Review: Russian and Soviet Ground Attack Aircraft

Russian And Soviet Ground Attack Aircraft

Alberto Trevisan and Anatoly Borovik’s Russian and Soviet Ground Attack Aircraft is the latest addition to my collection of technical, diagram-filled books on aviation history. It’s meant to be a comprehensive, picture-heavy catalogue of all the “Samolety Polya Boya”, a term that can be very awkwardly translated to [their definition] “Battlefield Aircraft”. The “Russian” in the title is accurate, as this book also includes World War I and post-1991 designs.

The “Samolety Polya Boyas” in this book range from the famous Il-2 and Su-25 Sturmoviks to low-end propeller planes to high performance edge cases like the MiG-23BN/27s (the proposed but never adopted final upgrade package that included the ability to mount radar pods and refuel in midair warms my Flogger fan heart). It also looks at never-were designs in the same range, most notably the postwar Illyushins, which were victims of technology, doctrinal changes, and being extremely ugly.

Some of the types it does and doesn’t focus on can feel a little arbitrary. While I suppose that’s the perils of dedicating a book to as vague a term as “ground attack aircraft”, I feel obligated to point it. Thankfully their choices never feel too weird or too bad, and I can understand the desire to avoid mission creep.

If I had one quibble (besides a somewhat iffy layout), it’s that there isn’t enough “how” in the book for my tastes. I would have liked to see an Air Battle Central Europe-esque section on the doctrinal “division of labor” between them, helicopters, and higher-performance bombers/strike aircraft, and how it evolved and changed. While I can get information on that from other sources (and/or intuit it based on capability-your slow short-legged ground attackers are not going to be used for deep, well-defended targets if they can help it), it’s still a lacking feature.

But the rest of the book is still great. The artwork is excellent, the list of aircraft covered is very big despite its self-imposed limitations, and the technical detail (especially for paper aircraft with fewer sources available) is surprisingly high. Even without the parts I would have liked, this is still a great resource for a centerpiece of the VVS.

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