What is The World Wars.net?
The World Wars.net is the latest incarnation of a series of web projects that I began in some form or other in 1997 while I was still in high school, initially focused on modern military aviation. This was my first attempt at a website, using basic HTML and Microsoft FrontPage Express but after a few years it was taken down as it was on my then-ISP's servers although I kept the site on file. In 2003 when in college, I decided to give it another go with the addition of World War II aircraft. Unfortunately, it was only online for a brief period of time before I took it down again since it was still quite incomplete. Almost simultaneously I began a different site focused on 20th century conflict, including history, statistics, maps and other resources. Some elements were finished and the site was online for a few years but was never more than a work in progress. Later, in 2005, I decided to rework the military aviation site using my newly acquired PHP/MySQL skills which would enable the site to be more interactive and database-driven. It existed for quite some time as AVIA Military Aviation (www.aviamil.net) before I took it down in 2011 as I was already planning to expand it to encompass more than just aviation. The result is The World Wars.net, which was begun in 2013 and is an attempt to merge all my previous efforts into one site. I hope this time it lasts! (2019 edit: it has)
Why did you make this site?
Because I am big fan of military history and technology. This site is a labor of love and finishing it represents a major personal achievement, not only for the educational value that it represents but also because making it essentially taught me the skills of web programming which at some point in my life was even a source of income. Although there are innumerable websites dedicated to the topics that this site focuses on, I have found that there are sometimes severe limits to what you can find in one place. For example, nothing can compete with the sheer volume of information on Wikipedia, yet many entries for aircraft or tanks have data for just one variant. Likewise, there is no truly comprehensive repository of statistical information that I am aware of. The objective of The World Wars.net is to fill these niches and attempt to offer the most useful single source of statistical information on modern conflict available online.
How do you know that the information is accurate?
Well for starters, all the statistical tables on the site have their sources listed at the bottom and there is an extensive credits page which includes all the written and online sources used to compile the information on the weapons database and the resources section. With regards to the statistics, I have often modified, complemented, or combined the raw data in order to present it better than the original author. As far as the weapons database, to anyone who has looked around the myriad of aircraft, tanks or ships pages on the internet you will surely have noticed that not all sites share the exact same data; however that does not necessarily mean they are incorrect. Slight variations may exist when converting data between systems of measurement, likewise different specifications might have been reported to different sources. I have tried at all times to use the most authoritative sources such as Jane's or Conway's, or recognized experts in their fields like Bill Gunston, Christopher Foss, and others. However, there indeed may be glaring mistakes on this site and I would be extremely grateful to anyone who is kind enough to point them out.
Does this site have copyright?
Yes. You many not directly copy any of the text, such as the weapons database entries, to other sites without a reference (a link would be nice too) since it was not fun to make summaries for nearly a thousand military vehicles and then have them copy/pasted somewhere else. The same applies to the statistics, although in this case you should reference the original author(s) except in those few cases where the statistics have been compiled myself or significantly modified, in which case you should reference this site as well. You may, however, use the pictures if necessary without asking. All pictures on this site have been grabbed off the internet and I am unaware if they have copyrights (I have deliberately avoided using pictures with copyright watermarks). The profiles pictures have been taken from the internet as well. Most of these I presume come from published sources in which case I invoke the fair use clause as this site is used for research purposes and does not make any profit. That said, if the copyright owner of any image hosted here wants credit for it or wants it removed, e-mail me and I will comply without question. But for the record, just because you scanned an image from a book does not mean you own the copyright to it. I have seen many otherwise excellent sites watermark pictures or claim copyright for images that I know for a fact they did not make and it's a detestable (and illegal) habit.
Are there any other legal disclaimers?
What's with the new site layout?
On February 1st, 2021, The World Wars.net inaugurated its new look. This was the first change to the website's layout and code since its current incarnation went online in 2013. Since then there has been a veritable revolution in website design thanks to the introduction of HTML5 and CSS3. What started as some slight code tweaks in January as part of my usual holiday update ended up a full site redesign and recode. However, being a fan of everything retro on the internet, I have kept the old design at www.theworldwars.net/_old/ and it will remain fully functional since most of it accesses the same PHP code files, images, and database.
The old site had mentions of maps and photo sections, will these be added?
The old site had a perpetual link to a maps section that I never actually added. However, I have decided that the new site will only have links to sections that are fully functional so that it does not look like it is permanently under construction. I will also endeavor to finish up all missing bits before I decide on adding new content on a large scale.
