on 17 September 2007
Tom Clancy doesn't write every book with his name on, but this one he surely did. His earlier novels made into films propelled him to fame, and none more so that The Hunt for Red October". I was all based on his interest in such technical things in the military, and this ist he factual version, complete with a low down on all submarines in the worlds major powers, with the focus on the deadliest US boats.
Technical terms are explained, and the feel of living on such a vessel is conveyed, from the torpedo room to the bunks (no-one except the captain gets his own) and even the kitchen (no larger than yours probably) is defined in detail.
All the systems are explained, from that which fires the weapons, to the fire-fighting equipment. Strangely, the principle reason for a nuclear submarines existence is only scantily described, perhaps because that aspect lacks the glory of the morally superior coventional weapons role. I found it tragically amusing that the plain fact that these beasts are probably the most dangerous pieces of hardware ever concieved by mankind is left unsaid. Teh fact that vessels such as the USS Thresher sank without recovery is mentioned, but the implications of a reactor melt-down in the ocean (which would make Tchernobyl look like a picnic in the park) is completely unexplored. Of course now, all these years later, we can all thank God that even with the Kursk disaster that didn't happen, but a third of the world's seas could then be contaminated.
What is explored is really every other aspect of building, maintaining, manning and commanding subs. The training that recruits receive especially at Captain level is explained, and here comes the surprise. Despite Tom Clancey's patriotism, he confesses that no one does it better than...the British! The Perisher course for training RN submarine captains is thouroghly discussed, and credit is given to the Royal Navy creating the worlds best leaders in submarine warfare, and rightly so when they carry such enormaous responsibility, not only for their government, but ultimately the lives of everyone! This brings up the obvious concern that other navies have a below par leadership in their subs. I think that Clancey could have gone deeper into that, especially from the Soviet/Russian side of things.
As a conclusion, various scenarios are explored in which nuclear submarines would play a role, from lying low in deep water harbours to attacking airfields in Iran (with Land Attack Cruise Missiles as they did in the Gulf war). Perhaps such scenarios are now loking more likely. What is certain, however, ist he role played by British subs in the South Atlantic against the Argentinians during the Falklands war. The sinking of the General Belrano" and other important missions there are carefully unpacked. Is there a better read for such awesome vessels, which draws the reader in so he ends up feeling in need of shore leave?
on 25 November 2000
An excellent book, both for reference and simple pleasure-reading. It balances the hard facts of SSNs with interesting history, views of the future, and views on the sub community as a whole. Definitely recommended to anyone with a desire to learn more about this intriguing branch of the military.
on 3 April 2015
I loved this book. I'm a 37 year old housewife and mum of 3, so not your average military history enthusiast lol! Anyway, I live in NW Scotland on the coast where they hold submarine training and war games every year and I see submarines bobbing up and down a lot. Remember when HMS Astute ran aground? Well, I was on the shore taking pictures and having a nervous giggle at the poor souls on board! I've always been interested in how submarines work and I've had a couple of opportunities to board a couple of diesel ones in the past. Being a girl though, I was always too embarrassed to ask those on board about how the systems work etc, so this book was very interesting. It's a bit dated now, but it's still very much an entertaining read full of relevant things. I like to read Tom Clancy books anyway and his love for these magnificent machines is obvious in this book. Also, Patrick Robinson's novels are fantastic and he acknowledges how sneakily brilliant submarines are. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who isn't a marine engineer or nuclear reactor specialist! It's easy enough to follow but doesn't make you feel like a numpty for not already knowing the processes involved in building and operating them. Also, this might sound a bit weird, but this book is actually quite big! Yeah yeah, women and size.....ha ha! But, it's a nice size and makes it feel like reading a reference book and not some pithy wee leaflet! I bought it from an Amazon seller and the price was very low even with postage. I was sure it would be all tatty when it arrived, but I was very happy to find it pretty much immaculate. Delivery to us up the top of Britain can sometimes take a while, but again, the seller delivered it quickly and well packaged. All in all. I'm delighted with the book and the seller. By the way.....I'm blonde and I understood everything in this beauty, so anyone out there who reckons old, blonde wifeys aren't too clever can kiss my hairy sporran! Cheers!
on 14 January 1999
Mr Clancy, using his extensive contacts amongst the USN and RN submariner communities, gives the non professional reader an insight into the very different world of submarines. Setting the format for the subsequent series, he gives an informative overview of the theories, weapons, technologies, and most importantly the men that constitute a modern SSN (no diesel boats here). The core of the book consists of a guided tour around two SSN's: the USS Miami, an American 688I , and HMS Triumph, a UK Trafalgar class boat.
Finally he rounds up with an analysis of possible employment scenarios, avoiding the mini story format that I reckon has marred his later works in this series, and a brief overview of the major classes of submarine employed around the world.
This is probably the closest the man in the street is going to get in understanding the men and machines of the submarine world.
(especially recommended for skimmers)
on 13 February 2011
At the time of writing, this book is now 18 years old, and it does show in some of the information contained within. However, once you look past that, it's a well written and extremely useful volume for anyone looking to get into the world of the submariner, either in the USN or the RN. Of particular note (and personal delight) is Tom Clancy stating that whilst the American submariners are respected for their numbers and technological superiority, the British are feared. As a prospective Warfare Officer (what Clancy refers to as a Seaman Officer) myself, I find that this little gem from one of the most openly patriotic American writers I've ever come across to be very pleasing.
If you're looking to get into the world of submariners, either as a personal interest in the inner workings of some of (at the time) most advanced war machines or as a prospective entrant (rating or officer), this book is well worth your money.