Category Archives: armor

Hidden Treasure

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It can be found in the most unlikely of places.  This haul of pure naval gold came from the little book library that I found next to the gift shop aboard USS Midway in my sojourn to San Diego for the West Conference.  I saw a sign for “book sale”, which, except for “free ammo”, is most likely to make me stop every time.  I was allowed to go into the spaces that had the books for sale, and found this’n.  I decided to have a little fun with the docent who was running the sale.  When I asked “How much?”, he told me “Ten dollars.”  I worked up my most indignant expression, and said “TEN DOLLARS!  That’s highway robbery!  I won’t pay it!” at the same time I slipped a twenty to his elderly assistant, and gave him a wink.   He was a bit flummoxed, but the old fella gave me a smile.  I asked that they keep the change as a donation, which they were truly grateful for.

Anyway, inside the large, musty-smelling book that had likely not been opened in decades, there is to be found a veritable treasure of naval history.  From the advertisements at the beginning pages from famous firms such as Thornycroft, Hawker-Siddeley, Vickers-Amstrong Ship Repair and Shipbuilding, Bofors, Decca Radars, Edo Sonar, etc, to the line drawings of nearly every class of major combatant in commission in 1964, the book is simply fascinating.

What is first noticeable is that a great percentage of the world’s warships in 1964 still consisted of American and British-built vessels from the Second World War and the years immediately preceding.   Former Royal Navy aircraft carriers were the centerpieces of the navies of India, Canada, France, Holland, Australia (star-crossed Melbourne was a Colossus-class CV) and even Argentina and Brazil.   US-built ships comprise major units of almost every Western Bloc navy in 1964.  The ubiquitous Fletchers, of which nearly one hundred were transferred,  served worldwide, and remained the most powerful units of many Western navies into the 1990s.   But there were other classes, destroyer escorts, patrol frigates, minesweepers, and an untold number of LSTs, LCTs, LCIs, Liberty and Victory ships, tankers, and auxiliaries of all descriptions, under the flags of their new owners.   Half a dozen Brooklyn-class light cruisers went south in the 1950s, to the South American navies of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.  (General Belgrano, sunk by a British torpedo in the Falklands War, was ex-USS Phoenix CL-46).  A surprising number of the pre-war Benson and Gleaves-class destroyers remained in naval inventories, including that of the United States Navy (35).   A large contingent of Balao and Gato-class diesel fleet subs also remained in service around the world, with images showing streamlined conning towers, and almost always sans the deck guns.

Nowhere is there a ship profile of a battleship.  By 1964, Britain had scrapped the King George Vs, and beautiful HMS Vanguard.   France had decommissioned Jean Bart, and though Richelieu was supposedly not decommissioned until 1967, she is not included.  The United States had disposed of the North Carolinas and the South Dakotas some years before, and only the four Iowas remained.  They are listed in the front of the US Navy section, but not as commissioned warships, and they are also not featured.   Turkey’s ancient Yavuz, the ex-German World War I battlecruiser Goeben, had not yet been scrapped (it would be in 1971), but apparently was awaiting disposal and not in commission.

The 1964-65 edition of Jane’s contains some really interesting pictures and facts. And definitely some oddities.

There is a launching photo for USS America (CV-66), and “artist’s conceptions” of the Brooke and Knox-class frigates, which were then rated as destroyer escorts.  In 1964, the largest warship in the Taiwanese Navy (Republic of China) was an ex-Japanese destroyer that had been re-armed with US 5″/38 open single mounts in the late 1950s.  The People’s Republic of China also had at least one ex-Japanese destroyer in service, along with the half-sisters to the ill-fated USS Panay, formerly USS Guam and USS Tutulia, which had been captured by the Japanese in 1941 and turned over to China at the end of the war.  The PRC also retained at least one river gunboat which had been built at the turn of the century.

Italy’s navy included two wartime-construction (1943) destroyers that had been badly damaged, repaired, and commissioned in the late 1940s.  The eye-catching feature of the photos of the San Giorgios is the Mk 38 5″/38 twin mountings of the type mounted on the US Sumners and Gearings.

A couple other oddities that I never would have known but for this book.  In the 1950s, West Germany salvaged one Type XXI and two Type XXIII U-boats, sunk in the Baltic in 1945, reconditioned them, and commissioned them.  While the Type XXI was an experimentation platform, apparently the two Type XXIII boats (ex-U-2365 and U-2367) became operational boats.    The Israeli frigate Haifa had been a British wartime Hunt-class frigate, sold to the Egyptian Navy, and captured by Israeli forces in Haifa in the 1956 war.

The Indian Navy was made up largely of ex-Royal Navy warships, understandably enough.  But one in 1964 was particularly significant.  The Indian light cruiser Delhi had been HMS Achilles, famous for its role as a unit of Commodore Harwood’s squadron in chasing the German panzerschiff KMS Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate in December, 1939.

There is much more contained in the pages of this old and forgotten edition.  This book is an absolute treasure trove of naval history.   And was a most unexpected find.    I have unleashed my inner geek!

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A US-Japan Littoral Combat Ship Design?

The Diplomat has the story.  The possibility is certainly intriguing.  One can assume rather confidently that Japanese naval engineers are somewhat less enamored of “revolutionary”, “transformational”, and “game-changing” as we seem to be here at NAVSEA.  Japanese ship designs, particularly in smaller units, have always been excellent.  Fast, sturdy, powerful units for their size.

…analysts contend that the trimaran would likely be a lighter variant of the U.S. Navy’s 3,000-tonne littoral combat ship (LCS), a platform designed primarily for missions in shallow coastal waters.

According to reports in Japanese media, the high-speed J-LCS would give the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) the ability to quickly intervene during incursions by Chinese vessels near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets and other contested areas of the East China Sea. Chinese analysts speculate that the J-LCS could be intended as a counter to the PLA Navy’s (PLAN) Type 056 corvettes and Type 022 fast-attack boats, two types of vessels that could be deployed to the region should relations continue to deteriorate. Furthermore, early reports indicate that the slightly enlarged hull of the 1,000-tonne-plus vessels could accommodate SH-60K anti-submarine helicopters and MCH-101 airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) helicopters.

If Chinese analysts are correct, and I hope they are, it is possible we will see a smaller, better-armed, more lethal, less fragile, and significantly less expensive warship which will be suitable for combat in the littorals.  Our lack of “low-end” capability to handle missions ill-suited for AEGIS cruisers and destroyers, such as mixing it up with ASCM-armed frigates and fast-attack craft, is nothing short of alarming.  It would be of benefit to the US Navy to scrutinize the results of such a design, which at first blush sounds much closer to the “Streetfighter” concept than either current LCS design, and that of the Cyclone-class Patrol Cutters.

It sure as hell would be an improvement over current designs.  Especially if the “joint” US-Japanese LCS actually shipped the weapons systems and capabilities required and didn’t stake success on as-yet undeveloped “modules” whose feasibility has come increasingly into question.

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Disastrously Delusional- Kerry on “Meet the Press”

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The events of this week in the Ukraine, particularly Russia’s de facto occupation of the Crimea, have highlighted the shambles that is US foreign policy.  Aside from revealing the complete impotence of NATO, the situation which has evolved in the last 72 hours has brought to the fore the contrast between the Machiavellian power-broker realism of Putin/Lavrov and the naive and feckless bumbling of Obama and SecState John Kerry.

To the list of foreign policy disasters that include the Cairo speech, the West Point speech, cut and run in Iraq, a stunted “surge” in AFG, the “Arab Spring” debacle, leading “from behind” in Libya, the Benghazi attack and cover-up, supporting Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, being caught bluffing with the “red line” nonsense in Syria, selling out our Israeli allies to make a deal virtually guaranteeing a nuclear Iran, we have the crowning fiasco, and likely the most dangerous in long-term impact for the United States and the world.

