ilitary aircraft are designed to be the best weapon of war. These amazing machines are often outfitted with advanced weaponry, making them one of the most essential parts of modern warfare. Military aircraft have been used throughout history in order to help control or destroy enemy forces. Aircraft are also now being used for humanitarian purposes, including search and rescue operations, disaster relief, and medical evacuations. Many people are interested in military aircraft because they are a fascinating part of history, but sometimes finding the right book can be difficult. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best books on military aircraft that will teach you all about these magnificent planes!
Best Books on Military Aircraft: THE LIST
2. The Aircraft Book
Take an action-packed flight through the history of aircraft and the intrepid pioneers who made a dream become reality.
Uncover the engineering behind more than 800 aircraft models, from military jets to commercial planes. This visual history book captures the fascinating story of airplanes and aviation, and how this groundbreaking discovery has influenced the 21st Century.
Inside the pages of this aircraft book, you’ll discover:
– The history of military and commercial aircraft from all over the world, decade by decade, to the present day in stunning visual detail
– Comprehensive catalogs highlighting the most important aircraft of each period along with their specifications and unique features
– Showcases particularly celebrated aircraft – such as the Supermarine Spitfire and Concorde – in beautifully photographed “virtual tour” features
– Tells the stories of the engineers and manufacturers that created marques like Boeing and Airbus
Modern flight has opened the world up to new opportunities and paved the way for the development of advanced research and technology. But, what made it so groundbreaking? This book uncovers the stories behind the first airplane models, the development of flight, and brings you to present-day marvels such as the Gypsy Moth and Supermarine Spitfire.
The Aircraft Book is filled with stats, facts, and photographs that create a visual tour and allow you to see inside key commercial and military aircraft models from the exterior to the cockpit. Aviation enthusiasts will also be captivated by the manufacturer of aircraft engines and how famous models like Boeing and Lockheed became household names.
Complete the series
DK’s The Definitive Visual History series is an iconic celebration of design and history. Packed with fascinating facts and statistics, these high-quality visual guides cover everything from history and notable designs to the people and technology that made it possible. Books in this series include The Car Book, The Train Book, The Tank Book, and so much more.
3. The World’s Greatest Military Aircraft | By Thomas Newdick
Each entry includes a brief description of the model’s development and history, a profile view, key features, and specifications. Packed with more than 200 artworks and photographs, The World’s Greatest Military Aircraft is a colorful guide for the military aviation enthusiast.
4. The Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft | By Robert Jackson
From the Publisher More than 650 of the world’s greatest military aircraft, with fill specifications, development history, and service details. Contains over 700 photographs and full-color artworks. Featured aircraft include: Avro Lancaster Boeing B-52 Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk De Havilland Mosquito Douglas SBD Dauntless English Electric Lightning Focke-Wulf FW 190 Gloster Meteor Junkers JU-87 Stuka Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet MiG-29 Fulcrum North American P-51 Mustang Republic F-84 Thunderjet Supermarine Spitfire
5. American Military Aircraft
During the dark days of World War II, American military airpower was forged into the mightiest war machine the world has ever seen. In the space of five years, the United States progressed from the biplane era to an immensely complex bomber – the sleek Boeing B-29 – capable of delivering the atomic bomb. After World War II, the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps retained their technological superiority through the dangerous years of the Cold War. The next generation of aircraft and weapons, with the emphasis on flexibility and affordability, have proven their worth in the recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Iraq. American Military Aircraft is a comprehensive guide to more than 200 combat aircraft and helicopters that have kept the US at the cutting edge of aviation technology. Each aircraft is covered in detail, with feature boxes outlining its development, technical specifications, performance data, and variants. Unique graphics allow the reader to compare specific features like firepower, troop-carrying capacity, and bombload to those of other aircraft of the same type.
6. Military Aircraft | By Jim Winchester
7. The Pathfinders | By Will Iredale
The incredible story of the crack team of men and women who transformed RAF Bomber Command and helped the Allies deliver decisive victory over Germany.
