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US Air Force (USAF): books - history and aircraft

A book on the American air force? Here are illustrated books on the history, missions and aircraft of the United States Air Force.

Combat Aircraft of the United States Air Force - Rare photographs from wartime archives (Images of War)

From its humble beginning in August 1907, when the U.S. Army Signal Corps created its Aeronautical Division assigned: "to take charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines, and all kindred matters." That small inconsequence portion of the U.S. Army would grow progressively over the many decades to become its own separate entity following the Second World War, named the U.S. Air Force in 1947.

It became overnight the world's most powerful military establishment, able to deliver conventional and nuclear ordnance anywhere around the globe. Today's cutting-edge example of that is best represented by the supersonic, bat-winged B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which can fly at an altitude of 50,000 feet, and is built of carbon-graphite composite materials.
The B-2 Spirit is a far cry from the early days of the service when it relied on fragile prop-driven, wood and fabric-covered aerial platforms, such as the Wright Type B, which could barely reach an altitude of 100 feet.

As this superb illustrated and well informed book vividly demonstrates, in between have been such iconic aircraft as the P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt fighters and bombers such as the B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Super Fortress which dropped the first A-Bomb in 1945.
The Cold War demanded ever more powerful aircraft, such as the B-58 Hustler and B-52 Stratofortress and fighters including the F-86 Sabre, F-104 Starfighter and F-4 Phantom.

Author:Michael Green
Specs:200 pages, 24.5 x 19 cm / 9.7 x 7.5 in, paperback
Illustrations:250 b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Pen & Sword Books Ltd (GB, 2016)
Series:Images of War
Book: Combat Aircraft of the United States Air Force - Rare photographs from wartime archives (Images of War)

Combat Aircraft of the United States Air Force - Rare photographs from wartime archives

Language: English

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The Lafayette Escadrille : A Photo History of the First American Fighter Squadron

The Lafayette Escadrille was an all-volunteer squadron of Americans who flew for France during World War I. In this work the entire history of these gallant volunteers - who named themselves after the Marquis Lafayette, who came to America's aid during its Revolution - is laid out in both text and pictorial form.
In time for the centennial celebration, this work not only tells the fascinating story of the Lafayette Escadrille, it shows it. Already a student of the squadron, the author spent a full year sifting through university and museum archives in the United States and France for photographs and documents relating to the famed unit.

To complement these images, he traveled extensively, taking snapshots of existing markers and memorials honoring the men of the Lafayette Escadrille. In France, he specifically sought out locations where the squadron operated and its pilots frequented. In several cases, he was able to match his present-day color photos with contemporary images of the same scene, thus creating a unique then-and-now comparison.

To add even more color, the author included artwork and aircraft profiles by recognized illustrators, along with numerous full-color photographs of artifacts relating to the squadron's men and airplanes, as they are displayed today in various museums in the United States and France.

The result is undoubtedly the finest photographic collection of the Lafayette Escadrille to appear in print. Along with the expert text revealing air-combat experiences as well as life at the front during the Great War, it is a never-before-seen visual history that both World War I aviation aficionados and those with a passing interest in history will appreciate.

Author:Steven A. Ruffin
Specs:288 pages, 25.5 x 18 cm / 10 x 7.1 in, hardback
Illustrations:numerous b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Casemate Books (GB, 2016)
Book: The Lafayette Escadrille : A Photo History of the First American Fighter Squadron

The Lafayette Escadrille : A Photo History of the First American Fighter Squadron

Language: English

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Picture History of World War II American Aircraft Production

Over 250 rare photographs depict one of the greatest industrial feats of World War II: the massive production of American military aircraft. Photos show teams of workers turning out Boeing B-17 bombers in Seattle, huge B-24D Liberators at the Ford plant in Willow Run, F6F Grumman Hellcat fighters in Long Island, and much more.

