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Cuban MiGs: The Defenders of Castro's Air Force

Cuban MiGs: The Defenders of Castro's Air Force Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review April 2023 Title Cuban MiGs: The Defenders of Castro's Air Force
Author Hélio Higuchi & Paulo Roberto Bastos Junior Publisher Harpia Publishing, LLC
Published 2023 ISBN 9781950394098
Format 137 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $41.95


Communist Cuba and Fidel Castro remain fixtures in Cold War histories. Now Hélio Higuchi and Paulo Roberto Bastos Junior competently chronicle “The Defenders of Castro's Air Force” in Cuban MiGs from Harpia Publishing.

Available in North America from Casemate, coverage spans nine lavishly illustrated chapters across 137 pages:

  • Cuban military aviation: the first decades
  • The early years of the revolution, (1959–1961)
  • The MiGs arrive at last
  • Cuban missile crisis
  • Arrival of more fighter planes and their operations
  • The last fighters
  • The foreign wars
  • The Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria and the fall of the Soviet Union
  • DAAFAR [Defensa Antiaérea y Fuerza Aérea Revolucionaria] fighters order of battle.

Notes on critical military, political, economic, and technical factors leaven authors’ analyses. And commentary sports scads of fascinating details – many, given the understandable lack of primary sources, hearsay.

Combat actions and anecdotes season the study. Tables distill text. An appendix recaps aircraft specifics by type. And references – print and internet, mostly secondary – conclude contents.

Model and markings mavens will love it. Harpia’s picture-packed production sports nearly 200 rare illustrations: color photos, B&W shots, profile art, inset badges and insignia, and two maps.

And expect more than just products of the legendary Mikoyan and Gurevich Design Bureau. Core contents also showcase Cuban warplanes from The United States, Britain, and Soviet Russia – Lockheed T-33s, Douglas B-26s, Hawker Sea Furies, Ilyushin Il-28s, and others.


The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962 – not in 1963. As Brigade 2506’s “Cuban Liberation Air Force” only operated Douglas B-26Bs over the Bay of Pigs, Rafael del Pino could not have downed a B-26C.

The small size of many photos precludes more detailed image analyses – as with Page 25’s intriguing shot of a taxiing Cuban Sea Fury and camouflaged B-26C. A larger, higher resolution, and more closely cropped version of that image would prove immeasurably more valuable.

Nitpicks aside, until Cuba’s repressive regime provides free, unfettered access to state archives, this will remain our best available study of Cuban MiGs.

Roundly recommended!

With thanks to Casemate for the review copy.