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Soviet Spyplanes of the Cold War

Soviet Spyplanes of the Cold War Book Review

By Michael C. Benolkin

Date of Review March 2014 Title Soviet Spyplanes of the Cold War
Author Yefim Gordon, Dmitriy Komissarov Publisher Pen & Sword
Published 2013 ISBN 9781781592854
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (BP) £16.99


I tend to preorder any of Yefim Gordon's titles to replace outdated references on Soviet-era aviation in my library. The research by Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov provide some unique insights into the development and operations of a variety of aircraft previously unavailable to most folks in the former Soviet Union, much less to those of us on the other side of the old 'Iron Curtain'. I've been especially interested in the subject of this title since reconnaissance tends to be overlooked on both sides of the cold war. When I first heard about this title last year, I pre-ordered the book on Amazon and waited for it to be released.

First the bad news: the title is misleading. I was looking forward to a look at the recce birds that I was aware of and perhaps some that I had not previously seen in Soviet Air Force service. This title covers two types: the Yak-25RV (before my time) and the MiG-25R series. I had expected to see coverage the Yak-25RV's successor, the Yak-28R series, the MiG-21R, the Su-17/22 recce variants, and a number of other reconnaissance types. The scope of this title is just two recce types.

Now for the good news: the coverage of these two types is up to the usual Yefim Gordon standards. I was pleased to see some old friends in the photos. When I was stationed in Berlin back in the late 1970s, there was a MiG-25 airbase just inside the Berlin Control Zone along with Berlin/Tegel (civil and French), Berlin/Gatow (British), and Berlin/Tempelhof (US) airports. There are a number of photos from Werneuchen AB in this title. Werneuchen AB was (obviously) in the Russian sector up in the northeast side of the Berlin Control Zone but its air traffic did not interact with the western air traffic controllers while operating in the control zone.

What was unique was the huge television tower (fernsehturm) in what used to be East Berlin that was nick-named the 'Pope's Revenge', as the sun's reflection in its mirror-ball surface was a cross. The Pope's Revenge was used as a visual turning point for commercial (and French Air Force) air traffic turning final approach into Tegel. It was also a turning point for the MiG-25s recovering at Werneuchen AB. There were numerous interesting stories that came out of our FAA representative to the Berlin Air Safety Center, but I digress.

The authors start out with a somewhat brief look at the Yak-25RV and follow that with a look at the available kits of the subject. The majority of the title focuses on the MiG-25R series and provides some good references for the different between photo-reconnaissance, SIGINT, and side-looking radar (SLAR) variants. This section is also rounded out with a look at the limited kits available for the MiG-25 reconnaissance variants.

If you're wanting to have a good look at the MiG-25 recce birds, this is definitely a title to add to the collection, but if you're looking for other Soviet-era reconnaissance types, perhaps the Gordon/Komissarov team will follow this up with additional volumes.

Definitely recommended!

Available in North America from Casemate.