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Osprey Combat Aircraft No. 50


B-52 Stratofortress Units in Operation Desert Storm


Jon Lake


S u m m a r y

Publisher and Catalogue Details: Osprey Combat Aircraft No. 50
ISBN: 1841767514
Media and Contents: Soft cover, 96 pages
Price: GB£12.99 online from Osprey Publishing
Review Type: FirstRead
Advantages: Detailed coverage of subject
Recommendation: Recommended

Reviewed by Ken Bowes

Osprey's B-52 Stratofortress Units in Operation Desert Storm
may be ordered  online from Sq



The second part of a planned trilogy covering the combat use of the B-52 is the among the latest volumes in the Osprey Publications Combat Aircraft Series. The first volume covered the Buff from 1955-73, including the Vietnam War (Combat Aircraft No. 43). In this volume the author picks up the story again as the B-52 units of Strategic Air Command prepare to deploy to the Central Command AOR in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. The author is Jon Lake, a British pilot and aviation journalist who has previously contributed to the Osprey Series on such subjects as the Lancaster, Blenheim and Sunderland as well as the earlier B-52 title. In this volume he has demonstrated that he is equally at home with more modern subjects (even if the B-52 and Lancaster overlapped in their service lives).

This book is a quite detailed examination of the combat use of the B-52 in the 1991 war, and the lead up deployments and training that preceded it. The first chapter, “Back to War” sets the scene for the subsequent narrative. A brief summary of the Coalition response and the planning of the forthcoming air campaign are given by author. The following chapter, “The G Model” fills the gap between the end of combat operations in 1973 and the new deployments of 1990. The various systems upgrades applied to the B-52G and H fleet are discussed along with the change in strategy post-Vietnam as B-52 units adopted low-level tactics to penetrate Soviet air defences. The chapter “Prelude to Desert Storm” which follows is somewhat misnamed as it is a detailed examination of the USAF’s first real Global Power mission, when seven B-52Gs armed with AGM-86C Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles (CALCMs) flew a round trip from Barksdale AFB as part of the opening strikes on Iraq. At the time this mission was the longest in history, but has since been eclipsed by similar missions against the Former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan and Iraq.

Having put B-52G operations in context, the author covers in some detail the activities of the various Provisional Bomb Wings that were stood up for the conflict. Each is given its own chapter, with “Fire from the Island” devoted to the 4300th BW(P) on Diego Garcia. “1708th BW(P)’s War” details operations from Jeddah in South West Saudi Arabia. Given its location, it should be of no surprise to the reader to find that the B-52s at Jeddah flew more individual missions and dropped a higher tonnage of bombs that any of the other wings. “Moron and Fairford” is the last of these chapters, covering the 801st BW(P) and the 806th BW(P), the two wings being formed in Spain and England when the basing of a Wing at Cairo West in Egypt was determined to be politically unacceptable. Each of these chapters contains a combination of factual reporting and first person accounts from various air and ground crew. These are excellent and make the book to my mind. The various descriptions of low level passes over heavily defended targets cannot help but make the reader recall the B-17, ancestor of the B-52, on missions deep into Germany during World War Two.

To complete his narrative, Lake examines the potential use of the B-52H, including those armed with the AGM-142, if the war had continued. It is interesting to note from this that the B-52 fleet is not a bottomless pit and the effort of Desert Storm almost depleted the G-model aircraft and aircrew. The author seeks to put the overall narrative in context in the final chapter, drawing a number of conclusions and highlighting the lessons learnt that would be applied in future conflicts in the 1990s and early 2000s. Also included are five useful appendices, although they tend to present the same information in different formats. From these appendices the reader can trace a participating aircraft by serial number, unit, base or nose art applied. Three pages of 1/252 scale drawings of the B-52G and H round this section out. As is usual for Osprey Publications, 27 colour profiles fill the centre pages. A recent feature of Osprey volumes is a nose art gallery, and three pages are included in this volume. Whilst visually appealing and allowing the coverage of more aircraft than the profiles would normally allow, I am not sure that a modeller would find them much use as key details of colours and markings are not included.

This Osprey Book is comprehensive but as I have observed with previous volumes is not a definitive modelers reference. The majority of included photographs are small, but in common with many of the volumes on US subjects, includes a generous amount of colour. Anyone wishing to model a Desert Storm B-52G will need further references. However what this volume gives is the critical human dimension taking a model from being a toy to a historical replica capturing a moment in time.

The book consists of 96 pages printed on glossy paper between cardboard covers.


Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy.

B-52 Stratofortress Units in Operation Desert Storm
(Combat Aircraft 50)
Visit Osprey Publishing
Author: Jon Lake
Illustrator: Mark Styling
US Price: $19.95
UK Price: £12.99
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
Publish Date: November 11, 2004
Details: 96 pages; ISBN: 1841768022
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Review Copyright © 2004 by Ken Bowes
Page Created 25 May, 2004
Last updated 25 May, 2004

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