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Kicking poon and taking names since March 2009

The Landing Craft Infantry

Faced with the challenge of mounting a cross channel invasion from England to France, the US and Britain realized that small landing craft like the famed Higgins boat would be enough to land the very first assault echelons, but the need to very rapidly build up forces on the far shore would require something more substantial. The ideal craft would lift a reinforced rifle company, be capable of berthing and feeding them for about 48 hours, and be able to land them directly upon the far shore.  The result was the Landing Craft Infantry (Large).

The basic hull was 158 feet long, with a beam of 23 feet. Power was provided by two “Quad Pack” Detroit Diesel engines driving two shafts with reversible pitch propellers.  The Quad Pack was an interesting engine design. No diesel engine of suitable size and power was in production, so Detroit Diesel took four of their existing 6-71 engines, and coupled them to a shared driveshaft. The resulting 1704 cubic inch displacement engine would be used in multiple ships. The LCI(L) had a top speed of about 16 knots, and could maintain 15 knots. At a cruising speed of 8-10 knots, the ship had a range of about 4000 nautical miles, allowing it to self deploy from the US to Britain or to the distance Pacific. While it could self deploy, it could not embark troops for such a voyage.

Nine hundred twenty three LCI(L)s would be built in ten US yards. Two hundred eleven were transferred to the Royal Navy.  Over the course of the program, the design of the deckhouse and the internal arrangements were changed as a result of feedback from the fleet. Originally, two ramps one either side of the bow were used to disembark troops on the beach. First flight ships also had a low, square conning tower. Later ships had a higher, rounded “castle” conning tower with better visibility, and the final batches of ships replaced the ramps with a single ramp through double doors on the bow. These ships also had a larger deckhouse, allowing an increase in troop berthing from 180 to 210.

Original low deckhouse.

Modified deckhouse.

Bow ramp and full deckhouse.

The basic ship was also modified for a variety of roles, such as Flotilla leader, and most famously, gunboats.  The gunboat conversions were so successful that a further 130 ships were built specifically as gunboats, and known as the Landing Craft Support (Large).

Almost immediatley after the war, virtually the entire fleet of LCIs was decommissioned and disposed of. Most were scrapped, though a few were sent to foreign navies or bought by private parties. Today, there are a handful still around, including one in California, and one in Portland, Oregon, undergoing restoration to serve as a museum ship. And one of the volunteers at that example has produced a 42 minute guided tour of LCI-713.

The ship belongs to the non-profit Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum. The next time I head up there, I’m definitely going to have to visit.

Oh, and as an added bonus, there’s an operational 78’ PT boat in Portland as well. But we’ll save that for another post.

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Filed under history, navy

Raytheon successfully demonstrates complex, integrated electronic warfare capabilities during prototype flight tests – Nov 19, 2014

Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN), in collaboration with the U.S. Navy, successfully demonstrated an end to end, first of its kind, integrated electronic attack system during flight tests at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in October.

via Raytheon successfully demonstrates complex, integrated electronic warfare capabilities during prototype flight tests – Nov 19, 2014.

For over 40 years, the premier US stand-off jammer has been the ALQ-99.  Of course, over time, it’s evolved somewhat. But it still has limitations, and is increasingly challenged to defeat newer threat radars.

And so, the NGJ, or Next Generation Jammer, has been in the works for some time.

You may have seen our post on the pending retirement of the EA-6B Prowler.  It and it’s replacement, the EA-18G Growler, currently carry the ALQ-99. Assuming development of the NGJ is successful, it will be integrated into the Growler.

Here’s an interesting little tidbit:

The advanced, first of its kind system consisted of an active electronically scanned array (AESA), an all-digital, open, scalable receiver and techniques generator and a self-powered pod mounted on the underside of a Gulfstream business jet.

When we see AESA mentioned, it’s usually discussing a radar. But, of course, since the point of NGJ is to jam radars, it makes sense to use a radar antenna, to some extent.  With an AESA, the jammer can electronically steer a beam of RF energy toward the threat emitter, instead of wasting power by transmitting in a wide sector.

H/T to Spill for finding the article.


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Amtracs in Action

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to ride in (and even occasionally drive) quite a few different armored vehicles. For the most part, riding in one is pretty much like another. Loud, fairly uncomfortable, and rather bumpy. One that I’ve always had a hankering for, but never achieved, was the USMC’s AAV-7A1 Amtrac.

The AAV-7 family has been in service since the early 1970s, and is descended from a series of amphibious tractors, or Landing Vehicle Tracked from World War II. They bring the unique capability of landing assault forces ashore from the sea. While several Army armored vehicles, such as the M113 were technically amphibious, they were only capable of swimming in calm waters such as lakes or slow moving rivers. Amtracs, on the other hand, are quite comfortable swimming in open water, and can handle surf as high as eight feet.

