Bling Man’s Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage (2000) by Sherry Sontag, Christopher Drew and Annette Lawrence Dew tells some of the story of the remarkable role played by US submarines in the Cold War.
The book starts by describing the changes of submarines after WWII with diesel boats that would remain underwater most of the time to nuclear powered boats that could remain underwater for long periods of time.
The book then gets into some of the exploits of the nuclear powered spying vessels that managed to find downed Soviet boats, find lost US nuclear weapons and to tap Soviet military undersea cables. It’s all pretty remarkable.
The book is a bit over the top though, every second US captain is a swarthy confront superiors type. There is little real detail about how quiet the boats are, from non US submariners I’ve heard that diesel boats are often quieter than nuclear boats, but nowhere is this sort of discussion in the book. Also if you’re not an American the jingoism is a little wearing. It’s also suggested that the US was following most Soviet missile boats, this doesn’t seem to be accurate, the Soviets seemed to have a fairly potent second strike ballistic missile submarine capability. The book itself has a ‘record’ trail. Presumably if these trails were rarely that long there was a lot of time when Soviet boats did do the same thing as US boomers.
For anyone interested in entertaining historical military tales the book has a lot going for it, as reflective history it’s far weaker. Still, it’s enjoyable and surely does provide some accurate information about the remarkable tale of submarines in the Cold War.
The Hunter Killers: The Extraordinary Story of the First Wild Weasels (2015) by Dan Hampton describes operations of the US anti-SAM aircraft, the Wild Weasels and their operations in Vietnam.
Ground fire and SAMs often result in the most aircraft losses. In WWII 65% of the allied aircraft lost were lost to ground fire. SAMs make it even more dangerous. Vietnam was the first war in which SAMs were used counter tactics were developed. The F-105 Thunderchief was altered with extra electronics and an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) was used to work out what sensors were reading.
The book mixes a description of what was added to the F-105s, mission reports and a narrative of the Vietnam war to good effect. It’s not a great book but if you’re interested in these sorts of things it’s worth a read. The mission reports are often a bit confusing, but really are quite gripping. The narrative about the Vietnam War is reasonably interesting and is needed to explain the tactics that were used.
It would have been great to have had more explanation of the sensors the Weasels flew with and a bit more of a description of their tactics, but it’s still an enjoyable read for anyone who wants to know more about the remarkable men who flew these missions and how they operated.
Predator (2014) by Richard Whittle is an excellent look at the development of the aircraft and the deployment of the Predator UAV.
The book follows Abraham Karem’s work for the Israeli defense industry and his move to the United States and his work on making UAVs a reality and how his work became absorbed into General Atomics and their creation of UAVs that had a greater endurance than previous aircraft.
The book also mentions in passing the US Army’s Aquilla drone program and mostly answers the question of why UAVs disappeared after the Firebee drones used in Vietnam until the creation of the Predator and other UAVs in the in the mid 1990s. It becomes apparent that the electronics required to make a very useful drone like the Predator were not built until the 1990s and that the communications systems required did not exist until then.
The descriptions of how Predators were altered to use satellite communications after a hand off from pilots using C-band radio to take off is fascinating. Also the way that the Hellfire missile was bolted on to the Predator is a great story. It also becomes clear that only the US had all the requirements to build a drone like the Predator.
The book details how the Predator was used first in the former Yugoslavia and then in Afghanistan and how the footage and utility became such a highly prized asset.
The character descriptions in the book are well done, a number of the people involved are well enough described to become well liked.
It’s an excellent book about the creation of an exception aircraft. The author has done a great job in writing a very readable, highly enjoyable book.