irplanes are certainly fascinating machines.
Since their invention in 1903, they continue capturing the world’s imagination. Not surprisingly, aviation literature remains one of the most popular facets of the history genre. Year after year, an avalanche of picture books, directories, and histories— particularly about military aircraft—are published for the entertainment and enlightenment of interested readers, both professional and layperson alike. This sheer outpouring of literature can sometimes represent a problem for parties interested in testing the rather deep waters of this topic: How and where does one begin? This is an especially daunting proposition for students with little experience in historical research. Curiously, despite a highly developed body of literature available, aviation reference books have been less successful in bringing information quickly and easily to the attention of casual users. Most titles are, in fact, written by specialists with specialists in mind, or at least for readers steeped in the nuances of the technology. Neither is the coverage of world military aircraft afforded by these books necessarily uniform. Reference material on airplanes from World War I, World War II, and contemporary times are plentiful, but few address aeronautical developments of the so – called Golden Age (1919-1939). For students and laypersons interested in pursuing the aeronautical facts and feats of this essential period, this gap is an obstacle to effective research.
The present work is an attempt to address all the problems associated with aviation research books in general, reference books in particular. Drawing upon the success of my earlier volume (Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to U. S. Military Aircraft, 1915-2000, published in 1999 by ABC – CLIO), International Warbirds is designed to address student inquiries about specific types of airplanes on a global scale. Simultaneously, it also contains sufficient breadth and depth to satiate most advanced researchers. However, unlike Warbirds, I drop all pretense toward comprehensiveness. That claim would require a book two or three times the size of this volume. Being restricted to only 336 entries, I was hard-pressed to assemble a list that was objective, far-reaching, and afforded good coverage of the most famous machines, not to mention a myriad of lesser-known ones. I believe I succeeded in compiling a useful, working survey. Naturally, any thorough treatment of airplanes is going to be dominated by the big five: France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and Russia. All their famous aircraft, and a host of lesser types, are included. However, I went to great lengths to cover interesting machines from smaller countries, be they powerhouses like Israel and Canada, or developing nations like China, India, or Brazil. Wherever possible, I sought to accommodate as eclectic a collection of interesting or unusual airplanes from around the world as possible. I certainly wanted to avoid the usual Eurocentric approach to aviation history, for no one nation can claim a monopoly on military technology.
Given the constraints on space, my selection criteria were highly selective by necessity. I therefore chose aircraft that have been manufactured and actually deployed by military and naval units in some kind of squadron service. As in my previous venture, experimental prototypes—regardless of their celebrity or infamy—have been deliberately omitted. I believe my otherwise thorough coverage more than compensates for their absence.
To facilitate reader access, this book shares great commonality with its predecessor. Each entry consists of a photograph and a succinct account of each machine. Here I provide essential technical information such as dimensions, performance, power plant, armament, and service dates. Each narrative is carefully crafted to contextualize the airplanes in terms of development, deployment, and denouement. Special attention is paid to any record-breaking feats or unusual features that may have distinguished each in its time. Furthermore, everything has been rendered in direct, nontechnical prose for ease of comprehension. My goal throughout is to be exacting in scope without becoming burdensome in detail.
To facilitate additional inquiry, two detailed subject bibliographies are included in the rear matter of this book. This feature was added to counter a personal pique of mine with many so-called reference books about military aviation. On more than one occasion, I have become intrigued by entries discovered in the works of aeronautical mavens such as William Green, Bill Gunston, and Kenneth Munson, only to discover that no further references have been provided! Such material can, in fact, be uncovered eventually, but only after expending much time and effort. Therefore, I proffer two avia-
tion bibliographies that are extensive and reflect some of the very latest literature available. The first (Aircraft Bibliography) painstakingly denotes printed materials available on an airplane-by-airplane basis. Wherever possible, material on the parent company is also provided for greater historical context. This assemblage has been carefully collected from WorldCat and other online sources to ensure that each book or magazine can be accessed through interlibrary loan. Furthermore, magazine articles, if not borrowed outright, can also be copied from many aviation museum libraries for a small charge, or ordered directly from the publisher. The second bibliography (General Bibliography) was culled from a vast number of titles pertaining to national aviation history. All are listed alphabetically by country, then in identical fashion by author. These materials represent the most recent titles on aviation literature anywhere. As previously noted, their availability was confirmed by WorldCat, and all should be easily obtained through loan or purchase.
I next sought to enhance this volume’s utility through the addition of several appendixes. For the benefit of readers unacquainted with the history or applications of military aviation, Appendix 1: Aircraft by Mission identifies aircraft by the function they performed. Whenever an aircraft is employed in more than one mission, it is listed in each appropriate alphabetical category by name. Appendix 2: Museums is a listing of many of the biggest air museums from across the world. Appendix 3: Aircraft Journals and Magazines concludes the book by listing non-U. S. aviation magazines, many of which are in English or contain printed English-language translations.
The author would like to acknowledge and thank many people for their selfless contributions to this effort. Aviation author and scholar Walter Boyne needs no introduction, and his review of the manuscript and comments were extremely helpful. Walt was also generous enough to provide a Foreword that is both cogent and thought provoking. Also noted are John H. Bolthouse III and Miles Todd of the San Diego Aerospace Museum and Nilda Per – gola-Jensen of the Defense Visual Information Center for their cheerful assistance in locating photographs. I am also deeply indebted to Joan McKenny and Dan Hagerdorn of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. The same applies to Leo Opdyke of World War I Aero, Gerard Frawley of Australian Aviation, Avro Haav of Estonia, Jan Eric Keikke of the Netherlands, and Gordon G. Bartley of British Aerospace. Gratitude is also extended to that aviation research stalwart, Bill Hooper of the New England Air Museum Library, for both patience and permission to ransack—literally—his holdings. My editors, Alicia S. Merrit and Liz Kincaid, also warrant kudos for exemplary endurance in handling my many and impossible requests. Finally, I want to voice a personal note of thanks to aviation artist Charles Kourmphtes of Warwick, Rhode Island, Bob Gordon of Uncasville, Connecticut, for unfettered use of his private library, and Robert E. Schnare of the Henry E. Eccles Library, U. S. Naval War College, for access to his splendid facility. As with my previous endeavor, I could have neither begun nor finished this book without them.
John C. Fredriksen, Ph. D.