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Air War on the Edge:

A History of the Israel Air Force and Its Aircraft Since 1947

by Bill Norton


S u m m a r y

Publisher and Catalogue Details: Air War on the Edge: A History of the Israel Air Force and Its Aircraft Since 1947 By Bill Norton
ISBN: 1857800885
Media and Contents: Hard Cover 432 glossy A4 pages
Price: GBP50.00 from www.midlandcountiessuperstore.com
Review Type: FirstRead
Advantages: Excellent coverage of individual aircraft types of the IAF.
Recommendation: Highly recommended for any aviation enthusiast

Reviewed by Ken Bowes

Air War on the Edge may be ordered  online from Squadron.com



Recently published by Midland Counties Publications (an imprint of the famous British aviation publisher Ian Allen) is Air War on the Edge: A History of the Israel Air Force and Its Aircraft Since 1947.

In this book author Bill Norton has endeavoured to pull together the many and often contradictory sources of information on the IAF into one coherent volume. Being an American he has done this without official assistance from the Israeli MOD and has relied on open sources for all his research. That said he has produced a creditable effort that will be useful to students of Middle-East conflict and modellers alike.

Whilst titled a history of the IAF and its aircraft, Air War on the Edge really leans more towards the latter. The opening chapter does indeed summarise the historical background of the IAF albeit for only 47 pages (out of 432), it is then the book launches into the meat of its content. 15 pages of full colour photographs of major IAF operational types precedes a comprehensive type by type analysis of every aircraft type that has served in the IAF inventory. This is further broken down into themes such as Operational Aircraft (Mirage, F-16 etc), Unmanned Aircraft, Evaluated Aircraft (Lavi, MiG-29), Captured Aircraft (MiG-21,23 etc) and Other (including the French F-84Fs operated in IAF markings during Suez). One look at the contents page is eye opening in regard to the sheer number of types that have seen service with the IAF. A good comparison is that the RAAF operated only five major fighter types between 1950 and 2004, whilst the IAF had 12 in significant numbers during the same period.

The type by type histories is very thorough and includes, where known or recorded, tables of the individual aircraft serial numbers by unit. The book also attempts to break through some of the traditional secrecy of the IAF regarding its true orbat and squadron designators. Many sources will only give the nicknames of units such as the Hammers or the First Jet Squadron. This volume also gives the unit number (69 and 117) and known operating bases and types flown, giving the reader a clearer picture of the evolving operational structure of the IAF.  One of the appendices further gives an excellent reference to the elaborate Squadron badges carried on IAF aircraft, including historical development as markings have evolved which each new aircraft type.




In summary, this book has proved to be very satisfying, usefully filling gaps in the story of the IAF. The author freely admits the lack of official assistance or access to classified sources but has done a creditable effort with that information that is available in the public domain.

The book will appeal to those with an interest in the IDF, Middle-East Conflicts and aviation in general. The IAF is probably one of the most combat experienced small air forces and as such its history and philosophical approach is well worth studying. Those seeking good facts and figures will find those details of units, serials, delivery dates etc most useful, whilst the descriptions of operations and combat contained in each aircraft entry will satisfy the generalist with a military aviation bent.

The format of the book caters less well for those interested in the personal stories of the aircrew who commit aviation in these machines, although some anecdotes and stories of individual heroism are contained herein.

The modeller will also find this volume worth shelling out some hard earned dollars on. The extensive colour section and the numerous large clear black and white photos printed on glossy A4 pages make the book a very useful research source. The IAF is well served in both kits and aftermarket products and this book will assist in getting the best out of your models. Interested in modelling a Netz from Operation Opera (the Osirak Raid)? In here you will find the units, individual serials, description of markings and weapons loadouts you need.

Highly Recommended.

Thanks to Midland Publishing for the review sample.

Review Copyright 2004 by Ken Bowes
Page Created 25 May, 2004
Last updated 25 May, 2004

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