Kerry’s appearance on “Meet the Press” today reveals just how misguided and dangerously naive the arrogant amateur buffoons are who are careening our ship of state onto the shoals at flank speed.

This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext. It’s really 19th-century behavior in the 21st century, and there’s no way to start with that if Russia persists in this, that the G8 countries are going to reassemble in Sochi. That’s a starter. But there’s much more than that.

Is he kidding?  Power politics was centuries old when Machiavelli defined it in his works in the 1530s.  Power politics has dominated every century since, including the 20th.  In fact, there is virtually no reason to suddenly embrace some notion of “21st Century” statecraft that is any different from that of the previous five centuries, since the emergence of modern nation-states.  That Kerry and Obama think otherwise, and think the rest of the world behaves accordingly, is the height of hubris.  Treating the world as you wish it to be rather than how it exists is simply bankrupt intellectual foolishness.  But there’s more.

And we hope, President Obama hopes that President Putin will turn in the direction that is available to him to work with all of us in a way that creates stability in Ukraine. This does not have to be, and should not be, an East/West struggle.

There is no excuse whatever, other than a willful ignorance of history, to utter such a decidedly stupid and ill-informed comment publicly.  The central theme to the existence of European Russia is an eight-century long existential struggle between East and West.  The tragicomic foolishness of Hillary Clinton’s “reset button”, so contemptuously ridiculed by Foreign Minister Lavrov, was indicative of just how amateurish and incompetent the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and national security players were, and just how precious little they understood the art of statecraft.  Statements like the above reveal how little those players know about the history of the nations and peoples with which that statecraft requires them to interact.

There is worse to come later in the interview with David Gregory.   These two positively head-scratching pronouncements can rightfully make one wonder how tenuous this Administration’s grip on reality truly is:

David, the last thing anybody wants is a military option in this kind of a situation. We want a peaceful resolution through the normal processes of international relations.

President Putin is not operating from a place of strength here. Yanukovych was his supported president… President Putin is using force in a completely inappropriate manner that will invite the opprobrium of the world.

Such a bizarre pair of assertions is difficult to explain.  The several thousand Russian forces, which include mechanized infantry, attack aviation, and self-propelled artillery certainly seem to point to the notion that Vladimir Putin believed some semblance of a military solution was desired to ensure Russia maintained a friendly buffer between what Putin believes is a hostile West.   A buffer that incidentally includes the strategically vital naval base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and has a population demographic of approximately 60% ethnic Russians.

As for understanding a position of strength, one might also wonder just how Kerry would go about defining strength.  There is virtually nothing NATO can do militarily, should they even be willing; the United States, with shrinking defense budgets, is in the midst of gutting its military to pre-World War II levels.   The leverage the EU has over Russia is limited, despite Russia’s very significant economic problems.   Any “opprobrium”, or threats by the US, France, Canada, and the UK to suspend the G-8 Summit, is positively pittance to the Russians in comparison to the security of their strategically essential western neighbors, regions that have countless times stood between Russia and destruction at the hands of a conquering West. Russia has acted virtually unchallenged, presenting a fait accompli to the West that, despite assertions to the contrary, will not be undone.  If ever there was a position of power, Russia holds it right now in the Crimea, and will be asserting it anywhere and everywhere in the “near abroad” that Putin has long promised to secure.

The United States never has had all that much leverage to prevent Russia and a talented autocrat like Putin from leaning on their western border states, despite the fitful attempts by the US to draw some of those states into the Western sphere.  The invasions of Georgia and South Ossetia in 2008 proved that beyond a doubt.  But what is most disturbing about the current crisis is watching the US Secretary of State and the US President misread, misstep, and attempt to bluster their way through another confrontation with a geopolitical rival that is acting without restraint and without regard for the empty rhetoric from the Obama Administration.   The most fundamental lesson of statecraft is that of understanding power.  To that end, we have another object lesson in the use of that power.  There is no such thing as hard power, soft power, or “smart” power.  There is just power.  As it has since antiquity, power consists of the capability to enforce one’s will upon an adversary mixed with the willingness to use that capability.

Putin and Lavrov know that lesson well.  They are hard-bitten professionals who act as they believe necessary to promote Russian interests and improve economic and physical security.  Obama and Kerry are rank amateurs, blinded by an ideology that begets a naive and woefully unrealistic understanding of how the world works.  They have been outfoxed and outplayed yet again, seemingly willingly forfeiting US influence and credibility in pursuit of a badly-flawed world view in which influence is based upon hollow threats and ill-conceived public statements.  Any doubts regarding that assertion should be erased when one listens to the cognitive dissonance emanating from our Secretary of State as he describes the Crimean crisis in terms which have little to do with reality.   It is to weep.

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“You Have No Rights!”

It seems that Towson, Maryland police officers verbalized what many in Law Enforcement have shown with their behavior nationwide for the last several years.  A man filming police officers at a disturbance is threatened and assaulted by a police officer who declares at one point that the private citizen he is responsible for protecting and serving has no rights.   The local CBS affiliate has the story.

It is well past time to view these cases in isolation.  I don’t want to hear that.  Nor do I want to hear about how the police “fear for their safety”.  Or how they were somehow justified in threatening jail or declaring which freedoms are permitted.   That, in large dose or small, is tyranny, plain and simple.  Trying to explain it away is to stretch plausibility to the breaking point and beyond in order to find excuses for such behavior.

Of course, police officials are always “concerned” and vow to investigate the “possibility” of wrongdoing.  The assertions that additional training and possible disciplinary action is a solution is entirely in error.  This is not a matter of training but of attitude and sense of unbridled authority and entitlement.  Borne of not being accountable.  David Rocah of the ACLU is quite right.  It is very problematic, and it does reflect a great and growing sense of impunity.

No, the solution to this, eventually and unfortunately, is for police officers like this jackass to face the wrath of an armed populace willing to assert their liberties forcefully.  And if he survives the encounter, he should consider himself lucky.   Of course, it is no coincidence that the Governor of Maryland has all but disarmed the law-abiding.  He, and his police forces, get to decide which of your Constitutional liberties they would like you to have and when.  Which, it should be noted, this Administration desires to make the national model.

Tyranny around every corner, indeed.

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Capehart

Prior to World War II, the Army and Navy were relatively small services, and the percentages of married troops and sailors was quite small. But in the wake of World War II, and with the beginning of the Cold War, for the first time, America had a large standing Army and Navy. And the numbers of married soldiers and sailors, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the force, swelled. For the first time, housing for family members became a real issue for the force. Previously, posts had only a handful of quarters available on post for families. The rest were expected to find rental quarters off post. But the huge numbers of families overwhelmed available housing outside the gate of most posts.

In response, Congress first passed the Wherry housing program. Contractors would build quarters and lease them to the military for 40 years. But the program was considered a failure due to a lack of standard designs, cramped quarters, and poor quality control.

The next initiative was more successful. Named after its sponsor in the senate, Homer Capehart (R-IN), a series of standardized housing designs were produced. With Capehart housing, private contractors would build to the design provided by the government, and the government would retain ownership of the quarters, and provide, either through Public Works or contractor support, all maintenance and infrastructure support. In effect, the post commander would be the landlord. Before a post could receive funding for Capehart housing, the service had to assure the Congress that the installation was a permanent one, and would not be closed in the foreseeable future.

Between 1955 and 1964, nearly a quarter million Capehart housing units were built nationwide.

And if Capehart housing isn’t terribly attractive, it has been long lived.  Most installations that had Capehart housing still use it. Over the last 60 years, surely millions upon millions have called these cookie cutter houses home. Indeed, I spent five years in them.

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Seduced By Success; An Army Leadership Untrained for True War?

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Our friend at Op-For, the urbane and erudite sophisticate LTCOL P (supplying some cogent comments of his own), points us to a superb article in AFJ by Daniel L. Davis outlining the very real possibility that our immense advantages over our foes in the last two-plus decades has left many of our middle and senior leadership untested and overconfident in our warfighting capabilities.