The Pathfinders were ordinary men and women from a range of nations who revolutionized the efficiency of the Allies’ air campaign over mainland Europe. They elevated Bomber Command – initially the only part of the Allied war effort capable of attacking the heart of Germany – from an impotent force on the cusp of disintegration in 1942 to one capable of razing whole German cities to the ground in a single night, striking with devastating accuracy, inspiring fear, and loathing in Hitler’s senior command.
With exclusive interviews with remaining survivors, personal diaries, previously classified records, and never-before-seen photographs, The Pathfinders brings to life the characters of the airmen and women – many barely out of their teens – who took to the skies in legendary British aircraft such as the Lancaster and the Mosquito, facing almost unimaginable levels of violence from enemy fighter planes to strike at the heart of the war machine.
8. Up in the Air | By Terry Deary
The master of making history fun, Terry Deary, turns his attention to the skies. From the Chinese prisoners who were sent up on kites and the brave but foolish failures who jumped from a height on homemade wings to the first real successes of the Montgolfier balloon and the Wright Brothers’ powered flight. It’s all in Horrible Histories: Up in the Air:
- fully illustrated throughout and packed with hair-raising stories – with all the horribly hilarious bits included
- with a fresh take on the classic Horrible Histories style, perfect for fans old and new
- the perfect series for anyone looking for a fun and informative read
- Horrible Histories has been entertaining children and families for generations with books, TV, stage shows, magazines, games, and 2019’s brilliantly funny Horrible Histories: the Movie – Rotten Romans.
Get your history right here and collect the whole horrible lot.
Read all about it!
9. The Bomber Mafia | By Malcolm Gladwell
In The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and The Longest Night of the Second World War, Malcolm Gladwell, author of New York Times bestsellers including Talking to Strangers and host of the podcast Revisionist History, uses original interviews, archival footage, and his trademark insight to weave together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in Central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard. As listeners hear these stories unfurl, Gladwell examines one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history.
Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists had a different view. This “Bomber Mafia” asked: What if precision bombing could, just by taking out critical choke points – industrial or transportation hubs – cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?
In Revisionist History, Gladwell reexamines moments from the past and asks whether we got it right the first time. In The Bomber Mafia, he employs all the production techniques that make Revisionist History so engaging, stepping back from the bombing of Tokyo, the deadliest night of the war, and asking, “Was it worth it?” The attack was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives but may have spared more by averting a planned US invasion.
Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. As a key member of the Bomber Mafia, Hansell’s theories of precision bombing had been foiled by bad weather and human error. When he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II.
The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.
10. Dresden | By Sinclair McKay
On February 13th, 1945 at 10:03 PM, British bombers began one of the most devastating attacks of WWII: the bombing of Dresden. The first contingent killed people and destroyed buildings, roads, and other structures. The second rained down fire, turning the streets into a blast furnace, the shelters into ovens, and whipping up a molten hurricane in which the citizens of Dresden were burned, baked, or suffocated to death.
Early the next day, American bombers finished off what was left. Sinclair McKay’s The Fire and the Darkness is a pulse-pounding work of history that looks at the life of the city in the days before the attack, tracks each moment of the bombing, and considers the long period of reconstruction and recovery. The Fire and the Darkness are powered by McKay’s reconstruction of this unthinkable terror from the points of view of the ordinary civilians: Margot Hille, an apprentice brewery worker; Gisela Reichelt, a ten-year-old schoolgirl; boys conscripted into the Hitler Youth; choristers of the Kreuzkirche choir; artists, shop assistants, and classical musicians, as well as the Nazi officials stationed there.
What happened that night in Dresden was calculated annihilation in a war that was almost over. Sinclair McKay’s brilliant work takes a complex, human, view of this terrible night and its aftermath in a gripping book that will be remembered long after the last page is turned.
11. Military Jet Aircraft | By Robert Jackson
From early jets to the F-22 Raptor, from the Centurion A41 tank to the M2 Bradley, from aircraft carriers to nuclear submarines, Military Aircraft, Tanks & Warships Visual Encyclopedia is a fascinating guide to aircraft, tanks, and ships from the beginning of the Cold War to the present day. Arranged by type and then chronologically within each type, each entry or variant is illustrated with excellent full-color artwork, showing in great detail its characteristics and markings, and completed with an informative caption and technical specifications. Ranging from the Korean War to Vietnam, from India and Pakistan to the Arab-Israeli conflict, from the Falklands to Afghanistan and Iraq, the book includes main battle tanks, tank destroyers, armored personnel carriers, amphibious tanks, fighter jets, interceptors, bombers, transport aircraft, Stealth bombers, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines. With 850 outstanding color artworks, Military Aircraft, Tanks & Warships Visual Encyclopedia is an authoritatively researched book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in modern military technology.
