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Libyan Air Wars Part 1

Libyan Air Wars Part 1 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review May 2015 Title Libyan Air Wars Part 1
Author Tom Cooper, Albert Grandolini, Arnaud Delalande Publisher Helion
Published 2015 ISBN 9781909982390
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


Libya has remained a fixture in aerial warfare history from the very start.


In 1911, Italian Lt Giulio Gavotti "flew the first 'mass-produced' military aircraft ever to attack Turkish positions" in Libya during the Italo-Ottoman War.

Since then, authors Tom Cooper, Albert Grandolini and Arnaud Delalande observe, "various Western powers in Libya and were entangled in a seemingly never-ending exchange of blows launched in retaliation for one action or the other".

Now they outline aerial actions of the 1970s and 1980s in Libyan Air Wars – the lavishly illustrated 19th installment in Helion's terrific "Africa@War" series.

Subtitled "Part 1: 1973-1985", the capably concise chronicle – available in North America from Casemate – begins by recapping the Italian colonial period and post-independence efforts to establish a "Royal Libyan" air arm in 1962.

Coverage then segues to the Gadhafi era – the 1969 coup, massive Libyan Arab Air Force equipment efforts, border clashes with Egypt, multiple interventions in Chad and even trouble with Tunisia.

Authors skillfully summarize Soviet equipment performance, supply and readiness problems. They informatively illumine Libya's chronic manpower quandaries. And they capably chronicle one Gadhafi misadventure after another.

Like clashes over the Mediterranean with America in the 1980s – and combat with France in Chad, 1978-1985.

It's full of spellbinding stuff, too. I'd love to see shots of, for instance, that Armée de l'Air Noratlas "gunship" with two 20mm canon!

Abbreviations, sidebars, tables, maps and selected bibliography augment the account.  Color and B&W photos – some, surprisingly, from the "Gaddafi Collection" – further support Helion's study. And Tom Cooper's always-excellent profiles survey the striking swath of participating warplane livery.

Nitpicks? I prefer transliterating the dead Libyan dictator's name "Qadhafi". The authors devote excessive attention – four pages – to the well-known Aug 1981 Gulf of Syrte [Sidra] incident. Some intelligence analysts might dispute who really piloted LAAF MiG-25s. And, oh, by the way, that's an "Islamic Legion" T-54 (or Chinese T-59) tank on page 54 – not a T-55.

But I quibble. Helion masterfully distills early Gadhafi-era aerial warfare in this sound, slim study. I loved it. And I can't wait for the sequel!

Robustly recommended!

With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!