Modern Naval Combat

I recently read Modern Naval Combat by David and Chris Miller, detailing naval technology, showcasing some ships and weapons and finishing with overview of naval tactics.

Word of warning, the book is printed 1986, over 30 years ago. This means that there are platforms that aren’t covered by the book (simply because they didn’t exist yet) and details of some things are sketchy at the best. For example, information of Typhoon class submarine is credited with underwater speed of 64 knots (at least they do point out that the whole thing is subject of much debate). On top of that, Sierra class submarines suspected to have some form of advanced propulsion, possibly related to magnetohydrodynamics. So while reading, one should remember the era when the book was printed and enjoy this window to naval world of that time.

First and third sections of the book were the most interesting ones to me. First one covers naval technology (on high level, there’s only so much space in book after all). Types, design and propulsion is covered for both surface ships and submarines, followed by weapon systems, naval air power, sensors and C3 and electronic warfare. There’s plenty of pictures and diagrams in this section helping to explain details of each subject being covered. Having this section at the beginning works well as it introduces reader to many important topics and creates a background that helps reading the second part.

Second part covers 43 different surface ship or submarine in detail. Full spread is reserved for each platform, with drawings and photographs. Datablock is given for each ship and there’s relatively long text for each giving some background information and predictions of the future. This section wasn’t as interesting to me, but at least the art was gorgeous.

Third and final chapter is why I wanted to read the book as it covers naval tactics. Section stresses the fact that modern naval warfare is about locating your opponent before they locate you and seizing the initiative by surprising them. Not surprisingly, air assets are highlighted as one of the most important ones as they allow commander to project force in distance. For example, patrols around carrier group as set to distance of 100 nautical miles to direction of most likely threat. Submarine warfare (with both own submarines and surface ships) is covered in detail.

All in all, this was interesting book, albeit quite out dated. I think it’s best read and treated as window into the era of 80’s. I wouldn’t necessarily purchase this, but try to borrow it from a library.


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