Despite there now being more than having more than 150 Combat Aircraft titles, the aeroplane types covered in this year’s four new releases proves that there are still plenty of subjects worthy of inclusion in Osprey’s longest-running aviation series. From a Cold War Classic, through Luftwaffe icons to two of the most effective, and graceful, flying boats of World War 2, these books will surely prove popular with aviation enthusiasts and historians alike. As with all titles in the Combat Aircraft series, these books are written with both conciseness and authority, abound with first-hand accounts and are illustrated by brand new profile artwork and carefully chosen photography.

Of the four, perhaps my favourite is Edward Young’s book on the Kawanishi H6K ‘Mavis’ and H8K ‘Emily’ flying boats in combat during World War 2. There is very little in print in English on this subject, so the title really is adding to our knowledge of the types’ obscure operational history.


U-2 ‘Dragon Lady’ Units 1955–90
By Peter E Davies
Illustrated by Gareth Hector

Peter E. Davies details the early service of the distinctive Lockheed U-2, one of the most important and longest-serving intelligence gathering platforms fielded by the US Air Force.

The U-2 is one of the most recognisable aircraft of the Cold War. Nicknamed the ‘Dragon Lady’ after the codename given to it by the CIA, this powered glider was designed and operated in great secrecy, providing US authorities with photographic and electronic information from areas of interest across the globe. This illuminating new volume dives deep into the U-2’s most critical missions, exploring its role in the Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear reconnaissance over the Soviet Union and intelligence missions across China and North Vietnam.

Detailing the operations of one of the landmark aircraft of the 20th century, author Peter E. Davies puts the U-2 in fresh and engaging context, enhanced by more than 50 photos and 21 newly commissioned profile artworks.


Kawanishi H6K ‘Mavis’ and H8K ‘Emily’ Units
By Edward M. Young
Illustrated by Gareth Hector

Pacific War historian Edward M. Young chronicles the little known operations of the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force’s flying boat units during World War 2.

Respectively codenamed the ‘Mavis’ and ‘Emily’ by the Allies, Japan’s H6K and H8K flying boats outstripped their RAF and US Navy counterparts in respect to endurance and performance. Following outbreak of war in the Pacific and Southeast Asia in December 1941, these remarkable aircraft undertook offensive missions that covered vast tracts of ocean, employing their unique capabilities to escort convoys and serve as transports between Japan’s widely spread island bases. However, while the technical details of the H6K and H8K are well known in the West, this important new study marks the first English-language account of their wartime operations.

Utilising newly translated Japanese war diaries, as well as Allied intelligence and combat reports, Pacific War historian Edward M. Young reveals the full story behind the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force’s flying boat units. Contemporary photos and 22 colour profiles bring new dimensions to this fascinating area of Japanese military history, vividly illustrating the pivotal roles of ‘Emily’ and ‘Mavis’ in events including the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway and the fighting in the Aleutians and the Bismarck and Solomon Islands.


Wilde Sau Nightfighters
By Martin Streetly
Illustrated by Gareth Hector

Flying such iconic day fighter types as Messerschmitt’s Bf 109 and Me 262 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, pilots undertaking Wilde Sau nightfighter missions from mid-1943 were fielded in desperation by the Luftwaffe as RAF Bomber Command’s night offensive against Germany began to ramp up. Highly respected author Martin Streetly, who, for many years, was a contributing editor for Jane’s, examines why the Wilde Sau concept was devised, and how fighter units fared once they were declared operational.

The introduction of ‘Window’ (strips of paper onto which aluminium foil was stuck to one side and then dropped by bombers to jam German radar) from July 1943 briefly paralysed the Nachtjagdverband’s defence of Germany against RAF Bomber Command’s increasingly effective night bombing campaign. Fortunately for the Luftwaffe, the Wilde Sau concept of defending point targets using single-engined fighters was already in existence, and it went on to become the corner stone of the night defence of Germany during the summer and autumn of 1943.

In this book, the author details the origins of Wilde Sau, as well as its implementation, and explains the successes and failures of the concept through the experiences of the pilots who flew Bf 109s, Fw 190s and Me 262s into combat against RAF Lancaster and Halifax heavy bombers. He also details how Wilde Sau tactics were executed, which saw pilots flying aircraft unsuited to nocturnal operations having to rely on searchlights and instructions from ground-based radar controllers in order to intercept enemy bomber streams. Thanks to benign weather, the Wilde Sau units enjoyed some notable successes during the summer and autumn of 1943 when defending the German scientific research centre at Peenemünde – 120 bombers were shot down in just two night raids in August.

The mystique surrounding the Luftwaffe nightfighter force has huge appeal with aviation enthusiasts and hobbyists alike, and the Wilde Sau units are seen as an ‘elite’ within the Nachtjagdverband. This volume will tap into that interest, with first-hand accounts, more than 50 quality photographs and 21 newly commissioned artworks of some of the most popular German fighters of World War 2.


Me 262 Units in Combat
By Robert Forsyth

Illustrated by Gareth Hector and Jim Laurier

Leading Luftwaffe historian Robert Forsyth chronicles the short but action-packed operational history of the world’s first jet-powered combat aircraft, the Messerschmitt Me 262. He analyses the design and prototype development of the aircraft, which made its operational debut in the summer of 1944. Powered by the Jumo 004 jet engine, the Me 262 outclassed anything the Allies had in terms of speed and firepower, offering, as an interceptor, a formidable punch with four 30 mm MK 108 nose-mounted cannon. With such a blend of armament and speed, the Me 262A-1a could inflict carnage on the Allied heavy bomber formations, but also evade their fighter escorts – even the later marks of Spitfire and the formidable American P-51D/K Mustang. Me 262 operations against the bombers also saw the use of underwing batteries of state-of-the-art 55 mm air-to-air rockets, as well as trials with aerial bombing.

The author interviewed a number of surviving Me 262 pilots in the 1990s, and their first-hand accounts of flying the aircraft in action against hundreds of Allied bombers, and their escorts, make for sobering reading. He also spent time with aviators who used the Me 262 as a fast bomber, carrying out hit-and-run attacks on road junctions, Allied airfields, vehicle columns, troop assemblies and supply dumps. A range of ordnance could be dropped ranging from 500 kg bombs to sophisticated anti-personnel bomblets packed into dedicated air-drop containers. At the same time, the Me 262 was used as a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft with built-in cameras. Such aircraft provided valuable intelligence for the German high command on the Western Front in late 1944, as well as during preparations for the Ardennes offensive in December of that year. Finally, a small number of single- and two-seat aircraft were also used as nightfighters in the defence of Berlin, accounting for the destruction of a number of previously untouchable RAF Mosquitos. All of these aspects of the Me 262 are covered in this highly illustrated volume, which includes 50 photographs and 22 specially commissioned profile artworks.