Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “aircraft”

FAS Military Analysis Network (US Weapons via FAS)

FAS Military Analysis Network (US Weapons via FAS) – http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/man/index.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is “angle of attack” in aviation?
  • What sort of missiles might one find on a US submarine?
  • What was the structure of the Japanese military in the 2000s?
  • What are some policy issues related to the militarization of space?


The Federation of American Scientists is a nonprofit group interested in government transparency and national security matters. Their Military Analysis Network documents weapons systems from the US and other nations. Some of the information may duplicate what you might find in the “fact files” of the various services, but if you don’t find something in those fact files, this site may help.

The Military Analysis Network is divided into the following sections:

  • US Munitions and Weapons Systems
  • Rest of the World Military Equipment (China, European Union, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Serbia.) – Equipment list intended to be representative, not exhaustive.
  • Historical Weapons Archives
  • Selected Country Military Summaries – Information appears to date between 2003 and 2006).
  • Weapons in Space
  • US Military Logistics
  • Military Equipment Tutorials
    • Aircraft for Amateurs
    • Airpower Overview
    • Boats for Beginners
    • Underwater Acoustics
    • United States Navy Ship Introduction
    • International Naval Forces Overview
    • World-Wide Land Combat Systems
    • Bullets for Beginners
    • Big Bullets for Beginners
    • Bullets for Beginners Background
    • Bugle Calls
    • Rockets for Rookies
    • Bombs for Beginners

The weapons pages will have pictures and often diagrams of equipment.
I highly recommend the Military Equipment Tutorials, even though most of them seem to be around a decade old. They can teach you the difference between a carbine and sub machine gun, what to play on the bugle when, how to identify NATO ammunition and more.


Gulf War Photographs

Gulf War Photographs –http://www.history.army.mil/photos/gulf_war/index.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did the UK’s Staffordshire Regiment look like in action?
  • What did a M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System look like?
  • Where can I find a picture of a camel in a truck?
  • What did air ambulances look like during the Persian Gulf War?


This resource is organized into 13 numbered galleries, plus one “Gulf War Photo Sampler.” Some of the galleries are labelled allowing for this listing by subject:

  • Allies (UK only) – Gallery 3
  • Aviation – Galleries 4 & 5
  • Base operations – Galleries 6 & 7
  • Camels – Gallery 8
  • Combat service support – Gallery 9
  • Miscellaneous – Galleries 1 & 2 plus “Gulf War Photo Samplers”
  • Patriot Air Defense System – Gallery 10
  • Tracked vehicles – Galleries 11 & 12
  • Wheeled vehicles – Gallery 13

Each of the photographs is captioned, and clicking on a photo will bring up a higher resolution photo. As these photos were taken by US government employees in the course of their duties, the photos are in the public domain and could be used in book illustrations.

US Army in World War II Pictorial Record (Center of Military History)

US Army in World War II Pictorial Record (Center of Military History) – http://www.history.army.mil/html/bookshelves/collect/ww2-pic.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did a P-51 fighter look like?
  • What does antiaircraft tracer fire look like?
  • What did Japanese bucket brigades look like in World War II?
  • What could mail call in the Solomon Islands look like?
  • What did the USS Hornet look like while under attack from dive bombers?
  • Where can I find scenes of urban devastation like that of Osaka in World War II?


Although part of the larger set of US Army in World War II discussed elsewhere, the Pictorial Record volumes deserve their own entry for their usefulness to writers of stories set in this era. The three volumes in the series are:

  • The war against Japan
  • The war against Germany and Italy: Mediterranean and adjacent areas
  • The war against Germany: Europe and adjacent areas

The aim of these volumes is clearly stated in the foreword to “The war against Japan”:

The photographs have been especially selected to show important terrain features, types of equipment and weapons, living and weather conditions, military operations, and matters of human interest. These volumes will preserve and make accessible for future reference some of the best pictures of World War II. An appreciation not only of the terrain upon which actions were fought, but also of its influence on the capabilities and limitations of weapons in the hands of both our troops and those of the enemy, can be gained through a careful study of the pictures herein presented.

Each volume is divided into sections with a brief historical essay that precedes a group of pictures with commentary. An excellent index in the back of each volume makes it easy to find pictures of weapons, aircraft, ships, locations, allied troops, bomb craters, blasted neighborhoods and more. Finally each volume has a list of abbreviations that may be helpful in understanding other materials besides these photographs.

In addition to serving as aids to describing war scenes, people, weapons and vehicles, the pictures in these volumes are public domain. You can freely illustrate your own work with these photographs, though it would be good to provide a credit back to the pictorial volume and the Center of Military History.

The PDF format of this series does make it harder to use the photographs. You might try using screen clipping tools built into Windows and Macs. From an examination of the volumes it was unclear where one might go to request the originals of these photographs. If anyone has insight into this, please leave a comment or use the “Contact Kari” link at the top of the page.

Naval History Online Photo Library

Naval History Online Photo Library (by topic) – https://web.archive.org/web/20140528181709/http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/org11-2.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did Navy blimps of the 1920s look like and what were they used for?
  • What did a Grumman F4F “Wildcat” Fighter look like?
  • What was the ship insignia for the _____?


From the website:

The Online Library is the Photographic Section’s readily accessible index to Naval and maritime history pictures.

Each entry provides a thumbnail image, a caption and the appropriate credit line. “Click” on the thumbnail to access a larger (average 50KB to 150KB) 96 dpi digital image that can usually fit on letter-size paper.

To the best of our knowledge, all Online Library pictures are in the public domain and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose without requesting permission.

The topics on this page are:

  • Aircraft, U.S. Navy – Aircraft from 1911 – 1962
  • Albums & Scrapbooks – Mostly from 1910s, with some from 1939-45 and Vietnam, 1970-71
  • Art Topics – including Ships’ Insignia and Navy Recruiting Posters
  • Awards & Medals
  • Documents – Including Souvenir folders
  • Event – From War with Tripoli (1801) through 1975, including the first flight from a warship (November 1910). Not all images are actually photographs.
  • People – From US, Japan and United Kingdom
  • People – Topics
  • African-Americans and the U.S. Navy
  • Asians, Pacific Islanders and the U.S. Navy
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Nurses and the U.S. Navy
  • “Old Salts …”
  • Women and the U.S. Navy – World War I era Yeomen (F)
  • Women and the U.S. Navy – World War II era WAVES.
  • Places – United States (California and Washington DC, with some photos of the Washington Navy Yard, setting of NCIS)
  • Places – Asia – Vietnam
  • Ships – U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Navy Ships – Listed Alphabetically by Name
  • U.S. Navy Ships – Listed by Hull Number
  • U.S. Navy Ship Types
  • Ships of Other U.S. Government Agencies, State Government and the Confederate States
  • Ships Of Foreign Navies And Government Agencies
  • Merchant Ships And Other Civil-Use Ships
  • Ship Color Schemes, Camouflage And Markings (From WWII)
  • Weapons And Sensors (Radar)

The main use of this resource for writers will be as an aid to describing ships, people and locales from specific historical periods. It would be well worth your time to spend time scrutinizing the Events page. In addition to offering the first pictures of a plane taking off from a warship, it also covers things like the 1918 Influenza pandemic and at least one of the Suez canal crisis’

UPDATE 1/19/2015 – While I’ve provided you with the Internet Archive version, the live site is still available but seriously restructured in a way I think makes it harder to access the photos you may want to see.

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