Imagine one of today’s division commanders finding himself at the line of departure against a capable enemy with combined-arms formation. He spent his time as a lieutenant in Bosnia conducting “presence patrols” and other peacekeeping activities. He may have commanded a company in a peacetime, garrison environment. Then he commanded a battalion in the early years of Afghanistan when little of tactical movement took place. He commanded a brigade in the later stages of Iraq, sending units on patrols, night raids, and cordon-and-search operations; and training Iraq policemen or soldiers.

Not once in his career did an enemy formation threaten his flank. He never, even in training, hunkered in a dugout while enemy artillery destroyed one-quarter of his combat vehicles, and emerged to execute a hasty defense against the enemy assault force pouring over the hill.

Spot-on.  Such sentiment applies to ALL SERVICES.  Even in the midst of some pretty interesting days in Ramadi and Fallujah, I never bought into the idea that was being bandied about so casually that “there is no more complex decision-making paradigm for a combat leader than counterinsurgency operations”.   It was utter nonsense.  The decisions to be made, as the author points out, above the troops-in-contact level, were seldom risking success or failure either in their urgency or content.  We had in Iraq and in AFG the ability to largely intervene with air or ground fires as we desired, to engage and disengage almost at will, against an enemy that could never have the capability of truly seizing tactical initiative.  Defeat, from a standpoint of force survival, was never a possibility.  To borrow Belloc’s observations of Omdurman, “Whatever happens, we have got, close air support, and they have not”.

Having a brigade of BMP-laden infantry rolling up behind the fires of a Divisional Artillery Group, supported by MI-24s and SU-25s, which stand a very real chance of defeating (and destroying) not just your unit but all the adjacent ones, is infinitely more challenging than even our rather intense fights (April and November 2004) for Fallujah.  The speed and tactical acumen of the decision makers will be the difference between holding or breaking, winning and losing, living or dying.   The author points out some significant shortcomings in our current training paradigm, and brings us back to some fundamentals of how we train (or used to, at any rate) decision-makers to operate in the fog and uncertainty of combat.  Training and exercises, designed to stress and challenge:

At some of the Combat Maneuver Training Centers, Army forces do some good training. Some of the products and suggestions from Army Training and Doctrine Command are good on paper. For example, we often tout the “world class” opposing force that fights against U.S. formations, and features a thinking and free-fighting enemy. But I have seen many of these engagements, both in the field and in simulation, where the many good words are belied by the exercise. For example, in 2008 I took part in a simulation exercise in which the opposing forces were claimed to be representative of real world forces, yet the battalion-level forces were commanded by an inexperienced captain, and the computer constraints limited the enemy’s ability to engage.

Many may remember the famed “Millennium Challenge 2002” held just before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Retired Marine general Paul Van Riper, appointed to serve as opposing force commander, quit because the exercise was rigged. ”We were directed…to move air defenses so that the army and marine units could successfully land,” he said. ”We were simply directed to turn [air defense systems] off or move them… So it was scripted to be whatever the control group wanted it to be.” For the U.S. Army to be successful in battle against competent opponents, changes are necessary.

Field training exercises can be designed to replicate capable conventional forces that have the ability to inflict defeats on U.S. elements. Such training should require leaders at all levels to face simulated life and death situations, where traditional solutions don’t work, in much more trying environments than is currently the case. They should periodically be stressed to levels well above what we have actually faced in the past several decades. Scenarios, for example, at company and battalion level where a superior enemy force inflicts a mortal blow on some elements, requiring leaders and soldiers to improvise with whatever is at hand, in the presence of hardship and emotional stress.Simulation training for commanders and staffs up to Corps level should combine computer and physical exercises that subject the leaders to situations where the enemy does the unexpected, where key leaders or capabilities are suddenly lost (owing to enemy fire or efforts), yet they still have to function; where they face the unexpected loss of key communications equipment, yet still be forced to continue the operation.

Such exercises should not all be done in nicely compartmentalized training segments with tidy start and end times, and “reset” to prepare for the next sequence. Instead, some exercises should be held where there is a beginning time “in the box” and no pre-set start or end times until the end of a rotation two weeks or more later. In short, the training rotation should replicate the physical and emotional stress of actual combat operations in which there is no “pause” to rest and think about what happened.

I couldn’t agree more.  However, in a budget-crunch environment where significant funding is going toward advancing political and social agendas even within DoD, I am not at all sanguine about such training occurring.  Worse, rather than having leaders champion the need for it and constantly fight for training dollars, I fear that such a requirement will be dismissed as less than necessary, since we already have “the most professional, the best educated, the most capable force this country has ever sent into battle.”  While our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are indeed superb, and honed at the small unit level, our senior leadership is much less so.  What’s worse is that leaders who have no experience in battlefield command against a near-peer force have begun to assert that technological innovation makes such training superfluous.  That the nature of war has changed, and we are now in an era of “real-time strategy” and “global awareness”.   To steal a line from The Departed, there is deception, and there is self-deception.

Anyway, the Armed Forces Journal article is a thought-provoking read.

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Gun Owners are the Enemy to Ohio National Guard

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Seems that the 2nd Civil Support Team of the Ohio National Guard is participating in an exercise where the perpetrators of a chemical attack are posited to be “Second Amendment supporters”.    Media Trackers tells us the story.

Buckeye Firearms Association spokesman Chad Baus told Media Trackers that “it is a scary day indeed when law enforcement are being trained that Second Amendment advocates are the enemy,”

“The revelation of this information is appalling to me, and to all citizens of Ohio who are true conservatives and patriots, who don’t have guns for any other reason than that the Second Amendment gives them that right,” Portage County TEA Party Executive Director Tom Zawistowski said in a separate Media Trackers interview.

Not a new paradigm, of course.  Law-abiding citizens who are political opponents of the Obama-Holder secular-progressive statist left have been considered enemies all along.   Aside from the preposterous scenario, this is yet another of the Federal Government/Law Enforcement/Military leadership’s conditioning the American people to think of gun owners (and advocates of free speech, limited government, and due process) to be violent and unreasonable criminals, comprising threats that need to be dealt with in the harsh totalitarian measures so often favored by those far-left ideologues who despise our liberties so.  Of note is that, when similar training involved positing an environmental advocacy group committing an act of terror or violence, the apologies were profuse, and immediate.

Before I get the same hackneyed arguments that “this is just a training exercise”, the same weak reasoning was used to explain away the following:

  • The FBI report that white Veterans who believed in God, the Second Amendment, and limited government were a terrorist threat
  • The change in language from “Islamic extremists” to “violent extremists” was mere semantics and not for the purpose of labeling political opposition in the same language as America’s enemies
  • Increased militarization of police, including having them acquire heavy armored vehicles for use on American streets
  • When Barack Obama referred to political opposition when he talked of  “punishing our enemies”
  • The Joint Staff College posited a training scenario with the enemy being Tea Party activists

There have been myriad other instances where elements of the government have acted against law-abiding citizens as if they were criminals and threats to security, while often ignoring those who are sworn enemies of this country.

“You want to have it as realistic as possible, but you don’t want to single out an issue as emotional as that,” Eliason said.

Of course, the quote above would never be uttered by any official regarding demonizing of gun owners and advocates of our Second Amendment liberties.   Everyone knows that gun owners are evil.   That is to say, gun owners that didn’t vote for you.  Which is almost all of them.

It is telling that the spokesman for the Ohio National Guard was unwilling to talk.   Law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Constitutional liberties and see themselves portrayed as violent terrorists are due an explanation for such an outrage.

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SWAT-in’ Up in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts

Ma State Police MRAP

Ma State Police MRAP  2

I caught this little buggy on I-95 in Maryland, headed north, obviously.  (Those are MA State Police plates.)  And again, in CT, where I snapped these pictures through my windshield.

