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Seaforth World Naval Review 2020

Edited by Conrad Waters

Barnsley, UK: Seaforth, 2019

26.0 x 24.6 cm format, paperback, 192 pages

200 B&W and color illustrations

MSRP £24.00

ISBN: 978 1 5267 6062 3


  • Section 1: Overview
  • Section 2: World Fleet Reviews
  • Section 3: Significant Ships
  • Section 4: Technological Reviews


The title of Seaforth Publishing's World Navy Review 2020 is only very slightly misleading -- it just came off the presses this past November, but because of the inevitable time lag in bringing a book like this to market, it only considers data through June of 2019. Still, that's pretty fresh. As I seem to be finding these days when I review collective works, there are parts of the book that I liked, and other parts that I didn't like quite so much. But before I get into that, let's take a quick look at what you'll find between the covers.


Section 1 is a brief summary of the worldwide naval 'big picture', e.g. the political background, partners and alliances, budgets, and a comparison of the fleet strengths of the world's major naval powers.


Section 2 includes the fleet reviews, divided into subsections by region: North and South America, Asia and the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and Africa, and Europe and Russia. Not surprisingly, within each subsection, most of the page real estate is devoted to the navies of major combatants. For North America, as an example, the navies of Canada and the USA each get separate treatment; Mexico and everyone else get a combined four paragraphs. The discussion for each navy includes a list of current forces along with details about which vessels are slated for retirement in the near future, vessels currently under construction or working up, projects currently in development, and status reports on budgets and procurement. Three subsections are dedicated to more detailed treatments of developments within the British Royal Navy, the German Deutsche Marine, and Finland's Suomen Merivoimat.


Section 3 is dedicated to discussions of particular classes of vessels. The lucky subjects here are India's Kamorta class corvettes, the UK's Tide class fleet tankers, Norway's HNoMS Maud fleet support ship, and the USA's Virginia class attack submarines.


Section 4 devotes space to some of the trending developments in naval technology. The three subsections cover naval aviation, submarine technology, and a look at Brazil's progress towards building an indigenous nuclear submarine.


Okay, so now I'll get back to the likes and dislikes. Section 1 is basically an intro, so there's not much to like or dislike about it. Sadly, I can't say the same for Section 2, the fleet reviews. That section reads pretty much like a "naval overviews for bean counters" -- with sincere apologies to all of you bean counters out there. Basically, each review does little more than say what's being added to the fleet, what's being retired from the fleet, what's ahead for the fleet, and how much does it all cost. If you're looking for detailed information about the classes of vessels in each fleet, e.g. plans, 3-views, specifications, armaments, and descriptions of combat capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and how each class stacks up against the competition, you'll be disappointed. There are however plenty of photos, mostly in black and white -- a necessary concession to the fact that a book like this caters to a niche audience and isn't expected to sell a lot of copies.


For the casual navy fan, Section 3 is much better, although individual readers may disagree about which subsections they like best. For me, the subsection on the Virginia class boats was the highlight, possibly of the whole book. As the the subsection subtitle suggests, there is enough meat here regarding the "Origins, Design Drivers, and Description" to keep the reader interested. I particularly enjoyed reading about the post-Cold War constraints on the design and the descriptions of the class's rather impressive technological developments.


Section 4 also includes some pretty good reading. Much of the subsection on naval aviation is dedicated to the development and deployment of the F-35 B and C naval variants. Most of us are probably aware of the F-35 program's teething troubles, but there is no denying that the plane is expanding the envelope of naval aviation capabilities, as this section makes clear. There is also a good deal of content, both in this section and in Section 2, devoted to Britain's new Queen Elizabeth class carriers, whose air wings will include the F-35B. The subsection on trending submarine technology is also a high point of this section; I found especially interesting the discussion of advancements in electro-optical sensing and how they have effected both submarine design and operation.


So if you are interested in a treatise on year-over-year developments in the world's navies, have a look at Seaforth's World Naval Review 2020. You'll probably find something to like, and at an MSRP of only £24.00, it won't do too much damage to your wallet.





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