Behind the Scenes:

Book Four of The War Planners Series
The Elephant Game

By Andrew Watts

Thanks for reading Book 4 of The War Planners series! Each of the War Planners books fits into a larger series.  A hypothetical world war between the two great military superpowers of the 21st century.  A rising China and the United States.  

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 readers like you.  I hope you enjoy the books!  

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

The War Planners BOOK #4: 
IDEAS & Technology


The Elephant Game features a Zumwalt-class destroyer, The USS Michael Monsoor.  While the Navy has reduced the number of these stealthy ships to three, they are being outfitted with some impressive capabilities (Defense News).  This includes laser weapons and the latest missiles. (Military Aerospace Electronics)


This one I have personal experience with...

Landing a helicopter on a ship at sea is tough.  It's much tougher on smaller vessels and in rougher seas.

This video is of a Lynx helicopter from the Royal Danish Navy, landing on one of their ships.  This is what expert naval helicopter pilots deal with around the world, and I don't think I've seen another video that captures the experience so well.  (Note: it's even more difficult at night.)


One of the things I write about in my War Planners Series is the use of shipping containers and container ships as a way to transport troops and increase Chinese naval capability.  Here is my reasoning:

  1. Warships are increasingly expensive and take a lot longer to make than they used to, mostly because of the advanced technology being built into them
  2. Merchant/container ships are plentiful and (relatively) cheap compared to warships
  3. Missile and radar technology can be modified and modularized, and placed onto these container ships
  4. China has access to a very large fleet of container ships

Arming Chinese container ships and using them as a supplement to their Navy would allow for a cost-effective and speedy way to overwhelm the US Navy and its allies.  The distribution of warfighting capability would make targeting more of a challenge.  The increased ship-to-ship and surface to air missile capacity of merchants would be a big advantage in modern blue-water conflict.  

But most important are the production speed and cost advantages.  Wars never go as quick as expected.  When the first year of fighting is complete, and many of the long-production-lead-time ships are sunk, modern navies will need effective replacements, and fast.

Turning container ships into warships might be a solution.   


"The same state-owned companies that dominate China’s commercial shipbuilding industry are also major players in the military space."  -Article on Chinese navy advancement and shipbuilding 

Article on Chinese new long-range ICBMs being designed to fire from containers on merchants

Article on the idea of using "ready-to-go missile containers" on a variety of ships.  (This was meant as a way for the US Navy to bolster its warfighting capability.)

TOPSHOT - Chinese police officers watch a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province on March 8, 2018. China's trade surplus with the United States narrowed for a second month in a row in February, dropping to 21 billion USD, official data showed on March 8, amid rising trade tensions with the Trump administration. / AFP PHOTO / - / China OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)


The newest American aircraft carrier has some amazing new technology.  Most notably, the EMALS electromagnetic launch and recovery system.  I know, I's gotten a lot of bad press over the delays in its ability to do what it's supposed to.  But just about every new complex weapons system has those issues.  My hope is that they resolve those issues soon.

In the long run, being able to launch and recover more aircraft, faster, will be a big advantage over other carriers.

I don't know how valuable aircraft carriers would be in a war between two modern superpowers.  They would have a huge bullseye on their flight deck/hull.  But assuming they could protect themselves, the USS Ford has some amazing stats:

  • Cost: $12.9 Billion 
  • Crew: 4500 (includes the air wing, and is ~700 fewer than a typical carrier)
  • 90,000 tons 
  • 10 million feet of electrical cable, 4 million pounds of weld metal used to build the ship
  • aircraft: 75
  • speed: 30+ knots (faster than her escorts, that's for  sure...)
  • propulsion: Two nuclear reactors, four shafts

Her first operational deployment is supposed to be in 2021.  You can see a National Geographic video on the carrier here



When the Chinese military launches a surprise attack on the United States, the world is thrown into chaos.

The Manning family is spread out over the globe, each doing their part to defend America.

With the Chinese fleet advancing, Admiral Manning commands the USS FORD carrier strike group near Midway. CIA operative Chase Manning is sent home to the US to fight a lethal unit of Chinese special forces. LCDR Victoria Manning hunts submarines off the coast of Guam. And intelligence analyst David Manning tries to decipher Chinese plans.

But President Cheng Jinshan and his deadly operative Lena Chou have set their plans in motion. A gargantuan Chinese fleet, with new cutting-edge technology, is making its way towards the American forces. And as the two superpowers collide, it will take skill, courage, and cunning to win the day.

Read Now HERE

Thanks for reading!

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, and I'll do my best to keep quality work flowing.  Thanks and take care!

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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.