Austro-Hungary was a fracturing out-of-touch fading world power awaiting for reality to rear its ugly head. That ugliness was WW1, which ironically was ignited by Austro-Hungary and Serbia. Austro-Hungarian pilots of the Army and Navy air arms, like their foot-slogging comrades on the ground, bravely fought a fascinating war on up to four fronts--over Russian steppes, the Alps, and the Adriatic Sea.
Flaming debris from the doomed observation balloon rained down on the ground crew as the unsuccessful anti-aircraft guns blazed away at the victorious all-red Albatross in the October sky of 1917. The future ace-of-aces of his nation would down a further six enemies in this red fighter emblazoned with leering skulls, until another adversary ignited his fuel tank; with much of the top and lower wing in flames the ace, trying not to personally ignite, successfully gained and landed at his aerodrome! Germany’s Manfred von Richthofen could have been proud of his Austro-Hungarian counterpart Godwin Brumowski, 35-kill commander of Flik 41J, the Jasta 11 of Austro-Hungary.
This is not the story of Jasta and Jagdgeschwader aces of Germany’s Kaiser, but the aces of the Fliks, Fleps, Flets and Flars of Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary Franz Josef’s kuk LFT (kaiserliche und koenigliche Luftfahrtruppen, the imperial and royal aviation troops.) Men like Austro-Hungary’s second ranking ace Julius Arigi (32 kills, who was the fighter instructor for WW2 legends Walter Nowotny and Hans-Joachim Marseille) , smiling Franz Graser (18 kills) who never attended flight school or received a pilot certificate, and Benno Fiala (28 kills), who later became Junker’s chief engineer.
Comprehensibly written, full of enlightening details, author Christopher Chant presents the history of the kuk LFT and its aces with 96 pages of facts and stories. Extremely challenging geographic, meteorological and operational concerns dogged them, as did their agrarian-based country’s attempt to face off against two industrial powers.
Domestic aircraft designs like the fascinating Hansa-Brandenburg D I ‘Star-strutter‘, the boxy non-aerodynamic appearing Aviatik D I, sporty Phoenix D series, and flying boats like the barracuda-esque Hansa-Brandenburg, and Lohner swept-wing fighters were strapped on by the pilots to battle Russians, Italians, French, British and American pilots. That Austro-Hungary had a difficult time producing native aircraft designs found Brumowski and his peers soaring aloft in license-built German designs like Fokker Eindecker and Albatross fighters. Austro-Hungary did not have large numbers of fighter Fliks (Fliegerkompanies, basic tactical unit) and most aces started out in two-seater types.
Austro-Hungarian markings were eye catching. Large red and white stripes initially identified the LFT machines. KuK Franz Josef’s fighter planes could have been at home amongst similarly finished fighters on the Western Front; wooden fuselages were varnished to a rich finish and the Eisenkreuz marked friend from foe. Brumowski and his peers also flew with unique camouflage, feather-like finishes of green and brown swirls, daubings and colorful large hexagonal patterns.
Kuk LFT is not the only air force presented within this book. Russia and Italy’s air forces each receive a chapter, though only in the context of illustrating against whom kuk LFT fought. SPADs and Nieuports even appear in the thirty-seven color plates by illustrator Mark Rolfe. However, artwork of the uniforms and insignia of these airmen is absent, and would be greatly appreciated.
Contents include: Chapter 1: AN EMPIRE ABOUT TO COLLAPSE Chapter 2: THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN AIR ARMS Chapter 3: RUSSIAN OPPONENTS Chapter 4: A NEW FOE Chapter 5: AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ACES APPENDICES
A chart lists the ranking of the forty-nine aces by name, final rank and victories (confirmed and unconfirmed.)
A map or two would greatly enhance the understanding of the areas over which these pilots fought.
Those with an interest in the tragedy of ‘The Great War’, its air operations and its southern theater, may be fascinated with Mr. Chant’s history of Austro-Hungary’s airmen who gained the coveted title of ‘Ace.’
I thank the kind people of Osprey Publishing for making this review possible.
Highs: The usual Osprey excellent color plates, a chart listing the ranking of the forty-nine aces by name, final rank and victories, numerous photographs.Lows: No maps. No chart for comparing kuk LFT aircraft performance against their rivals. No uniform art.Verdict: An excellent work for those interested in WW1 aces.
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR) FROM: TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES
I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art.
My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling!
My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...