Author:Joshua Stoff
Specs:160 pages, 30 x 22 x 1.2 cm / 11.8 x 8.7 x 0.47 in, paperback
Illustrations:258 b&w photographs
Publisher:Dover Publications Inc. (USA, 1994)
Book: Picture History of World War II American Aircraft Production

Picture History of World War II American Aircraft Production

Language: English

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American Bomber Aircraft Development in World War 2

A new perspective on the development of US bomber aircraft during World War 2, revealing how the intense combat pressures of the war accelerated the scientific and technological advances of aeronautics, propulsion. aircraft systems, avionics and ordnance.

Packed with three-view drawings and rare photographs including a wide variety of little-known experimental aircraft.

Author:Bill Norton
Specs:224 pages, 28.5 x 22 x 1.8 cm / 11.2 x 8.7 x 0.71 in, hardback
Illustrations:profusely illustrated
Publisher:Ian Allan Publishing (GB, 2012)
Book: American Bomber Aircraft Development in World War 2

American Bomber Aircraft Development in World War 2

Language: English

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American Aircraft Development of WWII : Special Types 1939-1945

Focusing almost exclusively on official programs and aircraft that entered development this book shows how U.S. aviation weapons progressed under the pressure of war.

From the state of the art at the beginning of the war, to the advances during the conflict, armed photo reconnaissance, catapult launched seaplanes, autogyros and, amongst others, armed drones are covered in detail.
Often described as less glamorous that fighters and bombers, these special types offer a unique contribution to aeronautical advancement.

Author:William Norton
Specs:272 pages, 29 x 21.5 x 1.9 cm / 11.4 x 8.5 x 0.75 in, hardback
Illustrations:300 b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Crecy Publishing (GB, 2015)
Book: American Aircraft Development of WWII : Special Types 1939-1945

American Aircraft Development of WWII : Special Types 1939-1945

Language: English

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Bombing Europe - The Illustrated Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force

Created in November 1943, the Fifteenth Air Force was the direct descendant of the American Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces that had fought in the Mediterranean since the summer of 1942. Its force included 210 B-17 Flying Fortress and 90 B-24 Liberator bombers escorted by P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang fighters.

They took the air battle against the Axis to areas Allied bombers based in England could not reach: southern Germany, Austria, eastern Europe, and the Balkans. Their reach in the Balkans included the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, vital to Germany's war effort.
Its crews fought the weather, as well as the enemy, by flying over the Alps to reach many of their targets and made a significant contribution to the victory over the Axis powers and Nazi Germany.

Although enemy fighter planes were a major menace during the first nine months of the Fifteenth's air war, ubiquitous antiaircraft fire, called flak, also took a toll on American bombers throughout the campaign.
This book tells the story of the brave airmen who bombed the majority of Europe in an effort to win the war.

Author:Kevin A. Mahoney
Specs:240 pages, 25.5 x 29 x 2.4 cm / 10 x 11.4 x 0.94 in, hardback
Illustrations:200 b&w photographs
Publisher:Motorbooks International (USA, 2015)
Book: Bombing Europe - The Illustrated Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force

Bombing Europe - The Illustrated Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force

Language: English

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American Military Training Aircraft - Fixed and Rotary-Wing Trainers Since 1916

The U.S. did not become the world's foremost military air power by accident. The learning curve - World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and more recently the war on terror - has been steep.
While climbing this curve, the U.S. has not only produced superior military aircraft in greater numbers than its foes, but has - in due course - out-trained them, too.

This book provides a comprehensive historical survey of U.S. military training aircraft, including technical specifications, drawings and photographs of each type of fixed and rotary-wing design used over a 98-year period to accomplish the first step of the learning process: the training of pilots and aircrews.

Author:E.R. Johnson, Lloyd S. Jones
Specs:277 pages, 25.5 x 17.5 cm / 10 x 6.9 in, paperback
Illustrations:275 photographs, 166 drawings
Publisher:McFarland & Co Inc (USA, 2015)
Book: American Military Training Aircraft - Fixed and Rotary-Wing Trainers Since 1916

American Military Training Aircraft - Fixed and Rotary-Wing Trainers Since 1916

Language: English

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US Army Aircraft Since 1947 - An Illustrated Reference

This is the only comprehensive guide to the 124 aircraft and experimental flying machines used by the United States Army since 1947. The definitive reference source on its subject.

