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Weapons of the US Navy SEALS

by Fred Pushies



Published by Motorbooks International. Hard covers, 8.5 x 11-inches, 183 color photos, glossary, table of abbreviations and index. ISBN 0-7603-1790-9. Price: $29.95 USD.

With more and more segments of the world finally realizing that they are at war with terrorists, the use of Special Operations forces has increased dramatically. Interest in details related to the operations of these elite units has also increased. As a result, Motorbooks has released a number of books on special ops units, including the US Navy’s legendary SEALs.

The author has published a number of other titles on special ops units for Motorbooks. This book focuses on things that should greatly interest figure modelers, such as personal weapons, equipment and other related items. However, the author also adds to that coverage by describing the various aircraft, water craft and ground vehicles, which are typically used to transport SEALs to and from their operations.The chapters that comprise the book are as follows:

1. History.
2. Sea-Watercraft.
3. Air-Aviation Assets
4. Land-Assault Weapons.
5. The Armory.
6. Tactical Gear

These are followed by a note from the author, a Glossary of Terms, a table of Acronyms and Abbreviations, and finally, an Index.

The 1st chapter, on history, begins with the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) units of the Second World War and the Korean War, as well as the advent of the SEALs and their first use in Vietnam. It continues with brief notes on their use in such places as Grenada, Panama, the 1st Gulf War, and Somalia. It is brought up to date with a brief segment on recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The current organization and training regimen of the SEAL teams are also briefly outlined. These sections are accompanied by a few photographs depicting SEALs in action during some of these operations.

Chapter 2 describes the unique types of vessels that SEALs use to insert and recover themselves via the world’s oceans and rivers. The Cyclone-class PC (which officially means “Coastal Patrol Boat”, not “Patrol Coastal”, as the author states) types are covered as are the sleek Mark V SOC (Special Operations Craft). Smaller boats such as the so-called RIB (Rigid-hull Inflatable Boat), and SOCR (Special Operations Craft, Riverine), are also detailed. Specifications for these vessels are given, as are descriptions of the various types of weapons that they carry, and the types of missions they are expected to perform. In a departure from most coverage of SEAL assets, the author also provides details and photographs of SEAL mini-subs, such as the SDV (SEAL Delivery Vehicle) Mk 8 and the newer ASDS (Advanced SEAL Delivery System), as well as their mother ships that are based on either Los Angeles-class Nuclear Attack Submarines (SSNs) or Ohio-class Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs).

Chapter 3 details the various aerial assets used for SEAL insertion and extraction, as well as the methods that are used in exiting and boarding said aircraft. Variations of the Sikorsky H-53, H-60 and Boeing H-46 helicopters, Lockheed Martin C-130 fixed-wing and Bell Boeing V-22 tilt-rotor hybrid transports are described. Means of aircraft egress/insertion, such as the Fast Rope Insertion System (FRIS), and HALO/HAHO (High Altitude Low Opening/High Altitude High Opening) parachute methods are shown. For extraction, the so-called SPIES (Special Procedure Insertion and Extraction System) method is detailed.

Chapters 4 and 5 detail the weapons typically used by SEAL team members. Actually, “typically” is a misnomer, since any SEAL has a very wide choice of weapons to choose from when outfitting himself for a mission. Variations of the standard-issue US weapons such as the M3 shotgun, M4 carbine (and attached M203 grenade launcher), M9 pistol, M14 rifle, M60 machine gun, M79 grenade launcher, M82 rifle, M136 anti-tank weapon, M240 machine gun and M249 machine gun are pictured. Also detailed are various foreign weapons such as the Heckler & Koch MP5 series and the widely proliferated AK-47/AK-74. A variety of fighting knives, sighting aids and sound suppressors are also described, making these two chapters possibly the most interesting in the entire book. Disappointing, especially from the point of view of vehicle modelers, is the coverage of SEAL ground vehicles like the FAV, of which there are only a very few partial views.

