Behind the Scenes:

The War Planners

Book 1 of The War Planners Series

By Andrew Watts

The War Planners is the first book in a series about a hypothetical world war between the two great military superpowers of the 21st century, China and the United States.  While book 1 focuses on technologist David Manning, the series becomes more action-focused as we are introduced to the members of his family:

  • Chase Manning - David's brother, a former SEAL now working for the CIA's Special Operations Group.
  • Lieutenant Commander Victoria Manning - David's sister, a Navy helicopter pilot and the Officer in Charge of the USS Farragut's air detachment.
  • Admiral Arthur Manning - the father, and the commander of a US Navy carrier strike group.  

From the author, Andrew Watts:

I wrote the first draft of The War Planners while deployed on an aircraft carrier.  It was 2012 and I was the Air Operations officer for Destroyer Squadron Two, embarked on the USS Enterprise.  We were deployed the Middle East at the time.  Fast forward several years and I've made the USA Today bestseller list, and sold thousands of copies to amazing readers like you.  I hope you enjoy the books!  

Read on to find out about some of the details behind the War Planners.

War Planners IDEAS & Technology


The Chinese military really has been constructing military bases on islands in the Pacific.  As of 2018, China had built seven new military bases in the South China Sea.  These bases include aircraft hangers, barracks, radar, weapons, and 10,000 foot runways.  In essence, these are unsinkable aircraft carriers and missile bases.  As missile ranges improve, these bases become more relevant than ever.  This is part of a strategy to establish sea dominance in the Pacific.

Note:  If you look closely enough below, you can just barely make out Lena Chou, jogging on the runway.


Does China really have hidden submarine pens carved into mountains?

Yes.  On Hainan Island, one of their main submarine bases.


Do Red Cell's really exist?

While the term is used in several contexts by military and intelligence organizations (including Richard Marcinko's unit), it has been reported that the US government has indeed used Red Cells for purposes similar to what went on in The War Planners: a gathering of diverse experts whose objective was to identify ways our enemies might attack the United States.

Both authors Brad Thor and Brad Meltzer were invited to participate:

Article: NY Times

Article: NY Daily News article

Article: WaPo

No confirmation on whether authors not named Brad are allowed to join.  If anyone is in charge of invites, I will pay for my airfare, just let me know.  (but I won't get on any unmarked jets...)


From my research, China is conducting ongoing espionage operations around the world, targeting the US and its allies.  They are actively recruiting US intelligence operatives like this one.  Chinese agencies similar to our NSA are hacking into US military and government databases.  Here is an example.  The end game of these human and cyber espionage operations is deadly.  If you read one article, read this one from the NY Times in 2017.

I grew up reading books and watching movies about the Cold War between the US and USSR.  While Russian intelligence services are also performing activer measures against the US, the War Planners series mainly deals with Chinese threats.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of material to work with.

More recent article:  Wall Street Journal 2019 

HF radio - MARS

On a lighter note, I mentioned MARS radio in The War Planners.  The Military Auxiliary Radio System has been around since 1925.  From Wikipedia: The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) is a United States Department of Defense sponsored program, established as a separately managed and operated program by the United States Army, and the United States Air Force. The United States Navy-Marine program has been closed. The program is a civilian auxiliary consisting primarily of licensed amateur radio operators who are interested in assisting the military with communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to normal communications. The MARS programs also include active duty, reserve, and National Guard units; Navy, Marine Corps, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ships, and Coast Guard cutters and shore stations.[1]

I used MARS radio several times on my deployments.  We had an HF radio on the SH-60B helicopter, and we were able to reach an amature radio operator who connected me on a brief phone call to my family in 2007.  After several months at sea with no phone calls, that was a hoot.  (Thank you MARS operators!)


China is increasing its military strength, although arguments can be made on exactly how strong it is.  This is a great article from The National Interest showing that the current state of the Chinese military, while large in size, is buoyed by older technologies.  But at the same time, they are making advances in cyber warfare, stealth jets, aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons, and submarines, to name a few.  See this article on some of China's biggest military technology advancements in recent years: Forbes

The Pentagon's thoughts:


Book 2: The War Stage

A US Navy destroyer sinks an Iranian patrol craft during a controversial exchange in the Persian Gulf. With tensions soaring between the two nations, an Iranian politician secretly contacts the CIA with a chilling revelation involving the Chinese. Chase Manning is a rugged ex-SEAL working for the CIA's Special Operations Group in the Middle East. Now, he is tasked with uncovering the truth behind the Iranian claims before it is too late. But in the midst of battling deadly assassins and uncovering the layers of intrigue, Chase discovers that his own brother, David Manning, is right at the heart of the conspiracy.


Thanks for reading!

I am the USA TODAY bestselling author of Max Fend thrillers and The War Planners series. I graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2003 and served as a naval officer and helicopter pilot until 2013. During that time, I flew counter-narcotic missions in the Eastern Pacific and counter-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa. I was a flight instructor in Pensacola, FL, and helped to run ship and flight operations while embarked on a nuclear aircraft carrier deployed in the Middle East. 

I know I've said this a lot to many of you over email or on Facebook.  But I really do appreciate you letting me make up stories for a living.  I hope you find them entertaining.  Thanks and take care!

Ways to follow:

Join the Facebook Group

Follow me on Amazon (*recommended*)

I write two different series, with seven books total as of early 2019.  You can make sure you've read all of the books here.