided to mostly pull out of the country.
It was 1931 when the Iraqi Air Force was formed, mostly using British built aircraft. A build up of the Air Force was possible thanks to oil which provided weapons funding. Like the British, much of the Air Force was used internally to try to control insurrections. This use of air power fixed in the minds of leadership that aircraft was to be used as an extension of the army. The start of WWII, caused consternation for the British who feared that the Germans would gain access to Iraqi oil. This concern was shown to be valid as the then German-sympathetic requested German help in 1941. The British were quick to respond and the German participation was very short lived.
Post war, the oil kept the funds flowing for new equipment, still provided by the British. It wasn't until the late 50s that the use of Soviet equipment became more and more prominent. This equipment was easy to maintain, inexpensive to purchase, and the Soviets were more than willing to train pilots and maintenance personnel. It wasn't until the 1967 war with Israel that Iraqis discovered that the Soviets had terrible air to air missiles after firing a goodly number against Israeli aircraft with little success. Even after the 1967 war, Iraq continued to purchase Soviet aircraft and that is where volume one ends.
Over the last few years, I've grown to really appreciate how well Helion tells the story of whatever the subject of the book might be. They are well researched by experienced authors and include a great choice of images. One cannot tell these stories without weaving in the political story. History is pretty much about politics and the story of the IAF is no exception. It makes for a superb look into Middle East politics and why this part of the world is such a hot-bed of conflict. Highly recommended.
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