The Massachusetts State Police, it seems, have acquired at least one MRAP.  This, in a state where a law-abiding citizen is all but forbidden to own a gun, let alone carry one.  And, in many towns, if the Police Chief doesn’t feel you “need” one, then there is no “all but”, because you will not be issued a Firearms Identification Card, and denied firearm ownership.  But the State Cops?  They get armored vehicles made to stop a rocket-propelled grenade and 7.62 SLAP rounds.

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“Cadillac” Deval Patrick, the Massachusetts Governor, is super-tight with President Barack Obama.  They share skin color, and the same obsession with that skin color.  They share a socialist-communist progressive political viewpoint.  They also share the philosophy that political opponents are to be treated as enemies.  And now Patrick is ensuring his State Police force now has the weapons it needs to suppress the dangerous elements of the Massachusetts electorate who dare challenge the omnipotence of the state.

It is axiomatic that whatever capabilites Law Enforcement entities acquire, they will find a way to use them, even if that use is more than a little ex post facto justification for having such capability.  Some Barney Fife somewhere will insist upon it.   Hollywood’s portrayal notwithstanding, the number of Massachusetts State Police Officers killed in the line of duty totals just 41 in the century and a half since its founding in 1865.  The vast preponderance of these deaths in the line of duty have been accidental, with motorcycle accidents (13) accounting for more than twice the number killed by gunfire (6) in those 150 years.   That’s right, just SIX Massachusetts State Police Officers have been killed by gunfire in the line of duty.  Only three in the last 31 years.

But they now have MRAPs.  At least one.  And no, I don’t care in the slightest if DoD GAVE them to the State Police.  Operation and maintenance costs aside, there is no need for such vehicles to be in the possession of law enforcement of any kind in MA.  Give them to the National Guard, or foreign military sales.  Because in the hands of cops, under the rubric of “safety”, they will surely wind up on the streets of the Commonwealth, either in a wildly overblown response to an incident, or as a means of intimidation of the population, who could do little to nothing in response to such a capability.

Cadillac Deval wants to play with MRAPs?  I’d take up a collection to ship him and his Personal Security Detail, and that MRAP, to Helmand, or South Sudan, or Northern Nigeria, or Mali, so he can tool around in a place where his new toy is more appropriate.  He might even get to see if it can stop an RPG.  Or five.   Because that MRAP sure as hell doesn’t belong on the streets of cities and towns in Massachusetts.

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War Department Film: Landings On New Britain

UPDATE:  Okay fine.  Brad posted it already back in June.  Watch it again, anyway.

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As per SOP, I watched the really good movie that XBRAD posted earlier, and in looking at zenoswarbirdvideos.com, found this one.

My Father was an 18-year old Machinist Apprentice who made both landings shown in the film, Arawe on 15 December 1943, and Cape Gloucester on 26 December.    His LCT 172 was a 105 foot craft somewhat larger than an LCM-8.  (You see LCT 174 at some point in the video.)  Part of his responsibilities was to go in ahead of the assault and mark water depth on the landing beaches, then paddle back out to the LCT and make the landings themselves.

At Arawe, his LCT went to pick up the survivors of the Army cavalry company that attempted to go in by rubber boat (described at 28:30).  It was shot full of holes in the process.  And LCT 172 was close to destroyer Brownson (DD-518) at Gloucester when she was hit by Japanese aircraft and sunk.  (49:50 in the film.)

Anyway, on a cold and snowy Saturday afternoon, grab a cuppa and have a watch.  The film is pretty gritty, and hardly paints a romantic picture of the war in the South Pacific.

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26 December 1943, the End of “Lucky Scharnhorst” at the Battle of the North Cape

Schlachtschiff "Scharnhorst"

Seventy years ago today, two British naval task forces intercepted the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst as she attempted to attack two Murmansk-bound convoys in the frigid waters of the North Cape.  In a running fight with Royal Navy battleship HMS Duke of York, a heavy cruiser, three light cruisers, and nine destroyers, Scharnhorst was sunk with the loss of more than 1,900 crewmen.  The Battle of North Cape was fought in limited visibility, with Scharnhorst firing nearly blindly for much of the fight.  A fortuitous hit during an exchange with British cruisers earlier that morning had destroyed Scharnhorst’s radar mast.

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The Royal Navy, equipped with functional radar and “flashless” powder, inflicted increasingly more serious damage to Scharnhorst through the course of the battle.  Hits by 14-inch projectiles from Duke of York disabled Turret Anton, and eventually penetrated Scharnhorst’s armored belt.  A 14-inch hit on Scharnhorst amidships destroyed No.1 Boiler Room and reduced her speed to 20 knots.  Unable to outrun her pursuers, Scharnhorst’s end came soon after, as the British warships pounded her with gunfire from 4.7-inch, 6-inch, 8-inch, and 14-inch guns.

(c) David Cobb; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Illuminated under star shells fired by British cruisers, Scharnhorst fired back with her remaining 11-inch main guns and her secondary batteries.  But without radar and in fading visibility, few hits were scored and no more major damage inflicted.  Destroyers, including the Norwegian Stord, moved in close and struck Scharnhorst repeatedly with torpedoes.

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At approximately 1945, her sides stoved in and her topside a shambles, Scharnhorst rolled to starboard, and sank “with her propellers turning”.    Only 36 crewmen were rescued from the freezing waters.

Designed like the “panzerschiffe” before her to outrun what she could not outgun, Scharnhorst and her equally famous sister Gneisenau were fast, powerful ships.  When these two ships managed to break out into the Atlantic, they were perhaps the most successful of the Kriegsmarine’s commerce raiders.  Their speed and armor made them tough opponents for all but the most powerful battleships.

Scharnhorst was known as “Lucky Scharnhorst” for her numerous successful forays into British-controlled waters (including the Channel Dash), and her ability to return often from these forays with significant damage.  Due to be upgraded with six 15-inch guns in twin turrets in the place of her nine gun three-triple 11-inch battery, Scharnhorst was sunk before she could mount the new weapons.   These would have increased her lethality significantly.  In the end, though, the “lone wolf” raiders like Graf Spee, Bismarck, Scharnhorst, Tirpitz, and Gneisenau (heavily damaged and scuttled at Gdynia) did a small fraction of the damage inflicted by Donitz’s U-boat Wolf Packs.

There is a fitting final tribute to Scharnhorst, however.  It came from Admiral Fraser, RN, commanding the British force.  He told his gathered officers after the battle that, he hoped, “if any of you are ever called upon to lead a ship into action against an opponent many times superior, you will command your ship as gallantly as Scharnhorst was commanded today”.

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Rarely-seen Photographs from the Korean War

These were published in the Denver Post back in 2010, but are worth a look.   Many are incredibly poignant, and show the misery and hardship of what war was like in Korea, and what it would be like today.   It is important to note the conditions, the terrain, and the utter exhaustion of the men in many of the photographs, especially as we decide to debate the physical demands of combat arms.

Unforgotten War

Korean War

Korean War

Korean War

There are more than a hundred of them.  Worth a cup of coffee and half an hour to look at all of them.

H/T

Miss Robin

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6 October 1973, The Beginning of the Yom Kippur War

super shermans

Tomorrow is the Fortieth Anniversary of the beginning of the “Fourth Arab-Israeli War”, known for its auspicious holiday beginning as the Yom Kippur War, or Ramadan War.

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In the weeks leading up to the war, Egypt’s President Sadat had made overtures of warmer relations with the United States, to include the expulsion of nearly 22,000 Soviet “advisors”.  In addition, Egyptian military commanders carefully hid preparations for the offensive from Israeli observation.   Israel had made a planning assumption that any future conflict with Egypt would give the IDF 24-48 hours of warning, time to mobilize reserves and reposition forces for effective defense and counterattack.   As it happened, Israel would get fewer than 12 hours’ warning, and this through espionage/diplomatic channels, in the early morning hours of 6 October 1973.

