Osprey Combat Aircraft No 37:

Iranian F-4 Phantom II Units in Combat

by Farzad Bishop and Tom Cooper

reviewed by Mike O'Hare

 

It's no great secret that the Middle East has been a political and military hotspot for generations. It is probably because of this that many modellers tend to have an interest in subjects from the area. Subjects from all eras of history that have seen real, active combat can be built, and one can build in miniature the technology used by the sides one deems hero or villain, and so publishers and manufacturers have made sure the region is well catered for. And yet, there has always been a noticeable dearth of anything relating to Iran in general, and particularly post-revolutionary Iran. Perhaps this is because the nature and execution of the Iranian revolution eliminated much of the interest the Western world had in the country, or perhaps it is because of the closed-natured society that emerged. Whatever the reason, the Iranian military has long been a difficult subject to find references on.

Which is why 'Iranian F-4 Phantom II Units in Combat' is such a valuable reference. The co-operative work of Farzad Bishop and Tom Cooper, it is an indispensable reference to anyone interested in the military hardware of the region. Though it deals almost exclusively with the aircraft's use during the eight-year war with Iraq, quickly covering the fundamentals of its use prior to the revolution, and almost entirely ignoring its use after the war, the book nonetheless provides a valuable insight into a seldom-seen air force. From a modeller's perspective, at a most basic level, there are scores of previously unpublished images contained within the covers - most in black and white, though a small selection are in colour. 21 different colour profiles illustrate all the major details of IRIAF F-4 markings (and, unfortunately, show why all the current decal sheets on the market are inadequate), while the text gives an idea of common ordnance loads and does and excellent job of building interest and enthusiasm for the subject. The book is simply the most complete collection of information about IRIAF F-4s available, and all the information one could possibly need to build an Iranian F-4 can be found within its covers. On a deeper level, however, is a valuable insight into what Iranian pilots had to go through in order to fight for their country. One gains a deep admiration for their efforts and achievements, at the same time drawing the reader in and creating a desire to seek more information. Reading it, one is struck by how fascinating the IRIAF's story is, and it becomes even more apparent how little information about the air force is out there.

The book is written from an Iranian perspective. This gives it an obvious, though subtle bias in favour of the Iranian military, and while this will seem unusual to most Western readers, it is enlightening to see things from a differing perspective. Both authors are highly thought of among aviation enthusiasts interested in the region, and the book is filled with anecdotes and commentaries from Iranian pilots actually involved in the conflict, as well as briefs from both the American military and defence industry. Thus, while the book paints rather a different picture of Iranian pilots and military effectiveness than is commonly heard, it is not simply pulled out of thin air, nor is the information unsubstantiated; there is substantial weight behind the words. Furthermore, most books dealing with military subjects have some form of bias, so it makes a refreshing change to see things with such a seldom seen perspective. This isn't to suggest the book is a piece of revolutionary propaganda, of course, merely that one gets the impression that the successes of Iranian Phantoms are perhaps slightly overemphasised, and the failures not explored in as much detail as they could have been. It is probably only because the book has a seldom-seen perspective that this is even noticeable; the same style of writing, had it been about American Phantom units, would be exactly the same as every other book about American F-4 operations.

All that said, even if one disregards the test entirely, the book is still more than worthwhile for the images within it. The colour profiles illustrate the many subtly different camouflage patterns applied and the specifics of unit markings and national insignia, and these are supplemented to great effect by the many photographs contained between the covers. For fans of Middle Eastern Air Forces, the Iranian Air Force in particular, and even esoteric armed forces in general, this will be a very welcome addition to the reference library. Now bring on the Iranian F-14 book!


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