Compendium catalogs transformation in naval warfare

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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Compendium catalogs transformation in naval warfare

 

Reviewed by Edward Lundquist

Alion Science and Technology

 

<?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml” />Norman Friedman has gathered the world’s most complete listing and analysis of weapons, sensors and systems in his very readable Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems

 

The book catalogs changes in naval warfare development since the 1997-1998 edition was published.  Remarkably, much has not changed.  Friedman covers both the old and the new.

 

What’s new is better and faster communications, able to move more detailed intelligence and information faster, Friedman says.  While there are fewer weapon systems builders, the industrial capability is more sophisticated, manufacturing smaller and more powerful semiconductors and moving information with greater speed and fidelity over fiber optics.  Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) gives weapons pinpoint accuracy.  With these improvements as well as computer aided design and manufacturing, weapons can be made both more precise and less expensive.

 

“The impact of GPS continues to be very big.  It amounts to mailing a weapon to a target.

But it remains to be seen if GPS can be compromised.  The presumption today is that if you can identify a set of targets you can hit them,” Friedman says.  “But that's not just what naval warfare is about.”

 

With better communications and more robust networks, Friedman says, naval forces can now be truly be integrated forces ashore. 

 

Missile defense continues to be a core naval competency.  The threat is no longer confined to the Soviet bloc as it was in the Cold War.  Both North Korea and Iran possess long-range missiles and are working to achieve a nuclear weapons capability today. 

 

 

Another development since the last edition is the Global War on Terror.  Anti-terrorism and force protection have become new missions following the USS Cole incident in Yemen.  Unmanned systems, itself a growth industry, are being used to conduct underwater hull inspections and patrol the approaches to ships berthed or at anchor.  Offboard combat capability means you no longer have to be on the ship to prosecute the target. “Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) could be a very important technology.  Swarm boats might have to deal with an unmanned USV and that might tip their hand.”

 

The U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship is a new kind of combatant that relies on offboard systems, including helicopters and unmanned systems, for combat capability. 

 

Most navies do not have the resources to make wholesale changes to weapons.  Development has slowed down.  But new command and control systems are coming online to integrate existing systems.  “There are not a lot of new and unique systems,” he says.  “What you see are bits and pieces of systems.”

 

“The subject of command and control is the biggest new thing, and it’s the most difficult to grasp.  Command and Control used to be hardware-based, and the hardware didn’t really change,” Friedman says. 

 

Describing hardware like radar, guns and missiles, and how they work, isn’t all that hard, he 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?”

 

The last edition of his book had a section on computers, but he gave up with this book because computers and software change too fast.

 

Where does Friedman find all the information for his book?  He’s “always collecting stuff.”  He shares information with other analysts and keeps up with the periodicals.  “It helps to read French, Italian, Spanish and German,” he tells me.  He attends shows like the Sea-Air-Space Expo and Surface Navy Symposium in the U.S.; Euronaval in France; IMDEX Asia in Singapore; the Pacific 2006 International Maritime Exposition in Australia, and others. 

 

“Usually it’s the same people who show up at all the show,” he says.  Many Chinese companies do not exhibit outside of China, he says. “The challenge is to get information from the people who don’t exhibit at shows.” 

 

While providing information about the newest and greatest naval weapon systems, the book still includes much material on older systems because some navy somewhere is still using it. 

 

The future is promising, but not clear.  New systems like directed energy weapons and rail guns generate much excitement and Congress is willing to fund the development.  But they keep getting pushed off into the future, Friedman says.  

 

“Some people think if you can draw it and animate it, then you can do it,” he says.  “But the laws of physics not set by congress.  These weapons are still pretty futuristic.”

 

While some systems covered in the book are new, “most have been around forever,” Friedman says. 

 

 

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Edward Lundquist is a retired U.S. Navy captain and a senior science advisor for Alion Science and Technology.  He supports the Navy’s Surface Warfare Directorate in the Pentagon.

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