Category Archives: army

AGF

Still working my way through the first of the Army Green Books. I’m still studying the Army Ground Forces, responsible for fielding the the forces that theater, army group, army and corps commanders would eventually employ to defeat Italy, Germany and Japan.

We tend to remember the massive Army at the end of World War II, with millions of combat-hardened men under arms, a highly mechanized force, with enough motor transport to move the entire force, and lavishly supported by excellent artillery and tactical air forces. But the state of the Army in 1939 was parlous. There were only about 100,000 men on active duty, and no unit larger than a regiment. Divisions were organized, but with the regiments of the divisions scattered among posts across the country, they had no tactical cohesion.  While many officers had served on division and corps staffs during World War I, few officers had any real experience commanding large formations. Further, the highly maneuverable forces of World War II were far more challenging to command.

Even before the Selective Service brought millions of men to the colors, Army officers had to envision their training and employment. For an able and ambitious officer, the paradigm shift from the sleepy days of peacetime routines of battalions and regiments to the employment of an army group of a million men or more was heady stuff. Some officers thrived and were immortalized in history, Bradley foremost among them. Many other officers were simply unable to make the mental transition to such a challenge and were shunted aside.

In the interwar period, the 1920s and 1930s, the tactical role of the Army was really little more than to keep a small force in existence. The upper echelons of the Army, however, had broader horizons. Almost from the day the Armistice was signed in 1918, intellectuals in the Army realized it was likely that another large scale conflagration would erupt on the continent. The whole emphasis of the institutional side of the Army would be on preparing for a massive mobilization of the population, inducting, training, equipping and fielding a massive army.

While this foresight does credit to the Army leadership, let’s not give them too much…

Ever since the days of Napoleon, the model for modern armies had been just that, the industrial scale mobilization of conscripted troops. From the American Civil War, to the Franco-German War of 1870, to the First World War and leading up to World War II, military staffs had devised plans to rapidly induct and train masses of men to field huge formations. As the era of the mass conscription army progressed, the military art and science progressed, and staffs refined the concept further and further. By World War II, it was no longer enough to simply issue men rifles and packs. Sophisticated training for specialized troops for motor transport, artillery, aviation and engineering was needed.

Our Army was faced with budgets in the interwar years that were almost inconceivably tiny. The Army was shunned by the citizenry to a degree that we today just cannot grasp. After the wholesale slaughter of World War I, there was great revulsion amongst the population, and virtually no support for any defense spending. Even in the 1930s, Roosevelt was far more comfortable supporting the Navy than the Army. The Army was on a starvation diet, sometimes almost literally. Troop units could barely afford rations for their men. But somehow, the Army managed to scrape together a tiny bit of money and invest it. And it invested it wisely, into its schools system. At a time when an officer could spend twenty years in the service and barely make Captain, and it was rare for a unit larger than a battalion to take the field, the Command and General Staff School was encouraging senior Captains and junior Majors to imagine themselves as being on the staffs, or even commanding, corps, armies and entire army groups. The Army also founded the Army Industrial College. If the time for mobilization came, the Army would somehow have to equip millions of men. The industrial mobilization of the First World War had been neither industrious nor really mobilized. The Army could ill afford another such disaster.   The AIC’s job was to teach officers what industry could and couldn’t do, and sketch out where the Army would turn to to find the myriad and massive supplies it would need in the next war. The AIC also worked with leaders of industry to give them an idea of what it would be like to have the Army as a customer, and the unique needs of the Army.

Finally, given the level of sophistication any massive conscript army would have, the Army had to prepare to train not just large troop units, but the incredible numbers of soldiers in those specialized fields such as logistics and maintenance. Long before the schools were built for them, even before the idea for a draft was proposed, lesson plans and courses of instruction for hundreds of military specialties had to be devised, and then constantly revised to reflect advances in technology and equipment.

Possibly the most incredible feature of this great intellectual endeavor was just how small it was. General Headquarters, or GHQ, the staff responsible for training of troop units after the draft was enacted, was less than 100 officers, and yet was set to oversee the training of almost a hundred divisions, hundreds of separate tank, tank destroyer, artillery, and anti-aircraft battalions, as well as a plethora of other specialized units.

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Continental Air Defense

As the Cold War started heating up in the late 1940s and early 1950s, particularly after the USSR detonated its first atom bomb in 1949, the great fear was that fleets of Soviet bombers would attack the US.  The opacity of the USSR meant we had no real idea of the size of the Soviet bomber fleet. At a minimum, we knew they were equipped with a cline of the B-29, known as the Tupolev Tu-4 “Bull.” As we advanced our own bomber designs, it was sensible to presume the Soviets were likewise building more advanced designs.

The challenge of defending the airspace of the US lead to two massive defense programs, one Air Force and the other Army.

The Air Force spent billions forming and equipping the Air Defense Command, and later integrating it with the Royal Canadian Air Force as the North American Air Defense Command. Why Canada? The shortest, most logical route for any Soviet bomber attack against the US would be by flying over the arctic and through Canada’s airspace.

ADC, and later NORAD had a network of radar stations to detect any incoming attack, air defense sector control stations to direct interceptions, and widespread fighter interceptor bases from which to attack the Soviet bombers. Plus, of course, hundreds of interceptors to actually do the attacking.

But US experience in World War II had clearly shown that no matter how determined any fighter attacks were, at least some bombers would penetrate to the target area. Clearly, some form of terminal defense was needed.

The Army first started by emplacing large numbers of anti-aircraft guns in rings around major US cities. But WWII had also clearly shown that even the best anti-aircraft guns had low probabilities of killing a target. In the age where only one bomber had to reach a target, something better was needed. The advent of jet propulsion would also mean bombers would soon be flying far above the range of any conceivable gun.

The Army had actually began to explore the possibility of using guided missiles for air defense as early as 1944. The V-1 buzz bomb attacks were bad enough. But the frustration at having no defense against the V-2 ballistic missiles lead the Army to consider the possibility of using missiles as a defense. Alas, it was beyond the state of the art at that time, but the germ of an idea was planted. The need for improved terminal defense in the US lead the Army to launch Project Nike.

After a development program at speeds that would stun any procurement official today, the first fruits of Project Nike lead to the Nike Ajax missile, which made its first intercept in 1951. By 1953, the missile was ready for deployment.

Nike Ajax

Nike Ajax Missile

The Nike Ajax was a two-stage guided missile fired from a rail launcher. The missile itself was 21 feet long, and the booster stage was 13 feet long. The booster was a solid fuel rocket, while the sustainer motor of the missile was liquid fueled, with kerosene as the fuel, and red-fuming nitric acid as the oxidizer.

Four launchers, and a Battery Control Section consisting of an Integrated Fire Control (IFC) van, and the three associated radars formed a battery.

The missile was guided by a command guidance system that consisted of three separate radars. First, a long rang target acquisition radar (cued by one of the Sector ADC commands) would detect the target. The acquisition radar would then hand off the contact the the Target Tracking Radar. When the target was in range, the battery commander would launch the missile. By way of a transponder in its tail, the Missile Tracking Radar tracked the Ajax missile. By comparing the positions of both the target and the missile, the IFC could develop an intercept solution, and then send steering commands to the missile by injecting them into the MTR signal. The missile would be detonated by command from the IFC.  The Nike Ajax had an unusual, and large, three part warhead, spread along the length of the missile body to help ensure target destruction. The Nike Ajax had a range of about 25 miles, which wasn’t bad for a first generation guided missile.

The Army originally intended the Nike Ajax system to be semi-mobile, but since the targets it would defend weren’t going to move, they redesigned the system to operate from fixed locations. Since major metropolitan areas are spread out, that meant that cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago would need several batteries to form a ring around them. Between 1953 and 1962, the Army built 300 Nike batteries scattered across the country, most near major metropolitan areas or Strategic Air Command bomber bases.

500px-Deployment_of_Nike_Missiles_Within_Continental_United_States

Nike Ajax Batteries in the US- Click to embiggen.

Each battery had three sites- The Control Site, the Launcher Site, and the Administration Site.

