Helion's MiGs in the Middle East Vol 2

Author/Artists: David Nicholle & Tom Cooper


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 72  pages, softcover
ISBN 978-1-914059-36-0

This volume continues from the previous offering by covering the years 1063 until the start of the 1967 war with Israel. The major focus of this time period was Egypt's war in Yemen. This is a conflict that is not well covered in western media, but had a major impact on the Egyptian Air Force. Specifically, it helped them to develop tactics for fighting an insurgency, something that was not taught. In fact, the Soviets, who supplied and trained Egypt and Syria's MiG pilots concentrated on tactics that were generally useless for these two nations. Specifically it was high altitude interception of enemy bombers.

It was the North Yemen conflict that showed to the Egyptians that the MiG-21 was fairly useless in this type of operation. The MiG-17 and armed Yak-18s were far more useful. It also allowed Egypt to make use of its IL-28 and Tu-16 bomber force, which proved to be quite effective if used properly. In this conflict, Egypt was up against British and US supported Saudi Arabia, who was then, as now, arming the Royalists, who has been ousted in a coup by those wishing to establish a republic. The war had a deleterious effect on the Egyptian economy as fighting a war meant supplying soldiers and airmen as well as keeping equipment in the field maintained. Eventually  it was this as much as the 1967 war with Israel caused the Egyptians to withdraw. In Egypt it is known as 'Egypt's Vietnam'. 

During much of the time covered in the book, Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic (UAR), though it was in reality run by the Egyptians. Syria was not a very stable nation and there were multiple coup attempts and some successes that eventually caused Syria to leave the UAR. Egypt tried to reform it but Nassar's attempts met with a lack of interest on all fronts. The constant shifting of power and various purges were deleterious to maintaining the Syrian Air Force.

All through this time, both Syria and Egypt continued to purchase Soviet aircraft and equipment. Both nations needed some sort of air defense and warning to combat the continued hostility of Israel. Syria in particular was constantly plagued by Israel's aggression along their border, first by occupying the DMZ between the two nations, and later by actively taking over Syrian territory and bombing water infrastructure in the border area. Many attempts were made by Syria to combat Israeli intrusions, but with only minimal success. Much of the issue was with the superior equipment of Israel whose Mirage III aircraft were too fast for Syrian MiG-17 and MiG-21 aircraft to catch.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the Soviets were slowly building up a proper air defense network which was based on the SA-2 'Guideline' SAM system and supporting radars. As was commonplace with Soviet equipment, it was slow in coming and equally slow in getting set up and operators trained. The main reason for this was that factories in the Soviet Union were prioritized to home defense requirements and so were unable to meet the rapid needs of Egypt and Syria. 

As is the norm with these books from Helion, the research is first rate. The authors have interviewed a number of the participants and are able to provide the sorts of insights that you cannot get from other sources. The book has some very nice period photos as well as a center section that includes full color profiles and illustrations. In all, it adds to what is a superb series of histories and is a book that I can highly recommend to you.

September 2021

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