Category Archives: Artillery

2B9 Vasilek 82mm Automatic Mortar in action

The Soviet Union loved mortars. I mean, they really, really loved mortars. The had an astonishing number of mortars in various calibers and at virtually every echelon of service. And one of the more interesting mortars they designed was a clip fed automatic 82mm mortar called the Vasilek, or Cornflower.

2B9_Vasilek

Vasilek continues in service with Russia, most former Warsaw Pact nations, and is seeing use in Ukraine today, by both sides.

 

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Fort Ebey

We’ve written before on the coastal defenses of Puget Sound, mostly focusing on the turn of the 20th century Taft/Endicott period forts such as Ft. Casey.  The beginning of World War II saw a massive investment in more modern coastal defenses, along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and such places as the Panama Canal Zones. Bureaucratic inertia being what it is, by the time most of these forts were ready for service, it was abundantly clear, particularly along the West Coast, that no invasion fleet would reach even the central Pacific, let alone Hawaii or the actual continental US.

In 1942, the Coast Artillery Corps decided to upgrade the defenses of Puget Sound with a modern coast artillery battery located a few miles north of the existing Ft. Casey. It was to comprise a battery command post, an SCR-269A fire control radar, and two M1905A2 rapid fire 6” guns mounted on semi-armored barbettes.

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Image via Fortwiki.

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Image via Fortwiki. 6” gun at Ft. Columbia.  Note the older Endicott period emplacements in front of the mount. None are at Ft. Ebey.

A quick look at this image from Google Earth tells us that the fort was well sited to cover any approach to Seattle.

Ft Ebey

Mind you, this doesn’t even take into account the other batteries, including 16” batteries, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the entrance to Puget Sound.

The only problem is, the battery wasn’t completed and ready for service until March 1944. By that time, the fighting in the Pacific was taking place in the Carolines Islands roughly 5000 miles away. All the effort to complete the fortifications were superfluous to actually winning the war. The guns of the battery were removed sometime shortly after the war. The concrete support structure was not demolished, however. Turned over to Washington state in 1965, it opened as a state park in 1981, and has been a popular park ever since, with its quaint trails and gorgeous view of Puget Sound.

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Yet Another Guided Projectile Program

We’ve talked numerous times about the Guided MLRS, the Excalibur 155mm artillery round, guided mortar rounds and recently the HVP. Having cracked the code on how to design a guidance system for artillery ammunition, we’re going to see a growing range of projectiles with precision capability for an expanding set of guns.

Oprah

Here’s BAE System’s self funded project, the Multi-Service Standard Guided Projectile, or MS SGP. It’s an adaptation of the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) designed for the 155mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers.

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LRLAP

The MS SGP is being designed specifically for the US Navy’s current standard 5” gun, the Mk45 Mod 4. BAE systems, noting that 155mm is larger than 5” (127mm) has proposed using the MS SGP in a saboted configuration from Marine and Army 155mm guns.

To date, there’s been a successful guided shot, but no production contracts.

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Centennial of ANZAC Landings at Gallipoli

Today marks another significant centennial of the Great War.  (Yesterday marked the centenary of beginning of the Armenian Genocide.)  The ANZAC landings at Gallipoli took place on 25 April 1915.  It is a very special ANZAC Day.  From last year:

anzac hat

Today is the 25th of April.  It is ANZAC Day, commemorating the 99th anniversary of the landings of 31,000 men of The Australian Division, and the Australian-New Zealand Division (reinforced with two batteries of mountain guns) on the crescent-shaped portion of beach known as Ari Burnu, forever after known as Anzac Cove.

 gallipolilanding

The ANZAC landing began before dawn on 25 April 1915, and was initially unopposed,  By mid-morning, however, Turkish troops under LtCol Mustapha Kemal had reacted strongly and taken the landing beaches and the precariously shallow Dominion positions under rifle, machine gun, and artillery fire.  Unable to move forward, and hanging onto hillside rocks and scrapes, ANZAC Commander MajGen Sir William Birdwood asked to have the beach-head evacuated.

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The Royal Navy argued that such an evacuation, particularly under fire, was impractical.   So Birdwood was ordered to stay, with the advice given by General Sir Ian Hamilton to “dig, dig, dig!”.  It is from this message, many conclude, that the ANZACs became known as the “diggers”.    Despite herculean efforts and near-suicidal courage, including the tragically costly landings at Sulva Bay in August of 1915, the stalemate was never broken.  Unable to advance, with no evacuation possible, the ANZACs remained locked in their initial positions, enduring conditions even more horrendous than those on the Western Front, until finally pulled out as a part of the general evacuation of the Gallipoli Operation in December of 1915.

