Big Reveal 2022: Dogfight

In Military History, Featured

 

Today we're moving onto the Dogfight series in 2022's Big Reveal. The series was launched this year and we're delighted to be bringing you even more titles in 2023. Editor Tony Holmes takes us through what you have to look forward to.

Dogfight is the newest series in Osprey’s extensive list of aviation titles, with each book focusing on a single fighter type – and the pilots that flew it in aerial combat – during a specific campaign or time period. A brief development history of the fighter (and its weapons) is included, and the author examines both the training undertaken by the pilots strapped into the aircraft, as well as analysing the tactics they employed. Each Dogfight volume includes more than 50 photographs, six pages of detailed ribbon diagrams and armament view(s).  

There are seven titles planned for 2023 covering a handful of famous fighter types – World War 2 icons in the form of the Me 262, A6M Zero-sen, F4F Wildcat, Spitfire and Fw 190A-8; and the F-8 Crusader and MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ of the Vietnam War.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

 

Me 262 Northwest Europe 1944–45

By Robert Forsyth

The Me 262 was one of the most advanced aircraft designs of World War 2.

The Me 262 represented the state-of-the-art in terms of design, performance and combat capability for the Luftwaffe. Fighter aces such as Adolf Galland, Walter Krupinski, Johannes Steinhoff and Klaus Neumann (all JV 44) and Georg-Peter Eder, Rudolf Rademacher, Walter Schuck and Theodore Weissenberger (all JG 7) flew the new jet fighter, enjoying success as they quickly came to terms with flying the world’s most advanced interceptor in the deadly skies over Germany in 1944–45.

Making its operational debut in the summer of 1944, and powered by the Jumo 004 jet engine, the Me 262 outclassed anything the Allies had in terms of speed and firepower ratio, offering a formidable punch with four 30 mm Mk 108 nose-mounted cannon. Eventually, the Luftwaffe would also introduce the 55 mm R4M air-to-air rocket, batteries of which would be slung under the jet’s wing to be used against formations of B-17s, B-24 and B-26s. But the problem the Luftwaffe faced was one of numbers. To the end of the war, availability of machines and trained pilots was to prove an insurmountable problem, but despite this, the high-performance, incredibly sophisticated Me 262 made a significant impact on the air war and was the source of considerable concern to the Allies thanks to the exploits of a veritable handful of often veteran Jagdwaffe pilots.

 

F-8 Crusader – Vietnam 1965–73

By Peter E Davies

The Crusader’s reputation as a MiG killer was so formidable that its last (unofficial) victim was a MiG-17 pilot who ejected from his fighter when he was told that F-8s were on his tail.

With specially commissioned artworks and dynamic combat ribbon diagrams, this volume reveals how the ‘last of the gunfighters’, as the F-8 was dubbed by its pilots, prevailed against the growing MiG threat of the Vietnamese Peoples’ Air Force.

When the Vietnam War began, the F-8 was already firmly established as a fighter and reconnaissance aircraft. It entered combat as an escort for Alpha strike packages, braving the anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles alongside the A-4 Skyhawk bombers and meeting MiGs for the first time on 3 April 1965. Although the Crusader was nicknamed ‘last of the gunfighters’, its pilots employed ‘secondary’ AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles in all but one of their MiG kills, with guns also used as back-up in three. Its 20 mm guns were unreliable as they often jammed during strenuous manoeuvres, although they were responsible for damaging a number of MiGs. However, in combat the F-8 had the highest ‘exchange ratio’ (kills divided by losses) at six-to-one of any US combat aircraft involved in the Vietnam War.

Through the copious use of first-hand accounts, highly detailed battlescene artwork, combat ribbon diagrams and armament views, Osprey’s Vietnam air war specialist Peter E Davies charts the successful career of the F-8 Crusader over Vietnam.

 

MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ – Opposing Rolling Thunder 1966–68

By István Toperczer

One of the most successful communist jet fighters ever built, the MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ was involved in a series of deadly duels with American fighters over North Vietnam as the US Air Force and US Navy ramped up strike missions during Operation Rolling Thunder.

