Osprey's Big Reveal: Air Campaign

In Military History, Featured

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We're flying through our Big Reveal now, and today's post is all about our newest series Air Campaign. See what's to come in 2018 below!

Battle of Britain 1940: The Luftwaffe’s ‘Eagle Attack’

In August 1940, the Luftwaffe began an operation to destroy or neutralize RAF Fighter Command, and enable Hitler to invade Britain that autumn. It was a new type of air warfare: the first ever offensive counter-air campaign against an integrated air defence system. Powerful, combat-proven and previously all-conquering, the German air force had the means to win the Battle of Britain. Yet it did not.

This book, the first in the series, explains Hermann Göring’s plans, the Luftwaffe’s capabilities in 1940, the RAF’s defences, the campaign’s objectives, and how the fierce aerial battles over south-east England were fought. Based on original documents, Doug Dildy’s new, analytical study of the Battle of Britain argues that it was the Luftwaffe’s own mistakes and failures that led to its defeat, and kept alive the Allies’ chance to ultimately defeat Nazi Germany.

Rabaul 1943–44: Reducing Japan’s great island fortress

In 1942, the massive Japanese naval base and airfield at Rabaul was a fortress standing in the Allies’ path to Tokyo. It was impossible to seize Rabaul, or starve the 100,000-strong garrison out. Instead the US began an innovative, hard-fought two-year air campaign to draw its teeth, and allow them to bypass the island completely.

The struggle decided more than the fate of Rabaul. If successful, the Allies would demonstrate a new form of warfare, where air power, with a judicious use of naval and land forces, would eliminate the need to occupy a ground objective in order to control it. As it turned out, the siege of Rabaul proved to be more just than a successful demonstration of air power – it provided the roadmap for the rest of World War II in the Pacific.

Rolling Thunder 1965–68: Vietnam’s most controversial air campaign

The bombing campaign that was meant to keep South Vietnam secure, Rolling Thunder became a byword for pointless, ineffective brutality, and was a key factor in America’s Vietnam defeat. Designed for and focused on the Cold War nuclear role, the US air forces had to hastily adapt to fighting a conventional war over Vietnam. Air power expert Dr Richard P. Hallion explains how the campaign was crippled by their inadequate training and equipment, a confused strategy, and rampant political interference from the White House.

But in its failures, Rolling Thunder was ironically one of the most influential air campaigns of the Cold War. It spurred a renaissance in US air power and the development of a superb new generation of US combat aircraft, and a renewed focus on pilot training and air-to-air combat. As the ultimate ‘how-not-to’ air campaign, Rolling Thunder was still closely studied by the planners of the devastatingly successful Gulf War air campaign – originally and tellingly codenamed ‘Instant Thunder’.

Malta 1940–42: The Axis’ air battle for Mediterranean supremacy

In 1940, the strategically vital island of Malta was Britain’s last toehold in the central Mediterranean, capable of wreaking havoc among Axis shipping. Launching an air campaign to knock Malta out of the war, first Italy and then Germany sought to force a surrender or reduce the defences enough to allow an invasion. Despite the fact that the RAF on Malta initially only had six Sea Gladiators, and that outdated Hurricanes made up most of the defending aircraft until 1942, the defenders managed to hold out until the last offensive campaign failed.

Researched from Italian and German sources, and explaining the strategic context for the German and Italian decision-making, this fascinating book explains where the Axis went wrong and why their attempt to neutralize Malta ultimately failed.

Operation Crossbow 1944: Hunting Hitler’s V-weapons

In mid-1943, Allied intelligence began to pick up the signs of unusual German construction in remote locations near the Channel coast. Several massive fortifications were beginning to take shape, and they appeared to be oriented towards London. Allied intelligence codenamed these sites as ‘Crossbow’ and began plans to attack them before they could bombard Britain’s capital city. These ‘Heavy Crossbow’ sites for the V-1 and V-2 missiles were supposed to be bomb-proof.

With London in the sights of these new weapons and the V-3 supergun, the effort to destroy them had top priority. Steve Zaloga explains how the RAF and USAAF attacked these hardened, well-defended sites, using Tallboy bombs, B-26 precision bombing, and even the American version of the Mistel programme – war-weary B-17s converted into explosive-packed, remote-controlled drones.

Operation Linebacker II 1972: The B-52s are sent to Hanoi

After the failed April 1972 invasion of South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese agreed to return to the Paris peace talks. But after the November 1972 American elections the North Vietnamese realised the newly elected anti-war Congress would stop funding the war in early January 1973. The North Vietnamese began stalling.

On December 18, 1972 Nixon, in an attempt to win the war quickly before Congress returned, ordered the Air Force to send the US’ ultimate conventional weapon, the B-52 bomber, against Hanoi for the first time. Hanoi was the best-defended target in Vietnam. The campaign – the ‘Christmas Bombings’ – became a battle between the B-52s and the North Vietnamese Soviet-supplied SA-2 SAM missile systems. Drawing on new interviews with North Vietnamese air defence veterans, Marshall L. Michel explains the capabilities of the SA-2, and the B-52 and its jammers and support aircraft, how Strategic Air Command’s initial tactics almost led to disaster, and how the two sides fought and changed tack over 11 nights of ferocious combat above Hanoi.

Sink the Tirpitz 1942–44: The RAF and Fleet Air Arm duel with Germany’s mighty battleship

 Lurking secure in her Norwegian fjord, the battleship Tirpitz was a major threat to the Arctic Convoys, and tied up Royal Navy capital ships in home waters for years. Sinking her by air attack would be no easy task, however. Over two years, successive raids by heavy bombers from the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm’s Barracuda dive bombers sometimes damaged but failed to sink her.

