Category Archives: guns

Lexington’s Incomplete Modernization and Her Sinking At Coral Sea

CV-2_Lexington_and_CV-3_Saratoga

When the massive hulls of battlecruisers Lexington (CC-1) and Saratoga (CC-2) were designated to be completed as aircraft carriers  under provisions of the 1922 Washington Treaty, they represented a multi-generational leap forward for aircraft carrier design.  Eight hundred and eighty-eight feet long and displacing more than 44,000 tons loaded, these sleek monsters were capable of 33+ knots (some tales that Sara and Lex reached 40 knots during Fleet Problems in the late 1930s have never been verified) and could carry almost ninety aircraft.

9843567286_587f4955a0_b

They were, in fact, far more modern in the 1920s than the fragile and short-range airplanes they carried.  Other than the massive IJN Shinano (built on the hull of the third Yamato), which never operated with aircraft, Lexington and Saratoga were the largest aircraft carriers built until the Midways entered service post-war.  They were 12 knots faster than the battle fleet, and potentially capable of powerful, far-ranging strikes not conceived of before they entered service.

USS Lexington Class Firing

The design of Lex and Sara was still largely experimental, and contained some oddities that time and experience would either correct or eliminate.  Famously, these two aircraft carriers were armed with a heavy cruiser’s guns.  Each carried eight 8-inch/55 caliber Mk IX naval rifles in specially contrived twin mounts.  The gun housings lacked armor, consisting of little more than splinter shields, in order to save topside weight.  (While the mounting of heavy caliber guns seems in retrospect an anachronism, doubts about the ability of aircraft to actually engage and sink surface ships who might cross paths with the carriers were well founded in the early 1920s.  Despite Billy Mitchell’s experiments, the age of dominance of air power had not yet arrived for the world’s navies.  Indeed, the loss of HMS Glorious in 1940 and the sinking of three more aircraft carriers by gunfire over the course of the war might give more justification to the heavy main battery than commonly believed.)  The aligning of the centerline of the flight deck with the hull centerline was discovered to necessitate significant ballast to port to offset the weight of the island.  All future designs, starting with Ranger (CV-4) would have the appropriate offset of flight deck centerline on the hull.

5 25

Both vessels were given what was for the time a massive anti-aircraft battery.  Twelve of the new 5″/25 caliber Mk 10 AA guns were fitted, six on each side in single mounts, and controlled by the then-state of the art Mk 19 director.   A number of .50 (12.7mm) caliber machine guns installed in 1929 comprised the sole light AA capability.   As the size, speed, and lethality of carrier aircraft increased, however, it was clear that the .50 caliber machine guns were of dubious utility, and the development of the heavier 1.1″ (27.6mm) quad mount machine guns began.  Design delays in the 1.1″ AAMG were the impetus for the mounting of a number of 3″/50 caliber AA cannon until the design was ready for fielding, which occurred in early 1941.  The 1.1″ AAMG turned out to be a mixed bag.  When working properly, the 1.1″ proved effective in action, but maintenance and reliability issues, and the obvious requirement for a heavier projectile in the AA role against modern aircraft, led to the shipping of the famous twin and quad 40mm Bofors AA cannon beginning in mid-1942 on most US warships.

Pic_5

However, that decision was still in the future when plans were drawn up in 1940 to modernize Lexington and Saratoga as Pacific war clouds gathered.   It was planned to remove the 8″/55 Mk IX mounts on both vessels, and replace them with four twin Mk 12 mounts carrying the highly effective 5″/38 caliber dual purpose gun mated to Mk 37 gun directors, two mounts per director.   The 5″/38 was more accurate than its predecessor, and had an effective ceiling of 37,200 feet, 10,000 feet higher than the 25 caliber gun.  In addition, the plans called for the replacement of the ancient Mk 19 directors, first developed in 1925, with the newer Mk 33.  The Mk 19 was incapable of computing for dive bombing, and was almost entirely ineffective at tracking 250-knot aircraft now fielded by the Japanese, further restricting the effectiveness of the 5″/25 to under 17,000 feet.

cv2-9

The coming of war in December of 1941 meant that Lexington would be a desperately needed asset, and indeed she was active for the first four months in the Pacific war as a part of Task Force 11.  During a brief refit in March, 1942, Lexington’s 8″/55 mounts were landed, but the Mk 12 5″/38 mounts (and Mk 37 directors) to replace them were not installed, as Lexington was desperately needed in the fight against the Japanese Navy.  In addition, the Mk 33 directors destined for the older 5″/25 batteries were likewise not fitted.  In place of the planned 5″/38s, a temporary installation of more 1.1″ AAMGs and some 20mm Oerlikon cannon was instead completed.

