To most readers of a certain age, the Falklands Conflict was a watershed event which tested the resolve, capabilities, and persistence of the Royal Navy and the Nation. It was a bloody affair at sea; the Royal Navy suffered immensely and yet still prevailed. The loss of the Type 42 HMS Sheffield to Exocet missiles shocked naval professionals and called into serious question Royal Navy air defense capabilities. Other air defense ships suffered as well. The County Class ships – HMS Antrim and HMS Glamorgan (which survived an Exocet hit) were damaged and another Type 42, HMS Coventry, was lost. The conflict also highlighted inherent design issues with the Type 42 and Royal Navy damage control readiness. Lessons were learnt and during Operation Granby (the British component to Operation Desert Storm), the Royal Navy acquitted its air defense capabilities when HMS Gloucester (Type 42, batch 3) detected and destroyed a low flying Silkworm missile, successfully defending the coalition task group operating off Kuwait.
Osprey continues to expand into naval topics covering the British guided missile destroyers in this their latest in the New Vanguard Series. In a modest folio size this book ambitiously covers all of the destroyers outfitted with an area air defense missile system from the first County Class destroyers to the modern Type 45. The area air defense missile systems in the Royal Navy have been a key part of Royal Navy operations and contributions to NATO during the last 60 plus years. The first system, the unfortunately named Sea Slug missile, was rather ungainly with a launcher that looked more like a gantry crane than a weapon system; it lacked the sleek functionality of contemporary US Navy’s launchers. The rise of Soviet Naval Aviation and the Soviet emphasis on large, long range cruise missiles launched in saturation raids spurred air defense developments across the NATO. The result in the Royal Navy was the more successful (and better named) Sea Dart which remained the mainstay system for more than 30 years. The revolution in computerization, digitalization, and display as well as vertically launched missiles has resulted in the large and sleek Type 45 destroyer, with its Sea Viper (cool name!) missile.
The book is organized as follows:
- Weapons and Systems
- County-Class Destroyers
- Type 82 Destroyer: HMS Bristol
- Type 42 Destroyers: Sheffield Class
- Type 45 Destroyers: Daring Class
- Operational Service
With only 48 pages it is a quick read and none of the chapters are very long. The book includes 48 B&W and color photos and color illustrations by Paul Wright.
As a retired US Naval Officer I had the privilege of visiting and serving in Royal Navy ships including the later Type 42 destroyers. This book is a good overview of the systems and ships and a superb addition to the body of knowledge on the modern Royal Navy. This book is well worth adding to your library.