The Control Site housed the Integrated Fire Control van, and also housed the three radars of the battery. It was usually located on the highest ground available in the sector that was being covered. The Launcher Site was usually located within a mile or two of the Control Site. Originally, the Launcher Sites had been intended to store their missiles above ground, but the pressure to reduce the real estate footprint of the batteries lead to the Army building underground magazines to store the missiles. Each Launcher Site had four launchers, and an underground magazine holding twelve missiles. Missile assembly, checkout, maintenance and preparation would take place in the magazine, then a powered elevator would lift the missile above ground. It would then be transferred to the launcher rail, and ready to fire.  The Admin Site was home to the offices, motor pool, barracks and messing facilities for the battery. It was usually, but not always, co-located with the Control Site.

Each battery had just over 100 soldiers assigned. Batteries were assigned to a Defense Area responsible for the target area defended. These Defense Areas controlled anywhere from two to twenty-tw0 batteries. All these Defense Areas reported to the Army Air Defense Command or ARADCOM.

Nike Ajax was a remarkable achievement, and would have been fairly effective against Soviet Tu-4 and Tu-95 Bear bombers. But the missile had a short range, and if the Soviets started developing higher flying, supersonic bombers like the US was developing, something better would be needed. In response, Nike Hercules was developed.

Nike Hercules was intended from the start to be used from the same bases as Nike Ajax, with minimum modifications. The main improvement was not to the guidance systems, but to the missile itself. Hercules was a much larger, faster, and higher flying missile. It too was a two stage missile. It’s booster was essentially four Ajax boosters strapped together. Improvements in solid fuels meant the finicky liquid propellants could be disposed with and the sustainer motor of the Hercules was solid fueled. A maximum speed of almost Mach 4 gave the Hercules a range credited from about 85 miles to up to 100 miles. It could engage any existing or projected bomber, and it could even target short and medium range ballistic missiles.

Nike Hercules

Nike Hercules

The Hercules much longer range also meant fewer batteries were needed to cover a given target area. This meant the Army could relinquish expensive land in metro areas, and reduce the total number of soldiers dedicated to the air defense mission.

Most Nike Hercules used in the US were armed with a 20 kiloton nuclear warhead. Now, the idea of popping off a nuke twice the power of the one dropped on Hiroshima over Manhattan might not have been terribly appealing, but Army planners figured it beat the alternative of a 5 megaton nuke detonating right on Wall Street.

The Nike Hercules was also widely deployed overseas, particularly where the US had bomber and missile bases, such as in Germany, Greece, Turkey, Okinawa and Korea. Missiles overseas were armed either with the nuclear warhead or an 1100 pound conventional warhead.

The Nike Hercules system remained operational in the US continental air defense role until 1974 though a handful of sites were still employed along the eastern seaboard. By that time, the primary threat to the continental US was Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile systems. Further, the SALT I agreements categorized the Hercules as an anti-ballistic missile system.  Budget pressures in the post-Vietnam era also reduced the ability to provide what was increasingly a very limited capability.

Even as the Nike Hercules was being designed, the Army recognized that intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would become the primary threat to the US. Development began in 1959 on a missile system to counter that threat, the Nike Zeus.  Unlike the Hercules, the Nike Zeus used entirely new radars as well as a radically different missile.

Nike Zeus

Nike Zeus

As early as 1962, Zeus actually intercepted an ICBM target at Kwajalein Island in the Pacific. In spite of this impressive achievement, the program was plagued with technical difficulties and cost overruns. Development was scrapped in 1963, but technologies from the program were used in the development of the Sprint/Spartan Anti-Ballistic Missile program that was (very briefly) deployed in 1975.

As the Army got out of the continental air defense business, hundreds of sites were decommissioned and either turned over to the National Guard (in fact, many batteries had been operated by the Guard), other federal agencies, or to the states or cities.  San Francisco is home to the only preserved launch site, SF-88L, which is open for tours. The remains of other launch sites can be discovered with a little detective work.

Addendum: Since shooting live missiles over cities was generally frowned upon, and the launching equipment was of a fixed site design, crews would travel to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for live fire training. All Ajax missiles used a conventional warhead, and Hercules crews would live fire the conventional warhead version of the missile.

Addendum 2: For you sharp eyed observers out there, you probably noticed a similarity between the Nike Ajax and the Soviet SA-2 Guideline missile system. They were in fact contemporary systems, and used similar configurations and guidance techniques. The similarity between them isn’t so much an example of espionage leading to reverse engineering, but of the state of the art leading separate groups of engineers to propose similar concepts to solve a given problem. But where the Ajax system was withdrawn from service fairly quickly, and replaced by the Hercules, the Guideline can still be found in service in modified form in some former Soviet client states. Modest improvements in the missile itself and more radical changes to the radars supporting the system kept the Guideline viable as a mid-range, mid- to high-altitude anti-aircraft system.

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Video Twofer

The first one is relatively short. Some old time (1964) footage of F-4B’s and C’s from McDonnell.

Next up, Clark Gable does a bit of World War II propaganda. Gable served as a gunner in the 8th Air Force. Yes, he flew missions. While Jimmy Stewart served as a pilot in the Mighty Eighth, Gable was mostly there as a recruiting tool, convincing young men to volunteer to serve as aerial gunners.

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The Evolution of Doctrine

Earlier this week, before family obligations tore me away, I read the Army’s newest capstone doctrine publication, ADP 3.0, Unified Land Operations.  ULO clearly builds upon previous doctrine, and shows the influence of the last 10 years of war on the Army’s consensus view on how it will fight wars.

First, a note on OpSec. ALL the information I discuss is in the public domain. I don’t have any access to classified information, and if I did, I sure as heck wouldn’t share it with you. Further, I tend to shy away from more detailed information regarding Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) that, while in the public domain, may best be left less visible. Discussing the broad strokes of the Army’s warfighting doctrine, however, is a pretty safe topic.

When the Army in 1982 published AirLand Battle  (FM 100-5, Operations) as its capstone doctrine, it was two things. It was a fairly specific “how to” manual for brigade, division, corps, and higher officers detailing the methods the Army would use to defeat the Warsaw Pact in World War III in Western Europe. It was also, like the contemporaneous Maritime Strategy, a political document, which articulated both to a domestic political audience and the the USSR the commitment of the Army to the defense of Western Europe. The fact that the 1982 version of ALB placed heavy emphasis on nuclear fires was a clear signal to the Soviets that the US would not let Europe go without a fight. After the Carter era hollow force, the Army was making a loud statement that we were back and meant business. 

Based on feedback from the field, and later, after operations such as Operation Just Cause in Panama, and Desert Shield/Desert Storm in the Gulf, later versions of FM 100-5 reflected that the Army would likely be faced with a great number of what were then known as Operations Other Than War or OOTW. Serving as peacekeepers in the Balkans, operations in Somalia, disaster relief, training partner nations, and a whole host of other jobs were at hand. Previously, commanders pretty much had to make up their responses to these missions on the fly. With the updates, the Army finally began to give guidance and an intellectual framework to commanders faced with these missions.  Like the title of this post says, doctrine was evolving.

The Rumsfeld Revolution in Military Affairs also came to have an impact on doctrine. The underlying concept was that networked forces could operate over larger areas, with total information dominance, and using smaller forces. To some degree, that’s pretty plausible in a conventional force-on-force scenario. We haven’t much discussed John Boyd’s OODA loop hypothesis, but it certainly fits in with that world view.

But reality tends to intrude upon military theory. ADP 3.0 is a reflection of the reality of the last 10 years, and it is also something of a new approach to writing doctrine.

Where earlier doctrine publications were quite detailed, giving specific guidance on such things as synchronization of fires and maneuver, and tended to be quite lengthy publications, ADP 3.0 is, in fact, a 28 page pamphlet. It is little more than a statement of the Army’s mission, a description of how the Army is likely to fit into a larger command structure during operations, and a brief overview of the operational terms to provide a common intellectual framework.

Current doctrine describes four main mission sets for the Army:

  1. Attack
  2. Defense
  3. Stability Operations
  4. Defense Support of Civilian Authorities

ADP 3.0 recognizes that the Army will rarely be faced with a simple force-on-force scenario like that of Desert Storm. Deployed forces will face an entire spectrum of threats, from regular, uniformed, and well equipped mechanized forces, to guerrilla forces, to insurgents and transnational/non-state terrorist organizations, and communities and even entire countries with no civil authority. Forces will likely have to conduct attack, defense, and stability operations simultaneously across an entire theater of operations. Thus, the Army tells its commanders they will have to conduct both Combined Arms Maneuver (think traditional military action) and Wide Area Security (providing security to the population) at the same time.  A prime example of this would be the second Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. While the Army was conducting a full scale attack on Fallujah, it was also conduction defensive operations to prevent Al Qaeda attacks elsewhere, and providing security to the population elsewhere.

