WEAPONS OF THE WARSAW PACT – Book Review

All eyes seem to be on Russia these days, whether it be for the recent (and marvelous) World Cup tournament or for the more obdurate stuff that appears to be a repeat of times past. This provides us with a convenient nod towards the days of the Warsaw Pact when things seemed to be so much simpler.

It was a very different world to the one we know today and the fall of the Berlin Wall and all that followed offered a promise of warm relations between former belligerents that hasn’t quite been achieved, to say the least. I will leave politics to others and concentrate on the three books on offer here.

Author Russell Phillips has compiled a three-volume directory of weapons and equipment used by land forces of the former Soviet Bloc. Whereas a Jane’s directory would shoehorn the Russians into a bigger volume covering the full scope of international arms manufacture, Mr. Phillips sticks to the Soviet Union and her allies – principally Poland, Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic for the production of armored vehicles, artillery and other weaponry.

Warsaw Pact, Polish armor unit in Czechoslovakia, 1968.
Warsaw Pact, Polish armor unit in Czechoslovakia, 1968.

I reviewed Mr. Phillips’ account of the breaking of the 1980 Iranian embassy siege in London two years ago. It is a solid piece of no frills history that doesn’t mess about and I hope it did well for him. I have spent a good period of my time reviewing books championing the works of self-publishers and Mr. Phillips is a case in point.

I have been fortunate to find mainstream publishers for my own stuff and salute those who have the balls to get out there and do it themselves. As an aside, I note that Mr. Phillips’ use of the name Shilka for his enterprise is wholly appropriate. (Putting my armor geek hat on for a minute; the ZSU-2-34 is one my favorite bits of Warsaw Pact kit.)

ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” at the Museum of Russian Military History. Photo: Museum of Russian Military History – CC BY-SA 4.0
ZSU-23-4 “Shilka” at the Museum of Russian Military History. Photo: Museum of Russian Military History – CC BY-SA 4.0

All three of these books come across as both authoritative and comprehensive. The author knows his stuff, using clear and simple presentation to get across the important information.  Each piece of weaponry is described in a succinct but effective manner accompanied by the vital statistics needed to complete the entry.  I really like the feel of these books and can say they pack quite a punch for something so understated. The use of photography is on the economic side, but this matches the text and the overall effect is very clean and easy on the eye.

A T-72 tank with composite armour on the turret front.
A T-72 tank with composite armour on the turret front.

Printed books are making a comeback and while these three titles lack the glitz of the kind produced by the best-known military specialist publishers, there is a substance to Mr. Phillips’ work that should make these books attractive to readers interested in the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact.  It is right to acknowledge that a lot of the weaponry included in these books can still be found in the arsenals of many nations, great and small, so they remain working guides and are not just directories of the hardware of times past.

Soviet SA-8 Gecko surface-to-air missile.
Soviet SA-8 Gecko surface-to-air missile.

All in all these books do a good job and the fact they are neither shiny nor showy appeals to me. They rely, instead, on solid knowledge and the ability to present key information in a simple to use format and I hope the author continues with his work.

Warsaw Pact books
Warsaw Pact books

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online

Book cover
Book cover

TANKS AND COMBAT VEHICLES OF THE WARSAW PACT

Weapons and Equipment of the Warsaw Pact

by Russell Phillips

Shilka Publishing

ISBN: 9780995513327

Book cover
Book cover

COMBAT ENGINEERING EQUIPMENT OF THE WARSAW PACT

Weapons and Equipment of the Warsaw Pact

by Russell Phillips

Shilka Publishing

ISBN: 978-0995513341

Book cover
Book cover

ARTILLERY OF THE WARSAW PACT

Weapons and Equipment of the Warsaw Pact

by Russell Phillips

Shilka Publishing

ISBN: 978-0995513389