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Book: African MiGs
By Tom Cooper
Jul 8, 2004, 08:48

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From the Publisher

"African MiGs" examines the role and the history of deployment of the MiG- and Sukhoi-fighters in no less but 19 African Air Forces: from Guinea in the west to Somalia in the east, and from Mali and Sudan in the north to Angola and Mozambique in the south, any African air force that ever used or is still using interceptors and fighter-bombers built by MiG, Sukhoi, Shenyang, Chengdu, or Nanchang, is mentioned and is described into an extent never available before. This fact makes this book a unique work of reference beyond any doubt!

Years-long-research undertaken by several persons is this work’s background. It was conducted with the help of numerous eyewitnesses, but also quite a few previously secret documents from different countries and archives, made accessible for the first time with this publication.

This well-balanced, detailed and extensive work describes and analyses on 160 pages the development of each single air force, its organisation and abilities, equipment, units, bases, the employment of the "MiGs", and their characteristics, serials and other markings.

In many cases of countries where "MiGs" were involved in any sort of fighting - and this was the case with almost every single African air force that used MiG and Sukhoi fighters - also the history, combat deployment and missions, weapons and tactics are described in detail. A special attention is given to the wars in Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Congo, Somalia and Sudan. All of them is described particularly in-depth.

Each chapter includes several tables, with all known details over single aircraft, units, and also combat losses. Particular attention is given to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, fought only recently, between 1998 and 2000. This chapter is of special interest for many observers, historians, enthusiasts as well as scale modellers, since it reveals details about several air battles involving Ethiopian Su-27s and Eritrean MiG-29s. Other chapters are likewise filled with extensive and detailed information (down to stories of single aircraft), descriptions, and explanations.

Professionally yet understandably written, "African MiGs" is full of authentic, so far unpublished information of immense importance. Ever important lessons can be drawn, especially at a time when many European countries rethink and increase their engagement on the Black Continent!

This book is illustrated with more than 70 excellent and unique colour artworks, some 20 tables with details of the organisational structure, units, single aircraft and attrition charts, as well as five maps.

Conclusion: a "must have" book for every serious observer, professional students of air war history, but also all enthusiasts interested in MiG and Sukhoi fighters, and an ideal inspiration for every dedicated scale aircraft model-fan!

For Orders, please contact:

From Author

This book grew considerably in size from what was originally intended: it contains 160 A4 pages, some 80 artworks, four maps (all with precise positions of local airfields - illustrated with legends), and over 20 tables. We had to keep the number of artworks down because the colour pages are so expensive in production: even without pictures the price of a single copy eventually went over EUR 40,-- (without p+p), and that is much.

Nevertheless, the reader is definitely going to get a LOT for his money. The book includes an index and a (pretty long) list of all the used abbreviations (including the shorts for all the possible guerilla movements in different African countries in question etc.).

The air forces described in the book are: Angola, Burkina Faso, Congo (DR) and Congo-Brazzaville, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. We left Morocco out as we intend to produce a separate volume about the MiGs and Sukhois in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Yemen sometimes next year.

The deployment of the MiGs in each country is described in a separate chapter, each of which consists of four sub-chapters:

- Overview: general introduction about the development of the country in question and something about the development of the air force.

- MiG and/or Sukhoi (as well as Shenyang and Chengdu) Fighters in ... (country): everything that is known about the deliveries of MiG and/or Sukhoi fighters in the given country, their deployment within the local air force, history of single units, orders of battle etc.

- Known Serials, Markings, and Camouflage Colours: all the known details to this topic, in most cases supported by a list of all the known serials of MiGs and/or Sukhois in service with the air force in question - some of these lists are several pages long.

- Operations of MiG and/or Sukhoi Fighters in... (country): this sub-chapter is always giving as detailled as possible overview of all combat operations related to the use of MiG and Sukhoi fighters by every single country.

This sub-chapter grew significantly in size in several cases as I took special care to periodise the use of air power in many African wars in the last ten years - in addition to what was already known about earlier times. So, for example, in the case about Angola this sub-chapter is some 30 pages long and consists of two parts: one about the II Angolan Civil War, 1975-1988, and another about the III Angolan Civil War, 1989-2003. This sub-chapter also includes a list of all the known claims for downings of Angolan MiGs or Sukhois between 1976 and 2003.

The wars in Congo (1998-2001), Congo-Brazzaville (1997), Burkina Faso vs. Mali (two short clashes in the 1970s and 1980s), Eritrea (1962-1991), Guinea (in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and again in the last two years), Guinea-Bissau (since 1999), Mozambique (in the last 1970s and during the 1980s), Nigerian Civil War/Biafra (1967-1970), Ogaden War (Somalia vs. Ethiopia, 1977-1978), Sudan (since 1962), and Uganda (including the war with Tanzania, in 1978-79) are all described in unprecedented detail, and many of them include also a list of the known losses.