Chapter 6 is also quite interesting as it depicts equipment such as night vision devices, communications equipment (radios, SATCOM systems), demolition devices and mines, target designation systems, navigation devices (GPS and compass) and identification devices (including strobes, smoke grenades and other passive ID devices). Also covered are combat harnesses and load-bearing equipment, mountain climbing gear, SCUBA gear and finally, forced-entry tools.In the main, the photographs are all very clear and will easily provide an excellent visual reference for anyone choosing to model a SEAL figure. Also, generally speaking, the captions and the text are fairly well done, but both suffer from a lack of oversight by a knowledgeable editor

I noted a number of plain, old-fashioned typographic errors, as well as some errors of fa ct. A partial list follows, which ought to provide some idea of what I mean.

Regarding the weapons mounts on the Cyclone-class PC, the author’s statements are at variance with such respected references as “Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001”, from the US Naval Institute. For instance, page 29, bottom right, shows a 25mm Mk 38 gun on a stabilized Mk 96 Mod. 0 mount that also has a 40mm Mk 19 grenade launcher attached. The problem here is that the caption is wrong, calling it simply a Mk38. The Mk38 is the gun; the mount is the Mk 96. And, there is no mention that there is a Mk 19 mounted, although the photo shows it. To the left of this photo is another photo of the Mk 38 on the un-stabilized Mk 88 mount. So what does the author do? He captions this photo as the Mk 96. Granted, these esoteric designations can be confusing. But, if I can bother verifying them, so can the author or his editor.

Page 32, top, has a photo of a river craft which the author says is “on patrol in the waterways of Southern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom”. The problem here is that a crewman is manning a .50 cal. M2 that has a blank adapter/shredder attached to the gun barrel, which is obviously not used in a combat situation. Page 34, bottom, has a photo of a device used on the SOCR riverine boat, which the author calls “a remote fire control system”. How this would effectively work with individually hand-fired weapons that are not power operated, or “slaved” to a remote control device is a mystery to me. On page 45 the text describes an AC-130U as being equipped with a “fully traversable” 25mm Gatling-type weapon. How the weapon could do that without being turret-mounted (it fires out of the side of the aircraft and has very limited movement), is yet another mystery. On page 46, the author says that the aeronautical acronym “IFR” means “Infrared Flight Rules”. That’s incorrect; it means: Instrument Flight Rules. I have also never heard of an MH-47 Chinook helicopter variant called a “Dark Horsem” (page 52). Yes folks, that extra “m” is listed in the text and again in the index. Although it may be a common typo, I have still never heard of an MH-47 “Dark Horse”. I welcome comments on this one from readers.

Regarding the Navy H-60 variations, the author’s statements again diverge from information in “Combat Fleets”. On page 53, the author designates the Navy’s latest variation of the Sikorsky H-60 helicopter as an MH-60S Knighthawk, while “Combat Fleets” calls it the CH-60S Knighthawk. The author also states that it has a longer cabin than the Army’s Blackhawk, but according to “Combat Fleets”, many CH-60Ss are rebuilt from redundant Army UH-60L airframes. Again I’d welcome comments from those “in the know”.

I have read other reviews which castigate this book because material used in it comes from previously published books from the same author. So, the prospective purchaser should be aware of that. However, I can only base this review on what is seen between these covers. I think it is safe to say that at the very least, this book suffers from lackluster editing. I am also concerned that there are other places where factual errors are made that I am not aware of, since my knowledge of the subject is limited in some aspects. In other words, with quite a few errors that were obvious to me, how can we trust that the author has not made more of them?

However, in the final analysis, the book does indeed provide a well-done VISUAL reference for current SEAL equipment, which will be very useful for figure modelers. And that’s not a particularly bad thing.

Recommended with reservations.

Frank De Sisto

All Motorbooks titles are available at book stores or direct from the publishers at: www.motorbooks.com.