Author:Stephen Harding
Specs:264 pages, 28 x 22.5 x 2.6 cm / 11 x 8.9 x 1.02 in, hardback
Illustrations:220 b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Schiffer Publishing Ltd (USA, 2004)
Book: US Army Aircraft Since 1947 - An Illustrated Reference

US Army Aircraft Since 1947 - An Illustrated Reference

Language: English

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Spyflights and Overflights: Cold War Aerial Reconnaissance (Volume 1) - 1945-1960

Few aviation subjects have been shrouded in more secrecy or been more controversial than cold war aerial reconnaissance. Former reconnaissance pilot Robert S. Hopkins, III, offers new insights into strategic intelligence flights during the early years of the cold war.

Primarily undertaken by RB-50s and RB-47s of the Strategic Air Command and by CIA U-2s, other Western nations such as Britain, Sweden, and Taiwan were equally committed to gathering intelligence about the Soviet Union and its allies, and conducted their own peripheral and overflight missions.

Hopkins challenges longstanding beliefs that the flights served to prevent war, curtailed needless defence spending, and were undertaken by rogue generals bent on starting World War Three. For the first time he shows the Soviet perspective on the flights, and makes a compelling case that reconnaissance flights did not have a sustained adverse effect on Soviet relations with the West.

Using newly declassified materials, interviews with crews and policy makers, and his own experience flying strategic reconnaissance missions, Hopkins links the daily operations of courageous fliers with decisions by Presidents and Prime Ministers that decided the outcome of the cold war.

Author:Robert S. Hopkins
Specs:200 pages, 29.5 x 21 x 1.3 cm / 11.6 x 8.25 x 0.51 in, hardback
Illustrations:150 b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Hikoki Publications (GB, 2016)
Book: Spyflights and Overflights: Cold War Aerial Reconnaissance (Volume 1) - 1945-1960

Spyflights and Overflights: Cold War Aerial Reconnaissance (Volume 1) - 1945-1960

Language: English

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Night Hawks & Black Widows - 13th Air Force Night Fighters in the South and Southwest Pacific, 1943-1945

Aerial night fighting against the Japanese in World War II demanded the merger of a special type of pilot and plane. This is the story of those pilots who risked their lives night after night flying P-38 Lightnings, P-70 Nighthawks, and P-61 Black Widows - America's first purposely designed night fighter - for the 13th Air Force in the South and Southwest Pacific between 1943 and 1945.

Night fighting included aerial intercepts of Japanese aircraft as well as raids against Japanese installations.

This book provides detailed accounts of all these missions including the first solo night fighter raid over the highly defended Japanese base at Rabaul, night aerial combat against Japanese bombers and fighters, and harrowing night attacks against Japanese ground targets.
Coverage of American night fighter tactics and Japanese counter-tactics add to the tale as 13th Air Force pilots battled the Japanese for control of the night skies.

Author:Terry M. Mays
Specs:240 pages, 29 x 22.5 x 2.6 cm / 11.4 x 8.9 x 1.02 in, hardback
Illustrations:300+ photographs
Publisher:Schiffer Publishing Ltd (USA, 2010)
Book: Night Hawks & Black Widows - 13th Air Force Night Fighters in the South and Southwest Pacific, 1943-1945

Night Hawks & Black Widows - 13th Air Force Night Fighters in the South and Southwest Pacific, 1943-1945

Language: English

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Early Jet Fighters : British and American 1944-1954 (Images of War)

In almost 200 archive photographs Leo Marriott traces the course of the development of British and American jet fighters during the first pioneering decade of their production.
In many ways the period from 1944 to 1954 was one of the most exciting and innovative in the history of military aviation. Rare images show the first jet fighters flown by the RAF towards the end of the Second World War and takes the story forward to the most advanced designs that played a key role in the war in Korea.

The range of experimental and operational warplanes that were conceived and built during this short time was remarkable. The initial straight-wing jets began with the Gloster Meteor and Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star which were later superseded by the first operational swept-wing fighters such as the Hawker Hunter, North American F-86 Sabre and Grumman F9F-6 Cougar.
Development of all these benefited greatly from German Second World War advances in aerodynamics that were exploited by the British and Americans when the war ended.