Unified Land Operations also recognizes that the Army won’t be going it alone. After the invasion of Grenada in 1983, there was a great deal of emphasis on “joint” operations- reducing the friction between the services when they operated together. Now, in addition to joint operations, an Army commander in the field will also have to work closely with the military and civilian authorities of our partner nations, as well as with civilian agencies of our own government such as the State Department, Treasury, and Department of Agriculture. Army commanders, used to deciding upon a course of action and giving orders, now have to build consensus with these partners, and strive to achieve a unity of purpose and ensure that all actions taken are harmonized to achieve an agreed upon goal. ADP 3.0 describes this environment, but recognizes that leaders will have to find their own solution to these problems, as each instance is unique.

Behind ADP 3.0, there are reference pamphlets which act somewhat like indexes to guide commanders and staff to the appropriate doctrinal publications that provide specifics of implementing these tasks and missions. Since the Army is highly unlikely to operate in a vacuum, these publications are often Joint Publications by DoD covering all services.

Currently, the Army has  a field manual for just about every organization, mission, and operational environment, and even a simple rifle company needs to have dozens of Field Manuals on hand. That doesn’t even get into the Technical Manuals that support equipment.

Under the Doctrine 2015 initiative, many of these FMs will be superseded. ADP 3.0 is the first of about 15 doctrinal pamphlets that will be circulated among the force. Each will also have a reference pamphlet that supports it. Behind that, the Army wants to go to a “wiki” system to provide the doctrinal TTPs that the end users can quickly reference, and more importantly, can quickly be updated to reflect the most recent lessons learned on the ground.

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Going Home!

US Forces – Iraq is posting dozens of photos on its (soon to be inactive) Flickr photostream, documenting in photos the withdrawal of US troops from the country.  Here’s some from COB Adder.

Bend and Reach

Caption: Bend and Reach – Soldiers with the 20th Engineer Brigade, Headquarters Company, unload duffel bags to be palletized on Contingency Operating Base Adder Oct. 26. Service members palletized their equipment and personal gear for their flight out of Iraq.

Bag Drag

Caption: Bag Drag – Spc. Jon Diaz (left) and Spc. William Currier, with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 8th Cavalry Regiment, carry equipment to get palletized on Contingency Operating Base Adder Oct. 27. Soldiers palletized their gear to prepare for their flight out of Iraq.

Palletized And Ready To Go

Caption: Palletized And Ready To Go – Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 8th Cavalry Regiment, load their equipment onto pallets on Contingency Operating Base Adder Oct. 26. The C-130 aircraft carries soldiers and their palletized equipment out of Iraq.

Loading Up

Caption: Loading Up – Service members with the 407th Air Expeditionary Group load cargo containers onto a C-130 aircraft on Contingency Operating Base Adder Oct. 26. These aircraft have ferried the bulk of U.S. service members redeploying. The aircraft and crew are kept busy during the drawdown of forces in Iraq.

At the Terminal

Caption: At the Terminal – Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 8th Cavalry Regiment, pass the time before their flight at a terminal on Contingency Operating Base Adder Oct. 26. Waiting service members have access to wireless Internet and a supply of cold water. The 3rd BCT, who deployed to Iraq to support Operation New Dawn in February, oversaw the closing of Garry Owen before coming to COB Adder to redeploy.

That wait at the Terminal is always the worst.   Agonizingly slow, even with internet access to kill time.

There’s another story line emerging on the withdrawal.  Army Times offered a good report today discussing dispositions of equipment in Iraq.

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Patron saints

Roamy here. For those who don’t know me all that well, I am Catholic. I started thinking about Xbrad’s birthday and St. Crispin’s day coming up and thought that a post on patron saints might not be too bad.

I hate to tell you this, XBrad, but St. Crispin was taken off the liturgical calendar during Vatican II, as there was insufficient evidence that he actually existed. The story goes that he and his twin Crispinian were from a noble Roman family and became missionaries in Gaul. There, they made shoes, which is why they are the patron saints of cobblers, as well as tanners and saddle makers. Like many of the missionaries before 313 AD, Crispin and Crispinian were martyred.

The patron saint of infantrymen is St. Maurice. He was the leader of the Theban Legion, a group of soldiers that had all converted to Christianity. They were ordered by the emperor Maximian to Gaul, to suppress the bagaudae, or French brigands. At the Roman outpost of Agaunum, they were ordered to make sacrifices to the Roman gods and the emperor, which they refused. They were martyred, and the town is now known as Saint-Maurice, in the Swiss canton of Valais. There is an Order of Saint Maurice, which is awarded by the National Infantry Association and the Chief of Infantry of the United States Army. Some famous members of the Order of St. Maurice are Gen. Matthew Ridgway, Gen. Colin Powell, Capt. Dale Dye, Gen. John Abizaid, Gen. Edward C. Meyer, CSM Basil L. Plumley, and Ross Perot.

I am familiar with St. Barbara, the patron saint of artillery, because she is also the patron saint of miners. The materials engineers shared a building with the mining engineers at Virginia Tech, and there was a display case with the story of St. Barbara. She was beheaded by her father for being a Christian, and her father was shortly thereafter struck by lightning. Because of that, she is invoked for protection from lightning, fire, explosions, and sudden death. The Order of Saint Barbara is a military honor society of the US for both the US Army and the US Marine Corps Artillery, including field artillery and Air Defense Artillery.

The patron saint for all armed forces is the Archangel Michael. By tradition, he is the field commander of the army of God. Revelation 12:7 says: “Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back,” where the dragon is Satan. The chapel on the arsenal here has daily Mass, and it is ended with what used to be a common prayer before Vatican II. “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil…”

No gun cameras in 1470, so they made do for their war pics.

There are many more patron saints out there. If I do another post, I’ll try to figure out why St. Philip Neri is the patron saint of Special Forces.

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Can I take one home? Just one?

A breathtaking sight…

Media day

Caption: Media Day – The 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, along with the 837th Transportation Battalion, hosted a media day with Republic of Korea
local television and print media at Pier 8, Pusan, Oct. 12. The U.S. Army Prepositioned Stock IV is receiving upgraded Bradley Fighting Vehicles as an ongoing effort to strengthen readiness across the peninsula.

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Knee deep in the mud… no really!

Preparing for a Rainy Day
Preparing for a Rainy Day

Caption: Soldiers from 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, recover a tractor trailer from a mire pit during the Vehicle Recovery Course Sept. 28, 2011, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The training is designed to challenge unit mechanics and prepare them for rainy season conditions in Afghanistan. (Courtesy of 125th Stryker Brigade Combat Team)

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MANPADS

You’ve probably seen the news reports of missiles missing in Libya. And you’re almost certainly familiar with the story of US Stinger shoulder fired missiles being supplied to the mujihadeen in Afghanistan during the Soviet War there. What you may not realize is just how long shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles have been around.

Less than 10 years after the Sidewinder missile entered service, someone had a bright idea. The Sidewinder was originally based on the 5” unguided rocket. What could be done with the smaller 2.75” rocket? As it turned out, quite a bit. Not that it was easy and quick, but a small rocket, a simple guidance system would eventually lead to the worlds first Man Portable Air Defense System or MANPADS, the FIM-43 Redeye.

300px-Redeye_Surface_to_Air_Missile_06

If you compare the Redeye to larger air defense systems, it’s not that impressive. But when you consider that it was the replacement for the quad .50cal mount, it comes off a bit better.  A quad .50 needed a pretty substantial truck to move around, as well as a crew of three or four. The Redeye, on the other hand, only had a two man crew (one man, in a pinch), and could easily move around the battlefield on a jeep or by hitching a ride on the vehicles of supported units. Heck, a paratrooper could jump with the thing.

It also had a better range than the quad .50 and a higher probability of kill or Pk.  It lacked the quad .50s utility for engaging ground targets, but given the massive size of the Soviet Frontal Aviation units facing the Army in Western Europe, that was a decidedly secondary consideration as far as Air Defense Artillery was concerned.

The missile itself was issued as a round of ammunition, stored and fired from a sealed tube. A reusable pistol grip firing device was attached to the tube, and the weapon was ready to fire.

Since the motor exhaust of a 70mm rocket would likely fry the face of the gunner, a small “starter” motor fired very, very briefly to kick the round out of the tube, with the main sustainer motor igniting when the missile was a few meters downrange.

