Book Review: The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems – Fifth Edition

The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems – Fifth Edition

By Norman Friedman

2006, Naval Institute Press, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Annapolis, MD

ISBN 1-55750-262-5

List Price: USD $250.00

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Network-centric warfare, unmanned systems, mark naval transformation


Reviewed by Edward Lundquist

Alion Science and Technology


As the world of naval warfare transforms, one book stands out in telling us how that world is changing.  Norman Friedman’s compendium, the Naval Institute’s Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems, is much more than statistical data listing weapons, sensors and systems.  It tells us about the critical relationships between components to make systems; how systems create networks; and what that means for the navy that employs them.  And it does all that in a way that is very readable and understandable.


The book covers the spectrum of naval warfare developments from ballistic missile defense of large geographical areas to force protection for a single ship.  It is, as far as I know, the only book of its kind.


Much has changed since the 1997-1998 edition.  And much has remained the same.


Missile defense is no longer confined to a threat from the Soviet bloc.  Today, countries like North Korea and Iran possess long-range missiles and are working towards attaining a nuclear weapons capability.  The anti-terrorism/force protection function became critical after the USS Cole incident.  In the middle of all of this, says Friedman, is the integration of naval forces with those forces ashore, both naval and joint.  “These are not new themes, but theses themes have evolved greatly since the last edition.”


Friedman tells us about the promises for the future that are being realized by network-centric forces.  He calls it “picture-centric” warfare, because it succeeds when multiple players share a tactical “picture,” and can act upon it.  In the past, we might gauge a navy’s strength by its number of ships.  Today, it’s nodes in the network, he says.  Which means that capability today doesn’t necessarily equate to platforms like ships or aircraft, but sensors and systems and their ability to connect, process and share vital information.


Netcentric warfare as an overarching way of fighting has been “the big coming thing” for a long time, Friedman says, although maybe we have called it something else.  But, he warns, “network-centric warfare inherently introduces intelligence into the equation. Making all ships and aircraft part of the overall picture means we now have to decide how much do we want to reveal about the location of units.  This also has homeland security implications.”


Mine warfare is still a vital naval mission and a big challenge, but “it’s all supposed to be done now by smaller forces.”  The U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship is an example of how dealing with mines is evolving.  LCS will employ offboard systems to find and destroy mines.  “Whether LCS works out is an interesting question,” Friedman says. 


Describing hardware like radar, guns and missiles, and how they work, isn’t all that hard, Friedman admits.  “In previous editions I felt I was able to explain or describe them.  The major challenge today is trying to describe software applications.  How do you describe what’s going on?”


With new processors and software applications, radar and fire control systems can now handle many more targets.  “It’s not clear what the limits on these systems are.  You know they have limits, but it may be that they can handle so many tracks that it doesn’t matter.  But when you can’t say what the limitations are it’s hard to say what’s needed.”


“There are not a lot of new and unique systems,” he says.  “Development is slower.  What you see are bits and pieces of systems.”


In some cases, those bits and pieces are modular.  LCS takes modularity far beyond that standard set by the Danish STANFLEX frigate program, where you could put different things in a ship.  With LCS, the modules can allow a seaframe to quickly and completely change its mission.  Upgrading the capability involves relatively simple changes to the modules, he says.  Much of the LCS combat capability resides in offboard systems, including helicopters and unmanned systems.


Unmanned vehicles are the “hottest new thing.”  There too many unmanned aerial vehicles to list, he says, and he considers them aircraft.  Friedman predicts UAVs will eventually replace many manned aircraft.  Friedman notes that ships and unmanned vehicles can now collaborate to develop a common picture, and to take action as a result.  “That you don’t have to be on the ship to prosecute the target is a big deal.  This is an extension of where aircraft carriers started.”


While some systems covered in the book are new, “most have been around forever,” Friedman says.  This volume includes a lot of information about older systems because some navy somewhere is still using it.


The SPS-39 air search height-finder radar; RUR-5 ASROC missiles; MK 46 torpedoes; SQS 23 sonar and the MK 114 Underwater Battery Fire Control System installed on my guided-missile destroyer in 1978 are all in here, and while no longer front-line U.S. Navy systems, they are still operational with various navies.


It’s not a matter of a few things surviving into this modern era, he says, it’s most things. “The surprise is when they disappear.  Until recently there was a lot of World War II era guns and torpedoes being used by navies.  There are still a lot of very old mines out there.”


“The pressure to produce new things is limited.  There’s not a lot of research and development money around.”


Friedman sees a proliferation of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) guided weapons.  In other developments, Friedman notes that Russia has a new ballistic missile, but it is still in testing. 


This edition has much more information about China than previous editions.  Although the systems may not be new, the information about it is recently available.  China has new missiles, but they are deployed in small numbers.  The big thing in radars is active arrays, but, he sys, they’ve been around for many years.” 


China has also developed the first known example of remote acoustically controlled mine.  “In the past, no one really wanted to trust a remote-control mechanism which had been submerged for months, and I'd hate to bet on it now.”  But, Friedman says, “remote control can make influence sweeping almost useless, and it can allow a ship with the right codes to pass through a friendly minefield.”


While Friedman’s book has much information on mines, he says there is no reliable open source information about just who has what

Mines.  “They are just too small for sales to be reported.”


“With respect to Russia and in China, we are seeing the merger of older systems, which used to have fairly bad electronics, with Western computer chips, giving the systems far greater effectiveness,” he says.  “The Chinese command and control systems seem to be a case in point.”


“What was once kept close-hold in the Soviet era is now being discussed openly.”  We know more know about many systems that have been around a while. 


Friedman’s book is solid intelligence.  But, he admits, even solid intelligence can have holes.  The recent use by Hezbollah of Chinese C802s (probably actually their Iranian equivalent) against the Israeli patrol boat Hanit shows that even the best intelligence agencies can miss the movement of fairly large items like anti-ship missiles.”






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