Pros: Extensive coverage of every aspect of the U.S. Navy, except the supply system.
Cons: None, no really, none.
The Bottom Line: Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 17th Edition is a must have for the naval buff trying to keep abreast of the changing structure of the U.S. Navy.
I am a Navy brat, and a Navy veteran, having served fifteen years in uniform. My father served in the U.S. Navy for some twenty-one years before moving the family to Newport, R.I. and retiring in 1975. Back then Newport was still very much an active naval base, and ships would come and go with regular frequency, announcing their coming and goings with long blasts from their horns.
I could see the piers from where we lived in Navy housing and I used to spend a considerable amount of time watching the ships come and go, making mental note to myself about their class, armaments, radars, aircraft etc. Back in the late seventies while I was still in high school, I used the local librarys copies of the world renowned Janes Fighting Ships and the Naval Institute Press publication Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 11th Edition, as a references. But after I joined the Navy in 1980 and identifying naval ships and aircraft became my profession, I bought my first edition of Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet (the 13th published in 1984), now written and edited by Norman Polmar and I have purchased each edition in succession.
Product Description (From Naval Institute Press):Bulging with data, photographs, line-drawings, and useful appendixes, this invaluable guide carries on a long-standing tradition as the most comprehensive resource of its kind, meeting the high expectations and exacting standards of those who rely on it to stay informed and to make important decisions. For decades this comprehensive and authoritative guide has served the needs of naval officers, military analysts, congressional staffs, journalists, defense contractors, and others with an interest in the current capabilities of the U.S. Navy. The author, internationally respected naval analyst Norman Polmar, shares expertise gained from years of service as a consultant to members of Congress, secretaries of the navy, and senior naval officers.
Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 17th Edition covers a U.S. Navy still in transition and by all accounts still shirking as the of end the Cold War, and the draw-downs of the early and mid-1990s are still effecting the fleet. New to this edition are updates on the joint strike fighter (JSF) program, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), the advanced swimmer delivery system (ASDS), the electric-drive DD21 (the Navys newest destroyer proposal incorporating stealth technologies), and proposed conversions of Trident strategic missile submarines to land-attack missile (Tomahawk) and SEAL delivery team vehicles.
Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 17th Edition is divided in enumerable chapters covering such diverse topics as Navy Organization, Naval Reserve, Fleet Marine Force, Naval Personnel, and each ship type in the fleet as well as chapters devoted to naval aviation (did you know that the U.S. Navy operates the world fourth largest Air Force?), weapons, and electronics. Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) each get their own chapters now instead of being consigned to the appendix as in book past.
Chapter 1 is always dedicated to the State of The Fleeta place I always startand in Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 17th Edition published in 2001, the chapter is full of dire warnings indeed, to wit: [T]he U.S. Navy is ill-prepared to enter the 21st century. The service is plagued by major personnel problems, too few ships for assigned missions, less-than-optimal aircraft, and to some degree a headquarters organization that is unable to develop a unified naval strategy.
The remaining chapters are a goldmine of information about the ships, aircraft, weapons and electronics systems of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. Photographs abound and where photos are not possiblesuch as in the case of new and proposed ship classesextensive and comprehensive line drawing are offered.
But Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 17th Edition offers much more than an overview of the Navy. Each class of ship is broken down and the names of the ships, their hull numbers, builders, launch date, commissioning date (date the ship entered naval service), and status (for example PA=Pacific Active, AA= Atlantic Active) is also meticulously detailed. Extensive information (perhaps too much) is provided about weapons systems and electronics, and in-depth narratives about the history of the class and individual ships in the class are provided. For instance when detailing the four ships of the U.S.S Virginia (CGN-70) class nuclear powered guided missile cruisers, the following is an excerpt of the narrative:
These are the last nuclear surface combatants to be built for the U.S. Navy. The Arkansas and Texas were reassigned from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleet in 1983, accompanying the shift of the nuclear carrier Vinson (CVN-70) to the Pacific Fleet.
And this narrative about the U.S.S. Ticonderoga (GC-47) class gas turbine powered guided missile cruisers:
These are the U.S. Navys most capable AAW ships, developed to provide carrier battle group defense against aircraft and anti-ship missiles. These ships additionally have the full anti-submarine capabilities of a Spruance (DD-963)-class destroyer, the Navys most capable ASW surface ship. Incremental improvements are being made to this class as indicated in the data table.
For the artist in me the photos alone are worth cost of the book. Numerous photos (black & white) in several different angles are included for each ship class allowing me to render a true to life drawing of the ship or aircraft as well as the various weapons and electronics systems associated with them. This holds true for model builders as well.
For the weapons buffs, every weapons system the Navy operates is included in the book (photos included) as well as narrative that explains in painstaking details the nuances of the varying guns, missiles, and torpedoes the Navy carries in its vast inventory. Even the unmentionables, nuclear weapons, are discussed in some detail, as are future and proposed weapons systems, and aircraft borne weapons systems.
In the electronics arena the same attention to detail is paid to the myriad of radars, and other electronics systems that track incoming aircraft, guide missiles and gun batteries to their targets, hunt for submarines, perform satellite communications, intercept, track, and jam income electronics signals and direct carrier aircraft. The U.S. Armed Forces designator for electronics systems; e.g. AN-SPG-60 (AN= Army/Navy), is explained at the beginning of the chapter, and throughout the proceeding pages photos and narrative drop the veil of mystery behind ready and guidance system. Again as an artist, and a naval weapons enthusiast I found this section fascinating and informative.
As an amateur naval historian, artist, and naval weapons enthusiast, for me there is no better, authoritative, or affordable, source on the U.S. Navy than Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 17th Edition. Janes Fighting Ships (I used this book in its various editions extensively while on duty with the U.S. Navy, some fifteen years) is the closest I have encountered, however even it is not as extensive as the regular releases of Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet have become.
Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet is now my one source for information pertaining to the state of the ships and aircraft of the U.S. Navy, period. Published exclusively by the U.S. Naval Institute, of which I am a member, and packed full of photos, line drawings and informative narrative, Ships & Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet 17th Edition is a must have for the naval buff trying to keep abreast of the ever changing structure of the U.S. Navy.
About the Author:Norman Polmar is the author of more than thirty books, including several editions of this work and studies of the Russian and Soviet navies published by the Naval Institute Press. A well-known naval analyst and columnist for the Naval Institute Proceedings and Naval History magazines, he has served as a consultant or adviser to three U.S. senators, three secretaries of the navy, and two chiefs of naval operations, as well as to various navy and department of defense offices and several U.S. and foreign aerospace and shipbuilding firms.
Retail Price : $85.00 Item # 1557506566 Binding : HB Era : Current Number of Pages : 672 Number of Photos : 840 Number of Line Art Drawings: 4 Number of Color Photos: 0 Total Number of Illustrations: 900 Subject : U.S. Navy Date Available : 4/20/2001