Using specially commissioned artworks and detailed combat ribbon diagrams, supported by archival photographs sourced directly from Vietnam and combat accounts from the pilots involved, the author of this volume reveals how the MiG-21 squadrons of the Vietnamese Peoples’ Air Force (VPAF) destroyed more than 70 US aircraft for the loss of 35 ‘Fishbeds’ 1966–68.

Having honed their skills on the subsonic MiG-17, pilots of the VPAF received their first examples of the legendary MiG-21 supersonic fighter in 1966. Soon thrown into combat over North Vietnam, the guided-missile equipped MiG-21 proved a deadly opponent for the American crews striking at targets deep into communist territory. Although the communist pilots initially struggled to come to terms with the fighter’s air-search radar and weapons systems, the ceaseless cycle of combat operations quickly honed their skills. The best fighter then available to the VPAF, more than 200 MiG-21s (of various sub-types) were supplied to the North Vietnamese.

In this volume, leading VPAF authority István Toperczer analyses the tactics used by the MiG-21 pilots during the bitter fighting over North Vietnam during Rolling Thunder. The high-speed ‘hit-and-run’ attacks employed by the communist pilots proved to be very successful, with both R-3S air-to-air missiles and heavy-calibre cannon taking a inflicting a rising toll on American jets. Through the use of first-hand accounts from MiG-21 pilots, battlescene artwork, combat ribbon diagrams and armament views, the author details the important role played by the ‘Fishbed’ in the defence of North Vietnam.

 

F4F Wildcat – South Pacific 1942

By Edward M. Young

The F4F Wildcat was the US Navy’s standard carrier fighter at the start of the Pacific War, and it remained so until the introduction of the superior F6F Hellcat in late 1943.

The US Navy went to war in December 1941 with the tubby Wildcat, the first of Grumman’s famed ‘cats’, as its principal carrier fighter. Ruggedly built and well-armed, the F4F’s performance was inferior to the Japanese Zero-sen, yet in the carrier battles of 1942 between the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), the Wildcat pilots more than held their own against some of the finest naval aviators in the world. Many of the F4F pilots that saw action in the South Pacific comprised what respected naval historian John Lundstrom has called the ‘First Team’ – the small group of highly trained pre-war pilots who manned the bulk of the US Navy’s carrier fighter squadrons.

These men, despite flying a fighter whose performance was inferior to the opposing Zero-sen, enjoyed notable success in combat against their Japanese foes thanks to the development of tactics that could counter the enemy fighter’s exceptional manoeuvrability and the US Navy’s emphasis on gunnery training. The tactics and teamwork developed during the Battle Midway, in particular, when passed on to other carrier fighter squadrons contributed to the US Navy achieving a tactical and strategic victory in the Battles of the Eastern Solomons and the Santa Cruz Islands in August and October 1942.

This book will look at these carrier battles in the South Pacific around the first American offensive of the war – the amphibious assault on the island of Guadalcanal, and the actions of the Wildcat in combat with IJN carrier aircraft. The key combat actions will be described, as will the training and tactics that contributed to the Wildcat’s success.

 

A6M2/3 Zero-sen – New Guinea and the Solomons 1942

By Michael John Claringbould

As the best Japanese fighter in frontline service at the start of the Pacific War, the Zero-sen proved a deadly opponent for both Australian and American combat aircraft in their desperate defence of New Guinea.

Featuring specially commissioned artworks and thoroughly researched combat ribbon diagrams, this volume details the exploits of the highly skilled naval aviators charged with achieving air supremacy over New Guinea and the Solomons in their A6M2/3 Zero-sens.

The combat record of the Zero-sen in this theatre has mostly been overstated, with little due being given to the constraining conditions under which the fighter operated. The air combats fought over New Guinea and the Solomons in 1942 between Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force (IJNAF) pilots and their Allied counterparts in P-39 Airacobras and P-40 Warhawks were often ‘trial-and-error’ affairs, with both belligerents being caught out by weather. This book will cover the key role played by governing factors including geography and climatic conditions, and will examine the modified tactics employed by IJNAF Zero-sen pilots to help them cope in-theatre.

Key aerial engagements will be described using RAAF and USAAF after action reports, compared against Japanese operational records and pilot memoirs. Some will emanate from previously unknown RAAF and Japanese pilots, as well as some from more famous aviators. Through the use of first-hand accounts and specially commissioned artwork, leading South Pacific historian and author Michael John Claringbould sheds new light on the air war fought over the wilds of New Guinea and the Solomon islands during the course of 1942.

