Book Review – Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Tensions between China, the United States and Russia are at an all-time high. In this era, everyone has access to wearable technology, drone-warfare is the norm, combat occurs in space and the “hi tech” Zumwalt Class  destroyers of the “Ghost Fleet” are brought back into service. Your state of mind and alertness is altered by nothing more than a “stim tab” and autonomous systems are everywhere.

Set in the not-so-distant future, Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and August Cole, is an intimidating and frightful prediction of what future warfare may look like. Supported by an impressive reference list the, reader can have confidence in the accuracy of the technological developments described in the narrative.

Ghost Fleet also explores space warfare and the challenges of operating in a new warfighting domain. Following the establishment of the United States’ Space Force  in December of 2019, the space combat element of Ghost Fleet can prompt some seriously thought-provoking discussions. At the time of writing (2015), this was a very new concept, so the implications of space combat are little explored in the text. I did however enjoy the parallels drawn between Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and future warfare as a testament to the ancient Chinese Text, a must read for any military leader in my opinion. The overarching reference to Sun Tzu within the book is “all warfare is based on deception”. We see the art of deception used throughout several battles and encounters in the book, proving true that this statement is one that will live on through warfare. In this era, we have state of the art countermeasures such as the Australian invention also used by the US on their DDG being Nulka.   

As someone who isn’t a regular reader of fiction, Ghost Fleet certainly didn’t feel like fiction.  With both authors having an impressive background in strategy, intelligence and defence industry, it’s clear that some serious analysis underpins the predictions contained within its pages. Most frightening, and as discussed by August Cole in an episode of The Dead Prussian Podcast some events as written in the book, have already become reality as the present caught the future. An insightful read for anyone with an interest in strategy, and a near essential read for members of the military, this book encourages critical thinking and discussion about how our future of war may look and unfold.

Ghost Fleet is a real edge of your seat page turner that was hard to put down, this book should not be left off your reading list.

About the author: Lachlan Rowe is a Maritime Warfare Officer in the Royal Australian Navy, completing his Maritime Warfare Officer Course at HMAS Watson. Having completed a Bachelor of Business at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2019, his passion for PME developed and he remains an advocate for the importance of pursuing PME opportunities at the Junior Officer Ranks. Follow Lachlan on Twitter at @R_owey.