12. The Great Book of Combat | By Paolo Matricardi
THE STORY OF A HUNDRED YEARS OF COMBAT FLIGHT Great Book of Combat Aircraft begins with the origins of military aviation, complete with vintage photos of pilots and machines of a bygone era. It traces the evolution of these devastating works of technology, with sections on the rise of the bomber, the birth of the monoplane, and the role of electronics and missiles. As the story unfurls, it reveals the dramatic events of past and recent conflicts fought in the skies, over land and sea, covering everything from the First World War to the Cold War. Here, you’ll discover the fiercest aircraft from the United States, Russia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and beyond. This fully illustrated book ends with a look toward the future in terms of both aircraft and strategy. In the hands of a single military leader, these sophisticated weapons can be as powerful as an entire army would have been in the past.
13. Chinese Air Power | By Yefim Gordon
By the turn of the century, China had reaffirmed its position as one of the world’s leading military powers. With much importance attached to fleet renewal; the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the Naval Aviation are fielding new types, emphasis shifting from local derivatives of Russian or western types to indigenously developed aircraft and helicopters. The book focuses on the current PLAAF/PLANAF order of battle and describes the most advanced aircraft types currently in service or due to enter service.
Among the many aircraft reviewed in this volume are the Chengdu J-10 single-engine fourth-generation fighter in service since 2003, fifth-generation fighters like the twin-engine, tail-first Chengdu J-20, and the smaller Shenyang J-31 fifth-generation light fighter. Deliveries of Xian H-6K missile carriers, the Chinese version of the Tupolev Tu-16 bomber, are continuing, the H-6N with inflight refueling capability, entering service in 2019. Transport aviation is not forgotten either. China has also been building an aircraft carrier fleet equipped with the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark shipboard fighter derived from the Sukhoi Su-33.
The latest addition to the Chinese Army Aviation’s arsenal is the Harbin Z-20 medium utility helicopter which looks like the Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk. Numbers of the CAIC Z-10 attack helicopter and the lighter Harbin Z-19 attack helicopter are also now operational. Unmanned aerial vehicles are also reviewed in this comprehensive survey.
15. Harrier 809 | By Rowland White
When the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentina in April 1982, Britain’s immediate response was to send a task force. But behind the pomp and bravado of its departure, a sober reality lurked. A mere 20 Sea Harriers operating from two aircraft carriers would take on the might of the Argentine air force, some 200 planes strong. The MOD estimated that within four days and against such formidable airpower, half the harriers would likely be lost.
To reinforce that meager force, and in just three weeks, the Navy formed, trained, and equipped a brand new squadron from scratch. Not since the Second World War had so much been expected of such a small band of pilots. Their home would be a container ship converted into a makeshift carrier. 809 Naval Air Squadron was born.
Other covert operations mounted by MI6 and the SAS in Latin America would provide vital intelligence to protect the task force from attack but in the vanguard of the conflict, it would be the Sea Harriers of the 809 whose heroics in the South Atlantic which would become legendary.
With characteristic insider knowledge and in thrilling detail, Rowland White tells the story of those amazing exploits – the dogfights, the twenty-three kills, the deadly Exocet attacks, the ejections –demonstrating just why the Harrier is mentioned in the same breath as the Spitfire, the Lancaster, and the Vulcan and is destined to join them in the ranks of our most celebrated aeronautical achievements.
16. Flight | By R. G. Grant
Take a sky-high journey through the Wright brothers’ first powered flight, to Concorde’s final voyage, to the tragic crash of the Columbia, and more, in this stunning book packed with information on the history of aviation.
Charting the trailblazers, jet test pilots, and constant progress at the cutting-edge of technology, every aspect of flight is explored. Recalling memorable events of the sky – record-breaking flights, aerial warfare, and hijackings – Flight is the story of how our dream to fly became a reality.
