THE FIGHTING ISRAELI AIR FORCE by Brig. Gen. Stanley M. Ulanoff, USAR, and Lt. Col. David Eshel, IDF, Ret. (Arco: $19.95). The subtitle is the problem here: "The Amazing Combat History of the World's Finest Air Force, 1948-1984." Ahem. Superior, yes. Talented, certainly. Effective, obviously. But finest only if one cares to deny the U.S. Air Force (which has supplied and trained the IAF), the Royal Air Force at the height of World War II, the Russian air force today and even the Luftwaffe in its immediate post-Condor Squadron period. Still, if one removes propaganda from prose and separates superlatives from substance, here's a pleasant, well-illustrated primer on what one nation has done with a rag-tag collection of war surplus planes (Spitfires, Bf-109s and B-l7s) and pilots (mostly World War II veterans from the Allied air forces) that graduated through a multi-national inventory of planes (from the Soviet Union, the United States, France, Britain and Italy) to a somewhat ecumenical air force with American-built F-15s and F-16s flying alongside its Russian MIG-23 Floggers.

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