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Our penultimate Big Reveal post looks to the sky with two of our Aviation series, Combat Aircraft and X-Planes. Take a look at the descriptions below and let us know which ones you'll be adding to your wishlist.

 

Combat Aircraft

COM: A-7 Corsair II Units 1975-1991

At the A-7 Corsair II’s peak in the mid-1980s, some 30 US Navy squadrons flew various versions of the aircraft, including six Naval Air Reserve units, and these many of these units saw action across the Middle East. By the time the jet saw combat in Operation Desert Storm (1991), there remained only two fleet squadrons – many fleet squadrons having either disestablished or transitioned to the F/A­18 Hornet – but both of these units (VA-46 and VA-72) played a major role in the campaign to free Kuwait.

The book details the technological development and improvements that were introduced to the airframe post-Vietnam (the FLIR targeting pod from 1979 and AGM-88 HARM missile from 1983 being the most important), and how they shaped operational employment of the aircraft. The jet’s combat experiences in conflicts during the 1970s (Cambodia), 1980s (Lebanon, Grenada, Libya and Iran), and 1990s (Iraq) are explained in detail, and Peter Mersky’s expert analysis is supported by numerous first-hand accounts from naval aviators that saw action with the A-7 during these campaigns.

 

COM: Arado Ar 196 Units in Combat

Beating its biplane rivals in a 1936 Reich Air Ministry design competition, the Arado Ar 196 provided the Kriegsmarine with possibly the best shipborne reconnaissance seaplane of World War II. Replacing the Heinkel He 60 biplane as the standard catapult-launched floatplane embarked on the Kriegsmarine’s capital ships, the Ar 196 flew an assortment of combat missions during World War II, including coastal patrol, submarine hunting, light bombing, general reconnaissance and convoy escort sorties. The first vessel to take its Ar 196A-1s to sea was the pocket battleship Graf Spee, which embarked two in the autumn of 1939. The battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz could carry six Arados each, the battlecruisers Gneisenau and Scharnhorst four and smaller pocket battleships and cruisers two. Shore-based aircraft were also operated from coastal ports on the Channel, Baltic, North Sea and Bay of Biscay coasts, as well as in the Balkans and Mediterranean.

In this title, supported by an excellent selection of photographs and full-colour illustrations, Peter de Jong explores the history of the Arado Ar 196, detailing their development and assessing the combat capabilities of one of the last fighting seaplanes.

 

COM: B/EB-66 Destroyer Units in Combat

Studies of air combat in the Vietnam War inevitably focus on the MiG-killing fighter engagements, B-52 onslaughts or tactical strikes on the Hanoi region. However, underlying all these was the secretive ‘electron war’ in which highly-skilled electronic warfare officers duelled with Soviet and North Vietnamese radar operators in the attempt to enable US strike forces to reach their targets with minimal losses. Orbiting at the edge of heavily-defended territory, the vulnerable EB-66s identified and jammed the enemy’s radar frequencies with electronic emissions and chaff to protect the American bombers. Their hazardous missions resulted in six combat losses and they became prime targets for North Vietnamese defences when their importance was realised.

This illustrated study focuses on the oft-overlooked B-66 series, examining their vital contributions to the Vietnam War and the bravery of those who operated them in some of the most challenging situations imaginable. Author Peter E. Davies also explores how the technology and tactics devised during the period made possible the development of the EF-111A Raven, an invaluable component of the Desert Storm combat scenario over Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, and the US Navy’s EA-6B Prowler, which entered service towards the end of the Vietnam War.

 

COM: Dornier Do 217 Units of World War 2

The Do 217 had a much larger bomb load capacity and had considerably greater range than the Do 17, which it replaced in frontline service from early 1941. Although initially used simply as a bomber, later variants were developed that allowed the Do 217 to undertake dive-bombing and maritime strike roles. In order to perform the latter mission, the Do 217 was modified to launch glide bombs – units employing these pioneering weapons enjoyed considerable success in the Mediterranean from the autumn of 1943. Indeed, during the course of these operations the Do 217 became the first aircraft in military aviation history to deploy a precision-guided bomb in combat in the form of the ‘Fritz X’ radio-guided, free-fall weapon, which sank the Italian battleship Roma shortly after Italy capitulated in September 1943. The Do 217 served on all fronts in the strategic bomber, torpedo-bomber and reconnaissance roles. It also performed tactical operations, either direct ground assault or anti-shipping strikes during the Battles of the Atlantic and Normandy. Finally, the Do 217 was also converted to become a nightfighter, seeing considerable action in the Defence of the Reich until war’s end.

 

COM: F2H Banshee Units

The F2H Banshee was an extraordinarily successful early-generation jet that outlasted both contemporary and more modern fighter types on the decks of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers in the 1950s. It served in a variety of roles, undertaking fighter, strike fighter, night-fighter, nuclear strike and photo-reconnaissance missions. The Banshee was a frontline aircraft for more than a decade in an era when jet fighters came and went with relatively short service careers. This volume examines the entire service life of the F2H in the service of the US Navy, US Marine Corps and the RCN. Initially created as a replacement aircraft for McDonnell’s pioneering FH1 Phantom, the F2H served in the Korean War as a strike fighter, close air support aircraft, B29 escort, and photoreconnaissance aircraft, including the latter’s forays over the Soviet Union and China. Post service in Korea, the Banshee served as a carrier based nuclear strike aircraft, followed by its service as a defensive fighter for antisubmarine aircraft carriers. Filled with first-hand account and rare colour photographs, this is the engrossing story of the F2H Banshee, exploring its variety of roles in service and detailing the technology development that improved the aircraft’s capabilities over time.