I have done quite some work on respective national markings too, as in several cases these are being presented wrongly even in such publications like the newest Jane's World Air Forces. This is the first aviation book, for example, to present the new Congolese flag, introduced only in 1999, or the actual Burkina Faso national markings.

The details about the orders of battle (in the case of the Angolan, Ethiopian and the Sudanese air forces I've included also the history of every single squadron!) are going to great depth and definitely exclusive. While even such expensive works like Jane's World Air Forces provide barely a sentence or two about these air forces, or some "estimated" orders of battle, "African MiGs" details even the history of each of their single units. This alone is surely worth the price of the book.

The artworks used in the book are much improved versions of those used in the original article that can be found in the African section of ACIG.org Journal. For printing them in a proper quality we have used high quality paper as well. Combined with new printing machines the publisher has got recently, they simply look tremendous, and their colours are excellent (I admit I was taken completely by surprise when I saw the first print-outs: I couldn't hope for them to look that good).

So, in total, this book is to become really a special work: indispensable for all MiG-fans, for model-makers because of its artworks, but then also for anybody interested in the history of Sub-Saharan air forces, or such "bush wars" like Angola, Sudan, Congo, etc., those interested in heraldia, or the people simply trying to compile as many details as possible about air forces world-wide.


Will Perry (review for internetmodeler.com)
Information regarding aviation in Africa has often been elusive for the modeler. The Internet and globalization have opened things up considerably, especially with regard to civil aviation (check out the magnificent Airliners.net). But information on military aircraft remains scarce – many African nations have small air forces, there are relatively few outside visitors and security can be grimly strict. One group that has mined this murky material is the Air Combat Information Group. Their wonderful and immense website can be found at http://www.acig.org/. Tom Cooper has contributed a magnificent four-part article on Sub-Saharan MiGs and Sukhois, containing around 60 nicely done, captioned color profiles.

Tom has expanded upon this material to create a print publication – African MiGs. The book is soft-cover, well constructed, with 158 nicely printed pages. There are post-war histories, anecdotes, serial number lists, aerial victory tables and color and marking notes. The length of the verbiage varies from country to country, depending, of course, on how much info is known. Angola gets 16 pages, Namibia gets 1/2. Most of the plates and captions are the same as those on the ACIG website, though the book throws in some tasty extras. In the histories and the captions, the author is honest enough to point out hazy info or speculation.

The book’s shortcomings often revolve around the hazy nature of the material – the details left out can be frustrating, and scant material is often recycled or stretched. There’s a fair amount of sloppy editing, ala Squadron/Signal. Much of the text for each country is devoted to political and military histories. Those with a historical bent may enjoy these – modelers will probably get bored reading about dictators and interminable guerilla wars. Modelers of the exotic will drool over the color plates, though there’s the age-old dilemma inherent with profiles – what markings are on the wings? When profiles are based on a few fuzzy photos, there’s often not a good answer. Even though modelers will be a large percentage of this book’s market, the color prints make no attempt to depict plan details, even when such info is known. A nice selection of photos, even the fuzzy ones, would add support to the profiles, but the book contains nary a one. Another frustration is the limitation imposed by the title itself. What about all those cool F-5’s, Hunters, Mirages, etc.?

My biggest gripe about this book, however, is the $73.30 it cost me. Ouch! It was an easy acquisition – an email link from the ACIG website and a Paypal transfer. Several factors add up to a big price tag - quality production, small audience, Austrian publisher/printer and the piteous state of the American dollar.

I’m delighted to have this book – it’s like a fat catalog of exotic modeling projects. Though most of the color is available online, the book is more tangible (websites come and go – some old favorites are now just memories). The histories help place those exotic MiGs in their historical context. And, like many born in pre-digital times, I find a book easier on the eyes and more visually satisfying than a computer screen. I’d be even happier if the book had tighter editing, photos, plan views and a lower price.

Volker Helms (review for ipmsdeutschland.de)
Many of African states that became independent in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s equipped their air forces with aircraft purchased from Eastern European and other states (acquired from former East Germany via Russia thru China). This book is delivering the story of development, equipment, and deployment in combat of some 20 air forces south of Sahara, equipped with MiG, Sukhoi, Shenyang, Chengdu and Nanchang fighters.

Conflicts in Angola, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Congo, Somalia and Sudan were described to the lenght, with air battles between Eritrean MiG-29s and Ethiopian Su-27s being presented in special detail. This was remains little known in our part of the world, despite being conducted with considerable support from Russia. These materials are supported through extensive tables (some presenting inventory, others losses).

