Jane's Publishing Co., the London-based firm whose "Jane's Defence Weekly" printed classified photographs that are now the subject of espionage charges, produces a series of books that serve as semiofficial bibles for the military.

Starting with the first publication of Jane's Fighting Ships in 1898 by British journalist Fred T. Jane, the company has become the basic source for information on military hardware. Jane's now publishes 14 glossy yearbooks -- from "Jane's All the World's Aircraft" to "Jane's Weapon Systems" -- filled with photographs of military equipment and detailed technical specifications.

"As far as we are concerned, Jane's is our primary reference guide that we use in getting the most accurate information on navies throughout the world," said U.S. Navy Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Mark Neuhart.

Jane's gleans its information by examining public information and plans, and also through conversations with highly placed military sources around the globe.

"They've got very good sources," said Lt. Roger Still, another Navy spokesman. He said it was "not unique" for a military employe to work part-time for Jane's, as did Samuel Loring Morison, the civilian naval intelligence analyst charged with supplying classified photographs of a Soviet aircraft carrier to "Jane's Defence Weekly."

The company branched out into the news business in January with that weekly publication, which covers international defense organizations and industry, with a focus on intelligence and hardware.

Norman Polmar, for 10 years the U.S. editor of "Jane's Fighting Ships" and now editorial representative for its aircraft yearbook, said that whether Jane's uses classified information "depends on how you classify classifed information." He said the company "certainly" publishes information about American weapons that is officially classified.

"The U.S. government considers a lot more information classified than does the rest of the world," Polmar said.

"It's an easy source to quote," said James T. Bush, a retired U.S. Navy submarine captain who now works for the Center for Defense Information, which lobbies against excessive military expenditures. "If somebody asked me how deep could your submarine dive, I would say, 'Well, I can't say but you can look it up in Jane's.' "