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Operation Eldorado Canyon

...from Harpia Publishing, via Casemate UK

Title: Operation Eldorado Canyon
Author: Major Jim Rotramel (USAF, Ret.)
Publisher: Harpia Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-95039-412-8

'The 1986 US Bombing Raid on Libya' from Harpia Publishing, via the UK distributors, Casemate UK. A 254-page soft-cover book.
The story is spread across 10 chapters, starting with the background of the times, and the variety of terrorist attacks that took place around the world, and how Libyan President, Colonel Quaddafi, supported many of them. It goes on to detail the planning for an attack that was ordered, and the reasoning behind launching it from bases in the UK. Despite the long distance, the preparations even included a training mission from Lakenheath to bomb a range target in Canada! Multiple air-refuelling points would be needed, just as it was on the mission to attack targets in Libya. The planners at Lakenheath had to make their plans in secret, away for days at a time, and unable to tell even their colleagues and their families just what they were doing. It involved aircraft from multiple UK bases, with F-111Fs from Lakenheath, EF-111 Ravens from Upper Hayford plus KC-10 & KC-1365 tankers from Mildenhall and Fairford. After the attack had taken place, Mildenhall was also home to the SR-71 Blackbirds which undertook the Bomb Damage Assessment missions. Even this is only alf of the operation, as a second batch of targets were attacked by US Navy strike aircraft from carriers based in the Mediterranean, the USS Coral Sea and USS America. The main focus of the book though remains firmly on the F-111 missions of the USAF, though chapter 8 details the US Navy part of the overall mission. Last minute changes had to be accounted for, such as being unable to overfly France or Spain, and with winds that turned out to be quite different to the forecasts. The flights out and back are covered, as well as the individual target attacks, with only one jet being lost, callsign Karma 52. Tables list the aircraft involved, including the tankers, and the various Libyan air defence systems they faced. Maps show the routes of each set of attackers, and their tanker refuelling orbits. For the aviation enthusiasts among us, one security issue the USAF couldn't control were the ever present band of 'spotters' outside UK bases, and the hope they didn't leak the news of the armed aircraft taking off. It seems though that the large number of KC-10 tankers suddenly in the UK which attracted the most attention. At the end there is a final chapter which looks at the lessons learnt from the attacks, plus an appendix which list all the units involved, and colour artwork of the various squadron badges. Simply packed with information.
I was already a fan of these books from Harpia, but I won't hesitate in saying this is my favourite to date. The detail and the quality of the photographs and maps is first class. Perhaps it rings a bell, as not only do I remember waking up to hear the news, but my parents lived near Mildenhall/Lakenheath at the time and they commented on the extra noise of the aircraft overnight that they ad known something was 'up'. It all happened 38 years ago now so there are generations now who won't remember it, but I am of an age where I do indeed remember so found it especially interesting to read about it in this level of detail. Somehow I still find it surprising how the US intelligence services failed to share important information with their own air force mission planners, and how some of the technology, such as the Pave Tack pods, failed to operate reliably. I won't hesitate to recommend this one.
Thanks to Harpia and Casemate UK for the review copy.


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