Lex 42

020343e

Photographs of Lexington as she steamed into the Battle of the Coral Sea are noteworthy for the absence of her familiar 8″/55 mounts, or the presence of the 5″/38 mounts which Saratoga would receive while being repaired from torpedo damage a couple of months later.   What Lexington was left with for anti-aircraft defense was a heavy battery of older 5″/25 guns whose effectiveness was hampered by outdated fire control, and light AA in insufficient numbers to effectively defend her.   Whether this made any difference in the loss of Lexington is anyone’s guess, but the possibility certainly exists.  The mating of the 5″/38 with the Mk 37 was the most lethal anti-aircraft combination to go to sea in World War II.   Perhaps such a combination could have caused the Japanese torpedo and dive bombers who fatally struck Lexington on 8 May 1942 to have missed, or might have destroyed them before they struck the ship.   What is indisputable, however, is that Lexington was sent into action against a modern and capable enemy with equipment and weapons that were known to be obsolete and lacking in combat effectiveness.  Operational tempo had restricted the US Navy’s ability to sufficiently modernize a capital ship to acceptable standards to meet the requirements of combat at sea.  Despite the very recent rapid expansion undertaken in America’s shipyards, the United States went to war in the first six months in the Pacific with the Navy it had, not the one it would require to fight and win.

USS_Lexington_brennt

There is a lesson in there, somewhere.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Around the web, Artillery, budget, Defense, doctrine, engineering, guns, history, logistics, marines, navy, planes, Politics, ships, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons, World War II

Mini-14 a la Francais

In the comments on our post of the French police shooting at the Kosher store, Chrispy mentioned in the comments that some French police forces are armed with the Ruger Mini-14. Indeed they are. And Ian at Forgotten Weapons, of course has the details.

When French national police and security forces decided to replace the MAT-49 submachine gun as a standard weapon, they decided to look for a light carbine. Something less obviously military than the FAMAS was desired, and the natural choice was the Ruger Mini-14, whose slightly civilian appearance is often considered to be one of its primary strengths. Ruger licensed the design to the French, who have assembled them in-country with a few changes from the normal production model we are used to seeing here in the US.

French police officer with a Mousqueton AMD (Mini-14)

One of our very first purchases was a Ruger Mini-14 5R Ranch Rifle. Basically it was a Mini-14 with the receiver pre-milled to accept scope rings, and with a very primitive flip up sight, instead of the more robust aperture sights seen here. It came standard with a 5 round magazine, but we also had four 30 round magazines, because we like shooting lots of bullets.

It was a nice rifle, quite handy and comfortable, and back then (1987) very reasonably priced. It wasn’t quite as accurate as our M16, but it was, in general, more accurate than we were.

The comments at Forgotten Weapons have an interesting discussion on how the Mini-14 used to be a weapon of choice for many police agencies, and how and why that seems to have changed.

2 Comments

Filed under guns

World War II Armor in the Balkans Wars of the 1990s

sherman balkans

The eight-plus years of bloody conflict in the Balkans that began with the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991 and (more or less) ended with the Kumanovo Treaty of 1999 displayed for the world the lingering bitter ethnic and religious divides that made the fighting in both world wars so savage earlier in the century.  The 1980 death of Yugoslav strongman Josip Broz Tito uncapped the regional tensions which led to the successful  independence movements in Slovenia and Croatia, and wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in Kosovo.

The grim history of these events is replete with the age-old themes of conflict in that area of the world.  Atrocities, massacres, rape, savagery.  To which was added the feckless and ineffectual UN Protection Forces (UNPROFOR), arms embargoes, belated NATO participation, and a Europe once again largely unconcerned with a conflagration in the Balkans.

What is a curious aspect of these wars is the extent to which tanks and armored vehicles left over from World War II populated the battlefields of those wars.   In the post-World War II period and during the Cold War, Tito’s Yugoslavia was an officially “non-aligned” nation, and as a result was the recipient of both US and Soviet military aid.  This aid consisted of several hundred of the ubiquitous Soviet T-34 and US M4 Sherman tanks and M18 Hellcat tank destroyers, along with self-propelled guns, AFVs, and other implements.  Also, during the time when Yugoslavia seemed threatened by imminent Soviet invasion, nearly 30o 90mm-armed M36 Jackson tank destroyers were supplied by the United States.   The T-34 and M4 variants were late-war models, the T-34/85 and M4A3, respectively, the former carrying the 85mm D12 cannon, and the latter armed with the excellent long-barreled 76mm gun.

