Tom Clancy’s A Guided Tour Series

Tom Clancy is of course best known for his Jack Ryan series of novels. He also published a number of non-fiction books describing US military units: Nuclear submarines, Air Force fighter wings, an Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Marine Expeditionary Force, an Airborne division, an aircraft carrier, and Special Forces. I have read the first six, according to reviews on, the Special Forces book is of rather mediocre quality.

After having them stored in the book case for almost 15 years, I once again read the Airborne, Carrier, Marine, and Armored Cavalry books, written between 1993 and 1997. Much of the information is still current, as the basic organization and tactics of most units should still be the same. Very interesting are the descriptions of the exercises the units covered were part of. These can form inspiration for gamers who can only find people playing the same side – just play out an exercise, with one side being the OPFOR (opposing force).

Some information is, of course, outdated – there have been significant changes to the equipment employed, mostly when it comes to electronics. The Armored Cavalry book describes in great detail then-state of the art GPS receivers, with functionality that makes any current smartphone use laugh. Even more interesting, sometimes funny, is the description of soon-to-be-introduced systems that have in the meantime been cancelled: The RAH-66 Comanche, the M8 AGS, and the CSA, to name just a few. Also, some systems that were thought to be close to production back then have just recently been introduced or are still under development, such as the Joint Strike Fighter.

An interesting part for gaming purposes are the one or two hypothetical war scenarios at the end of each book. Gamers are always looking for ideas for modern-world scenarios, and the conflicts described here are a good inspiration.

Conclusion: If you’re interested in one or more of the units covered by these books, try to get a second–hand example, it’s well worth the read.