Tom Cooper and David Nicolle's Arab MiG series is an incredible history that addresses the Arab air forces of Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from 1955 through 1973. Although MiG aircraft dominate the story, all Post-WWII Arab aircraft are included. The authors have been able to access official archives as well as the combatants involved to provide a unique perspective of the Middle East conflicts. Volume one in this series, published November 19, 2009, covered the background of the Arab air forces from 1955 focusing on MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighters. Volume two, published October 19, 2011, addressed the Arab air force supersonic fighters from 1956 through 1967. Volume three in the Arab MiGs series focuses on the Arab air forces in the June 1967 War and was published October 24, 2012. Volume four in the Arab MiGs series focuses on the Arab air forces in the Attrition War from 1967 through 1973 and was published October 19, 2013. There is a sixth volume that follows in this series that continues with the same thick 256 glossy page count. I counted 114 black and white photographs, 106 color pictures, 55 color side profiles, and nine maps.
Tom Cooper, born in Vienna, Austria, in 1970 is a military aviation historian that has focused on Post-WWII Middle Eastern air forces. Tom traveled extensively though his military service and subsequently in his transportation business. Through his travels, Tom Cooper has established contacts and identified sources that have permitted him to bring a unique look to Asian and African military aviation. Mr. Cooper has written more than 400 articles and has authored (or co-authored) over 25 books. Aiming to deliver a complete picture, Tom is also an accomplished illustrator and color profiles are included in his books and articles. To find out more, check his Linked In page.
Dr. David Nicolle, born in London in 1944, is a military historian specialized in the history of the Middle Ages, specifically, the Middle East. Dr. Nicolle worked for BBC Arabic and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. A prolific writer on military historical topics, his interests include military aviation in the Arab and Islamic theatre. He was a history professor at Yarmouk University in Jordan from 1983 till 1987. Dr. Nicolle has been quite prolific with dozens of television documentaries and more than one hundred books and even has a Wikipedia page.
Lon Nordeen, from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lon has more than 35 years in the aerospace industry and is a historian specializing in Cold War armor and Middle East military aviation. He has authored more than 200 articles and a dozen books and has been featured in programs on The History Channel.
Holger Müller has previously authored a hard covered book on the MiG-21, published in 2012 through Motorbuch-Vertag. An aviation enthusiast, Holger Müller was born in 1968 and served in the East German Air Force as a MiG-21bis mechanic/technician with JG-8.
This is the fifth volume in the Arab MiGs series with a focus on the start of the October 1973 War. Starting off with an introduction, acknowledgements, and two pages of abbreviations, this volume then addresses seventeen pages of addenda / errata from the first four volumes of Arab MiGs. The addenda / errata adds a substantial amount of additional photographs and information that has come to light since the first four volumes were published, kicked off with a photo of Samir Aziz Mikhail in front of a MiG-17PF of No. 31 Squadron in 1963. Then we get into the meat of the beginnings of the first few days of the October 1973 War with five Chapters. I’m expecting that the remainder of the October 1973 War will be addressed in Arab MiGs Volume 6. I would note that each of these chapters comes complete with footnotes at the chapter’s end. Completing this volume are five appendices, a bibliography, and an index.
I continue to be amazed at the superlative effort presented by the authors. The authors have accessed never-before-seen data, stories, and photographs that enrich the storyline. This includes interviews and combat reports over the backdrop of the political turbulence exacerbated by the Cold War between the US and Russia. The authors acknowledge that such experiences are not necessarily accurate as the claims often can be inflated due to the heat of battle and don’t necessarily stand up to scrutiny once the opposing side’s story is included. Nevertheless, these first hand experiences put the reader inside the battle. This edition includes a bit more of interface with the Israeli side of the story to better analyze the conflicting claims of the October 1973 war. The authors contend that the IDF exaggerated the facts, but the sad truth is that with the continuing conflict in the region, especially in Syria, it may be some time before the record can be evaluated further. As it is, this book details the events that unfolded on October 6, 1973 when the Egyptian and Syrian Air Forces attacked Israeli positions on the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.
