Last month, a suspiciously large package from
Subsim arrived at the post office. Was it a torpedo? No, it was the
2006 edition of The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon
Systems. A $250, seven pound hardcover monster of a book - the
most expensive book published by the Naval Institute. What had I
gotten myself into?
Despite its title, and the cover showing missiles and bombs flying
around, WNWS '06 is an encyclopedic textbook of naval weapons
and technology. Virtually every weapon and electronic system used
aboard warships and naval aircraft today is covered in detail; often
more detail than anyone would ever need. Everything from
electro-optical systems, minehunting equipment, combat direction
systems, radar, sonar, ECM and ESM systems, mines, countermeasures,
guns, fire control systems, missiles, ASW rockets, torpedoes, to
sonobuoys, is covered. Despite being about 200 pages shorter than
Combat Fleets, this book massive. I was shocked by its
tremendous scope when I first browsed through it. I'm still a
last edition of WNWS (which had been, until then, biannual)
was published in 1997. Since then, there have been huge changes in
the way modern navies operate, new weapons and sensors have been
developed, and a flood of previously classified information on
Russian and Chinese weapons have become available to the public. The
advent of Network-centric Warfare, in which a tactical picture is
formed by multiple ship and aircraft sensors linked together in a
net, is perhaps the most important naval development of the last ten
Also, world navies are beginning to use to a greater extent
Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COST) hardware, and the section on
computers has been deleted as shipboard systems no longer have fixed
configurations. The section on aircraft combat direction systems has
been trimmed, and the section on unmanned aerial vehicles has been
removed. Radars and guns now have their own separate sections. With
these deletions, more space is available to describe systems that
are under development, or have been just recently put into service.
is a 912 page, 10 x 12 inch hardcover book with ten chapters. It
opens with a series of "prefatory notes" on radar, electronic
warfare, sonar, optronic devices, lasers, and missile guidance. This
is followed by descriptions of the designation systems used by
various navies (i.e, the BQR-15 is a Submarine (B)-mounted Sonar (Q)
designed to Receive (R)). Rounding out the introduction is a 13 page
list of acronyms and abbreviations.
Each chapter begins with a brief discussion of world developments in
that field. The chapters themselves are divided into several
sub-chapters, with each nation's systems shown in roughly
alphabetical order. National sections open with developments since
the last edition, and are themselves divided into further
categories. Most missile, radar, torpedo, and gun descriptions open
with a brief specification table (pulse width, peak power, warhead
weight, muzzle velocity, etc.) At the end of most descriptions is a
list of countries using that system, and the platforms that use it.
Finally, there's a 20 page addendum showing new information since
the book's completion.
Surveillance and Communication: A number
of different systems fall under this category. These include Over
The Horizon systems, ocean surveillance satellites, land-based
radars and electronics intelligence systems, fixed underwater
sonars, and systems used for ship-to-ship communication and data
Combat Direction Systems: This chapter covers systems used by
aircraft, ships, and submarines to integrate sensor data into a
usable tactical picture. AEGIS, BSY-1, and the British SSCS are
examples of surface ship combat direction systems. In recent years,
these systems have become increasingly complicated and integrated
with onboard weapons and sensors.
Radars and Electro-Optical Sensors: Describes electro-optical
and infrared sensors, search and navigation radars, fire control
systems, and IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) systems used onboard
naval aircraft, ships, and submarines.
Electronic Warfare: Focuses on Electronic Counter (ECM) and
System (ESM) jammers and sensors, along with chaff and decoy
launchers, direction finders, and expendable countermeasures.
Shipboard Guns and Gun Systems: Describes in detail
ship-mounted guns of all calibers, along with coast defense guns and
Strategic Strike Systems: Details nuclear weapons carried on
ballistic missile submarines, along with the ASMP used by the French
naval air force.
Strike/Surface Warfare: Describes anti-ship missiles carried
onboard ships, submarines, and naval aircraft, along with guided
bombs and dedicated weapon control systems.
AntiAircraft Warfare: Information on Surface to Air and Air
to Air missiles and their launcher systems.
AntiSubmarine Warfare: The book's most wide-reaching chapter.
Covers sonars used by aircraft, helicopters, submarines, and ships,
surface ship torpedo fire control systems, periscopes, sonobuoys and
sonobuoy signal processors, harbor defense systems, torpedoes,
countermeasures, and unguided weapons.
Mines and Mine Countermeasures: Looks at mines, minesweeping
systems, and minehunting sonars.
The extensiveness of the information in WNWS varies
dramatically depending on the system being covered, the availability
of information, and the extent of its use. These descriptions can be
as short as one paragraph for minor systems and weapons where
information is not readily available. For systems where information
is easily available, the description can sprawl across several
pages. This is the description of the Swiss Denezy radar:
The Danish Falster-class minelayers,
completed in the 1960s, use this Contraves FCS to control their
3-in/50 guns (the Turkish Falster uses U.S. Mk 63s with
SPG-34 radars). This project, the first full Contraves naval
system, was codenamed Denezy within Contraves, and the
designations M-46 and CGS-1 have been published; they are,
presumably Royal Danish Navy designations. The X-band conscan
trackers have unique 6-axis stabilization. The belowdecks analog
predictor uses the Contraves computing capacitor. Tracker radar
characteristics: 180 kW, randomly variable PRF about 2,000 pps,
pulse width 0.27 microsec, beam width 2.2 deg, total 4.4 deg
cover when tracking by comscan.