The missile was not without its limitations. Its infrared seeker system was a lead sulfide system similar to early Sidewinder missiles, and like early Sidewinders, could only track the target airplane’s hot exhaust. This meant that Redeye gunners could only engage planes that were moving away from the gunner, most likely after having attacked our friendly unit. Without getting into the whole science of relative motion and kinematics, it also meant the practical engagement range suffered from geometric limitations.  It was also vulnerable to spoofing by high intensity flares and later “brick” infrared jammers.

Even with its limitations, it was an amazing feat to build such a missile as early as 1961, and eventually introduce it into widespread service by the late 1960s. Virtually every successful man portable system since then has closely followed the concept of the Redeye.  Indeed, very soon after the introduction of the Redeye into Army service, the Soviet SA-7 GRAIL near-clone entered service. The SA-7 was soon supplied to the North Vietnamese, and was a dire threat to US helicopters in Vietnam.

The US almost immediately started development of in improved model which eventually became the Stinger missile (we’ll write about that some other time). The Soviets built upon the success of their SA-7 with a variety of different systems, up to about the SA-24 system right now. IIRC, the series includes the SA-14, SA-16, SA-18 and SA-24.

We’re all familiar with the US supplying Stingers to the Mujihadeen. But the fact of the matter is, the majority of US supplied missiles were actually Redeye missiles (though a large number of Soviet made SA-7s were also supplied by the CIA).  We’ve all seen the terrific pounding our helicopters have put on Iraqi and Afghani insurgents. The Mujihadeen faced similar punishment from Soviet attack helicopters… right up until we supplied them with an air defense weapon that struck fear into the hearts of Soviet aviators.

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Closing Down Bases in Iraq

What do they say… there’s always a bigger fish? Well I guess there’s always a bigger cargo hauler:

Closing of a Base

Caption:  A Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck is being loaded onto a Heavy Equipment Transport assigned to the 129th Transportation Company on Sept. 12, 2011, at Forward Operating Base Marez. The 129th are Reserve Soldiers out of New Century, Kan., assigned to assist the 230th Sustainment Brigade’s Joint Task Force Hickory, to haul equipment out of closing Forward Operating Bases as part of the responsible withdraw of U.S. Forces by the Dec. 31 deadline.

While I’m certain some TB or other manual details loading instructions for HEMTTs on HETs, I’ve never had call to even ponder such a match.  In my day we reserved the HETs for the tracks.

Victory Base Complex personnel prepare for exit

Caption: A convoy of flat bed trucks carrying mine resistance ambush protected vehicles line up to get inspected at the redistribution property assistance team yard, Camp Liberty, Iraq, Oct. 11. (Photo by U.S. Army Capt. Kurt Rauschenberg)

Sort of reminds me of those last days at Fort Irwin at the end of an NTC rotation.

Victory Base Complex personnel prepare for exit

Caption: M997 humvee maxi-ambulances are loaded on flat bed trucks to be transported out of Iraq at the redistribution property assistance team yard, Camp Liberty, Iraq, Oct. 11. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Edward Daileg)

So at least one M997 went through the entire war with it’s green CARC paint semi-intact?

Convoy

Caption: Heavy Equipment Transports belonging to the 129th Transportation Company convoy down a highway on Sept. 13, 2011 in Iraq. The 129th are Reserve Soldiers out of New Century, Kan., assigned to assist the 230th Sustainment Brigade’s Joint Task Force Hickory, to haul equipment out of closing Forward Operating Bases as part of the responsible withdraw of U.S. Forces by the Dec. 31 deadline.

That’s a welcome sight. One that many predicted would not happen in an orderly, relatively peaceful, manner.

And unlike an NTC rotation, the equipment in the draw yard is not destined for the next maneuver unit rotation.  In this case the host nation picks up.  For better or worse.

Iraqi tankers tank

Caption: Iraqi tankers tank crewmen from 1st Company, 2nd Regiment, 34th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army take a few moments to rest after a day of M1A1 live-fire training at the Besmaya Combat Training Center, Sept. 27. The live- fire was a culminating exercise of the Maneuver Collective Training Course where the tankers practice platoon movement techniques in their various platoons to increase crew competency.

Let’s hope it is for the better.

- Craig.

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Artillery Evolutions: Pre-World War I US Field Artillery

Earlier when XBrad outlined the different types of cannons, he tasked me (Craig) to trace the history of the types.  Many of the calibers we see in use today date back to standardization decisions in the 1930s or even earlier.  X Brad lead into this a bit, discussing the history of the famous “105″ howitzer.  The 105mm M2 gun came from a requirement placed after analysis of World War I experiences.  Given that story line, I’ll pick the somewhat arbitrary start point of the weapons in the US Army inventory around 1914.

Fort Washington 1 Mar 08 168

3.2inch Field Gun, Model 1885-97

The Spanish-American War was in many ways a wake-up call for the Ordnance Department of the US Army.  The Army went to Cuba and the Philippines with an inventory which featured breechloading guns.  But such guns, like the 3.2-inch gun (above), 3.6-inch guns, 3.6-inch field mortars, or the lighter Hotchkiss mountain guns, had a poor showing against Krupp guns used by the Spanish.  At that time in history the world was trying to catch up with the benchmark set by the faster firing French 75mm Model 1897 gun.  But the French were not selling that marvel on the open market.    What gave it such an edge?  Well, sharp-eyed redlegs will notice the gun pictured above has no recoil mechanism.  So just like the old Civil War pieces, every time it was fired, the gun crew had to readjust the piece.  The French considered the recoil mechanism, along with the innovative breech block system, a state secret.  In addition, the old 3.2-inch gun used separated ammunition with bags of black powder.

Following the Spanish-American War, the US Ordnance fielded improved equipment in almost every category.  Some backstory about the Ordnance Department is of note here.  In 1901 General William Crozier assumed the office of Chief of Ordnance.  Although Crozier spent  most of his career  oriented towards seacoast defenses.  This was in no way out of step with the Army’s priorities of the day.  For about a century prior to World War I (arguably save a brief interlude known as the Civil War), the US Army’s most important mission was defending the nation’s coast.  The Ordnance Department tended to be conservative in technical approach, and were reluctant to change designs based on feedback from the field.  Some historians over the years have been critical of Crozier’s approach, but during his tenure as chief (1901 to 1918) a number of outstanding weapons emerged.  Just to name a few – the M1903 rifle, the M1911 pistol, the M1918 BAR, the M1917 Machine Gun….

To solve the field gun requirement, the Ordnance officers first replaced the 3.2-inch gun.  Following the lead of the British Army, the US purchased rights to a field gun from the German Erhardt company.  The Erhardt 3-inch gun featured a pneumatic recoil system and fixed ammunition.  The gun ranged out to 8,500 yards.  Like the British Army, which purchased a similar piece as the Quick-Firing 15-pdr, the Americans considered the Erhardt a temporary solution while awaiting domestic weapon developments.

M1902/1905 3-inch Gun

With a few modifications to suit American tastes, the Ordnance department standardized the gun as the M1902 with production starting at Rock Island Arsenal.  But funds were short and only a limited number hit the field.  But enough were produced to outfit the regular Army.  The M1904 and M1905 had small improvements, but most parts were interchangeable.

Limbered up, the M1902 resembled its Civil War forbears.  This is due to the pole trail and spoke wheels.  The pole trail limited elevation to 15°.  And of course in the field horses (or some of those new tractor contraptions) pulled the gun.  The gun on carriage weighed 2,400 pounds.

While some shortfalls emerged, the field artillery found the M1902 at least acceptable, if not outstanding.  The gun served well by all accounts.  Indeed, one of them still serves the “Aggies” of Texas A&M.

Spirit of '02 at Texas A&M

In 1906-7, the Ordnance Board, deviating somewhat from previous experiences, accepted input from the field regarding artillery (perhaps “had to accept” after some pressure from above is one way to describe it).  Input lead to several “stable-mates” for the 3-inch gun – a 3.8- and 4.7-inch field guns along with 3.8-, 4.7-, and 6-inch field howitzers.  In addition a 3-inch mountain howitzer appeared to supplement the 2.95-inch Vickers mountain gun then in service (I’ve mentioned those in passing in a post on my blog, and will return to discuss in detail later).   In September 1907 a series of tests evaluated various artillery systems against redoubts and entrenchments (Yes… the Americans were thinking about fighting in trenches long before the Great War).   As with many similar tests over the years, the army compiled many lessons learned backed with empirical data, but lacked the funds to translate conclusions into equipment purchases.

