The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems

Author/Editor: Thomas Friedman
Publisher: Naval Institute Press
Year: 2006
Reviewer: Daryl Carpenter

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 bit bewildered.

img20/9496/slavaym6.jpgThe 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 years.

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.

img87/2084/picture046dw9.jpgWNWS 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.


Chapter Breakdown

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 sharing.

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 rocket launchers.

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 them:

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.

img412/9747/picture050uj6.jpgThe 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
img168/5158/kilodiagramns2.jpgSixteen 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 their own.

img87/8117/picture044rx2.jpgSections 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 regard.

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 themselves.

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.

img412/7350/picture047yf4.jpgAt $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.




2007 SUBSIM Review