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The Egyptian forces began to move against the east bank of the Suez canal at 1400 on the same day.  Breaching the sand wall with fire hoses, the lead elements of the Egyptian forces established bridgeheads within a few hours.  This was Operation Badr, which would last for the first five days of the war.   Operation Badr is worth reading about in detail, as the use of integrated fire support and anti-mechanized capabilities by the Egyptian Army nearly spelled disaster for Israel.

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Initially, the Bar Lev line, the western Israeli defenses of the Suez Canal, was lightly held by fewer than a thousand IDF soldiers and a handful of tanks, supported by a few 105mm, 155mm, and 175mm artillery batteries, and two forward airfields.   The opening preparation fires, a combination of direct fire, massed 152 and 130mm artillery, and ground attack fixed-wing air support, was brilliantly executed.  The Israeli airfields were put out of action, and the artillery batteries neutralized.  In addition, several air search and ground radars were destroyed, blinding the IDF to the movements of Egyptian ground and air units.  The Egyptians had also studied their foe, and had rightly guessed that the IDF would react with powerful air interdiction and armored counterattacks.

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In the preceding years, Egypt had invested heavily in air defense and anti-armor capabilities for the Army, increasing its air defense forces fourfold since 1967.  Now, that investment would pay massive dividends.  With a brilliantly-executed combined arms strike that had neutralized Israeli artillery and air defense systems, the Egyptian Second and Third Armies were able to move the SA-2, SA-3, and SA-6 missile systems forward to establish a layered air defense system over their forward ground units.  It was this integrated air defense which took a frightful toll of the Israeli Air Force, especially in the beginning days of the war.

IDF tank

On the ground, Egyptian tank killer teams roamed about setting ambushes for Israeli armor, employing AT-3 Sagger man-portable antitank missiles, where those teams destroyed more than 300 Israeli tanks and armored vehicles.   The IAF strikes and IDF armored counterattacks, staples of Israeli doctrine to defeat their Egyptian enemies, could only be executed at considerable risk and with expectations of heavy losses.

By 10 October, with losses far higher than their opponents, Israel was forced entirely to the defensive in the Sinai.  In the Golan Heights, a strike on 7 October by three Syrian armored brigades, supported by an Iraqi brigade, required a diversion of forces to counter the new threat.   In the Golan, Israeli fortunes were better.  Despite being badly outnumbered by the Syrian forces, and the bravery and skill exhibited by the Syrians, Israeli armored and mechanized units held, and in the Valley of Tears, all but destroyed Syrian offensive capability.   A great little book was written about the Golan fighting by the Commander of the 77th Battalion of the 7th Armored Brigade,  LtCol Avigdor Kahalani.   The Heights of Courage should be a read for all company and field grade officers.

A cease-fire was brokered on October 25th, 1973.  In the end, Israeli forces pushed the Egyptians back across most of the Sinai, and inflicted heavy losses.  But the IDF was only able to do so because of a massive influx of US aid, including mothballed F-4 Phantom fighters from Davis-Monthan  AFB, M-48 and M-60 tanks, and great quantities of munitions and logistical support.

Israel lost almost 3,000 killed and 11,000 wounded and captured in the 19 days of the Yom Kippur War.  The IDF had been ill-prepared for the Egyptian attack, both in its dispositions and its warfighting doctrine.  Since 1967, Israel had invested disproportionately in its vaunted Air Force and elite armored units, and had neglected infantry and artillery capabilities.   Israel had also committed the grave mistake of leaving planning assumptions about enemy capabilities and intent unquestioned, a mistake they would never make again.

The aftermath of the Yom Kippur War has been profound.  Egypt, once Israel’s most grave threat, reached a peace treaty in 1978, with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signing the Camp David Accords.  Egypt, with a brief pause for a Muslim Brotherhood-led government, has remained on relatively good terms with Israel, and has (with a current brief pause AFTER the overthrow of the MB by the Egyptian Army) maintained a close relationship with the United States.    Operation Badr, significantly, represented the first Arab victory over Israeli forces on any scale since Israel’s founding in 1948.  It represents also the birth of the modern Egyptian Army, which remains a capable and well-equipped force, especially in comparison to its Middle Eastern neighbors.

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Just six years removed from the swift and devastating victories of the 1967 Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War was a profound shock to Israel.   Nobody will ever know for sure how close Israel came to being destroyed, or whether Golda Meir would have been willing to use the nuclear weapons in her possession to prevent that destruction.   We never had to find out, thankfully.   But it all began in earnest forty years ago tomorrow.

Update-XBradTC: URR writes: Israel had also committed the grave mistake of leaving planning assumptions about enemy capabilities and intent unquestioned, a mistake they would never make again.  

I’d argue that is incorrect. Israel badly misunderstood Hezbollah’s capabilities and tactics in the 2006 war. Israel’s incursion into Lebanon was not nearly as successful as hoped, and casualties were far higher than anticipated. The Israeli Army had planned and equipped and trained for a war of maneuver against an armored force, and found itself in an urban fight against a dug in irregular force in urban areas.

As a historical matter, the Yom Kippur War had enormous impact on US Army doctrine. I highly recommend to my readers King of the Killing Zone, the story of the development of the M1 Abrams tank, which also has an outstanding thumbnail sketch of the development of the Army’s AirLand Battle Doctrine. Our Army intensely studied the 1973 war, sifting for lessons learned on how to fight against a larger enemy, especially when strategically surprised. One of the real surprises the operational analysis of this and several other wars was that the smaller army in a war more often than not wins. The question became, “Why?” The answer was agility. Far more than the mere physical agility, the ability to move forces, smaller forces often have the mental agility to operate faster. AirLand Battle doctrine’s focus on operational agility predated, and foreshadowed, Boyd’s OODA Loop theory.

Update Update-URR:

I almost included a blurb about the 2006 Lebanon incursion.   Hezbollah tactics may have surprised the senior Israeli leadership, but did not surprise ground commanders.  I had the privilege of an extended conversation with Israeli BG Shimon Neveh, whose study of the 2006 fighting is absolutely superb.  His take was one that should ring familiar.  This from an interview with Matt Matthews:

Now, the other idea was to really assault by about 90 company-sized columns from all directions. Some elements airborne, some coming from the sea and others infiltrating almost without armor. The idea was to move in small teams and identify, feed the intelligence
circles, exploit our advantage in the air in remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fixed-wing and helicopters. When we introduced this idea, after certain experiments in CENTCOM in 2003, I remember it was a special meeting of the General Staff, presided by Chief Ya’alon, and I didn’t say much then because the whole idea to develop was presented by the Northern Command (NORTHCOM) commander at that time, Beni Ganz, who was against it then – and of course he was against it now. So when Gal Hirsch tells him to mobilize, let’s review the plans and see what our options are because we’ve been running out of time, he totally brushed this aside. “Halutz, we don’t need that. It’s a waste of time.”

BG Neveh believed strongly that the IDF operational commanders knew what awaited them, and the reasons for the “asymmetry” were political rather than doctrinal.  Including, as he told me with no little disdain, the idea of using military force to prompt a political decision rather than for the destruction of the enemy.

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MechWarrior

MechWarrior was a popular game back in the Stone Age.

We’re inching our way toward it now.

http://www.darpa.mil/uploadedImages/Content/NewsEvents/Releases/2013/WWHarvardAug2013.jpg

Of the many risks dismounted Soldiers face in the field, one of the most common is injury from carrying their gear—often topping 100 pounds—for extended periods over rough terrain. Heavy loads increase the likelihood of musculoskeletal injury and also exacerbate fatigue, which contributes to both acute and chronic injury and impedes Soldiers’ physical and cognitive abilities to perform mission-oriented tasks. To help address these challenges, DARPA seeks performers for the last phase of its Warrior Web program.