In summary, this all makes this book a very nice source of reference for any model-maker as well as fans of Sukhoi- and MiG-fighters. The only detail that disturbed me was a complete lack of photographs.

Conclusion: for something like EUR 50,-- (inclusive p+p) the reader is getting a lots of information from a highly interesting arena of military flying.

Sander (for ACIG.org)
This book provides a good account of MiG-fighters in Sub Saharan Africa, but there’s much more: the author explains in depth the 18 air forces mentioned. The reader is treated to an informative lecture on how each air force came to be, the military operations each air force conducted and (in several cases) an overview of the aircraft operated by the user (incl. Non-MiG/Su aircraft). After this the reader is presented with very colorful profiles of MiG/Su aircraft in service, displayed to the highest degree of accuracy possible. MiG-17, -19, -21, -23 and Su-20, -25 and –27 can be seen as well as Chinese copies. To top it off, several very colorful maps are included, displaying the airbases used by air forces in several conflicts.

I’ll sum it up with advantages and disadvantages:

+ Good accurate reporting with minor spelling & grammar errors (this piece of text of mine will contain more than the book).

+ Good, brief and clear descriptions of the political background of the conflict mentioned. This personally makes the book very attractive to people who are interested in more then just the MiGs. And the book thought me more of modern African history then ten years of Discovery Channel and 19 years of school.

+ Good illustrations, with maps, overview maps (the location of each country is displayed in a small map, along with the national flag & air force roundel) and color profiles.

- No photos. This was as advertised. Some might miss the pictures, others not.

- No technical specs of the fighters used. As an engineer I’m always interested in performance figures and such. I must add however that this was not the outset of the book (I know, I need to whine about something). Nevertheless it might be an interesting idea, should the book be reprinted).

All in all I must recommend the book to everybody who is interest in the minor African air forces and conflicts. The book is nice to read and is a good compromise between military operations, local history and air force inventories.

By the way, I found the book a nice addendum to Vlamgat, the book about the Mirage F1 in SAAF service, since it gives a good peek at Angolan operations.


(the following are excerpts of characteristic reactions from something like 60 readers' reviews the publisher and author received per e-mail so far)

- Reader from Switzerland:
A book in a class of its own: especially the artworks are going to throw any model-maker out of his socks!

- Reader from Austria:
Very well done; I read it almost in a single evening. The price is relatively high, but the book is more than recommended.

- Reader from Germany:
Suuuper!! This book is really highly recommended to everybody with interest in African air forces.

Reader from USA:
I'm delighted. I expected only minimal text accompanying the artwork. Instead, it provides more data on African air forces I have seen anyhwere else! Thanks for your quick shipment of my copy!

So far, there were also two (relatively) negative reactions:

- Reader from the Netherlands:
I have to confess that I am a bit disappointed, not by the content but by the form of the product...and its price of about 55.00 Euros [incl. p+p]. It is a tremendous research work and - more important - it didn't took the easy way, which consists of writing about the aircraft types and their sub-types just to feed his manuscript. But where are the pictures? Where is the bibliography? A complete bibliography or a listing of all the open sources would - in my humble opinion - give more credibility to such a research work.

- Reader from Germany (in discussion on a German-language internet-forum):
I've finally got my copy of the much expected "African MiGs"...A lots of text and colourful artworks, and that's all the author and the publisher managed: even the internet - with all of its more or less serious websites - offers more pictorial material than this ominous book. I call this a fraud...It's scandalous who permits himself to publish what in these days...

Three reactions to this "review":
a) I bought and read this book. The price is really high, and I would have preferred photographs as well. But, the information provided in text, and artworks, are very well done. If I want to compile similar amount of information from other sources I would need to research a lot and buy plenty of books and magazines - and even then I would not get all you can find in this one [African MiGs]. Without attempting to defend the author, it is not easy to find a publisher for a book to a topic interesting to an actually small circle of enthusiasts, and then make all of these happy by printing on high-quality paper. Besides, the photos increase production costs - not because of printing, but because of the need to ascertain copyrights. As a reader, I have the choice...

b) Pictures are not as important for a book in my opinion; text is. Picture books are something for small children; serious readers need serious non-fiction books. Besides, if you haven't found everything you expected to find in the book, then it's not a "fraud", but rather your own disappointment.

c) ...For comparission, the most expensive book in my collection is "World Military Aviation", by Naval Institute Press. Price was EUR 400,--, and all the photos are black and white. A photo of an Ethiopian MiG-23BN costs EUR 40,-- on on-line auctions, without ability to obtain copyrights, and a good decal sheet costs also around EUR 20,--...

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