The 3.8-inch M1908 howitzer, on paper at least, offered useful performance figures.  Firing a 30 pound projectile to a maximum range of 6,100 yards, the setup weighed 3,000 pounds.  Line diagrams from manuals show a compact design with recoil system mounted over a short barrel.  The box carriage trail allowed the howitzer to elevate up to 45°.  But few of these weapons rolled off production lines, and fewer still were issued.  The 3.8-inch howitzer paired well to the 3-inch gun, and might have been a great complement at the divisional level in France.

The 4.7-inch Model 1907/08 howitzer reached limited production also, but although several survivors exist today, very limited details exist about the gun’s service.  Manuals credit the gun with a 7,000 yard range at 40°.  But increased caliber raised the weight to 4,000 pounds, perhaps making the weapon only a marginal improvement over the 3.8-inch howitzer. Similarly the 3.8-inch Model 1907 field gun failed to find a niche.  It weighed double that of the 3-inch gun, but offered only a few thousands yards more range with a 30 pound projectile.

The 6-inch Model 1906/07 looked good on paper.  Weighing 7,200 pounds, the 6-inch howitzer was lighter than contemporary French and British weapons in its class.   But in 1917 the Army deemed its 9,000 yard range with a 90 pound projectile insufficient for the war in Europe.  As a result the Army shelved this promising howitzer, opting for French and British designs.

Saving the best for last, the 4.7 -inch M1906 field gun (some list the gun as M1907 or M1908, which were just improvements on the basic design) actually measured up rather well with contemporary European guns.

M1906 4_7in_2

4.7-inch Field Gun at the Infantry Museum

Although the gun weighed 8,700 pounds in action, it threw a useful 60 pound shell to 11,000 yards.  This gun fit into the “medium” category of field artillery, working at the corps level.  But while successful, like the other field artillery types in the US inventory, only a few were produced by 1914.

Thus as the world entered the “great war” the US had at least a start towards modern artillery equipments.  While lacking howitzers, perhaps more so due to institutional preferences, the field artillery possessed a couple of capable field guns in the 3-inch and 4.7-inch categories.  But in 1917, the rush to equip a force to fight in France would overtake these otherwise capable weapons.

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Equine therapy for PTSD

Roamy here. My husband and two kids enjoy horseback riding. I do, too, it’s just that I don’t indulge as much due to allergies and the feeling, as Dave Barry once wrote, that they are very large animals with unnecessarily hard feet.

There are a lot of benefits to riding a horse, not just the physical demands of muscle, balance, and coordination, but also building up communication skills and self-confidence. Horses for therapy is not a new idea, but it is spreading to a wider audience as a help for disabled patients, autistic children, and now, soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Blackfive tips us to the Operation Silver Spurs and the following Fox interview. The horses and human volunteers of the Caisson Platoon of the Old Guard provide equine-assisted therapy for the Wounded Warriors in treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Wounded Warriors Heal with Help of Iconic Animals: MyFoxDC.com

At a rider’s side, members of the Old Guard. These are the same horses that pull the caisson at Arlington National Cemetery.
“If these horses weren’t out here carrying their wounded comrades on their backs, they’d be pulling the caisson carrying one of their fallen comrades to their final resting place,” says Larry Pence, a retired Command Sgt. Major in the Army.
The program’s been in place since 2006 and so far they’ve had about 125 wounded warriors out riding.

Glad our four-legged friends and these great volunteers can help with recovery and healing.

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Saturday morning random thoughts

Roamy here, holding the fort until XBrad gets some internet access. Just thinking out loud this morning over a second cup of coffee.

1. I hope to have some homecoming pics of my nephew to post here soon.

2. I’m putting together a care package for my other nephew who’s still in Afghanistan. What was the best thing you ever got in a care package?

3. I don’t quite know what to think of our sending troops to Uganda. My feeling is that we have enough on our plate as it is. I understand the humanitarian aspect of the mission but tend to think that that’s what the UN is for, right? (I’ll wait until you quit laughing.)

4. Speaking of the UN, I KNOW I don’t want to pay nearly half a billion dollars for them to squat on more real estate in NYC. Move ‘em to Geneva.

5. Mike Durant has a speaking engagement near here later this month.

6. Also speaking here later this month is retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Jones at a fundraiser luncheon for Support Wounded Warriors Week. I’ll definitely be following up on that.

Your thoughts?

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Filed under army, marines, Personal, Politics

Valor Flight

Roamy here. Hopefully you, dear reader, are familiar with Honor Flight, which brought a number of WW2 veterans to DC to see their memorial. Now Valor Flight is doing the same for Korean War veterans. The Redstone Rocket newspaper has an excellent article on this mission and one of the veterans being honored.

Raymond Benfatti joined the Marines at 17. He mentions cold weather training at Pickel Meadow, the Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center south of Lake Tahoe.

Despite the excellent training, nothing could prepare him for the subzero temperatures he would experience in his deployment from 1951-52…To this day Benfatti can remember the moonlight glistening off the snow, the frozen C-rations, how difficult it was to reach his unit as he slipped and slid on the snow and ice, and the rats he shared an underground bunker with for a year. Many mornings he awoke to find billboard size photos constructed and left for the Americans by the Chinese and North Koreans that said things like, “Go home,” “This is not your war,” and “Your wife is out with your best man.”

Benfatti also served two tours in Vietnam, was wounded by a RPG to the face (!), and received the Silver Star. He retired after 24 years of service.

Valor Flight is a nice way to honor Benfatti and others like him. Semper fi, sir.

Updated with my pics of the Korean War Memorial (click to embiggen).

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Silly story for Saturday

Roamy here. XBrad has previously posted several times on MRE’s. So here’s my story on my first MRE.

I was co-opping at NASA and living in a boardinghouse. I was supposed to share an apartment with another co-op student, but she backed out less than an hour before we were supposed to sign the rental agreement, and I had to scramble to find a place to live. The boardinghouse wasn’t too bad – the landlady was a divorcee with three grown kids and two cats. My only complaints were that she limited how long I could be on the phone (okay, I talk a lot), and she heated the house with a couple of kerosene heaters rather than the central heating system in the wintertime. I had run of the kitchen, a cheap place to sleep, and company in the evenings.

Speaking of run of the kitchen, she had one refrigerator for her food and another for the boarders. Reasonable enough. Most of the time I lived there, there was only one other boarder (hi Bill!), and he didn’t cook much. I cooked for myself all the time, as cheaply as possible, because I was trying to save enough money for the next college tuition payment. I used to make a chicken, rice, and peas casserole (like arroz con pollo but without the pimento) that was less than $4 to make and would last for 4 meals, sometimes 5. Meat, starch, veggie, glass of milk, got it covered. No food pyramid here.

One of the landlady’s sons was serving in the Army at the time and came home for a week. He knew that one fridge was his mom’s but mixed up which one. He saw my chicken and rice casserole and devoured the whole thing. Holy cow, you ate my dinner for the next 3 nights! Because he was just as broke as I was, he offered me a MRE as a replacement. It was a chicken a la king MRE. Yes, I ate it. I can just imagine XBrad shuddering at that. IIRC, it wasn’t that bad, but I can certainly understand how much better a home-cooked meal would be.

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Pictures from Bronco Brigade

Roamy here. Bronco Brigade posted some photos from the field yesterday and today, and I picked these out for posting.

A Soldier holds the American flag close to his chest after it is lowered and folded for the day at Forward Operating Base Shinwar, headquarters for 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Raider, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Bronco. (photo by Enrique De Castro, Reuters photographer)

Soldiers of 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Raider, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Bronco, walk into the horizon of a sunset outside of Forward Operating Base Shinwar after a successful day of foot patrolling.

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Short Landing – Turbo Caribou

Last Saturday we braved the weather to watch an airshow.  The show included a pair of skydivers jumping from a Turbo-Caribou.   My son loves watching the jumpers run through the stunts.  But I don’t get excited since they closed out my DA 1307.   The rest of the show was rain-shortened.  But I did get a short video of the Turbo-Caribou landing in the cross-wind.

Brings to mind another topic of discussion.  Brad and I pontificated some months back about the Army’s attempts and failures to obtain fixed wing CAS from the 1950s through today.  There’s another story line there too – the Army’s parallel efforts to field a in-theater cargo plane.

