Yeah, “rebels” who just happened to be in Russian uniform. What are the odds. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine in the eastern regions of Ukraine has been characterized by heavy, heavy use of artillery. Any time either side attempts to mass decisive combat power, the other pounds it with artillery. Sadly, the Russians have done a better job. While they lack the sophistication of UAVs like our MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper, these commercial off the shelf drones do provide enough information to make terrain feature recognition and artillery adjustment quite feasible.
Category Archives: Artillery
The other day, friend o’ the blog Craig steered me to this post on Facebook by the Manassas National Battlefield Park:
On Saturday, May 23, a visiting family made a most unusual discovery at Manassas Battlefield. They found what appeared to be an unexploded 20th century shell while out hiking and brought it to the Visitor Center. Park law enforcement staff called in the state police bomb squad and subsequently evacuated the Visitor Center and Henry Hill. The bomb squad later confirmed the shell was inert and harmless.
First and foremost, if you find anything that even remotely resembles unexploded ordnance, do not touch it. Note the location and inform the authorities.
As it turns out, the EOD detachment was able to discern the projectile was a T-231 rocket. Which got me digging, what the heck is a T-231? Well, it was a 2.75 inch diameter (70mm) rocket projectile, sometimes referred to as HEAA.
Forgive us for not having a lot of concrete information on this, but it appears that not more than a relative handful were constructed. We infer that HEAA stands for High Explosive Anti-Aircraft. That is, in spite of the notation in the Facebook post that it was an air to air weapon, it was in fact intended as the ammunition for a ground based anti-aircraft gun system. What’s that, you say? How does a rocket work in an anti-aircraft gun? Well…
One of the challenges in anti-aircraft gun fire control is the lengthy time of flight for the shells to reach the target area. The longer the time of flight, the greater the chance the target will maneuver away from the aimpoint selected as much as an entire minute before. Remember, while a projectile fired from a cannon might have great velocity as it leaves the muzzle, it immediately begins to decelerate due to both gravity and air resistance. Thus, the closer to maximum effective range, the slower and slower the shell is moving.
If there were a way to have the velocity of the projectile remain constant over the course of its time of flight, or even just significant portion, that would simplify the fire control problem. A rocket, of course, accelerates as long as its motor continues to burn, until it reaches its maximum possible aerodynamic speed. Rockets of those days were, however, somewhat inaccurate weapons.
And so it appears the Army tried an intriguing approach to combining both a gun and a rocket into one weapon. The T-231 was packed inside a recoilless rifle shell casing. That is, it had an open end and was fired from a recoilless rifle. The firing charge imparted a relatively modest muzzle velocity of about 1000 feet per second to the round. The initial charge also served to ignite the round’s rocket motor, which then boosted it to a velocity of about 3000 feet per second, roughly on par with the muzzle velocity of existing anti-aircraft guns. But the small size of the projectile meant there was a correspondingly small rocket motor (and less size for a warhead as well) and that limited the burn time for the motor.
The program never really went beyond a handful of test firings, mostly to gather data. The performance wasn’t significantly better than existing anti-aircraft artillery, and the first generation of guided missiles was just reaching operational status at the time, rendering the project obsolete.
Craig did point out one mystery yet to be solved. The test firings apparently took place at Wallops Island. So how did the projectile find its way to Manassas? We may never know.
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.
Vasilek continues in service with Russia, most former Warsaw Pact nations, and is seeing use in Ukraine today, by both sides.
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.
Image via Fortwiki.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.