Warrior Web aims to develop a soft, lightweight undersuit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve Soldiers’ ability to efficiently perform their missions. The garment would protect injury-prone areas and promote efficient and safe movement over a wide range of activities (walking, running, jumping, crawling, etc.). Comfortable, durable and washable, the garment would not interfere with body armor or other standard clothing and gear. DARPA seeks to create a working prototype that significantly boosts endurance, carrying capacity and overall Soldier effectiveness—all while using no more than 100 watts of power.

“Many of the individual technologies currently under development show real promise to reduce injury and fatigue and improve endurance,” said LTC Joseph Hitt, DARPA program manager for Warrior Web. “Now we’re aiming to combine them—and hopefully some new ones, too—into a single system that nearly every Soldier could wear and would provide decisive benefits under real-world conditions.”

The decreased mobility, shortened endurance, and much higher risk of injury imposed by the extraordinary loads today’s infantry must carry have made them far less effective, in the close fight than in the past. This is, of course, offset to some extent by the much greater survivability provided by the modern body armor, and by increases in their sensors and targeting capability.

The key hurdle for any such exoskeleton system is power. How to power the system without the battery or other source becoming an even greater burden, either directly on the soldier or simply on the logistical pipeline, has been the biggest challenge.

I think we’re a long, long way from seeing a practical system fielded throughout the force, but the progress made in the last decade is pretty impressive, for relatively modest sums of money.

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Ta-daaaa!

Lesson to parents of Scouts – if they don’t get it done during the summer, it might not happen for a while. In July 2012, I posted this. I didn’t think it would be a full year later for posting the “after” pics. For one, my son was senior patrol leader for a while, and that seemed to take all of his time and energy. Not only did he stall on his Eagle project, but he stalled on badgework, too. For another, paperwork sure likes to fall through the cracks. One of the adult leaders called me last fall with some great ideas for Rocketboy’s Eagle project, and I answered, “I thought you’d already seen his proposal!”

Anyway, I am proud of what my son has accomplished, with a lot of help. Take a look!

One more before shot-
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And the after-
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The star still looks wet.
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Someone else’s project on the right.
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The muffler was a rusty mess before.
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Many thanks to Home Depot for donating the consumables and giving us a discount on the hardware and to Kroger for donating sandwiches, snacks, and water. The two other Scouts working on their Eagle ranks put in a lot of sweat equity, so turnabout is fair play – Mr. RFH and Rocketboy helped on one’s project today, and we expect to help the other when it’s his turn.

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Last TOW Missile Fired In USMC Inventory

Apologizes if this makes some feel more age-ed.

Looks like HMLA-367 fired the last TOW in USMC inventory.

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The Concrete Battleship- Coast Artillery with a Pacific Twist

I’ve written several times about seacoast fortifications, primarily because of my interest in Fort Casey where I grew up. Most of the fortifications I’ve written about have been what are known as Endicott-period fortifications.

After the Spanish-American War of 1898, the US suddenly found itself in possession of significant overseas territories for the first time. As a result of the war, the Taft Board made technical suggestions for the improvement of Endicott period fortifications, and also made recommendations for the defense of those overseas territories, primarily the Philippines. And the focus of the seacoast defense of Philippines was Manila Bay. Several Endicott style forts were built to guard Manila Bay from any seaward assault. The most famous fortifications guarding Manila Bay are probably those on Corregidor, where GEN MacArthur retreated to from the Bataan Peninsula (which forms the northern boundary of the bay).

Just south of Corregidor, near the southern edge of the bay, was a small uninhabited islet, El Fraile Island.

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At just over 11 miles across, the mouth of Manila Bay was just wide enough that forts on both sides would be needed.

The Army thought El Fraile Island would be a nifty spot for a fort, situated as it was right at the chokepoint of the inlet. But as you can see from the picture above, it wasn’t exactly prime real estate.

So the Army made a pretty radical decision. They razed the island to just above the high water mark, and turned it into a concrete battleship. Really.

http://www.concretebattleship.org/Slideshow/exterior_spaces_1933/data/images/1936-38_ftdrum_prior_to_%2741_copy.jpg

A massive casemate was built, with walls 25-40 feet thick, and a roof up to 18 feet thick of reinforced concrete. Two turrets with two 14” rifles each were installed, with a lattice fire control tower similar to those aboard contemporary US Navy battleships. Interestingly, the turrets were not identical to those used on 14” gun armed battleships, but were designed specifically for this fort. Four casemated 6” guns, and a pair of 3” anti-aircraft guns rounded out the armament.  It was roughly 350 feet long, 144 feet wide, and the main deck rose 40 feet above high water.

Soon named Fort Drum, the battery had much of the features of a seagoing battleship. While it obviously didn’t have any propulsion, it did have an engine room, providing power to the guns and the garrison. There were crews quarters, officer staterooms, a fire control plot, facilities for small boats and resupply ships.

When the Japanese Army invaded the Philippines in World War II, the avoided directly assaulting Manila Bay. Instead, they landed well north, and fought their way toward the capital. One might argue that the presence of formidable defenses such as Fort Drum influenced that decision.*

As the Japanese pushed US and Filipino forces onto the Bataan Peninsula, and eventually onto Corregidor, Fort Drum came under fire from heavy siege guns. For all the shelling, only the most superficial damage was suffered. The surrender of Corregidor, and the lack of any resupply of fresh water, however, doomed Fort Drum. In May of 1942, the fort surrendered to Japanese forces. It should be noted that not a single member of the garrison had been killed, and only five wounded. Far more ghastly casualties would befall the 400 man garrison as POWs.  And before they shuffled off into captivity, they sabotaged the guns of the fort so the Japanese would not be able to use them. Instead, the Japanese would maintain only a small garrison on the fort, mostly as an early warning post.

When US forces attacked in 1945 to wrest control of Manila from Japan, reduction of Fort Drum was postponed until all other resistance in the region had been destroyed. Then,  a small raiding party was landed in a carefully planned assault, flooded the fort with a mixture of oil and gasoline via vents, and lit the mixture. The resulting fire incinerated the Japanese defenders, and gutted the fort from internal explosions. Since then, the ghostly hulk of the concrete battleship has stood abandoned, a guard at the mouth of Manila Bay.

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Starboard beam view of the battleship USS NEW JERSEY (BB-62) passing between CORREGIDOR (background) and FORT DRUM as she enters Manila Bay.

More details and a lot more photographs can be found here.

*It should be noted that at the time Fort Drum and other Endicott forts were erected, an over the shore amphibious invasion was seen as almost impossible, not so much for landing the troops, but for landing the follow on supplies they would need. By 1942, the state of the art had progressed enough that such landings, while challenging, were feasible.

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The Strange Life and Death of the Imperial Russian Battleship Perseviet

peresvietdwg

As the 19th Century drew to a close, Imperial Russia embarked on a naval building program in a desperate attempt to match the growing naval might of her European neighbors.   Regional rivalries with Britain (Afghanistan and Persia) and Austria-Hungary (Balkans), both of whom were embarking on significant naval expansion, spurred a flurry of shipbuilding for the Tsarist Navy.  Among the pre-Dreadnought battleships to join the Imperial Navy was Perseviet.  Displacing 13,300 tons, with a speed of 18 knots, she was built in St. Petersburg, launched in 1898, and commissioned in June, 1901.  Armed with four 10-inch/45 caliber M1891 naval rifles, she had a cruising radius of 3,100 nautical miles at ten knots.

Despite the attributes of speed and range, Perseviet quickly became obsolescent, as late German (of the Braunschweig-class ) and British pre-Dreadnoughts (Canopus, Duncan, and Formidable-classes) rapidly outclassed her in armament and matched her in speed and protection.  Nascent fire direction developments in those navies also extended main gun range well beyond the 10,000 yards of Perseviet’s capability.

