Hot on the heels of his most recent fiction bestseller, Rainbow Six, comes this latest addition to Clancy's Hardware series (Submarine, Fighter Wing, etc.). This time, the man in the hat shows readers around the modern navy aircraft carrier. Part tutorial, part journal, with a short story thrown in for good measure, this is something of a Boy's Own album to be read and savored at leisure. Clancy's softball interview of the chief of naval operations, Admiral Jay Johnson, is a skimmer, but Clancy fans will relish much else in this heavily illustrated guide. There's a military officer rank table to help neophytes wade through the difficult navy ranks, which differ from those of the other services; a guide to carrier battle group departments and their mind-muddling acronyms; and gorgeous diagrams of such staples as the F-14D Tomcat fighter-bomber. The highlight is a journal recording events of August 1997, when Clancy and his researcher and project partner accompany the navy on an exercise modeled after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. From this vantage, Clancy reports on hair-raising games of chicken between ships and on the impact of e-mail on crew members' morale. Noting that, since the end of the Cold War, U.S. Navy surface forces have not had a serious enemy, Clancy candidly describes his own initial misgivings about U.S. naval capabilities. But what he sees while watching the exercise changes his mind: ""our surface Navy still has `the right stuff.' "" Designed for readers who agree wholeheartedly with that assessment, Carrier will be pure candy to the large corps of Clancy devotees. (Feb.) FYI: The broadcast on ABC of Clancy's new miniseries, Net Force, coincides with publication of this book.