No Margin for Error: Book Review

One of the great mysteries of our current plastic kit boom (which is now in it’s twenty-fifth year–a record) is that there is STILL no “mainstream, definitive” Mirage IIIC in 1/72 scale. I know a company named AML made a more-or-less decent Mirage IIIC a few years ago–but where is the Tamiya or Hasegawa Mirage IIIC? Where is the Eduard or new-Airfix version? Where is the Revell Germany Mirage IIIC? Hmmmm? Well?

While you’re pondering that I’ll tell you about the book No Margin for Error by Ehud Yonay. This is a book about Israeli air power by an Israeli.


Let’s just clear the air here and get it right out in the open that anything Israeli = Political. Can’t change that basic fact. I think I know why we are still building Matchbox kits of the Mirage IIIC–because the Mirage IIIC screams one thing and one thing only–Israel. It’s not an airplane that is extremely likely to conjure up notions of French aviation or the Falkland Islands. You can pretend all day but when you get right down to it–it’s one of the national symbols of Israel and that’s political. Nothing scares a “suit” like politics.

Okay. Now I’ve said that, I’ll wade right in. Yonay may be spewing propaganda for all I know. I just don’t know how we can get around that in this day and age. EVERYTHING is propaganda. We are living in the post-truth age. Deal with it.

For anybody who is interested in the history of aviation, Yonay’s book provides a fascinating story. He knew how to write about aviation. This book presents a story that is as close to “the truth” as we are likely to get. It may not be 100% in agreement with the facts–but it DOES list sources and contains copious footnotes. That is a LOT more than the typical plastic model kit “reference” book. A whole lot more.

But mainly, it’s a good read. You either like this kind of reading or you don’t. I do. I love a story that has a certain sympathy for crazy airmen who want to fly the hottest airplanes and may even defend their country from time to time. It’s romantic and appealing, to me. Certainly, no aviation story in history has quite the “pizazz” of this one. It’s a real page-turner.

Perhaps it’s “just to make it sound good” but I believe that part where Yonay says that Israeli leaders were afraid. Afraid of utter defeat and annihilation. Afraid for their own lives and their children’s lives. Yes, I believe it. I believe it when Yonay explains all the underhanded thievery that went on, making sure that Israel–a country that didn’t exist–would have an air force. I even believe that slightly-less-than-the-full-truth about how the Nesher (Mirage V) became an “Isreali built” airplane after plans were stolen. Technically, it was the engine plans that were stolen. The other plans were bought, paid for and delivered by Dassault–even though it was technically illegal to do so.

Ultimately, this book gets inside the heads of military leaders in a way that I find very refreshing. I highly recommend this book. It outlines a story that is almost, but not quite, too good to be true.

Okay–maybe it’s a little too good to be true. But so was Pappy Boyington’s.

2 Replies to “No Margin for Error: Book Review”

  1. Perhaps it is an Australian quirk, being more obsessed with Ye Olde Country, but we tend to get a lot more info about British doings than Israeli down here. Hence, a Mirage usually conjures first an image of the Falklands and then France.

    In fact, even in the Army we didn’t look into Israeli doings very often. Just very little interest in Israel period down here. I daresay it has something to do with the very small jewish population in Australia (very small) compared to the quite large (and apparently quite influential?) Jewish population in the US.

    In any case, it sounds like the book might be a good read.

  2. The Israeli’s are incredibly intelligent, resourceful, tenacious, and determined.

    The French don’t get a lot of respect for their Military tech. They did have the best Tanks at the start of WW2, and some very decent aircraft. Their politics at the time I never understood, or read up on, but apparently that’s what did them in.
    In the Mirage age I believe the Mirage F1 is the most overlooked but truly great French Jet. It has performance in the same league as the F-16 and was in service before F-16’s progressed beyond being Arizona Lawn Darts in smoking craters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.