What do you do in real life?
My name is Rodrigo Aguilera, I am Mexican (from Mexico City) and in real life I'm a professional economist who lives in London. I do not have any formal military background, but have been fascinated by military history and military technology since I was a teenager, and I also have a keen interest in current defense and security related issues. Having said that, I am not a warmongering neo-con and I firmly believe the world would be much better if we could end war once and for all. I have also published a book, The Glass Half Empty: Debunking the Myth of Progress in the Twenty-First Century which includes a chapter on warfare which argues against the overly-optimistic views of Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now.
Does this site have a social media presence?
A forum was added in January 2021 but beyond that there is no plan to have a Twitter or Facebook or any other social media account. I do not have the time to update this site on a regular basis (usually I give it one big update each year over the holidays), much less would I have the time to promote it on a daily basis. Additionally, I do not agree politically with most people who share my interest in military issues and I have quit more than one military-related forum and page as a result of the rather regrettable proliferation of right-wing chauvinism (if not outright racism) these days. Consequently, I am not particularly interested in establishing a community beyond people willing to help out with the site itself (see the forum for more information).
Can you explain the Divisions & Campaigns tables?
The Divisions & Campaigns tables (currently only for World War II) are an attempt to summarize the campaigns fought by each division among the major combatants in as short a space as possible. There is a campaign description page which gives the dates and the description of each campaign, which correspond roughly in terms of duration and geographical scope to US Army campaign battle stars. This has been one of the most ambitious sections of this website as it has taken a tremendous effort to build those summaries, which essentially involve checking the combat history of each and every division. I believe they are mostly accurate for all the combatants except Germany, where the hundreds of Heer (Army) divisions have been impossible to fully check so take these with a grain of salt (the Waffen SS ones are accurate, however). At no point do I plan to do the same for Soviet divisions given that over a thousand were raised but a future endeavor will be to make similar lists for World War I units.
What is the advantage to using PHP/MySQL?
In its original incarnations, this site was simply a collection of HTML pages. However, the advent of dynamic web programming offers significant additional capabilities to a site like this. All data on the Weapons Database is extracted from a MySQL database through PHP. This means I don't need to make a new page for each entry, I just simply add it to the database and the links appear by themselves. Aside from making life easier in the longer run (notwithstanding the colossal effort it takes to build it at the start!), it allows certain capabilities that other HTML-based sites simply can't offer. The most important and most obvious is the ability to instantly convert from metric to imperial measurements. The Tank Rankings are another excellent example of this as they are compiled entirely from existing data. The site is also partially constructed to allow for switching between different languages, although for the moment there is no immediate plans to add any other besides English. There are many more possibilities which will be further explored in the future.
What is your criteria for adding weapons to the database?
Only major weapons systems are included in the database. For aircraft this includes only those with a combat role or those which have been specifically built for military purposes so airliners used as transports or small jets used for utility craft are not included, nor are trainers with no combat capacity. For vehicles, I have excluded smaller AFVs, such as 4x4s used for MP or internal security duties as there would be too many to add them all. Local copies of foreign equipment are also excluded except in those cases where they were eventually significantly modified or built by a major power (mainly China). For ships, I will exclude smaller coastal combatants and amphibious craft. Ultimately some degree of discretion is used and just because a particular weapon does not appear on the site today, does not mean it won't be added in the future.
Why don't you show the most recent manufacturer rather than the original?
The manufacturer shown on each weapon entry is the one that was in charge of its development and initial production. After that point, it is possible that it merged or was acquired by another firm as has been the trend in recent decades. On many sites you will see the most recent incarnation of the manufacturer listed rather than the original, but I feel that it does not give an accurate indication of the weapon's origins so this site gives credit where credit is due. After all, there is nothing more strange than seeing a Tamiya scale model of a P-51 Mustang "licensed by Boeing" only because it owns the copyright despite having had no role whatsoever in this legendary plane's development. That said, there are a few cases where the ground is murky. For example, the M1 Abrams tank was designed by Chrysler but was taken over by General Dynamics just as it was entering production and is more commonly associated with the latter company. Even in this case, I will respect the original designer.
Where did you get penetration and protection levels for modern tanks?