 

Fw 190A-8 Sturmjäger – Defence of the Reich 1943–45

By Robert Forsyth

The Fw 190A-8 Sturmjäger was the Luftwaffe’s sledgehammer weapon specifically devised to counter the American heavy bomber threat during the fiercely fought daylight bombing campaign waged against Germany in 1943–45.

Developed from one of the finest fighters of World War 2, the radial-engined Fw 190A-8 was conceived as a heavy assault aircraft and armed accordingly. Its mission, born of increasing desperation on the part of the Luftwaffe, was to provide a response to the increasing numbers of USAAF B-17 and B-24 bombers operating against targets in the western and central Reich. Special sub-variants of the A-8 were provided with armoured panels around the engine and cockpit, as well as armoured glass panels for the canopy to give the pilot maximum protection when flying into the midst of an enemy bomber formation. Known as Sturmjäger (Storm/Assault Fighters), as were the pilots that flew them, their objective was to bring their 20 mm and 30 mm cannon and 21 cm underwing mortars to as close a range as possible in order to ensure the destruction of a four-engined bomber bristling with up to 13 0.50-cal machine guns.

The pilots of these aircraft were given exceptional training and many were volunteers, some of whom were willing to sign oaths that they would bring down a bomber at all costs – even if it meant ramming the enemy aircraft.

Through the use of first-hand accounts and specially commissioned artwork, critically acclaimed Luftwaffe author Robert Forsyth puts the reader in the cockpit of a Sturmjäger attempting to defend the Fatherland from daunting formations of heavily defended USAAF bombers protected by potent Allied escort fighters.

 

Spitfire I – Phoney War and Battle of France

By Tony Holmes

Although the Spitfire I was the best British fighter in frontline service at the start of World War 2, it was not committed to combat in significant numbers until the latter stages of the Battle of France and the Dunkirk evacuation.

The most famous British fighter of them all, the Spitfire was blooded in the early skirmishes against lone German bombers probing Britain’s coastal defences during the eight-month-long Phoney War. Units used well-rehearsed battle formations to make short work of any aircraft encountered, but crucially they had not encountered any short-range German Bf 109 or Bf 110 fighters. This all changed with the Blitzkrieg in the West, launched on 10 May 1940. Although the RAF had reluctantly sent a steady stream of Hurricane units to France from the autumn of 1939 as part of the British Air Forces in France, it had kept all of its Spitfire squadrons firmly based on British soil and under direct Fighter Command control. As German forces rapidly advanced, Spitfire units were dragged into the fighting, and Luftwaffe fighters were soon encountered during sweeps of the French coast from airfields in southern England.

Due to the Spitfire’s modest endurance, operating times over France were extremely limited. The Luftwaffe knew this, and frequently sent in large formations of bombers just as the RAF pilots were on the verge of having to return to England. Typically, the Spitfire and Hurricane units were also comprehensively outnumbered by the German bombers and their Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighter escorts. Pre-war tactics were soon found wanting, with battle-hardened Jagdflieger inflicting telling losses on the handful of Spitfire units attempting to defend French and Belgian ports being used as evacuation points for British troops.

The combat experience gained during the Battle of France and Operation Dynamo (Dunkirk evacuation) served Spitfire units well, as they modified their fighter tactics for engaging Bf 109s and Bf 110s ahead of the Battle of Britain. Author Tony Holmes explains how Spitfire pilots went from employing pre-war tactics during the Phoney War to adopting fighting formations similar to the Jagdwaffe by the end of the campaign in France. The rapid evolution of the Spitfire during this period is also examined.

Post Comments

PAUL W posted on 13 Aug 2022 17:43:59
Some interesting titles here but no first world War yet? Fingers crossed for next year. Of these the spitfire title might be the most interesting as it features the very earliest of deployments .
Tarawa90 posted on 10 Aug 2022 23:58:28
I already had an interest in the Me-262 title, but when you mentioned Georg Peter Eder in the description I now know I have to get it. Not to get morbid, but he was (likely) the man who killed my grandmother's brother.

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