In the 1970s, Yugoslavia began to produce its own variant of the modern T-72 main battle tank, replacing the older T-54/55 in service.  It was thought that while some of the T-34/85s probably still existed in reserve, most of the American equipment was long since withdrawn from the inventory.  However, when the Balkan Wars began in 1991, and particularly after the so-called “Battle of the Barracks” that summer which led to the capture of large numbers of Yugoslavia National Army (JNA) tanks and heavy weapons by the Croatian independence forces, many of the old American and Soviet tanks and tank destroyers were employed by both sides.  This led to some very interesting images from the battlefields in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia.  And it was reported that at least one M36 was destroyed by a US F-16 strike before NATO air power forced dispersal and concealment of heavy weapons in the ample woodlands.

With a supply of replacement parts almost non-existent, many Shermans and Hellcats and Jacksons were cannibalized for spares, and some wildly improvisational local modifications were made.  This includes at least one M18 Hellcat with a Molotava truck engine replacing the US-made radial, and an M18 turret fitted to a T-55 hull.  (You can see both clearly in the images below.)  In addition, a considerable number of the M4s and M36s had their power packs swapped for Soviet T-54/55 engines, for which parts and fuel were relatively plentiful.

As ammunition grew scarce and keeping the ancient vehicles in operating order became nearly impossible, those veteran tanks of another age that were not destroyed (which was a considerable number) were retired from service.  The T-34s fared somewhat better.  By 2005, it was reported that virtually all of the American equipment was disposed of, and only a few T-34s remained in service.   With that, a number of M18 and M36 tank destroyers had been identified for purchase and restoration  by museums in the United States, and at least one has made it from the troubled region into American hands (featured in Season 1 of Tank Overhaul).

Here are some of the more interesting pictures from the battlefields of the Balkans, where, despite their age and obsolescence, many of the World War II-vintage tanks served their operators well, and were feared by opponents who did not have modern counter-mech weaponry.  (The photos that show tanks appearing to have an armored skirt are actually showing a hard rubber sheet, which was to protect against RPGs by prematurely detonating the warheads and dissipating the molten stream of metal.  This is reported to have actually worked to some extent, with some T-34/85s and Shermans surviving multiple strikes from RPG-7s.  I could find no corroboration of those reports.)

6aug5

7117033077_2894ea3a84_z

Bos010c

m3686uy

5395828736_b28980dd26_z

t34-8510

Hellcat

6974594028_c577281cdc_b

M36TD-1

SONY DSC

MZNDR-KA_Tank_destroyer_M18_Hellcat

m36balkans

m-36b2_jackson_05

yu-m36

8 Comments

Filed under Air Force, anthropology, armor, army, Around the web, Cold War, Defense, guns, history, logistics, Politics, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons

The Problem With Attribution of Cyber Attacks

r-SONY-HACK-HACKED-BREACH-SECURITY-VULNERABLE-PLAYST-large570

…is that it is all but impossible.  A skillful black hat can easily lead investigators down paths they want them to take, while obscuring the true origins of a network breach.  Mimicking attack vectors, using code associated with known hacking entities, even using language in the coding that points to known entities or countries, are common methods employed by those who wish to leave a false trail as to the origin of network attacks or exploits.  (Of course, the most dangerous of that lot can hide for months or years the fact that there has been any network exploit at all.)

There was much discussion in the office this week about the FBI’s announcement that they had what amounts to definitive proof that the DPRK had perpetrated the now-famous hacking of Sony Pictures.   I was definitely in a minority with my skepticism, for two reasons.  The first is that I have a very hard time believing anything coming out of a Federal agency in this Administration.  The Department of Justice, the IRS, the EPA, The State Department, Homeland Security, have all promulgated bald-faced lies to the American people, largely to cover up criminal and unconstitutional activity and/or the incompetence of those in charge.  The second is the rather unrealistic understanding the Federal Government (and DoD in particular) has of how the Internet works.  They THINK they know.  But they don’t.