Most major systems are described in extensive
detail, with information on their hardware and software, development
history, variants, and possible future developments. Ever played
Dangerous Waters and wondered what that magical "Link 16" gizmo
was? Good, because there's 25 paragraphs on it. Here's one of
Time slots are combined into 12-sec frames
(1,536 slots) and 64-frame epochs (12.8 min), the epoch being
the system cycle. Each slot contains up to twelve Link 16 words
(75/bit word), which can be updated on every frame. The
transmission waveform uses a 6.4-microsec pulse as its bit and
leaves 6.6 microsec between pulses; each pulse is transmitted in
sequence at one of fifty-one frequencies (3 MHz apart) chosen
from a pseudo-randomly coded list. The hopping rate is 76,923
hops/sec (typical military frequency-hopping systems run at
2,000 hops/sec). Each pulse is subcoded (chipped) by thirty-two
phase modulations; chipping provides additional coding so that a
receiver can identify a pulse against background noise. Each net
normally supports up to thirty-two transmitters (each can be
allocated more than one slot per frame). Nets differ in their
frequency-hopping sequences and time references and can run in
parallel. Up to 128 can be stacked with negligible chance that
two long words will coincide. Up to 20 nets can be stacked by
allocating the same time slots to different users at different
frequencies, each user hopping frequencies within its time slot
(every 13 microsec) in a preset pseudo-random pattern. Each net
is assigned a number (up to 128) indicating its hopping pattern;
number 127 indicates a stacked net.
amount of research Dr Friedman put into this volume is absolutely
amazing. The fact that he could assimilate so much raw, often
inaccurate, information and cull it together into one cohesive book
is pretty remarkable. Much of the recently declassified information
on Russian and former Soviet weapons was a shock to me. For example,
the infamous SS-N-19 'Shipwreck,' usually presented as a big, dumb
missile, actually communicated with other missiles in its salvo,
could determine which targets to attack, was armored against
gunfire, and could perform its own evasive maneuvers. Thank God we
never had to deal with it in a shooting war.
Focus On: Submarine Warfare
years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it might seem hard to
believe that there is still a place for nuclear submarines
conducting "blue water" operations in the modern world. The role of
the submarine has changed dramatically since the 80s, and the 5th
edition of WNWS reflects this in its extensive coverage of
weapons and systems used by, and against, submarines.
During the Cold War, the sonars used by the United States and Russia
were among the most secret military systems in the world. The
section on Russian sonars isn't just a technical overview - it's a
detailed history of the development and use of Soviet and Russian
sonar since the early 40s. There's even a section on helicopter
dipping sonars and non-acousitic ASW sensors (like those mysterious
greeblie bits on the Akula's bow). The information on torpedoes,
including the near-mythological Skhval and the newest European
models, is also quite extensive. Reading about how complex these
weapons are, I got a little creeped out. The Sonalysts sims seem to
grossly simplify their capabilities - I think they have minds of
on other submarine systems are scattered throughout the book,
including a section on combat direction systems that went into more
detail than I thought possible. The submarine sections were the
parts that I was most interested in, and I wasn't let down in that
Like most Naval Institute publications, WNSW
is all meat and no padding. Each closely-set page is packed with
information, none of it fluff. There are a few hundred photographs
and a number of diagrams, most of them rather small and not for eye
candy. The binding is ridiculously strong, and if I ever threw this
book down the stairs, the only thing I'd break were the stairs
Military reference books these days are increasingly expensive. The
2008 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships will hit the shelves
with a retail price of $880. Apparently, by 2025, it'll be so
expensive Jane's will print one copy, and each ship in the Navy will
share it for a day.
As far as I know, there is no Jane's equivalent to WNWS. If
publishers made jeans, then the Naval Institute would be the
Wrangler to Jane's Calvin Klein. Their books may not be pretty, or
have glossy paper and a brand name, but they're packed with
information, are less expensive, and can take a real beating.
$250, WNWS is still a major purchase. Naval Institute members
can buy it for $175 - still a lot of money. It's a niche title,
printed in small numbers and designed for private industries and
dedicated enthusiasts with plenty of spare change. The information
is highly technical, but not so technical to fly over the
heads of naval buffs. I'd recommend it to simulation developers and
DW Mod Team members, along with major libraries who can't
afford to keep their Jane's books updated. Whether or not
you're willing to shell out the bucks is a personal decision.
The new edition of World Naval Weapon Systems is an
impressive, comprehensive, and superbly researched reference book.
It's also sturdy enough to survive until the next edition comes out.
Unfortunately, it's also so expensive not many people will be able
to afford a copy. WNWS is for hardcore modern naval buffs
only, who will cherish it for the treasure trove it is.