It was clear that only heavy bombers dropping especially heavy bombs could do the job. In autumn 1944 the RAF launched the first of three large-scale attacks using Lancaster bombers armed with enormous Tallboy bombs. In the first, codenamed Operation Paravane, Tirpitz was badly damaged. In the third air attack, carried out in November 1944, the battleship was hit three times, and she capsized and sank. Her passing broke German naval power in Arctic waters, which in turn allowed the Allies to divert their naval resources to the Pacific, where the ocean-wide campaign was reaching its climax.

The air campaign against Tirpitz was one of vital strategic importance, and while small-scale compared to air operations over mainland Europe, it was one where a single bomb could dramatically influence the course of the war.

Operation Argument 1944: Taking on the Luftwaffe in ‘Big Week’

With the increasingly urgent need to eliminate the Jagdwaffe prior to ‘D-Day’, a concerted two-phase effort was launched, codenamed ‘Operation Argument’.  This massive strategic bombing/aerial attrition initiative was history’s first-ever successful offensive counter-air (OCA) campaign. Targeting aircraft factories with hundreds of heavy bombers escorted by the new long-range P-51 Mustang escort fighter, the operation was designed to destroy aircraft production on the ground, and force the Luftwaffe into combat to defend these vital facilities – when it was intended that the new escort fighters would take their toll on the German interceptors.

During ‘Big Week’ and the ‘Battles over Berlin’, the USAAF’s Eighth AF won the battle for air superiority against the Jagdwaffe, forcing such attrition in the air and destruction on the ground that, on D-Day two months later, the Luftwaffe was able to mount only 172 sorties (compared with 13,700 flown by the Allies) over Northern France.


What do you think of these first 8 titles in our Air Campaign series? Let us know below!

Post Comments

Tarawa90 posted on 29 Aug 2017 22:11:27
I agree with those sentiments. I don't think a whole new series was necessary. But then again this does double the campaign output for the year. I'm definitely not digging the preview covers either. It should have been the classic bars at top and bottom in metallic silver.
Hessy Field posted on 29 Aug 2017 16:04:29
I am with AdamC on this - I reserve judgment until I've seen them. I actually strongly believe there was no need to create a separate Air Campaign series - it will be limited in the number of titles it could publish - and could easily be covered within the ambit of the existing Campaign series; indeed Campaign 236 "Operation Pointblank" by Steven Zaloga a few years ago is a prime example.
AdamC posted on 29 Aug 2017 10:53:48
Hmmmm, the more I think about this series the more reservations I have. On the one hand these are all very solid titles, all fill gaps in Osprey coverage elsewhere and all can easily justify there place. On the other hand my mind keeps wandering back to the same question…why not just do them as Campaign titles??? I'm increasingly unsure whether Osprey really needed a whole new series to cover these campaigns. This is especially true given that, as has been pointed out by others, several of these campaigns contained naval activity that is likely to be overlooked. In reality very few campaigns have been fought exclusively from the air and therefore most future titles are going to be taking a very narrow look at much wider campaigns that will almost certainly have included naval and ground operations. That being said, and as has also been pointed out by other, it is very difficult to assess a series we haven’t yet seen so I will reserve final judgement until I've had chance to flick through the first couple of titles early next year. Bring on the next list!
Tarawa90 posted on 28 Aug 2017 23:35:08
If only the first four titles hadn't been delayed. I knew Linebacker II was going to be in this batch. When are we getting MiG Alley?
GI Gene posted on 27 Aug 2017 22:24:31
I can't wait to see this new series in person. "Operation Linebacker II 1972: The B-52s are sent to Hanoi" is the title that has me the most excited!
Carl(Sweden) posted on 27 Aug 2017 20:41:00
I have great expectaions on this series and I like the titles revealed here, especially Rabaul and Malta. If the series proves to be as good as I hope I´ll probably buy all of them.
Bring on Campaign next week!(Before Amazon reveals all titles before Osprey)
C-Bone posted on 27 Aug 2017 19:42:35
I'm definitely excited about this new series. I hope it takes off, as there are a lot of subjects worth exploring, such as the raids on Ploesti.
KenA posted on 27 Aug 2017 15:49:46
There’s a reasonable mix of subjects amongst these titles so there should be something there for most people. My only comment is that they all seem to cover well known subjects and so from that point of view are fairly ‘safe’ bets. The first four of these are, of course, carryovers from this year - the series didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts.

There are four ACM titles in which I have a potential interest: Battle of Britain; Malta; Operation Crossbow; and Tirpitz. I have read numerous books about all of these subjects but in the case of the first three none have quite covered the aspect Osprey intends to cover. As for Tirpitz, well, I’m just curious what Osprey’s treatment will be. Oh, I do hope that Steve Zaloga doesn’t omit the role played in Operation Crossbow by reconnaissance aircraft and the role played by rocket-firing Spitfires and Typhoons against lighter and/or mobile V-1 and V-2 sites, particularly in the Netherlands.
Paintybeard posted on 27 Aug 2017 13:20:09
Very difficult to comment seriously on these until we actually get these in our hands. I certainly hope they do well, but there are a couple of things that make me uneasy.

Firstly, eight titles planned in the first year. If the first couple under-perform, what then? And I can't believe that this pace can be kept up. Will we see a couple of dozen books, frantically published and then the series withdrawn? Surely a steady pace is a better plan.

Then the scope of some of the books seems over ambitious. 2 years of Malta battles in 96 pages? There cannot be much detail, even if (as I assume) the equally important naval aspects are to be ignored. An "ordinary" Campaign just on Operation Pedestal would seem a more useful book. Likewise "Sink the Tirpitz" will leave out the important contribution of the X-craft, so we will not get a complete story there either.

So , judgement withheld, looking forward to the reviews.

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