Jane's Fighting Ships
is a reference book, considered by most to be the authoritative directory to the warship
s of the world's oceans. In 1889, a young man named Frederick T. Jane
, who was Navy
-mad, was commissioned to attend a fleet review
for Kaiser Wilhelm II
, at Spitshead. During the review, he sketched over 100 ships in detail, as well as earning food money by painting murals for the mess
areas of the ships he was berth
ing in. Realizing that this information could be useful, he set out to commercialize his efforts - and in 1898
, the first edition of Jane's Fighting Ships
Since then, it has been updated regularly as new construction and new technology brings new combatants onto the Naval scene. It is consulted daily by intelligence experts, military personnel, analysts, enthusiasts, modelbuilders, engineers and more. His company has expanded to become Jane's Information Group, and in addition to providing JFS provides all manner of guides to military technology. Jane himself started Jane's All the World's Airships, covering airplanes and lighter-than-air vehicles, in 1909 - only five years after the Wright Brothers' flight. That, too, has gone on to become a standard reference work.
JIG publishes guides not only to vehicle and technology types, but guides to fleets: Jane's Combat Fleets is a yearly publication which details the complete fleet roster of the world's active navies.
JFS was useful in its early years because in the days before ubiquitous radio communication, radar and global information networks, a warship on the high seas often got its first glimpse of other vessels with the naked eye - and it was up to the officer of the watch to determine if that vessel was friendly or not as soon as possible working from little more than its silhouette. Jane's, organized by ship types and containing detailed information on ship capabilities as well as providing recognition aids like the number and placement of masts, number of gun turrets, etc. was an invaluable aid.
JFS, and the other JIG publications, are now of course available in electronic form via media or web subscription. They continue the tradition of being severely expensive, reflecting the fact that most of their buyers and readers aren't spending their own money.