Helion's MiGs in the Middle East Vol. 1

Author/Artists: David Nicholl & Tom Cooper


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 64 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-91-3336-36-3

This is an interesting look at the advent of the influence of the Soviet Union in the nations of the Middle East. It covers three nations; Egypt, Iraq, and Syria with the lion's share of the work dedicated to Egypt. All three of these nations were at one time or another, a fairly recent puppet of either the UK, and while all three did have an air force of some type, they relied on their 'host' nation for equipment.

After distancing themselves from these European Nations in the mid 1950s, they found that they were unable to maintain their air arms as they were unable to not only get newer aircraft, but spares for their older types, so petulant were the British, who cut off support of all types. It was then that Egypt's Nasser started looking elsewhere for aircraft to help him maintain some sort of parity against an increasingly hostile Israel. This led to Soviet equipment via the Czechs, who license built a lot of Soviet products. Syria also got into the act, ordering MiGs to help replace their growingly unserviceable British aircraft. Thus began a growing dependence of Soviet aircraft as the Russians were not only eager to spread their influence in the region, but offered really good financial deals.

For those who are unaware, during Nasser's time as Egypt's head, he wanted to unite all the nations of the Middle East (save Israel) into one political body called the United Arab Republic. The only nation that joined in was Syria. However, that worked out to Egypt's benefit as now their IL-28s could do photo recon missions by flying from the Sinai north and land in Syria at the end of a mission, and vice versa. Iraq, on the other hand, did not join the UAR, though it did take advantage of the offer of inexpensive Soviet weaponry during this time.

This book is very well researched and in some ways duplicates some of what you might have read in previous books covering the individual air forces. However, it approaches things from a different perspective and that is how these three countries dealt with not only the operation of Soviet equipment, but how they were trained to use it. One thing the Soviets did not get from arms sales was a foothold into the political lives of the populace as they had hoped. None of these countries wanted to turn out like much of eastern Europe of the time, so the road was sometimes rocky.

It all makes for another fascinating historical study by the folks at Helion. Lots of great photos and maps along with some insight that you simply don't get from other books on the subject. A book that I very much enjoyed reading and I know you will as well. Highly recommended.

June 2021

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