Progress was so swift that, by the mid-1950s, the prototypes of the next generation of truly supersonic fighters were starting to appear, and these are featured in Leo Marriott's fascinating selection of images.
He even includes a variety of prototypes which for various reasons did not result in production orders, as well as several unusual concepts such as flying boat fighters and mixed-power designs.

Author:Leo Marriott
Specs:128 pages, 24.5 x 19 x 1.3 cm / 9.7 x 7.5 x 0.51 in, paperback
Illustrations:200 photographs
Publisher:Pen & Sword Books Ltd (GB, 2018)
Series:Images of War
Book: Early Jet Fighters : British and American 1944-1954 (Images of War)

Early Jet Fighters : British and American 1944-1954

Language: English

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American Military Gliders of World War II - Development, Training, Experimentation, and Tactics of All Aircraft Types

The U.S. Army glider corps was formed in the tumultuous period of rapid buildup of American military might prior to the nation's December 1941 entry into World War II. It then had to mature rapidly, under the persistent pressure of wartime conditions, to be ready for action when American airborne troops first deployed. This meant haste and misconceptions that fostered inefficiencies in all aspects of the effort.

The program produced a cadre of pilots and fleet of wood and fabric gliders that executed challenging combat missions unlike anything done before or since. Despite the numbers and combat record, the glider is almost never mentioned in accounts of World War II combat aircraft.

The U.S. Army and Britain shared aircraft and knowledge, both employing the other's gliders in combat. The U.S. Navy also spent time developing amphibious transport gliders for Marine Corps landings. All are covered in this book.

Author:Bill Norton
Specs:256 pages, 23.5 x 30.5 x 2.8 cm / 9.25 x 12 x 1.1 in, hardback
Illustrations:illustrated
Publisher:Schiffer Publishing Ltd (USA, 2012)
Book: American Military Gliders of World War II - Development, Training, Experimentation, and Tactics of All Aircraft Types

American Military Gliders of World War II - Development, Training, Experimentation, and Tactics of All Aircraft Types

Language: English

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The 'C' Planes - US Cargo Aircraft from 1925 to the Present

Cargo aircraft are the backbone of today's military operations. From Operation Vittles to Operation Desert Storm, without the "C" planes the battles would have been lost.

This book is the definitive history of every cargo aircraft that displayed the American flag, from the commercial Douglas C-1 built in 1925, to the newest C-33 designation given to a potential commercial, off-the-shelf transport aircraft to supplement the C-17. The authors have attempted to trace the roots of each of the "C" aircraft.

Author:William G. Holder, Scott Vadnais
Specs:160 pages, 28.5 x 22.5 x 1.7 cm / 11.2 x 8.9 x 0.67 in, hardback
Illustrations:200+ b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Schiffer Publishing Ltd (USA, 2004)
Book: The 'C' Planes - US Cargo Aircraft from 1925 to the Present

The 'C' Planes - US Cargo Aircraft from 1925 to the Present

Language: English

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Gunships - The Story of Spooky, Shadow, Stinger and Spectre

Tells the dramatic story of transforming military cargo transports into deadly ground-attack aircraft used by the U.S. and other countries in worldwide conflicts from the Vietnam War to the Middle East today. This comprehensive and detailed accounting of gunships begins with piston-powered, WWII-era C-47s and progresses to the four-engine turboprop C-130 Hercules, showing how gunships evolved from using 20mm miniguns to 105mm Howitzers with digital-age Battle Management Centers housed onboard. These highly effective airplanes made history by removing the safe haven of night operations from the enemy, and allowing strategic victory that might not have otherwise been possible.
Author Wayne Mutza not only carefully researched all of these aircraft and their paths to reality, but also tells the tale of the brave and persevering men who believed in this unique weapon system and who saw its development through to the end.

This book features a wealth of outstanding photographs, many of which have never before been published, and also contains detailed appendices documenting gunship production data, combat units, and aircraft losses.