Apparently, I am not alone in my skepticism.   From the Daily Beast:

So, malware found in the course of investigating the Sony hack bears “strong” similarities to malware found in other attacks attributed to North Korea.

This may be the case—but it is not remotely plausible evidence that this attack was therefore orchestrated by North Korea.

The FBI is likely referring to two pieces of malware in particular, Shamoon, which targeted companies in the oil and energy sectors and was discovered in August 2012, and DarkSeoul, which on June 25, 2013, hit South Korea (it was the 63rd anniversary of the start of the Korean War).

Even if these prior attacks were co-ordinated by North Korea—and plenty of security experts including me doubt that—the fact that the same piece of malware appeared in the Sony hack is far from being convincing evidence that the same hackers were responsible. The source code for the original “Shamoon” malware is widely known to have leaked. Just because two pieces of malware share a common ancestry, it obviously does not mean they share a common operator. Increasingly, criminals actually lease their malware from a group that guarantees their malware against detection. Banking malware and certain “crimeware” kits have been using this model for years.

So the first bit of evidence is weak.

But the second bit of evidence given by the FBI is even more flimsy:

“The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.”

What they are saying is that the Internet addresses found after the Sony Picture attack are “known” addresses that had previously been used by North Korea in other cyberattacks.

To cyber security experts, the naivety of this statement beggars belief. Note to the FBI: Just because a system with a particular IP address was used for cybercrime doesn’t mean that from now on every time you see that IP address you can link it to cybercrime. Plus, while sometimes IPs can be “permanent”, at other times IPs last just a few seconds.

Now, the FBI’s conclusions may be correct, and the DPRK may be officially or unofficially behind the breach.  But TDB raises some important points.  The DPRK can claim that a skilled hacker can make the evidence point back to them with little effort.  And indeed this is a correct assessment.  Why the Administration’s jump to blame the DPRK?   Perhaps, as the article states, it is yet another example of amplifying and manipulating an event (a good crisis not going to waste?) as justification for yet more government control via draconian regulation.

Blaming North Korea offers an easy way out for the many, many people who allowed this debacle to happen; from Sony Pictures management through to the security team that were defending Sony Picture’s network.

You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to see that blaming North Korea is quite convenient for the FBI and the current U.S. administration. It’s the perfect excuse to push through whatever new, strong, cyber-laws they feel are appropriate, safe in the knowledge that an outraged public is fairly likely to support them.

I will be writing more about so-called “Net Neutrality” in the near future.  But be certain that the regulations proposed by the Obama Administration have little to do with true net neutrality (despite the rather infantile assertions of some) and much more to do with expanding the regulatory power of the Federal Government over the content of the internet.   With the mainstream news media either firmly behind the Far Left, or beholden to them for reasons other than intellectual agreement, trust in the Big News outlets is at an all-time low.  It is on the internet where the fabrications of both the Obama Administration and its lap-dog agents in the press are torn apart by people with facts and experience, and people like Holder and Hillary and entities like the NYT and MSNBC are shown to be liars.  So the assertion in the above citation is certainly plausible.  To some of us, it is at least as plausible as the FBI’s proclamations of incontrovertible evidence of North Korea’s guilt in the Sony breach.

9 Comments

Filed under Air Force, army, Around the web, China, Defense, guns, history, marines, navy, obama, Politics, space, terrorism, Uncategorized

3”/50 gun, and the 8”/55 gun

A nice little video showing the autoloading features of each gun.

4 Comments

Filed under guns, navy

One Hundred Years Ago, Royal Navy Revenge at the Falklands

scharn

On the morning of 8 December 1914 just before 0800, British Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee received word that the German ships he had been searching for had appeared in the frigid South Atlantic waters off Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands.   The day before, Sturdee had arrived from England with reinforcements for the remnants of a British cruiser force that had been shattered in the first defeat the Royal Navy had suffered in a century.

Five weeks earlier, Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee’s Südsee-Geschwader, consisting of the powerful armored cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, along with cruisers Nürnberg, Leipzig, and Dresden, had routed Rear Admiral Cradock’s undergunned and outmanned cruiser squadron at Coronel, off the coast of Chile.  Cradock went down with his flagship Good Hope (which sank with all hands) when, pounded to a wreck by Scharnhorst, her forward magazine exploded.  Monmouth, Cradock’s other armored cruiser, was also lost with all hands under the fire of Gneisenau and Leipzig.

