Sunday, May 27, 2007

NONFICTION BOOKS: "Air Warfare in the Missile Age" by: Lon Nordeen

BOOK TITLE: "Air Warfare in the Missile Age"
AUTHOR: Lon O. Nordeen
TYPE: Nonfiction
PUBLISHER: Smithsonian Books
PUBLICATION DATE: 1985 (2002 Edition)
BINDING: Hardcover
ISBN: 0874-746-809

- Lon O. Nordeen has completely updated his 1985 chronicle of military aviation's evolving role in warfare, now covering the major conflicts of the past four decades through the addition of chapters on the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, and the Bosnia-Kosovo conflict, and new material concerning past and recent actions in Afghanistan. He presents the historical and political background of each conflict and includes in-depth discussions of the aircraft, weapons, tactics, training, new systems, and other factors that influenced the outcome of each war. New and existing chapters have been enhanced with information based on recently declassified material -- especially regarding Vietnam -- and new sources in Egypt, Israel, and the former Soviet Union. As "smart" bombs have become more successful in reducing the risks for pilots and frontline troops, air-missile warfare has become the central player in military conflicts. Air Warfare in the Missile Age, Second Edition, is a valuable resource for understanding the evolution of modern air warfare.

REVIEW (by: Maksim-Smelchak):
- Lon Nordeen has been a writer in various defense and aviation magazines for more than twenty years. I first became aware of him after reading his book "Fighters Over Israel," a very cogent and incisive account of the rise of Israel’s air force and the many battles they have fought. Mr. Nordeen has done no less with this book; he has turned out one of the best overviews of the effect that missiles have had on aerial warfare since the Vietnam conflict until the Falkland Island War and the various wars in the Middle East as of the book’s 1985 publishing date.

The book has an introduction, ten chapters, two appendices, notes, a glossary, an index, and a very comprehensive bibliography. The book devotes the first two chapters to the Vietnam conflict detailing the constantly evolving tactics between North Vietnam’s excellent air force and air defenses versus the combined air forces of the United States. The next two chapters detail the little-known conflicts between Pakistan and India, which were a paradigm for the shape of aerial warfare to come. The next four chapter detail the many Arab-Israeli wars as well as inter-Arab warfare such as the conflict between Iraq and Iran. The book’s last two chapters detail the short but intense Falkland Islands conflict and draws conclusions about the effect and direction missiles have had on military aviation.

The supplemental material at the end of the book is extremely useful: lists of aircraft, aerial cannon, missiles, and bombs. The notes reference all of the hard data that Mr. Londeen uses. If you want to know where he read that information, look it up by footnote and you’ll find it. The glossary is of immense use to those of us studying military aviation who weren’t a part of military aviation. For instance, do you know what an Ironhand flight is? If you don’t, both the text and the glossary have ready explanations / definitions for you.

The bibliography is very comprehensive and uses books from both sides of every conflict where they were available. When reading about the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example, Mr. Londeen has made every effort to quote both Arab and Israeli sources. In fact, rather than state that "so many aircraft were shot down on this day," Mr. Londeen states both sides’ claims and often additionally references other sources that support those claims. For example, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War (known popularly in the Arab world as the Ramadan War), he states at one point the combined claims of the Arab air forces accounted for more aircraft than the Israel Air Force flew! He quotes an Egyptian Air Force officer who explained that the Israelis have more aircraft than anyone knows. Very interesting. I also want to mention that Mr. Nordeen has written not only a history of Israel’s air force, but also a history of Egypt’s air force called: "Phoenix over the Nile: A History of Egyptian Air Power 1932-1994." I would also like to mention that my edition is the older 1985 printing and that a more up-to-date 2002 version has been published, but I haven’t seen or read that edition.

At any rate, Mr. Londeen has done an excellent job of telling the rise of missile warfare without taking a strong bias for any side. He points out, from a very even keel, the strengths and weakness of the various combatants in major conflicts involving aerial warfare since the advent of the missile.

I highly recommend this very well written book for anyone wanting to learn more about the effect that the missile has had on military aviation.

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