Jane’s Air War 1: Fighter Combat in the Jet Age, by David C. Isby, Harper Collins Publishers, London, 1997, $25.
Fighter Combat in the Jet Age is an excellent thumbnail account of the development of jet fighter aircraft from their first appearance in World War II up to the present day. Although told in brief, the story of the introduction of the German Messerschmitt Me-262 in the closing months of World War II lends new appreciation to how closely that contest was fought in its final days and how easily the air war could have gone against the Allies if the Germans had had more time or if they had employed their new weapon more effectively.
Isby goes on to cover jet fighter development and tactics in the Korean War, the Arab-Israeli wars, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Bosnia. While the “hot” conflicts get the most attention, the worldwide Cold War struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union serves as a backdrop against which jet fighter hardware and combat doctrine continued to evolve in efforts by both sides to gain a decisive edge if and when the big war started. The theme of the book can be expressed as the three T’s: technology, training and tactics. Isby endeavors to demonstrate throughout the book that an air force that can master all three T’s at the same time will be victorious. His theory is best illustrated by the successes of the Israeli air force.
As is to be expected in a Jane’s, the book is crammed with pictures showing all the fighters used in the various conflicts and some very instructive diagrams on fighter tactics. Also included is a “Fighter Directory” that summarizes the technical specifications of jet fighters currently in use.
Isby’s conclusion on the future of the jet fighter may not be palatable to jet jockeys. He believes the future belongs to the two-seater because of the growing importance of defensive measures.
John I. Witmer