Leesburg Air Show 033

The Turbo-Caribou is a descendant of the most successful of the solutions offered.

Leesburg Air Show 011

The Turbo-Caribou is for the most part a re-engined civilian version of the original DHC-4 Caribou.  The original Caribou used two 1,450 hp Pratt & Whitney radial engines, which the “turbo” replaced with turbo-prop engines (duh!).

The Caribou’s first military customer was the US Army.  Initial deliveries came after the prototype assessments in 1958. The DHC-4 met the Army’s requirements for a Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) aircraft which could operate on rough airfields, providing cargo support inside a theater of war (and not to interfere with the intra-theater roles supported by the Air Force).

Originally designated AC-1 then CV-2, with the establishment of the DoD designation system the Caribou became the C-7.  The Army purchased around 160 of these Canadian-built aircraft.

The Caribou’s combat debut was during the early phases of US involvement in Southeast Asia.  There it proved extremely useful.  But with success came political problems.  Anticipating the need to expand the force, the Army asked for more fixed wing pilots.  This, along with the success of the C-7 in Vietnam, attracted attention from the Air Force.   After the Johnson-McConnell Agreement of 1966, the Air Force got the C-7s (and the rather promising C-8 Buffalo program was dropped).

The Army retained a handful of C-7s for special uses.  One example at the Army’s Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis supported the Golden Knights parachute team.  But aside from those limited numbers of C-7 the Army had to make do with a handful of UV-18 Twin Otters until acquiring Short C-23 Sherpas (initially in the 1980s these were second-hand ex-civilian types, again only for limited roles).

10 July 11 701

Other users of the DHC-4/C-7 included Australia.  One of those Aussie DHC-4s with the original engines shows off in the video below.

As I watch the Caribou, I can’t help but think about what could have been if the Army had retained more than a limited STOL cargo capability through the 1970s.

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The 105mm Howitzer

Whenever someone mentions artillery, the mental image that springs into my mind is a crew of redlegs from World War II or maybe Vietnam loading and firing a 105mm howitzer.

The primary light artillery piece of the Army in World War I was the 75mm howitzer  M1897 GUN (thanks, Craig) , based on a French design. President Truman commanded a battery of them as a Captain in the war.

But the Army wasn’t very happy with the French 75. It was light and handy, but the round wasn’t very impressive. It lacked penetration against fortification, and the range was rather anemic. Something better was wanted.

The Army used some of its tiny interwar budget to develop a 105mm gun in the early 1920s. It was generally pleased with the results, but there was simply no money to replace the 75mm guns in the inventory. More importantly, there was no money to replace the vast stocks of 75mm ammo in the inventory.

With the huge increases in military spending just prior to World War II, money finally became available for improvements to the Army, and the new 105mm howitzer was one of the top priorities. Having spent almost 20 years refining the design, the M2 105mm howitzer was quickly built in large numbers, becoming the standard artillery piece of virtually every infantry division.

The M2 (later to be redesignated the M101) and it variants was a weapon with a sliding horizontal breech block mounted on a conventional split trail carriage. That is, the gun rested over a two wheeled axle and the trails of the carriage would be used to tow it behind its 2-1/2 ton truck prime mover. When emplaced, the trails were split, and spades at the end of the trails were used to dig in the gun and absorb some of the recoil. The gun also had a hydropnuematic recoil system.

TM M2A1 left side

TM M2A1 right side

The tube could elevate to provide plunging fires at long ranges, or be lowered for direct fires if needed. There was a limited ability to traverse the tube on the carriage. If the tube needed to traversed more than that, the trails had to be dug up, the entire carriage moved by lifting and moving the trails, and the gun relaid by the aiming stakes.

The gun fired a 33 pound high explosive projectile using semi-fixed ammunition with a base charge and six increments.

Semi-fixed means that each round came with the projectile, fuze, cartridge case and powder in one complete assembly, much as you’d think of a single round of small arms ammunition. But the projectile could easily be removed from the powder cartridge, and the increments removed as needed to vary the range of the round. The projectile would be placed back onto the cartridge case prior to firing. Between this and the manually operated sliding wedge breechblock, a rapid rate of fire could be achieved.

The 33 pound M1 High Explosive projectile was heavy enough, and had enough explosive power that it could penetrate most earthen field fortifications such as foxholes and bunkers. Fused for instantaneous action (and later with VT) it was devastating against troops in the open. In addition, smoke, illumination and other projectiles were available.

With a range of 12,200 yards, the M2/M101 was well suited for its role as a direct support weapon for the infantry regiments.  Each infantry division would have three 18 gun battalions in the division artillery (three batteries of six guns each) for a total of 54 guns. While division often retained control of the battalions to concentrate on divisional targets, it was very common to see each infantry regiment operating with an artillery battalion in a dedicated direct support role. Often, this infantry/artillery partnership was called a Regimental Combat Team.

The M2/M101 was a very successful design, and remained in front line service well into the 1960s with our Army. In fact, the Canadian Army still uses a modified variant.

Two offshoots of the M2/M101 deserve mention here. First, with the rise of armored divisions in our Army in WWII, it quickly became apparent that self-propelled artillery would be needed to keep up with the fast moving tanks (and their half-track mounted infantry). Surplus M3 Grant tank hulls (and later purpose built M4 tank hulls) were modified to mount the M2 105mm gun.

300px-M7_Priest_at_APG

The resulting M7 Priest was highly successful, remaining in service for many years.

The other offshoot was the M3 105mm gun. Airborne forces were in their infancy during World War II. There was no capability to drop large heavy loads. The only way to bring vehicles and artillery to the airborne battle was by glider. But the M2 was simply too large for the Army’s CG-4 gliders. As a result, airborne divisions had to settle for the old 75mm gun as their divisional artillery.  At least until someone had the idea of a “sawed off” 105mm gun. By reducing barrel length by 27 inches, and by adopting a slightly beefed up version of the 75mm gun’s carriage, the M3 105mm gun would just barely fit into the gliders of the day.  The M3 fired the same projectiles as the M2, but because the shorter barrel length lead to incomplete burning of the powder charge. Faster burning powder charges were developed for the M3. The shorter tube meant that the M3 had a much shorter range, only about 7500 yards.

In addition to serving in the division artillery of the airborne divisions, M3s also served as an infantry support weapon. Each infantry regiment had a 6 gun cannon company. Originally equipped with 75mm guns, by the end of the war, many would be equipped with the M3.

After World War II, with the development of larger tactical airlift planes that could perform heavy drop missions (such as the C-119) the M3 in the airborne division was replaced by the longer ranged M2/M101. Also, some time after WWII, probably during the Pentomic Army reorganization, infantry regiments lost their organic cannon company.

By the early 1960s, the M101 was getting a bit long in the tooth.  The main problem was weight. The 2-1/2 ton weight of the M101 was a bit much for most helos to lift. Accordingly, the M102 howitzer was developed and adopted. The big aim was to reduce weight. The tube basically the same, but an entirely new carriage was adopted. Instead of the classic split trail carriage, a new fixed open box  trail was adopted. Instead of resting on its wheels and using spades at the trail end to provide a stable firing platform, a circular baseplate under the carriage was lowered and staked into position.

220px-M1114_towing_M102_Howitzer

Note the circular baseplate firing platform.

220px-M102_Howitzer_A1206_Tai_Iraq_2004_

One of the last M102s in Iraq, 2004

The lighter weight of the M102 made it easier to move by helicopter, and also allowed for it to be moved by lighter vehicles.  The circular baseplate also meant that the gun could easily be traversed through 360 degrees (or 6400 mils, as the gunners would say). The tube had a manually operated vertical sliding wedge breechblock. The gun used the same ammunition as the M101, and had nearly identical range. It was used in the same role of direct support in the infantry, airborne, and airmobile divisions.

First entering service in the early 1960s, it served throughout the Vietnam War and after. It began to be replaced in the late 1980s, but as you can see from the picture above, it was still in use with some National Guard units as late as 2004.

Mechanized and armored divisions still using the M7 Priest in the late 1950s finally began to replace them with the M108. This self propelled 105mm howitzer shared a common hull and cab structure with the M109 155mm self propelled howitzer. While the M108 was a successful design, however, it was soon decided that heavy divisions would instead use 155mm M109s as the main weapon of the direct support artillery battalions, and the M108 was quickly withdrawn from service.