This visual guide features remarkable photography on every page and gallery throughout to showcase important aircraft – with multiple viewpoints and their key statistics.
Anyone interested in airplanes and vehicles of the sky, and their inventors, engineers, and pilots should have this book on their shelf.
17. The World Encyclopedia of Fighter Aircraft | By Francis Crosby
In this new, fully updated edition, expert author Francis Crosby traces the development of fighters from World War I to the present day and highlights actions in which fighters played a crucial role. The A–Z sections form an illustrated guide to over 170 fighter aircraft. The first covers aircraft from the pioneering days of air fighting in World War I through to the early jets at the end of World War II, and the second focuses on the remarkable advances of post-World War II, mainly jet, aircraft from 1945 to the present day. Specification boxes for each aircraft provide information about the plane’s country of origin, first flight, power, armament, size, weight, and performance. Also included is a glossary explaining aviation terms. Illustrated with 600 photographs, this is a key reference book for all aircraft enthusiasts.
Aircraft designed to attack and destroy other aircraft have existed almost as long as military aviation. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, aircraft designed specifically as fighters appeared. This book of fighter aircraft traces the development of fighters from World War I to the present day and highlights actions in which fighters played a crucial role.
The first section covers aircraft from the pioneering days of air fighting in World War I through to the early jets in action at the end of World War II. This section is brimming with information and often rare photographs of truly classic fighter aircraft including the Bristol Fighter, Spit re, and P-51 Mustang. The second section of the book focuses on the remarkable advances of post-World War II, mainly jet aircraft from 1945 to the present day, and includes the MiG-15, Hunter, Harrier, and F-15 Eagle. Detailed specification boxes are featured for every aircraft listed. These contain up-to-date information, including country of origin, first flight, power, armament, size, weights, and performance.
This splendidly illustrated book, with many previously unpublished pictures from the Imperial War Museum Photograph Archive, is a must-have reference book for everyone interested in the aircraft that have helped make history.
18. Spitfire | By John Nichol
‘The best book you will ever read about Britain’s greatest warplane’ Patrick Bishop, bestselling author of Fighter Boys
‘A rich and heartfelt tribute to this most iconic British machine’ Rowland White, bestselling author of Vulcan 607
‘As the RAF marks its centenary, Nichol has created a thrilling and often moving tribute to some of its greatest heroes’ Mail on Sunday magazine
The iconic Spitfire found fame during the darkest early days of World War II. But what happened to the redoubtable fighter and its crews beyond the Battle of Britain, and why is it still so loved today?
In late spring 1940, Nazi Germany’s domination of Europe had looked unstoppable. With the British Isles in easy reach since the fall of France, Adolf Hitler was convinced that Great Britain would be defeated in the skies over her southern coast, confident his Messerschmitts and Heinkels would outclass anything the Royal Air Force threw at them. What Hitler hadn’t planned for was the agility and resilience of a marvel of British engineering that would quickly pass into legend – the Spitfire.
Bestselling author John Nichol’s passionate portrait of this magnificent fighter aircraft, its many innovations and updates, and the people who flew and loved them, carries the reader beyond the dogfights over Kent and Sussex. Spanning the full global reach of the Spitfire’s deployment during WWII, from Malta to North Africa and the Far East, then over the D-Day beaches, it is always accessible, effortlessly entertaining, and full of extraordinary spirit.
Here are edge-of-the-seat stories and heart-stopping first-hand accounts of battling pilots forced to bail out over occupied territory; of sacrifice and wartime love; of aristocratic female flyers, and of the mechanics who braved the Nazi onslaught to keep the aircraft in battle-ready condition. Nichol takes the reader on a hair-raising, nail-biting, and moving wartime history of the iconic Spitfire populated by a cast of redoubtable, heroic characters that make you want to stand up and cheer.
19. Aircraft Anatomy of World War II
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Military Aircraft
The history of military aircraft is both impressive and extensive, so it’s difficult to know where to start. For people who are interested in learning about this topic, but don’t know where to start, these are some best books on military aircraft that might be useful in your search for information.
Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.