Book Review: Detailed Data for World's Warships

Friday, July 22, 2005
The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World 2005-2006 Their Ships, Aircraft and Systems

By Eric Wertheim

The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World is an authoritative and thorough compendium about warships, aircraft and auxiliaries that serve in navies and coast guards worldwide.

Combat Fleets is massive, with 1,104 pages and more than 4,000 photos and illustrations. It's even bigger than Jane's Fighting Ships (but costs less). If the seven-pound book is too heavy to handle, save both money and weight and get the CD version instead. Combat Fleets covers the waterfront. From large aircraft carriers and complex cruisers to speedy patrol craft and diminutive utility boats, they are covered in detail.

If you are interested in aircraft carriers, you can study the entries from the U.S., Brazil, the U.K., India, France, Italy, and others. Submarine devotees will find nuclear boats in navies such as the U.S., Russia and U.K. Small diesel boats can be found in the listings for Portugal, Singapore, Sweden or Turkey, or mini-subs operated by Croatia or North Korea. The book is filled with unique or highly specialized auxiliaries; from oilers and tankers to repair and ammo ships; from towing and salvage ships to converted merchantmen carrying prepositioning supplies. If you seek an obscure vessel, like a ship to tend harbor nets, you'll find that Turkey still operates net layers. Poland has a deperming ship. Myanmar has a presidential yacht. Brunei has two new very capable frigates and the Swiss Army operates a fleet of patrol boats on Lake Geneva. As a personal preference, I always look for the ex-U.S. Navy salvage ships still serving in navies around the world. As my first ship was the ocean-going fleet tug USS Tawakoni, I always crack open books like this and search for Taiwan where I see she is still commissioned as ATF 553, the Ta Mo, in the Republic of China Navy.

Wertheim is able to observe trends in maritime affairs. Wertheim finds some developments interesting, such as Israel's growing interest in an amphibious force. He has been watching India and China as their navies have grown dramatically, but along two very different routes to maritime power." China is focusing on submarines and surface forces, he says. "India, on the other hand, is taking the aircraft carrier route. India appears to be looking at the U.S. Navy as their model, where China is drawing from Russia and the former Soviet navy." As larger navies are forced to reduce their fleets, smaller navies are able to receive newer, more capable ships. Many third-world navies are becoming high-tech. "Second-tier nations are able to get first class ships because larger navies are not able to keep them."

For example, Belgium's Navy is dwindling in size and power as of late, Wertheim explains. "There was talk of purchasing frigates from the Netherlands but that failed to pan out — instead Belgium has sold one of its three remaining frigates to Bulgaria, which is seeking to modernize while Belgium seeks to cut costs."

Edward Lundquist is a senior technical director for the Center for Security Strategies and Operations, Anteon Corporation, Washington, D.C.

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