Review: "IAR-80" Story of the Romanian fighter

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Sid Guttridge
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Review: "IAR-80" Story of the Romanian fighter

Post by Sid Guttridge » 16 Jun 2008 14:29

IAR-80

by Dan Antoniu and George Cicos (Editions TMA, Paris, 2008).

The IAR80 was the only indigenously designed, high performance combat aircraft built in a large series by any of the minor Axis powers to see four years of continuous front line service in WWII. It is therefore a worthy subject of a major book.

Those of us who pre-ordered this book in French have had a long wait – some five years by my calculation – so it had a lot of expectation to satisfy.

Was it worth the wait? With minor reservations, yes!


Illustration.

The cover - a finely detailed painting of an IAR80 banking - is well designed, clean, simple and attractive.

The forty five-view, 1/72 scale, line drawings and 64 larger colour illustrations by Teodor Liviu Morosanu within the book are of the very high standard that have already gained him international recognition. He is arguably amongst the best in the business of accurate aircraft illustration anywhere.

The colour illustrations cover every sub-mark of IAR80, including prototype and experimental models. The superb black and white line drawings lack only the series 21 to 75, for reasons unclear. (Perhaps the authors can explain this curious omission?) Detail-demanding scale modelers could not be happier with the results.

There are at least 300 photographs, selected from some three times as many available of the aircraft, and they cover every sub-mark of the IAR80. Amongst them are every known colour photo of the aircraft.

Something that adds little to our understanding of the IAR80, but certainly adds to the period atmosphere, are illustrations from the covers of the wartime Romanian aviation magazine Aripi Romanesti and caricatures of IAR80 pilots from its pages.

A regrettable omission from the illustrations is maps of the airfields mentioned in the text. This would have made it much easier for non-Romanian readers to follow the course of events on the ground.


The Text.

The research that has gone into IAR-80 is very extensive. For those aviation buffs who want detailed facts and figures, operational descriptions, candid wartime reports and pilot memories, it is almost all there.

While there is doubtless going to be scope to refine details of the book’s text from newly discovered documentary sources in the future, some parts, such as the material gained from interviews with former pilots, are unrepeatable and can never be superseded.

The text is not particularly analytical. It presents the facts as they are in the primary sources. In one way this is refreshing, as it allows the reader to draw his own conclusions. On the other hand it is uncritical and leaves several interesting points of controversy unaddressed. For example, we now know from Soviet loss returns that Romanian victory claims at Odessa in 1941 were exaggerated approximately threefold and it would be interesting to know how this affects IAR80 claims.

The text would have been improved if sub-headings had been used within the chapters. It is a little disconcerting to find it switching from the front to rear areas in Romania without warning. Also, more use of statistical tables would have made some information included in the text easier to understand. An index would also have been an advantage, but clearly space was at a premium in a book as heavily illustrated as this.

This reviewer has bought almost every other book on the wartime Romanian air force over the years, and so was looking for something new. It is there in the detail. For example, this reviewer was unaware that there were two attempts to fit Junkers Jumo engines – a DB601Aa in IAR80 No.13 in 1941 and a DB605A in IAR81C No.326 in 1943.

The news that a 1,660 hp Gnome Rhone was being fitted when the IAR Brasov factory was bombed in 1944 was also unknown to this reviewer. (I have tried to track down which engine this might be, but the most powerful Gnome Rhone I can find from my own books is the 1,320hp Gnome Rhone 14R 4/5 as projected in 1944 for the Me323G. Has anyone any idea about the identity of the 1,660 hp Gnome Rhone proposed for the IAR80?)

The victory claims list also makes interesting reading, with at least 13 pilots claiming five or more victories on the type – the usual number considered necessary to qualify as an “ace”. Even allowing for some exaggeration, this is no mean achievement considering almost all opponents were the air forces of great powers and the best Romanian fighter pilots tended to be creamed off to the Bf109 squadrons. For all its limitations, it is doubtful that any fighter outside those built or designed by the major powers was more extensively used in WWII or with more effect than the IAR80.


Editing.

IAR-80 aspires to a high standard of presentation and largely succeeds. One might quibble about some minor editorial details, but this would be to detract unnecessarily from a very worthwhile book.


Language.

IAR-80 is in French, but this should not put off English speakers or others, especially those speaking other romance languages. The statistical content is easily comprehensible and the extensive, high quality illustration overcomes any linguistic difficulties.


Recommended?

Definitely. This reviewer recommends IAR-80 to aviation and military historians, scale modelers, Eastern Front specialists, etc., etc. It is a unique book on a unique subject that will fill a significant gap on many a WWII bookshelf.

Combine IAR-80 with the article on the IAR37, 38 and 39 in AirMagazine No.8 by the same authors, illustrator and publisher, and with their forthcoming article in AirMagazine on the JRS79B, and one will have a comprehensive study of Romanian WWII combat types.

Combine IAR-80 with the same publisher’s AirMag Hors Serie 1, Les Messerschmitt Bf109 roumains, and one has an almost complete overview of Romanian fighter operations in WWII.

IAR-80 is therefore the keystone in a wider series of authoritative works on the Romanian Air Force in WWII, all of which deserve to be more widely known

dragos03
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Location: Bucuresti

Re: Review: "IAR-80" Story of the Romanian fighter

Post by dragos03 » 16 Jun 2008 23:57

Thanks for the review Sid.

As for the last engine tried on the IAR 80, I've been told that it was the engine of the Bloch 157 prototype. I don't know if this info is accurate or not, but the Bloch 157 had a 1590 hp Gnome&Rhone 14R-4 engine. I guess that, with such an engine, the IARs could have been competitive fighters till the end of the war. During French tests in 1942, the Bloch 157 reached a top speed of 710 kmh.

There was also another Gnome&Rhone radial engine tested by Bloch that could have been fitted on the IARs: the 1320 hp Gnome&Rhone 14R that was used in 1939 for the Bloch 156 prototype.

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