 

COM: Junkers Ju 188 Units of World War 2

The Junkers Ju 188 was the epitome of mid-war German twin-engined aircraft design, representing the enhancement of an earlier type and incorporating increased performance and technological sophistication. As part of the 1939 “Bomber B” program, it was intended as a replacement for the Ju 88 and He 111 medium bombers, taking advantage of uprated Jumo and BMW engines and incorporating a radically redesigned cockpit area with all-round visibility for high-speed bombing, torpedo-bomber carrying, FuG 200 radar, and camera-equipped reconnaissance operations. What emerged, from the autumn of 1943, was a sophisticated bomber and reconnaissance aircraft -- and intended night fighter. After operational trials, the Ju 188 equipped three bomber Geschwader and several long-range reconnaissance Staffeln in the East and Italy, conducting operations over Britain and the Western Front as well as Russia and the Mediterranean.

This comprehensive title charts the design, development, and deployment of an advanced aircraft which was ultimately overshadowed by improvements to the airplane it was designed to replace. Supported by specially-commissioned illustrations and contemporary photography, this is the essential guide to the Junkers Ju 188.

 

COM: RAF Tornado Units of Gulf War I

When the Gulf Crisis of 1990 was triggered by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the RAF responded by sending Tornado F 3 fighters to Saudi Arabia. These aircraft were followed by the deployment of Tornado GR 1 strike/attack aircraft to Bahrain. Eventually three wings of Tornado GR 1s were established in Bahrain, Tabuk and Dhahran, as well as a detachment of Tornado GR 1A reconnaissance aircraft. At the start of hostilities, the Tornado GR 1 wings carried out night-low-level attacks against Iraqi Main Operating Bases. Meanwhile, Combat Air Patrols from the Tornado F 3 wing ensured the integrity of Saudi airspace.

Once air supremacy had been established, the Tornado GR 1 force moved to medium-level operations to attack the Iraqi oil production and storage infrastructure. The arrival in theatre of a laser designation capability with Pave Spike/Buccaneer and TIALD/Tornado enabled precision attacks against the Iraq transport system to cut off the frontline troops from resupply and reinforcement and then to carry out a systematic destruction of the airfield facilities. Tornado GR 1A reconnaissance operations played a major role in the location of Scud missile launchers and in the planning and execution of the land offensive. Throughout the conflict, the Tornado F 3 wing at Dhahran carried out defensive counter-air operations to ensure the safety of the base areas. This volume, publishing 30 years after the conflict to free Kuwait, provides detailed first-hand accounts of the missions undertaken by the Tornado crews.

 

COM: Yokosuka D4Y 'Judy' Units

In 1938, the Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal, acting under the requirements issued by the Kaigun Koku Hombu for a Navy Experimental 13-Shi Carrier Borne specification for a dive-bomber to replace the venerable ‘Val’ aboard carriers. The resulting D4Y Suisei (‘Comet’), codenamed ‘Judy’ by the Allies, was initially powered by a licence-built German Daimler-Benz DB 601 inline engine as used in the Bf 109E. Despite making an inauspicious combat debut during the Battle of Midway in June 1942, the ‘Judy’ eventually proved to be an important asset for the IJNAF during battles in the latter years of the Pacific War.

While the Judy possessed an impressive top-speed, it possessed design shortcomings including inadequate armour protection for its aircrew and no self-sealing fuel tanks. As a result, when pitted against new, advanced US Navy fighters suffered horrendous losses.

During the final months of World War 2 it became apparent that there would be no Japanese victory. Acting out of desperation, the IJNAF employed the ‘Judy’ in the dreaded kamikaze role, in which it excelled due to its high-speed characteristics. This volume chronicles the action-packed wartime exploits of Japan’s finest dive-bomber of World War 2.

 

X-Planes 

XPL: Douglas XB-19 Intercontinental Bomber

In 1935 the intent of the USAAC was to build a potential intercontinental bomber, a “Guardian of the Hemisphere,” and granted Donald Douglas a contract to build the world’s largest bomber. The ground work for the intercontinental bomber had been laid in the previous two decades by the courageous military and civilian pilots who risked their lives to set new distance and endurance records. After World War I the future Axis and Allied nations built larger and larger aircraft and finally during World War II Germany and Japan became intent on developing intercontinental bomber to retaliate against America. While the XB-19 never flew as an intercontinental bomber or even as a combat bomber; its contributions as a “Flying Laboratory” significantly influenced the development of the Consolidated B-36 Peacemaker, the world’s first true intercontinental bomber.

Since the XB-19 project was Top Secret and there was only one example built there is little information remaining for researchers. Over the years Bill Wolf has collected probably the largest quantity of XB-19 material and number of photos ever assembled, including a copy of the original Army Air Force acceptance of the aircraft, first-hand narratives of its first flight, and other USAAC and Douglas Company documents.

Post Comments

Paintybeard posted on 18 Sep 2020 16:27:53
Only one X-planes title in 2021, that's a disappointment. Perhaps looking outside USAAf would broaden this series appeal? Heavy hint: Russian Ekranoplan please!
arsten posted on 18 Sep 2020 14:41:51
A very complete reveal with special attention to WW2 and Gulf War I. My favourites are Corsair, B/EB-66 and Douglas XB-19. The "electron war" in Vietnam is quite unkown and I suppose the B/EB-66 participated in major operations like Rolling Thunder.

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