In the past, it was easy to obtain information about a tank's protection simply by measuring the thickness of its armor and accounting for slope. However, the advent of composite armor in the 1970s has made things more complicated as any given thickness is greater than its rolled homogeneous armor (steel) equivalent. Making matters worse is the fact that this information is almost always classified. I have used data from a now offline site called Tank Protection Levels by Jake Collins which makes estimates for most post-war tanks as well as estimates for the penetration levels of most ammunition types (some of these have been obtained through Jane's as well). A quick trawl around the forums (mainly the TankNet forums which is where Collins himself states that he got his data from) suggests that there is a lot of controversy and contention over these numbers. Unfortunately, posters seldom explain their reasons or give more accurate numbers themselves. Until such information is de-classified or someone else produces a more authoritative assessment, I will take these as fact.
What are the cut-off dates for the five historical periods?
Currently the Weapons Database is focused almost entirely on equipment from World War II onward. For aircraft and vehicles, the World War II section includes all weapons that were in active service in their original intended role in their country of origin when the war began up until entries that were introduced before the war ended. The Cold War section includes all weapons that were introduced after World War II and which were no longer in active service in their original intended role in their country of origin at the time of the dissolution of the USSR. The Modern section includes all weapons after that. To give an example, the F-4 Phantom would count as a Cold War weapon since it was no longer in active US service in 1991 as a fighter (its original role), even though a SEAD variant (F-4G) was still in service at the time and even though it was in active service as a fighter in other air forces as well. However, some of its contemporaries like the MiG-23 and Mirage F.1 are included in the Modern section since they were still in front-line Russian and French service in their original fighter roles in 1991. The rules are slightly different for ships, in that only ship classes that were still being commissioned during their respective historical sections are included in them. Also, the cutoff for World War II are all those ships that were commissioned between the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty and the end of World War II.
Why does there seem to be such varying quality in the entry descriptions?
The bulk of the aircraft section was written during 2005-07 as part of the AVIA site. At the time I wanted to finish off the more than 500 entries as soon as possible and therefore did not dedicate a huge amount of time for each entry. I added the tank section around 2013-14 which had a lower number of entries and as a result I wrote the descriptions in much greater detail (which I call 2.0 Standard). In 2017 I went back and re-wrote a small number of the most well-known aircraft to this newer standard, and the (few) ship entries that have been included so far also follow this standard. All future entries will be written in 2.0 Standard with a longer term goal of re-writing all aircraft entries as well.
There seems to be an option to switch languages in this section, is there a plan to re-write the site in different languages?
The Weapons Database has been coded to be able to switch between languages as I have also wanted to eventually have this site available in my co-native Spanish. However, given the scale of this endeavor, there are no current plans to do so.
How long did it take to compile the entire database?
The first functional version of the database was online sometime in 2016 though I have since forgotten the exact date. It included the major world navies from World War II until today and a number of mid-size navies, mostly from Europe and Latin America. The main effort took around 3-4 months of almost daily work including numerous marathonic nightly sessions to compile, all the more considering I had a full time job and a full time girlfriend. Many aspects of the database design were added as the project went along which also meant revising what had already been included. Since then, I typically do one big upgrade a year in January/February in order to have the fleet lists accurate to the end of the previous year.
Where did you get all the information on all those ships?
By far the best published reference for ships is the excellent Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships four-volume series which covers practically every fighting ship built in the world from 1860 (the start of the battleship era) to 1995. Sadly they are out of print but I am lucky to own all four volumes and they are still widely available second hand. From 1995 onward my main sources are online. These include Wikipedia (usually local language versions since many of them have more detail than the English version for non-Anglo-Saxon navies), Ivan Gogin's Navypedia, Guðmundur Helgason's uboat.net, Andrew Toppan's Haze Gray & Underway, Paul R. Yarnall (and team)'s NavSource for the US Navy, Gordon Smith (RIP)'s Naval-History.net for the Royal Navy and Commonwealth, Roman Volkov and Andrew Brichevsky's RussianShips.info for the Soviet/Russian navies, as well as numerous other country-specific sites which are too numerous to list here. All of these are superb sites and should be on the bookmarks of any naval enthusiast.
Do you plan to add new navies?
There are no current plans to add new navies to the list since virtually all countries with at least a handful of offshore-capable fighting ships are now included and the rest are mostly coastal forces. Future plans for 2021 and beyond will focus on 1) expanding database capability to do other searches besides the fleet lists (there's a lot under the hood that is not yet publicly accessible!) and 2) expanding the fleet lists to the start of World War I.
Are you willing to license the database to third parties?
Categorically no. You are free to link to it and use it for research purposes but the database itself is exclusive property of the author and is not available for sale or licensing. It is my commitment to keep it free for the world to use.