Author:Wayne Mutza
Specs:204 pages, 23.5 x 24 x 2.1 cm / 9.25 x 9 x 0.83 in, hardback
Illustrations:353 b&w photographs
Publisher:Specialty Press (USA, 2008)
Book: Gunships - The Story of Spooky, Shadow, Stinger and Spectre

Gunships - The Story of Spooky, Shadow, Stinger and Spectre

Language: English

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US Military Helicopters - Rare photographs from Wartime Archives (Images of War)

The helicopter came on the scene too late to play other than a minor role in the Second World War but by the Korean conflict the Bell H-13 Sioux, OH-23 Raven and Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw were in service.

It was in Vietnam that the US military helicopters really came into their own and the best known were the Bell UH-1 Iriquois (known as the Huey), the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and the massive CH-37 Mojave. The USAF combat search and rescue Jolly Green Giant was indispensable.

Attack helicopters have evolved from the early Huey Cobra or Snake and the Boeing AH-64 Apache came into service in the late 80s when the Sikorsky UH-60 series became the military general purpose chopper.

All these formidable aircraft and many more are covered in detail in this superbly illustrated and comprehensive book.

Author:Michael Green
Specs:208 pages, 25 x 19 x 1.4 cm / 9.8 x 7.5 x 0.55 in, paperback
Illustrations:250 b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Pen & Sword Books Ltd (GB, 2017)
Series:Images of War
Book: US Military Helicopters - Rare photographs from Wartime Archives (Images of War)

US Military Helicopters - Rare photographs from Wartime Archives

Language: English

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AMARG: America's Strategic Military Aircraft Reserve

The United States military stores more than 4,000 aircraft in the Arizona desert at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) facility adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Known as the "Boneyard," this facility is much more than a place where aerospace vehicles come to die. Here some aircraft are maintained in both short- and long-term storage, while others serve as a "parts inventory on the wing" holding valuable spare parts in known locations ready to be harvested, overhauled, and returned to the fleet when needed.
When an aircraft has yielded all the parts necessary to keep its brethren in the air, its carcass eventually meets the scrapper's torch.

AMARG's storage rows are home to massive fleets of F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 fighters, aerial refuelling tankers, C-130 and C-5 transports, helicopters of varying sizes, and bombers from the frontline B-1 to B-52s that are much older than the pilots flying them around the globe today.
Among the rows are special use aircraft including the AWACS, P-3 maritime patrol bombers, aeromedical evacuation aircraft, and reconnaissance planes that serve a variety of missions, along with celebrity aircraft such as MiG killers that dominated the skies in aerial combat.

As well as bringing the reader up to date with recent activities at AMARG, including the intake of new aircraft types, regeneration and the return to the fleet of aircraft formerly in storage, this book presents new, never-before-seen images that provide a visual tour of the Boneyard.

Author:Jim Dunn, Nicholas A. Veronico
Specs:96 pages, 24 x 16.5 x 0.8 cm / 9 x 6.5 x 0.31 in, paperback
Illustrations:160 b&w and colour photographs
Publisher:Key Publishing Ltd (GB, 2022)
Book: AMARG: America's Strategic Military Aircraft Reserve

AMARG: America's Strategic Military Aircraft Reserve

Language: English

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Desert Boneyard - Retired Aircraft Storage Facilities in the U.S.

The "Desert Boneyards" are a concept well known to every aeronautical enthusiast, and yet also veiled in secrecy. Gigantic desert aerodromes in which military and civilian aircraft from all over the world are stored, either permanently or for a time, in order to serve as sources of spare parts or to be reactivated after a certain time. In this unique photo documentation, the reader is shown the best-known of these "desert boneyards" in Arizona and California and presented fascinating insights into a world far away from the well-known airports.

This book was originally published in German under the title Desert Boneyards by Motobuch-Verlag.

Author:Patrick Hoeveler, Adel Krämer
Specs:160 pages, 28.5 x 22.5 x 2 cm / 11.2 x 8.9 x 0.79 in, hardback
Illustrations:200+ colour photographs
Publisher:Schiffer Publishing Ltd (USA, 2010)
Book: Desert Boneyard - Retired Aircraft Storage Facilities in the U.S.

Desert Boneyard - Retired Aircraft Storage Facilities in the U.S.

Language: English

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Last update:05-04-2024