US Guided Missiles: The Definitive Reference Guide

  • Published

US Guided Missiles: The Definitive Reference Guide by Bill Yenne. Crecy Publishing, 2012, 160 pp.

In US Guided Missiles, author Bill Yenne first takes the reader through a brief yet informative history regarding the development of guided missiles, beginning in World War II and culminating with more recent developments. He expends a good deal of energy explaining the evolution of the designation system and provides a handy chart for deciphering the current naming convention (p. 15). Offering additional context to the study, Yenne educates readers about the interaction and rivalry that pervaded the Army, Navy, and Air Force during the development of these weapons. His description is both informative and useful in understanding the reasons for the various designations used prior to the eventual adoption of the current naming convention.

As an Air Force targeteer at heart, this reviewer was intrigued to read the various histories and factoids for each of the guided missiles. They are easily referenced in numerical order along with a nine-page index that enables a reader to quickly find a specific missile (p. 246). Furthermore, the author’s writing style enhances the usefulness of this guide to missiles in the US inventory: "By June 1965, all of the Atlas ICBM fleet had been retired, but the Atlas continued to evolve as a launch vehicle for boosting spacecraft into orbit. . . . The Atlas was also used for all of the orbital flights of NASA's Mercury manned spaceflight program, beginning with John Glenn's February 1962 mission in Friendship 7" (p. 50). Yet another interesting aspect of Yenne's work involves the multiple accounts explaining the activation, and in many cases the deactivation, of military guided-missile units. The author astutely observes the propensity of the Department of Defense to develop and deploy weapons for the defense of the nation, only to mothball them because of the expense of keeping the missiles operational.

Although Yenne provides sufficient cross-references for the historical data, the same cannot be said of the missile specifications. He omits sources for each data point but does include a bibliography. Nevertheless, this lack of adequate sourcing and detailed specifications for every missile variant makes it difficult to cross-reference the information provided. A comparison of Yenne's data with that available in several Jane's reference books (e.g., IHS Jane's Weapons, Naval 2012-2013) reveals multiple discrepancies. However, in many cases the numbers were close, allowing for differences in sourcing. In a few instances the ranges were off by upwards of 900 kilometers or more, possibly because the specifications were assigned to the wrong variant.

Additionally, the book is littered with typographical and editing errors. For example, one finds hard returns in locations where there should be none (p. 40), duplicated words (p. 56), and terms misspelled or replaced with the wrong word (pp. 69 and 89). However, such instances of poor editing are not an insurmountable obstacle and can be easily corrected in subsequent editions.

In the final analysis, US Guided Missiles: The Definitive Reference Guide is a useful text, filled with pictures, offering numerous, interesting facts and figures. In this reviewer's opinion, though, it is neither comprehensive nor definitive. It provides a remarkable historical background and some basic facts for a given guided missile but does not include exact ranges or specifications. Because the book is pleasant and entertaining, it would be a welcome addition to the library of a military history buff or budding airpower professional. However, readers seeking a detailed reference guide for analytical research should look elsewhere.

Maj Lacy D. Croft III
Maxwell AFB, Alabama

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."