There are many great stories in this book and one that still stands out in my mind is in ‘Battlefield Carnage’. It was the second day of the war, October 7, 1973. The Syrian Air Force were in heated battles with Israeli Skyhawks, Mirages, and Super Mystere B2s [and maybe F-4Es]. Unfortunately, the Syrian Air Force also had to battle their own air defense forces. Most of the Syrian combats involved MiG-21s, primarily flying top cover for Su-7BMKs. After an engagement with Mirages, a flight of six MiG-21MFs was returning to their air base at Dmeyr when the Syrian air defenses deployed SAMs to welcome their pilots back. 1st Lt. Ahamad Sabbagh was killed while another MiG-21 on landing final with its gear deployed was destroyed by AAA. Another MiG-21 pilot was helping run cover for Su-7s on a ground attack mission when they got bounced by Mirages. Pilot Majid az-Zoughby was dumbstruck that the IDF Mirages had ignored the Su-7s and had attacked the MiG-21s flying above. After avoiding two sets of Mirage pairs, Majid az-Zoughby had to withdraw from the battle, being nearly out of fuel. Majid az-Zoughby’s MiG-21 was attacked by Damascus AAA and hit, although he did manage to land safely. His wingman was not so lucky when the AAA opened up on him as he was passing. Of the six MiG-21s in the flight, four were taken out by Syrian SAMs or AAA. Only two aircraft landed safely in exchange with a ‘probable’ against a Mirage. The authors do note that the Syrian pilots made little distinction between Mirages and Phantoms in their combat reports, so these Mirages could easily have been Phantom IIs.
The Chapters include:
- Addenda/Errata: Arab MiGs, Volume 1 to 4
- No Peace, No War
- Facing Reality
- Slowing Down
- Death of a Stratofreighter
- Reconnaissance Games
- Granite and Minarets
- Tensions with the Soviets
- Break with Moscow
- Patience Before Purpose
- Battle Days
- Master Plan
- EAF as of October 1973
- Table 1: EAF Order of Battle, 5 October 1973
- SyAAF as of October 1973
- Table 2: SyAAF Order of Battle, 5 October 1973
- National Markings of Egyptian and Syrian Air Forces, 1955-1973
- Modus Operandi
- Tactical Planning and Training
- Expansion of the ADC
- Establishment of the SyAADF
- Table 3: IDF/AF Order of Battle, 6 October 1973
- Seeking Revenge
- Irritating Clashes
- Air Battle of Tartous
- Mythical ‘Concept’
- Don’t Pre-empt
- Egyptian Countdown
- Quiet Morning
- The Kelt Surprise
- Operation Badhr: The First – and Only – Wave
- Triumph or Failure?
- Crossing the Canal
- Battle for Budapest
- Heliborne Assault
- Syrian Countdown
- Bitter Revenge
- Assault on Jebel Sheikh: Another Surprise
- Armoured Juggernaut
- Secret Weapon: SA-6 Gainful
- Table 4: Equipment of a Typical Egyptian and Syrian 2K12E Kvadrat SAM Site, 1973
- A Long and Miserable Day
- New Israeli Formations…
- …and a New Situation Over Egypt
- Death From Below
- Battlefield Carnage
- Balance Sheet
- The ‘Luck’ Factor: Differences in Air Combat Capabilities
- Hold the Line
- Scarlet Rock
- Drama at Port Said
- Tough School
- Whirlpool of Death
- From Kirkuk to Damascus
- Table 5: IrAF Order of Battle and Transfers to Syria, October 1973
- Appendix I: Deliveries of MiG-21s to Arab Countries, 1961-1973
- Table 6: Production of MiG-21s at GAZ-21, 1959-1973
- Table 7: Production of MiG-21s at GAZ-30, 1962-1974
- Table 8: Production of MiG-21s at GAZ-31, 1957-1984
- Table 9: Availability of MiG-21 Variants Confirmed as Delivered to Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, 1961-1973
- Table 10: Chronological Summary of Known MiG-21 Deliveries to Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, 1961-1973
- Table 11: Known and Confirmed Construction Numbers and Serial Numbers of Various Algeran, Egyptian, and Syrian MiG-21s
- Appendix II: Deliveries of Aero L-29 Delfins to Iraq, 1968-1974
- Table 12: Deliveries of L-29s to Iraq, 1968-1974
- Appendix III: Logbooks of Egyptian Pilots
- Appendix IV: EAF Squadron Commanders, October 1973
- Appendix V: Artworks
Tom Cooper, David Nicolle, Lon Nordeen, Holger Müller, and Martin Smisek have delivered an incredible tome in Volume 5 of this series. I must state that this is not a mere photographic essay, but an in-depth pursuit that will take you some time to assimilate. I had seen this book at IPMS Nationals, but had passed it by. I’ve previously reviewed Volumes Three and Four, now I need to go buy Volumes One and Two. The rare photographs are aligned with the timeline and illustrate the text greatly. My thanks to Casemate and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this excellent book.