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ANZAC Day has become a day of remembrance for all Australian and New Zealand war dead, but remains especially poignant for the nearly 13,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers who gave their lives in the foothills of the Bari Sair Mountains, in the eight months of hell on Earth that was Anzac Cove.

At the going down of the sun,

and in the morning,

we will remember them.

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LOVE Day, 1 April 1945

okinawa

marine artillery

Seventy years ago today was an Easter Sunday.  On 1 April 1945, elements of the United States 10th Army, under General Simon B. Buckner, landed on the island of Okinawa.  The landings were almost unopposed, but the 110,000 Japanese defenders soon resisted with the savagery and skill familiar to every US combat leader in the Pacific.  Half a million US troops would come ashore in Operation ICEBERG, beginning 82 days of brutal, unrelenting combat for the island.   When the battle was finished, General Buckner and one other US General were dead, along with nearly 100,000 of the island’s defenders, and 13,000 US soldiers, sailors, and Marines.  (Near the end of the battle, US Marine MajGen Roy Geiger would temporarily command US 10th Army after the death of General Buckner, until Joe Stillwell’s arrival.)

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The Japanese had fought furiously, employing in massive waves the kamikaze tactics against the invasion fleet that were first revealed off Leyte.  Among the US killed were 4,900 sailors, as the US Navy lost 36 ships sunk and 368 damaged by the suicide onslaught.   One in three Japanese civilians were killed or committed suicide in the fighting, nearly 150,000 in total.  The battle, which ended with the island being declared secure on 22 June, was a terrifying harbinger of what the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands would be.

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The “Saipan ratio” used to compute casualty estimates for the invasion of Japan, was proven a dramatic underestimation by US casualties on Okinawa, which were almost four times the earlier calculations.  In addition, Allied intelligence of Japanese air strength on Formosa (within range to help defend Okinawa) had pegged the number of operational aircraft at under one hundred.  There was, in fact, eight times that figure, as the US and British Naval forces would discover to their dismay.  Okinawa (and Iwo Jima) weighed heavily in the decision to employ atomic weapons against Japan as an alternative to invasion.  With what occupation forces found on the Home Islands, the men destined for the invasions Honshu and Kyushu likely breathed a great collective sigh of relief.

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60mm Mortar Live Fire

The M224 60mm mortar is the smallest crew served indirect fire weapon in the US arsenal. US Army light Infantry companies have a two mortar section, while each Marine Rifle company has a three mortar section.

When I was stationed in Hawaii, my company’s mortar section was critically short of people once and I was tapped to assist them for a few days during a field exercise. It was awful. That tube and the baseplate (and the associated equipment) is heavy!

Note that there are actually two baseplates. The mortar can be fired in a hand held, trigger fired mode with a small baseplate, and no bipod. The gunner aims by, essentially, Kentucky windage. The 60mm can also be fired from a more conventional baseplate and bipod configuration, in association with elevation and azimuth calculated by a fire direction center.

While a platoon patrol may often carry one mortar with them (usually without the big baseplate and bipod) in a defense, or in a deliberate attack, the full mount would be used, and normally both (or all three) tubes would fire on the same target, to achieve concentration of effects.

Also, this was almost certainly filmed at Twenty-Nine Palms, up the road a bit from me. Though legend has it, twenty-nine is something of a gross exaggeration of the number of palms around…

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Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb

Boeing, in developing the second generation of the Small Diameter Bomb, which adds a tri-mode seeker to the concept of the existing GPS/INS SDB, recognized that the hard part of designing a precision weapon is the guidance. The airframe and warhead are usually rather straightforward. And they also had the bright idea to strap a rocket booster to the back of the SDB II, and introduce a ground launched version.

Even better, they were able to use the existing booster from original style rockets of the long serving M270 MLRS. That keeps costs down. Plus, the MLRS system’s existing infrastructure reduces costs and training needed.

While the current GPS/INS guided unitary warhead GMLRS system is fine, it is also unable to accurately target moving targets.  The SDB II was designed to strike moving targets. That’s going to increase the ability to hold at risk enemy high value/high payoff targets such as air defense systems.

We also wonder how long it will be until someone discusses the potential for coastal defense, or even a ship launched variant as an anti-ship missile system.

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