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Naval Anti-Aircraft Guns and Gunnery Hardcover – February 15, 2014
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"This book provides a welcome history of the development if naval AA guns and gunnery, from WWI until after WWII. The introductory chapters are particularly good--clear and well written. They offer an excellent overview of the problems involved in shooing at airplanes from ships. The reader then has a choice of reading all the national chapters or just those that interest him."-- Coast Defense Journal
About the Author
Norman Friedman is a prominent naval analyst and the author of more than thirty books covering a range of naval subjects, from warship histories to contemporary defense issues. He is a longtime columnist for Proceedings magazine and lives in New York City.
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Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. I've read about a dozen of Dr. Friedman's books, and this one is definitely the worst edited and spellchecked. There are far too many typos, sentences run on rather frequently, and occasionally, there are sentences that are so bizarrely structured as to be totally unreadable. Although the chapters focusing on the RN and USN are extremely in-depth, the sections focusing on foreign navies, and particularly the axis powers, are rather sketchy. The development of anti-aircraft gunnery in Germany and Japan during World War One is glossed over in only two paragraphs!
The good news is that this book is extremely focused, richly detailed, and surprisingly fascinating. The first couple chapters explain the evolution of the aerial threat during the interwar period and World War II, the problem of fire control and effective gunnery, and the early development of guns and gunnery in each of the major navies. Further chapters focus on interwar developments in the RN, USN, IJN, and other European navies, followed by three chapters detailing how each navy adapted to changing circumstances in wartime, and how well (or poorly) their systems performed. Like the author's other works, the level of detail on display here is occasionally akin to drinking from a firehouse. There are many excellent photographs, many with lengthy captions, depicting guns, fire control systems, ships in refit, and weapons in action. There are also dozens of detailed technical diagrams, most derived from original technical manuals. The end-notes are an impressive 68 pages long and provide a wealth of detail not included in the main text.
Poor editing aside, this book is surprisingly readable, provided the reader has enough patience to read through lengthy explanations of how tachymetric directors and High Angle Control Systems worked. There's a huge amount of information on the development, theory, and practice behind anti-aircraft fire control systems that I'd never read anywhere else. This isn't a beach read, as Norman Friedman has apparently decided that all of his books must be table-shaking beasts. I can't profess to totally understanding EVERYTHING discussed here, but I feel like I have a greater understanding of how these systems were designed to function, and why they frequently under-performed in combat. When Seaforth gets around to reissuing this book in paperback, they'll hopefully tidy up the editing a bit, and perhaps flesh out the sections on Axis navies at war. With a little tweaking, this can be a five-star masterpiece.
He begins before WW1, and basically concludes after WW2. I was a little surprised he didn't address modern systems, such as CIWS - but classification may make that impossible.Otherwise, every significant British and American anti-aircraft system is discussed in detail, together with how they performed in actual use. One interesting point he brought out that I didn't realize was the importance of target drones. Alone in the world, because they had more capable drones, the US Navy realized the importance of defending against dive bombers before WW2 began. The King Board was able to act on that information. That's why the US built their ships and systems to expand anti-aircraft weapons as rapidly as they did. The British drones didn't dive, and the British had to learn about the vulnerability in combat. A minor quibble - I wish Friedman had provided more diagrams explaining the various issues. However, he is an excellent writer and he was able to get his points across anyway.
When I say "Exhaustive" - I mean it. There are tons of clear, closeup pictures illustrating systems that I'd only seen in distant images. Further, even if a system never made it to production - it's in here. My only real complaint is the physical weight of the book... but then I'm getting along in years and I don't know any way that he could have done such a superior job in a lighter weight.
Basically - if you want to know ANYTHING about Naval AA from the first half of the 20th Century - this is the book for you.
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