BOOK REVIEW: ‘Fighters over the Fleet: Naval Air Defence from Biplanes to the Cold War’.

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Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title: Fighters over the Fleet: Naval Air Defence from Biplanes to the Cold War

Author: Norman Friedman

Total Number of Printed Pages: 460

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent): 9


Aircraft carriers are essentially sea-going military airfields, tasked with both protecting the naval vessels they are associated with, and, if possible, undertaking offensive actions against an enemy. The task of protection requires the use of fighters; small, highly manoeuvrable (and usually single-seat) aircraft, designed for the specific task of protecting the ships of the fleet to which they are attached, and flown with the intention of destroying any enemy aircraft they encounter . This is their story.

As the subtitle indicates, this well-written and researched volume chronicles the development of naval fighter aircraft ‘…From Biplanes to the Cold War’. It concentrates on the activities of what the author calls the ‘Three major carrier navies’, defining these as being of Great Britain, the United States of America and ‘Pre-1941 and Second World War Imperial Japan’.  When describing these entities, the author provides detailed analysis of their individual naval histories, the technologies, ships and aircraft that were employed and the tactics developed by each navy in response to specific situations. The result is a book which is likely to be become a standard reference work on its subject. Due to the amount of information it contains, this is not however a book which can be read in one sitting, but is rather encyclopaedic in coverage and well-suited to ’dipping into’ in pursuit of specific information.

Four separate sections precede the 13 Chapters which comprise the main part of this book. They are titled Abbreviations; A Note on Sources; Acknowledgements and Introduction. The Abbreviations section provides ‘Plain English’ interpretations of the numerous military–type abbreviations appearing within the work, while the Sources section indicates the origins of much of the information it contains. Those who have contributed to the work are thanked within the Acknowledgements section, while a general overview of the place of naval aviation as part of a larger defence system is presented in the Introduction. The volume’s first two Chapters chronicle both the development of the aircraft carrier and carrier-based aircraft, the latter being largely United States focused. The remaining chapters are devoted to the technical evolution of naval aviation. These focus on technical responses to perceived crises, whether political or technological.  Where necessary, sub-sections within each chapter provide additional information on specific topics. An Epilogue discusses the political, military and technological situation as the author perceives they exist in 2016. Within each chapter, sequentially-numbered and chapter-specific citations are provided. These are endnote in format, the relevant information appearing in a Notes section placed after the Epilogue.  A Bibliography follows the Epilogue. An Aircraft Data section following the Bibliography provides technical information relating to many of the aircraft-types appearing within the volume. Curiously and although arranged in column format, the Aircraft Data section uses a modified form of footnotes to provide additional sources. As a result, citations appear at the end of an ‘individual’ section rather than at the foot of the page. An Index completes the volume. The book contains numerous photographs, half-tone illustrations and plans (the two latter termed ‘Diagrams’ in the index) from a variety of sources. Although well-captioned, there is no reference to their existence on the Contents page.

This reviewer could find little to fault with this work. He would however question the placing of the Aircraft Data section behind the Bibliography as in his view, by containing additional information, the former should have been an Appendix rather than ‘merely ‘just another section at the back of the book’. The section deserves better.

In addition, and despite their notation within the Index, the Contents page contains no reference to any of the numerous photographs, half-tone illustrations and plans (aka ‘Diagrams’) appearing within the volume. As many readers will not peruse an Index to find such information, an indication of their existence (preferably an actual list) would have been helpful and avoided unnecessary searching in pursuit of a single item. How important these ‘faults’ may be, will depend on the individual reader.

In the opinion of this reviewer, this volume is likely to have wide appeal and could be of interest to both Naval and Aviation historians and to hobbyists with an interest in ‘matters naval’ in general, naval fighter aircraft, aircraft carriers and aerial combat. Those with a specific interest in United States Navy tactics and aircraft carrier operations are especially fortunate in this regard. In addition, by providing a ‘naval’ perspective on political events, those with an interest in international affairs (such as the ‘Korean War’) could also find it worth perusing.

As previously-noted, this volume bids fair to become an authoritative work on its subject; ‘Naval Fighters’ although it does have its flaws. Despite these, and on a Rating Scale 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I have given it a 9.


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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Fighters over the Fleet: Naval Air Defence from Biplanes to the Cold War’.




Reviewer: NZ Crown Mines

Title:  Combat Aircraft of the United States Air Force: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives

Author: Michael Green

Total Number of  Pages: 196

Total Number of Printed Pages: 72

Total Number of Photographic Pages: 124

Rating Scale (1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent) 3


The United States Air Force (USAF) is currently the world’s most powerful air arm and performs a wide variety of tasks in a variety of locations around the globe. It has a long and colourful history, and has operated many different types of aircraft since its inception.  It has many admirers, amongst them the author of this volume.

This book is a soft-cover work of the ‘Aviation Monograph’ genre, and is essentially a ‘picture book’ of photographs, accompanied by a small amount of text. It is both a written and visual history of the USAF. The photographs it contains are from the author’s collection, although the majority are originally sourced from USAF archives, a fact that the author acknowledges. The volume is divided into six separate chapters, with each of these covering a specific time period. A well-researched and well-written section appears at the beginning of each chapter. Within this section the relevant information is presented under appropriately-worded subheadings. The written section is in turn followed by a photographic section showing aircraft of the era, the majority of these images being in colour. The photographs are clear and crisp, the colour images especially-so. The photographs appear to have been professionally-taken, and provide a level of detail and quality that few amateurs can match. If photographs (especially colour photographs) of USAF aeroplanes are what the purchaser requires, then this book will have few equals. The volume contains a Contents section together with a Dedication, Foreword, Acknowledgments and Notes to the Reader. There is however no Index, nor or a list of the aircraft-types that appear within its covers.  For those interested in a once-over-lightly review of the USAF and pictures of its aircraft, it is unlikely that the lack of the latter will be of any consequence.

However, the serious aviation enthusiast may not find this volume especially useful. As this reviewer has a  long-standing interest in the USAF, he was attracted  to the work by its promise of ‘Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives’, and the expectation that he would see some previously-unknown World War II images.

While there certainly were images from WWII, to this reviewer they were neither rare nor new.  In addition, although Chapter 3 is the section of this volume that specifically deals with USAF operations during WWII,  of the 60 images it contains, only 24 were actually taken during that period; the remaining 36 being Twenty-first Century photographs of preserved aircraft.  In the absence of the promised ‘Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives’ this reviewer felt that the title misrepresented its subject.  In this specific case it promised much, but did not deliver.

In precis, this work is something of a mixed bag; it has beautiful photographs (especially colour ones) and a well-researched and well-written text. As such it would be useful as an introduction to its subject, although whether or not it would be useful to serious students of the USAF will depend on individual assessments of its content. However, it also promises what it does not deliver, namely ‘ Rare Photographs From Wartime Archives’, a situation which this reviewer finds unacceptable. Were that it were not so.

On a Rating Scale where 1: Very Poor, 10: Excellent, I would give it a 3.


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