Submarines: An Illustrated View
Author: Wayne Frey
Until very recently there were so few books with pictures of Russian submarines that I was familiar with most of the images on sight. That has changed with the demise of the Soviet Union and the advent of the Internet; the World Wide Web has relegated dusty library research to an earlier era along with dependence on snail mail and life without cell phones. Now, if a naval enthusiast wishes to study pictures of Russian subs, he simply does a Google image search. You've seen the stock images that litter the web but nothing like that will prepare you for the motherload of detailed and highly sensitive images contained in Wayne Frey's Russian Submarines. This 125-page book is filled with close-ups of Akulas, Alfas, and Typhoons, at sea, under construction, and from unique--and previously classified--angles and situations. This book would have created an international stir just a decade past.
The book is divided into four sections, each section containing pictures and information about the three most intriguing and deadly ex-Soviet subs: Akula, Alfa, and the massive dreadnought Typhoon. A fourth section covers the little-known Beluga, an experimental sub the author terms the "Russian Albacore". Some of the shots clearly look like they were taken from under a coat or worker's jacket. Many of the pictures merit examination with a magnifying glass. The author's sources have captured some of the Russian Navy's deepest secrets.
Many know the Typhoon as the star of the Tom Clancy novel and film The Hunt for Red October. Pictures include several interior shots of the tape drive computer system and the helm station. With a dash of irony, one picture shows a Typhoon beneath a cover designed to foil overhead intelligence satellites.
This book is short on text and academic information, but that can be found in Norman Polmar volumes aplenty. Russian Submarines is a photo essay, with a concise caption that accompanies each photo. The images are authentic and arresting--am I really looking at a Russkie sailor with a fishing pole on the bridge of an Akula? How did Frey get these pictures? Before beginning this book review, I had a quiet dinner with the author. We discussed the state of the Russian Navy and he revealed some of the channels and methods by which he gained the photographs in this book. Frey has made several trips to Russian ports and knows the security protocol, and ways to circumvent it. The author has cultivated deep ties with the Russian submarine community. He counts as friends many current and ex-Russian submariners. These relationships have afforded Frey with access to ex-Soviet subs like few other Westerners, outside of the CIA.
For the Dangerous Waters player or Cold War buff, Russian Submarines is a big ammo title that will bolster your library. It makes an excellent companion piece to Polmar's Cold War Submarines. These are pictures that, in the '80s, a spy would have killed for, and be killed for. It's like finding a classified dossier in your mailbox one morning.
© 2008 SUBSIM Review