From the earliest days of armored infantry, the Army has always tried to tie one vehicle to one rifle squad.* For instance, in World War II, an Armored Infantry squad would all be mounted on one M3 halftrack. Similarly, the later M113 equipped units would have one rifle squad tied to one carrier.

Space is always at a premium on amphibious shipping. That is, there is never enough room for all the things the Marine commander embarked wants to carry. Since the capacity of an armored vehicle increases quite a bit for relatively modest increases in size, the Marines have always had a somewhat different philosophy toward how their troop units integrate with their armored personnel carriers. Rifle companies and battalions don’t own their own carriers. Instead, the amtrac battalion belongs to the division, who parcels out companies and platoons as needed to support the various infantry units.

Whereas an Army M113 platoon would have 4 carriers, and the three rifle squads of the platoon, a Marine amtrac platoon has 12 carriers, and their crews, but no infantry troops of their own.

Each AAV-7, in addition to its crew, can carry 18 Marines. Given that Marine rifle squads have 13 men, that means some creative task organization goes into loading each AAV. Each AAV has a driver, and a vehicle commander. The commander’s station also has a cupola armed with a .50cal machine gun and a Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. There is a third topside hatch for the troop commander as well.

In addition to the basic carrier, there are other versions built on the same basic hull, including a recovery vehicle version and a commanders version.

The fleet of vehicles has been upgraded over the years. Interestingly, the last round of upgrades saw much of its suspension and powertrain replaced with Bradley components.

The Marines have a fleet of about 1300 AAVs, in two active and one reserve battalions, as well as prepositioned in various theaters and war reserves. The AAV-7 is also in service with South Korea, Brazil, Italy, Taiwan, Chile, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela, and others. Argentina used 20 of its AAV-7s in the initial assault landings in the 1982 Falklands War, but they returned to Argentina before the British counterattack.

The AAV-7 was to have been replaced in Marine service by the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle beginning in 2013, but the cancellation of that program has left the Marines looking for a new, cheaper replacement, and struggling to keep the AAV-7 fleet operational for some time to come.


*With a few very minor exceptions that resulted in only very limited production.


Filed under marines

Yes, the RAF has a TARDIS.


The fine folks at Think Defense, always your go-to source for ISO container information, take a look at how the British are using ISO container shaped structures to provide work spaces and specialized storage.

The humble shipping container is adaptable to many roles. Sure, there’s the simplest, storage. Our own Army has used the CONEX box for generations.

And of course, wired and plumbed, the box has been turned into the CHU, or Containerized Housing Unit that served as home for many troops in Iraq.

Containers can also be configured as workshops.

And that brings us to t he subject of our post. One workshop in British service is the Tactical Reconnaissance Deployable Imagery System.

TARDIS1 740x301 Military Pallets, Boxes and Containers   Part 3 Containers and Flat Racks


Shoulda painted it blue.

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Nothing says good law, like having to lie to get it passed.

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If you were to ask a variety of naval aviators from the past half century what their favorite plane is, you’d likely get a range of responses from the A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom through the F-14 Tomcat and the F/A-18 Hornet. But if you ask a blueshirt on the 7th month of a nine month deployment, he might just tell you his favorite plane is the C-2A Greyhound Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) plane. Why? Because that’s what delivers the mail!

Adapting the wings and engine of the E-2 Hawkeye to a new, roomy fuselage, the C-2 Greyhound was the first and only aircraft designed from the start for the COD mission. An initial batch of 17 produced in the 1960s were retired in the late 1980s. But the design was so sound that a second batch produced in the late 1980s soldiers on today, and will do so for at least another decade and a half. Carrying the mail is an important function, but only one of several for the Greyhound. Critical cargo such as spare parts, bringing passengers onboard, and ashore, and even supporting special operations are all in the mix.

Two squadrons operate the C-2, VRC-30 and VRC-40. Typically, each carrier air wing is supported by a two-plane detachment during its deployment.

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Oddball Aircraft

We’ll post a little later about one of the oddities of the EA-18G Growler squadrons, but in doing a touch of research, I was reminded of one of the more obscure aircraft in the Navy’s inventory right now, the MZ-3A.

“M” stands for multi-mission. The “Z” stands for lighter than air. Yes, the Navy operates a blimp.

File:Handlers prepare to launch the U.S. Navy MZ-3A manned airship for an orientation flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., on Nov. 6, 2013 131106-N-PO203-532.jpg

Basically the Navy owns a commercial off the shelf blimp, and has used it primarily for various research programs. It’s been an on-and-off affair, threatened with cancellation several times.

The Navy actually has a long history of operating blimps (and that’s a story for another time), in addition to dirigibles. But as best as I can tell, this is the Navy’s first blimp since 1962.

Sadly, it’s a GOCO program. That is, the aircraft is government owned, but contractor operated. Which is a shame. It would have been very cool for some young officer to earn his blimp wing.

Yes, wing.


Filed under navy, planes