When the Russo-Japanese War broke out in February of 1904, Perseviet was at Port Arthur.  Undamaged in the initial fight, Perseviet remained anchored at Port Arthur through the summer of 1904.   A number of her secondary and tertiary batteries were landed in a vain attempt to augment the defenses for the port and surrounding forts and positions.

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In August, the Pacific Squadron sortied to make a run for Vladivostok, but was met and roughly handled by the Japanese Battle Fleet at the Battle of the Yellow Sea.  The squadron returned to Port Arthur.  In the brief engagement, Perseviet was hit nearly 40 times and suffered 82 casualties, including 13 dead.    Throughout the autumn, Japanese and Russian ground forces fought for control of the key terrain around the port.  On 5 December 1904, Japanese forces took Hill 203, allowing them to site several 280mm siege guns in positions overlooking the anchorage.  The guns scored numerous hits on most of the major units, including Perseviet.  On 7 December 1904 her crew scuttled the damaged battleship in shallow water.

peresvietscuttled

Just after the new year, Port Arthur fell to the Japanese.  The Japanese eventually raised a number of Russian ships that had been sunk or scuttled in the port, including eight pre-dreadnought battleships, Perseviet among them.   Renamed Sagami in IJN service, the ship was extensively rebuilt at Yokosuka between 1905 and 1908.  Her main and secondary batteries were replaced, with Armstrong-Whitworth 12”/40 cal Mk 41 rifles, and 6”/45 cal QF guns, her boilers were replaced, and her fighting tops eliminated.

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With the outbreak of the First World War, erstwhile adversaries Japan and Russia found themselves as allies against the Central Powers.  With the Imperial Russian Navy desperate for ships to meet any threat to their western ports from the High Seas Fleet, Japan sold Sagami, now classified as a Coast Defense Ship, back to Russia in early 1916.  Re-named once again Perseviet, she was assigned to the Arctic Fleet in Murmansk/Archangelsk, but promptly ran aground.  Floated and repaired, Perseviet transited the Suez Canal in early January 1917.

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As Perseviet passed 10 nautical miles north of Port Said on 4 January, she struck at least two mines, and sank with the loss of 167 lives.  The mines had been laid by the German submarine U-73, a UE-1 minelaying type, which was operating in the Adriatic and Mediterranean from Pola.

Built by the Tsarist Navy to challenge the maritime power of Russia’s regional foes, Perseviet was damaged and scuttled following the disastrous defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (not to a European naval rival but an Asian one), which led to the Revolution of 1905, an event that nearly toppled Romanov Russia.   Captured by Japan, serving nearly a decade in a foreign navy, Perseviet’s return to the service of Nicholas II was brief, before she was sunk in the disastrous defeat of the First World War, which brought about the final collapse of the rule of the Romanovs and the advent of the Bolsheviks and their Soviet Russia.

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Tanks! Tanks everywhere! American Wartime Museum Open House

Every August the Americans in Wartime Museum hosts their annual open house weekend:

The Americans in Wartime Museum will hold its annual Open House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, August 17 and 18. The event will be held at at “The Tank Farm,” 13906 Aden Road in Nokesville, Virginia.

The Open House is a preview of our future Museum, which will be built in Prince William County, Virginia. To help us make our world-class Museum a reality, we are suggesting a minimum  $10 per adult donation for those attending the Open House. The donation is voluntary but will help us advance the Museum and its mission to honor the men and women who have served America during wartime from World War I to the present.

If you choose to register and pay the suggested donation online, stop by our Membership Tent when you arrive at the Open House. We’ll give you a bracelet and other items indicating your support for the event and the Museum.

The Open House will include a range of exciting and engaging activities for the entire family:

  •     An amazing array of vintage armored vehicles
  •     661st Tank Destroyer Battalion vets
  •     Demonstrations by the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company
  •     Displays and demonstrations by living history units
  •     Drawings for a chance to ride in one of our armored vehicles
  •     Veterans’ Roundtable
  •     Kids’ scavenger hunt
  •     Museum information and merchandise

In years past, when I had more free time, I posted several videos and photos from the open house events. Look, where else can you take your kids to see a Marine squad take out a bunker?  Dropping mortar rounds? With flamethrower? Supported by an M4?

These events help the museum towards their ultimate goal opening a 70-acre site in Dale City, Virginia (a convenient stop between the National Museum of the Marine Corps and the future National Museum of the Army that would be).

I plan to hang out there with my aide-de-camp on both days.

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OPFOR VISMOD waits patiently at NTC

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by | June 24, 2013 · 2:08 pm

Leadership and Responsibility on the Longest Day

failure-message

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.

The troops did not fail.  More than 140,000 Allied soldiers came ashore at Normandy, on this day 69 years ago.   The Second Front so long in the coming was established.  The cost was more than ten thousand casualties, of which approximately 4,000 were killed.  The same number that died in Iraq in eight years, died on the French coast in a single morning.   Tens of thousands more would die before Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally eleven months and one day later.

General Dwight Eisenhower’s famous note hearkens to a brand of leadership seemingly all but extinct today.   People in positions of great responsibility shouldering the burden for their decisions and everything that is done or fails to be done by those in their charge.    What difference does it make?   The difference between victory and defeat, liberty and subjugation, existence and extinction.

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The M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle in Syria

Craig wrote a couple posts on mounts for one of my favorite weapons, the M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle.  One post on The Thing, and one of a Japanese vehicle of similar provenance.

Entering service in the mid-1950s, the M40 was an infantry weapon, not an artillery piece. It was replaced in the 1970s by the TOW missile system. But while it was in service, it was in the anti-tank platoon of the infantry battalion, giving the infantry at least a fighting chance against enemy armor. In addition to US service, the M40 was used by quite a few foreign nations, and even produced by a few. In fact, it’s still in production by Iran.

As it happens, historically, the anti-tank platoons of infantry battalions have tended to engage a lot of non-tank targets, primarily bunkers and machine gun positions.  And as it turns out, it still does that job pretty well. Early on in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it occurred to me that digging some M40s out of storage would be a nice idea, saving the cost of shooting TOW missiles into those type targets. Of course, the US has such a supply of TOW missiles, there was no real need to.

But a curious thing has happened.  Somehow, the FSA, that is, the rebel forces against Sryian Assad loyalists, have come into possession of at least some M40s, and according to this report from Wired magazine, it’s quickly becoming the direct fire support weapon of choice.

 

Watch enough YouTube videos of the fighting in Syria, and you’ll start to notice it: a long-tubed gun, mounted on the back of either a jeep or large, fast pickup. Usually it’s blasting bunkers, blockhouses, fortified positions, or places where snipers are hiding. It even goes after tanks. And whenever it fires, the gun seems to kick up way more hell behind it than what it sends out the barrel’s front end. It’s the M40 106mm recoilless rifle, an American-made, Vietnam-vintage weapon that got dropped from the Army and Marine inventory back during the early 1970s. Until recently, the 106mm hadn’t seen much action in the irregular wars that have swept the globe. Then M40s somehow came into the hands of rebels in Libya and Syria. Suddenly, the 106mm – light, cheap, easily transportable, simple to operate, and packing a punch all out of proportion to its modest size — has emerged as a possible Great Asymmetric Weapon of the Day.

Although the U.S. military no longer officially uses the M40, they still keep some around. A few found their way to Afghanistan where they were put to use by certain Special Forces units. The Danish and Australian armies, which acquired them from the U.S. decades ago under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, used them extensively during their ground operations there.

In Libya, the M40 was used primarily in urban warfare, killing tanks and fortified positions. How exactly it found its way into the hands of the rebels there is a bit of a mystery. The M40s showed up in Libya along with thousands of brand new Belgian FN rifles, apparently from Western arsenals. That lead many to suspect they were supplied by Western intelligence. The M40s currently being seen in Syria might be coming either from the same sources that supplied the Libyan rebels or even from the Libyans themselves.