In the mid-1980s, the US Army began looking to replace the M102, and was deeply impressed with the performance of the British L118 Light Gun in the Falklands. The L118 used separate loading ammunition. After a minor redesign to allow used of existing US semi-fixed ammunition and adopting US fire control and sights, the weapon was adopted as the M119 105mm howitzer and licensed production began at the Rock Island Arsenal. The M119 (and the M119A1 and A2 variants) is the current light howitzer for US infantry, airborne, and air assault brigade combat teams. It can be airlifted by airplanes and helicopters, air-dropped by parachute, towed by a Humvee, and in a real pinch, moved by hand.

300px-US_M119_Howitzer_

M119 firing in Afghanistan

The M119 uses a similar baseplate firing platform to the M102, and features a fixed open box carriage trail of tubular design.

The M119 still uses the same M1 round as the original 105mm howitzers. It’s longer tube does allow for a greater charge to be used, however, and “Charge 8” gives a maximum range of 13,700 meters.  Newer ammunition includes rocket assisted High Explosive rounds (HERA) with ranges of up to 19,500 meters, greatly increasing the area one battery can cover. Somewhat surprisingly, there are no immediate plans to field a GPS guided projectile. The apparent thinking is that Guided MLRS and 155mm Excalibur fires can cover most missions.

Historically, US artillery doctrine has stressed concentration of fires. That is, if an artillery battalion had three targets, rather than having one battery engage each target, the fires of the entire battalion would be dedicated to one target, then the next, and then the third.

But the dispersed nature of the battlefield in Afghanistan means that artillery has to be widely dispersed itself, or many units would have no artillery support in range. Accordingly, it is not uncommon to find single 6 gun batteries or even a two-gun platoon operating independently in support of remote outposts.

The 105mm howitzer has provided over 70 years of faithful service, and there are no plans to replace it.

The M102 105mm howitzer.

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Ig Nobel Peace Prize

Roamy here. The Ig Nobel Prizes are a spoof of the real Nobel Prizes, meant to pique interest in the sciences as well as make you laugh. It’s held every year at Harvard with real Nobel Prize winners sharing in the festivities. Some of the previous winners are Ivette Bassa, the inventor of bright blue Jello, Yuri Struchkov, for writing 948 scientific papers in one decade, Donald L. Unger, who cracked the knuckles on one hand but not the other every day for 50 years as a possible cause of arthritis, and Edward A. Murphy, Jr. of Murphy’s Law fame.

This year’s Ig Nobel Peace Prize winner is Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, who demonstrated that “the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.” (Youtube commenter says it’s a BTR-60 armored personnel carrier. Readers?)

And here I thought any problem could be solved with a suitable application of high explosives.

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Filed under armor, army, Around the web

GPS

Esli writes:

Out of extreme boredom, I recently read through some of XBrad’s archived material. (Yeah, I know.) This post , combined with this one got me thinking about my own early experiences with the GPS. We have all wondered why some people are seemingly so stupid that they follow their Garmin right into a river, down a boat ramp, or even off a cliff. At first it is incomprehensible, but I know better because I have seen it in action.

First, a little background. The army has always extolled the virtues of land navigation. Pretty much all NCO schools, officer commissioning sources, and certainly combat arms schools teach land navigation. Even though often someone else actually does the navigation, if a leader can’t navigate, he has a hard time leading (either figuratively or literally!). It is all about credibility.

Basically, you navigate in one of two ways. The first method is dead reckoning. In this technique, you know where you are, and if you walk a given distance and direction, you know where you will arrive.

The other technique, called terrain association, simply says to follow the terrain. For example, I walk up this trail to the fork, turn right 90 degrees, and head downhill to the creek, and then up the far side to the right-hand of two hilltops that I can see. Plot your new location and repeat. Skilled navigators combine the two techniques.

Mounted navigation adds a whole extra layer of complexity due to speeds and distances. After all, a dismounted infantryman may have been lost for an hour, but he is still only at most 2 km away! Tank navigation, pre-GPS, included neat tricks like pointing the main gun in a given direction and stabilizing it so that it would always point that direction. Then the driver could turn as necessary. As long as he turned back to get the main gun over his head, he was driving the right direction. Now, just watch the odometer. But, since compasses don’t work while on the tank, someone had to get down and walk out a way to get an azimuth. Pretty slow work.

Terrain association requires an understanding of the terrain, called “micro-terrain” that is all around you. This extends to vehicle crewman. For example, I should be able to tell my driver, “See that big hilltop on the horizon? Get us there.” From that point, his own form of land-navigation, called “terrain driving” takes over, and he follows the terrain, both to navigate, and to drive in the most survivable terrain (i.e. keeping in low ground, but not soggy ground with cattails growing in it), leaving me free to “lead the unit.”

1

Mortar Platoon Leader. Working on the Battalion Command Net, the Mortar Platoon Net, and the Fire Support net is on the third radio that you can’t see at my feet. It is easy to get distracted, and a good driver can save you!

The GPS changed all of that. Appearing just in time for the Gulf War, the SLGR (Small Lightweight GPS Receiver and pronounced Slugger) revolutionized navigation. A more capable and widely-fielded variant, called the PLGR (or Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver or Plugger) was fielded in the mid -90s. The PLGR has been largely supplanted by the DAGR (the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver, or Dagger). But these items were not fielded without a learning curve by the force. The primary lesson of which is that a GPS does not replace a map!

So, how do they result in tanks driving into the river, down the boat ramp or off the cliff? A couple quick stories illustrate.

There I was…. It was 1994. I had just deployed to Kuwait and met with my first tank platoon, which was already there (Vigilant Warrior, Craig). I brought with me a box of 58 PLGRs as initial issue for the battalion. A couple of the “Geek-smart” platoon leaders quickly learned how to use them, but I was a bit slower. One day, we conducted a training lane consisting of a company attack. I followed in the right rear of a company wedge for about 20 Km. During the movement, I had limited success with my GPS, but had been so fixed on it that I had not used the map much. After the end of the mission, we went back to the assembly area to re-run it, at which time my CDR designated my platoon to lead the next run. I was pretty sure that I knew where I was, but had no idea how to get back to the objective for the next run, so I did what any quick-thinking tanker would do. When I rolled into the assembly area, I did a tight enough 180 degree turn that I got back on my own tracks in the sand. When we were ordered to move out for the next run, I unerringly led the company straight to the objective of the company attack. Score one for credibility.

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You tell me how to navigate through this “trackless” desert without GPS! (XBrad: LORAN-C?)

A few months later, there I was…again. This time, I was at Fort Irwin, the National Training Center. It was about midnight. The commander of the infantry company I was attached to drove up to my tank, threw me a six-digit map grid, and told me to establish a screen line “now.” I alerted the platoon, we got fired up, and moved out promptly, heading directly for the grid I was given. This turned into one of the most torturous night movements I have ever been on, taking about 3 hours to move 3 Km to the east and including a near-rollover into a wadi and the blowing away of something into the night sky that I saw but never figured out what I lost. This was across what NTC insiders call “the washboard” which is a nightmare of up and down, washes, cuts, wadis, etc. In the morning, when I was called to collapse the screen and link up with the unit, it took me all of 15 minutes to look at my map, drive south into the open maneuver corridor, and link back up with the company. Score one for the GPS, but credibility took a big hit here! Never move without looking at the stupid map first….

Fast forward a year to my next NTC rotation where I was now the mortar platoon leader. While driving to the Tactical Operations Center to receive an order from the battalion, I called the platoon and gave them a six digit grid and told them to move there and establish the next firing position. I would link up with them at the firing point after the order. I drove to them and discovered the whole platoon sitting in the wide open, within 100 meters of a perfect defilade firing position (that is, below ground level due to the terrain). They had, I was told, just moved to the grid I gave them, following the GPS to the end…. Amid much grumbling, I directed them to shift to the new position and passed on a lesson -learned about not just following the GPS. Score one for credibility.

The very next mission, I again moved them to a new position while I was gone, this time on “Crash Hill” and in the dark. I drove up to the hill, straight to the grid I had given them. They were not there. I drove around that hillside for 60 minutes, searching that location, getting progressively more and more angry. For some reason, I ripped the wooden roof from my HMMWV and flung it into the dark and the wind whipped it away. Finally, sitting right on the grid that they were supposed to be at, I noticed radio antennas coming from a defilade position (pretty hard to see with night vision goggles on). Because I insisted on complete blackout, the mortar tracks were not flying the traditional chemlight Christmas tree from every vehicle, and they were literally invisible, even after I finally saw them.

