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Wings Over Ogaden

Wings Over Ogaden Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review June 2015 Title Wings Over Ogaden
Author Tom Cooper Publisher Helion
Published 2015 ISBN 9781909982383
Format 64 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


Renowned historian and journalist Tom Cooper adeptly illumines a critical Cold War clash in Wings Over Ogaden: The Ethiopian–Somali War 1978–1979.

Eighteenth installment in Helion's outstanding "Africa@War" series, Cooper's pithy précis spans just six compact chapters and 64 pages.

Contents commence with Cooper's typically terrific historical background notes. Coverage then segues to combatants' equipment, force structures, dispositions and planning. Accounts of combat and the region's rather Byzantine politics follow. And an epilogue explores the air war's aftermath.

Leveraging superior training and logistics, Ethiopia quickly established air superiority. Somalia, by contrast, suffered – among other things – from faulty intelligence, minimal air-combat training and inadequate radar coverage.

Cooper includes, for instance, the truly "historic" victory of an Ethiopian Air Force F-5E Tiger II over a Somali MiG-21MF – "the first ever encounter between these two classic lightweight fighter designs". He decisively dismantles the prevailing "Petrov's Offensive" myth. And he concludes with truly insightful, illuminating analyses. Don't miss them.

With cohesiveness, professionalism and esprit, Ethiopian airmen – backed by Soviet and Cuban equipment and personnel – proved decisive in routing Somali invaders, ending the Ogaden War in April 1978. As one Ethiopian source confided, "'No Soviet-trained air force stood a chance against an American-trained one.'"

Nitpicks? Some. IEAA UH-1 serials total 13 machines – not 12. I thought Ethiopian Canberra B.Mk.52 "354" wore Medium Sea Grey BSC637 ventral camouflage. How were CCS An-24s configured for bombing? And I'd really like more on "Mezentzev, Ethiopian-Somali Border War" – cited in footnote 109, but not listed in Cooper's selected bibliography.

But I quibble. Cooper masterfully marshals his sources for a remarkably revealing account of this air war. His superb study simply confirms why Helion's "Africa@War" series has forged such brilliant repute for plowing the backwaters of Cold War conflict.

Rabidly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Casemate Publishing for this review sample!