When it comes to the rebellion in Syria, our personal view is “can’t they both lose?” 

But we admit to having a wee bit of pleasure of seeing a classic warhorse like the M40 still in the fight.

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Exploring the Jutland Wrecks

A very good documentary on a diving expedition to try and explain the loss of battle cruisers Invincible, Indefatigable, Queen Mary, and armored cruiser Defence at Jutland on 31 May 1916.   There has been much written about the fragility of Jackie Fisher’s battle cruisers, his fast “cats”, where at Jutland the Royal Navy suffered devastating explosions from relatively little damage, while their High Seas Fleet counterparts absorbed frightful punishment but still managed to limp home to the Jade.

A myth surrounding the loss of these vessels was that German shells slammed into the ammunition magazines, piercing the too-thin armored plate and detonating massive explosions in each which blew the large ships apart.   Far less publicized is the reputation of the Royal Navy and her sailors for flagrant disregard for safety in the handling of cordite propellant.   Cordite in open spaces, the failure to close flash doors between handling rooms and turrets, possibly in order to increase rates of fire of the main batteries, were common practices.  A good summation of the highly dangerous practices, and the foolhardy risks such practices entailed, is provided beginning around 36:00.

As an artilleryman, I have been responsible for burning powder countless times.  The flames from a football-sized powder bag will often burn three or four meters high, and produce intense heat.  (See video.)  And those bags are miniscule compared to the propellant charges of a medium or large naval gun.   Once exposed propellant had been ignited belowdecks on those vessels, there was nothing to stop it, nor any way for sailors to get away from it.

Twenty-five years after Jutland, almost to the day, the Royal Navy’s greatest warship, 42,000-ton battle cruiser HMS Hood, exploded and sank after a strike from Bismarck’s 15″ guns.  Like her sisters a generation earlier, she did not succumb to the detonation of a projectile magazine, but with the roaring furnace of propellant spelling her doom.

Worth the viewing.  And thinking about the importance of battle drills.  And the integrity of senior Officers.

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May 26th, 1940 Operation DYNAMO; The Evacuation of Dunkirk Begins

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As the Allied Dyle-Breda Plan collapsed under the pressure of the Wehrmacht’s Blitzkrieg, most of the British Expeditionary Force of more than 320,000 men fell back against the French coast around Calais and Dunkirk.   Germany’s Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) had been radically modified in early 1940 from a plan looking nearly identical to that of 1914, to one which included a decisive armored thrust through the Ardennes Forest that would break the Allied armies in two and trap the preponderance of Allied combat power in a pocket north of Paris.   The Blitzkrieg which began in 10 May 1940 had shattered the Dutch, Belgian, and French armies.

The Wehrmacht employment of auftragstaktik allowed German commanders at all levels to consistently defeat Allied tempo of decision-making, which led to countless occasions where German units slammed into French and British formations who were de-training or still in road march formation and unready for battle.   Speed, both in tactical mobility and command and control, was as decisive as any other single factor in the Battle of France.

Sixteen days into office, Prime Minister Winston Churchill had known since 15 May that the French were finished.   Despite attempts to reinforce his French allies, by 21 May the objective of the BEF was to conduct a fighting withdrawal to a Channel port, from where it might, if extremely fortunate and able to gain local air superiority, be evacuated back to Britain.

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Operation DYNAMO, which would include a massive commitment of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and thousands of small ships and craft, began on 26 May 1940.   With two French divisions holding against German pressure, British units began to move toward the beaches and piers, the ships and craft (in the surf line) which would shuttle them both to larger ships and to England itself.  That German pressure was not nearly as heavy as it might have been, thankfully for the British.  Reichsmarshall Goering had promised Hitler that his Luftwaffe would destroy the Allied evacuation efforts without having to risk von Küchler’s Panzer and Panzergrenadier units in coastal sand unsuitable for their deployment.

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In the end, German commanders convinced Hitler to launch concerted attacks on Dunkirk, but it would come too late.  Dunkirk was finally captured on 4 June 1940, but by that time, 198,000 British and 123,000 French troops had been evacuated.   The RAF had paid a heavy price for the furious defense of the skies over Operation DYNAMO, losing 177 precious fighter aircraft that had been jealously hoarded for the battle over the skies of England that was sure to come.   The Royal Navy lost six modern destroyers, and several hundred small craft.   Virtually all of the BEF’s heavy equipment, tanks and trucks, artillery pieces, and more than 70,000 tons of ammunition was left on the beach.  And nearly 15% of the BEF’s soldiers were dead, wounded, or prisoner.

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But the vast preponderance of British manpower had been saved.  German intelligence reports in preparation for SEELÖWE noted the toughness and high quality of the British Soldiers, including the Territorials.  Most of them were back safely on British soil, and the Wehrmacht would have to deal with them in the near future under far less favorable circumstances.  Those plucked from the Dunkirk docks and surf included the British Commander of II Corps, Lieutenant General Sir Alan Brooke, later Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and Major General Bernard Law Montgomery, in command of the 3rd Infantry Division.   Dunkirk had been a miracle indeed.  And the Germans would pay dearly for their mistake.

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Churchill’s admonition that “wars are not won by evacuations” not withstanding, the successful evacuation of the bulk of the BEF from Dunkirk allowed England to survive until the Soviet Union and the United States entered the war.   Lost on the 73 years since the evacuation of Dunkirk was the fact that there was a considerable body of opinion in Parliament that desired a negotiated peace with Germany.  With the loss of the BEF, such a body of opinion might have been strong enough to have blocked Churchill’s desires to fight Hitler to the bitter end.   DYNAMO signaled what Churchill told the British people, that “the Battle of France is over, the Battle of Britain is about to begin”.    Defending the Island Nation was the force evacuated from France.

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Final Hog Sortie in Europe

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The Cold War ended more than 20 years ago and things like this still make me realize just how much things have changed.

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – The U.S. Air Force launched the final A-10 Thunderbolt II tactical sortie in Europe at Spangdahlem AB May 14, 2013.
The airframe belongs to the 52nd Fighter Wing’s 81st Fighter Squadron, which inactivates in June.
“I’m proud to be a part of the last sortie,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Hogan, 81st director of operations and a pilot from today’s flight. “It’s definitely a sad day for the (81st) as we end 20 years of A-10 operations here. I’m just proud to take part in this historic event.”

The A-10 has been a Cold War icon in Europe for over 20 years and was originally deployed to stop the hordes of Soviet armor across the Fulda Gap in then West Germany.

I’d always pictured that operations would look something like this:

Speaking of Soviet Armor, English Russia has an interesting feature on the Armoured Repair Plant №61 in St. Petersburg.

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On a side note there’s, as of yet, there is no comment from DoD on whether or not the 81st Fighter Squadron will be reactivated and deployed to counter the “cat-tank” threat that has recently emerged in the Chicago loop (the vid was sent to me by a friend as I was working on this post. She works here.).

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Battle for Berlin, 1945

This week marks VE Day, commemorating the Victory in Europe over Hitler’s Third Reich.  The last and perhaps the most savage battle was for the German capital of Berlin.   This from the Battlefield series, which was aired weekly on Far East Network (“Forced Entertainment Network”) when I had an artillery battery in Okinawa in 1996.   The entire series is superb, and if you look, you can find most of them on line.  They are also available on DVD.   They contain a pretty good description of the higher tactical through the strategic picture, and have enough detail and technical stuff, but not too much.

Since the series was made, Russian archives have been explored more completely, and the number of Soviet casualties have been scaled up more than two-fold, from the 305,000 quoted in this episode, to nearly 700,000.   Note the ever-present use of artillery and mortars, rockets, and field guns, even in an urban environment.   The episode is 116 minutes, roughly the time one spends clicking on all of Mav’s aviation links and cool pictures and videos and stuff.   So get your Eastern Front geek on, and watch it.  You know you wanna.

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