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Sundown at NTC. When it gets dark, with zero percent illumination (i.e. no moonlight), even 8 tracks will be really hard to find in a ten foot deep hole!!

The GPS got me where I needed to be; I just couldn’t find them. Because I refused to tell them I couldn’t find them, it appeared that I had driven right up on them it was a win for my credibility (and GPS technology…). Because they had used the GPS to get to the right area and then used the terrain to appropriately conceal themselves, it was a win for old-school map-reading skills. This lesson was firmly driven home, for me anyway.

Now, as for people that follow a GPS down a boat ramp, or off a cliff, that is just plain stupid, and we all know that.

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GPS technology can give us precise locations and is one of the elements critical to get steel on target.

XBrad here- I too had an “early adopter/steep learning curve” experience with SLGR. The system gave your location via an alphanumeric display. That is, your coordinates were displayed as numbers. Not a graphic map representation like you might see in your cars modern GPS system. I had never used one before. Now, just having the ability to determine your location with great confidence was pretty nifty. But you could also program the system to navigate from one waypoint to another. It would give bearing and distance to the next waypoint. Simple, right?

 

Well, as Esli mentions above, looking at the map first is ALWAYS a good idea. I had to drop off a fire team for a recon mission. Again, only a few clicks away, but finding your way by night without doing a map recon of the route was a bad, bad idea. But on a simple mission like this… heck, we’ll even let the gunner have the night off, and just take the Bradley out with only me and the driver as the crew.

 

Finding my way home was every bit as challenging. And SLGRs had an antennae that meant the device had to be held outside the turret of the Bradley. And mine had a loose battery case. I had to take off my night vision goggles, hold the SLGR just right, stand way the heck out of the turret, and try to give my driver, Chuck,  directions left and right to head us back to our unit.

 

While I was focused on reading the little numbers, I wasn’t paying much attention to anything else. So I didn’t even notice the giant tree branch the driver headed under. Not until it hit me smack in the face, and dragged me out of the Bradley’s turret, and had me rolling off the back of Bradley’s hull. And my commo helmet got knocked off. And I was badly stunned. And my driver had no idea that I wasn’t just quietly enjoying the night. He kept driving along, and I was in terror that I would fall off and be crushed under the tracks, or at best left stranded in the middle of nowhere.

 

I finally found my CVC helmet rolling around on the back deck with me and screamed a while till Chuck stopped the track. Apart from some cuts and bruises, I survived. But I never again used GPS to navigate. Only to confirm where I really was.

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M42 Duster… Walk around

Brad never asks… he should at least send out an RFI to support his posts. He should know by now that Craig’s archives are full of AFV and cannon pictures.

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But don’t forget the “forebears” of the M42.

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The M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage (yes… that rolls right off the tongue) with quad .50s was among several self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons built on the trusty M3 half-track chassis during World War II. The M16 was perhaps the better of the lot, and saw service well beyond the World War II years.

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Arriving just at the close of World War II, the M19 Gun Motor Carriage lacked the “sexy” name, but was comparable to the M42 Duster in many regards.  Armed with a wartime version of the twin 40mm Bofors, the M19 used the chassis of the M24 Chaffee light tank.

Lots of duckhunter stuff!

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USACE Photos from 9/11

USACE Patrol Boat Hocking heads toward lower Manhattan on 9-11

Caption:
USACE Patrol Boat Hocking heads toward lower Manhattan on 9-11

NEW YORK — Patrol Boat Hocking heads toward lower Manhattan on 9/11 to provide assistance following the attacks on the World Trade Center. PB Hocking was one of many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vessels from various Districts that were on the waters of the New York and New Jersey Harbor that day helping to ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan and bringing in emergency responders on return trips. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers file photo)

The Public Affairs Office at the US Army Corps of Engineer has released some photos pertaining to 9/11 on their Flickr channel this week. Many of the photos show activities in the days after the attack or months later.  But a few show the USACE’s actions in direct response to the attack.

DCV Hayward helped ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks

DCV Hayward helped ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks

NEW YORK — DCV Hayward, one of New York District’s three drift collection vessels, was one of several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vessels that helped ferry evacuees from lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks. DCV Hayward still patrols the New York and New Jersey Harbor as part of its regular duties, collecting drift and debris that could be hazardous to navigation. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers file photo)

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Hurricane Cleanup… Yes the Army does that too.

Or was it a Tropical Storm?  I’ve lost track.  – Craig.

USACE New York District cleans debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor

USACE New York District cleans debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor
NEW YORK — The crew of DCV Gelberman works to clear drift and debris from the waters in and around the New York and New Jersey Harbor, Aug. 30, 2011 after Tropical Storm Irene. Tropical Storm Irene brought storm surge, heavy winds and lots of rain to the region over the weekend and Army Corps crews are working hard to gather the additional drift that may be in the New York and New Jersey Harbor following the storm to ensure safe navigation.(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Chris Gardner)

 DCV Hayward loads debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor

DCV Hayward loads debris in New York & New Jersey Harbor
NEW YORK — DCV Hayward drops of a morning’s load of debris collected in the catamaran, rigged with a steel net to gather debris, that was attached to its side while it collected debris and other potential hazards to navigation in and around the New York and New Jersey Harbor, Aug. 30, 2011. The load pictured is approximately 17,000 pounds. Tropical Storm Irene brought storm surge, heavy winds and lots of rain to the region over the weekend and Army Corps crews are working hard to gather the additional drift that may be in the New York and New Jersey Harbor following the storm to ensure safe navigation. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Chris Gardner)

Floodwaters from tropical storm wash out Vermont roads

Floodwaters from tropical storm wash out Vermont roads

After Tropical Storm Irene swept through New England, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began inspecting and assessing possible damage to infrastructure at its dam sites. Here, a state or town bridge has been washed downstream by the powerful flooding that occured because of the storm on the way to the Corps’ Ball Mountain Lake Dam, Jamaica, Vt. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Frank Fedele)

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Wolfhounds in the A-stan

Esli’s been a busy little helper of the blog. He forwarded this picture of a troop from the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, The Wolfhounds* manning a TOW missile system in Afghanistan.

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Staff Sgt. Frankie Berdecia of Alpha Company 2nd battalion 27th infantry
(the Wolfhounds), operates a TOW missile system at Observation Post Mace
in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province near the border with Pakistan
August 28. (Photo by U.S. Army)

Now, the TOW system was designed to destroy tanks, but it is pretty handy at popping bunkers and machine gun nests also. More importantly, with the new ITAS thermal imaging sights, the TOW mount makes an excellent surveillance tool. If you can see it, you can hit it, and if you can hit it, you can kill it.

It’s possible to defeat detection by thermal sensors on the battlefield, but it sure ain’t easy.

*I was in the 1st Battalion. We never really acknowledged the guys in 2nd Bn as real Wolfhounds.

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A little bit of history

Roamy here. Here’s another story my dad likes to tell. During WWII, traveling wasn’t easy and frequently frowned upon. (“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”) Gas and tires were rationed, so my grandparents and father traveled from Tampa to Georgia by train. It had been two or three years since my grandfather had seen his brother, and it was time for a visit.

My great-uncle lived in Dublin, GA at the time, where there was a military hospital for convalescing soldiers and also a prisoner-of-war camp. The Dublin POW camp was probably administered out of Camp Wheeler in Macon. Nearly 700 POW camps in the US housed over 425,000 prisoners, mostly Germans, during the war. Many of these camps were located in the South, where the prisoners could be used as farm labor, filling in for the Americans fighting overseas. They were paid for their labor, according to the Geneva Convention.

My dad was shocked upon arrival at his uncle’s house to find a Luftwaffe Oberst cutting the grass. “Daddy! There’s a German!” The gentleman was in uniform with “POW” in big yellow letters on his back. My grandmother shushed my dad, but the Oberst didn’t say a word, just straightened his back and kept working. My great-uncle had hired him not only for yardwork but also other oddjobs. He was probably paid 80 cents a day.

There were POW camps in 46 states, though the whole network was kept pretty quiet. After the war ended, the prisoners were returned to their home countries with the money they earned and at least some fluency in English. About 860 German POWs remain buried in American military cemeteries, including over 100 in the National Cemetery in Chattanooga. There is a POW Museum in Algona, Iowa.

As a side note, the Dublin military hospital was later named for Congressman Carl Vinson of Georgia.

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