HMS_Invincible,_Battle_of_the_Falkland_Islands_(Warships_To-day,_1936)

Sturdee’s reinforcements were battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible, 20,0o0 ton vessels armed with eight 12-inch guns, capable of 26.5 knots, and the armored cruisers Kent and Cornwall.  Along with Glasgow and the elderly pre-dreadnought Canopus, Sturdee held a decisive advantage in both gun power and speed over his adversary.  Von Spee was entirely unaware of the presence of the British capital ships, which held a 6-knot speed advantage over Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, both of which were badly in need of overhaul and a hull-scraping.  Spee’s sixteen 8.2-inch guns were more than a match for Cradock’s armored cruisers, but were entirely outmatched by the heavier British batteries of Inflexible and Invincible.

36a-Inflexible-opens-fire

The opening salvoes were fired by Canopus, masked by the landmass of Sapper Hill.  Unaware as of yet of the presence of two battlecruisers, Spee canceled the planned bombardment, still believing he could disengage and outrun the British cruisers and the elderly battleship.  It was not until near mid-day that horrified German lookouts spotted the distinctive fighting tops of the British capital units.  In a running fight that the German vessels had little chance of escaping, Scharnhorst succumbed to her wounds and rolled over at 1615.  Gneisenau would fight gamely on until the last of her guns were destroyed, and at 1800 she was ordered scuttled by her captain.  Admiral Graf von Spee was not among the 190 survivors plucked from the icy waters.

Thomas_Jacques_Somerscales,_Sinking_of_'The_Scharnhorst'_at_the_Battle_of_the_Falkland_Islands,_8_December_1914

The battle had some final acts to play out.  Kent sank Nürnberg at 1930, and in the darkening seas Glasgow and Cornwall hunted down and sank Leipzig.   Only Dresden of Spee’s Südsee-Geshwader escaped, to be sunk in March of 1915.  (Among Dresden’s officers was a young Oberleutnant-zur-see named Wilhelm Canaris, who would go on to famed service in the next war.)

The Battle of the Falklands cost the Imperial German Navy the lives of more than 1,800 sailors.  British losses were ten killed and 19 wounded.  While the victory of Sturdee’s squadron was complete, and avenged Cradock at Coronel, some unflattering issues revealed themselves.  The primary was that British gunnery left much to be desired.  The sinking of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau took more than five hours, and 1,174 rounds of 12-inch ammunition from the battlecruisers.  Even considering Sturdee’s prudent tactics of fighting at or beyond the range of the guns of his opponent, his capital units expended more than half of their ammunition to score fewer than thirty hits on the two German cruisers.  British gunnery shortcomings, the skill and bravery of their German opponents, and the toughness of the German ships, would manifest themselves at Jutland eighteen months later.

In one of history’s ironies, Admiral Graf von Spee’s namesake panzerschiff, KMS Graf Spee, would meet its end almost exactly 25 years later, in December of 1939 in the waters of the South Atlantic once again.  She was scuttled because it was rumored that she was awaited outside Montevideo by British dreadnoughts.

 

4 Comments

Filed under armor, Artillery, Defense, guns, history, navy, ships, Splodey, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons

Domestic Enemies: 2014

2duz5dv

If you read here more than a little, you are familiar with my use of the term “enemies, domestic”.  For the uninitiated, those words are a part of my oath of office as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps.  They define, in part, those from whom I have sworn on my life to defend the Constitution from.  Just who are those people?  Well, DaveO among our friends at Op-For provides some superb erudition to the subject:

In August of 2013, I posed the question “Who are ‘Domestic Enemies?’” This question stemmed from comments in an earlier post provided by Mike Burke and Slater. In September of 2013, Colonel Joseph L. Prue, USAF, in his post  “Identifying the domestic enemy” pulled this definition from our Constitution:

Amendment 14, Section 3 states, “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” As a military officer, I honed in on the words military and insurrection. To me, this meant that any insurgent against the United States shall not hold any public office to include civil or military.

The Constitutional parameters of: 1) engaging in insurrection or rebellion against the Constitution; or 2) to have given aid and comfort to the enemies of the Constitution.

By that definition we’ve got a  LOT of domestic enemies in America. Folks love to argue that President Obama’s [still unsigned?] amnesty is the very definition of rebellion against the Constitution. Others, myself included, believe Senator Reid of Utah and the anti-war groups such as Code Pink did gave aid and comfort to AQ and its offshoots and the Taliban up until Obama won the presidency, and then the groups were quickly hustled off to rest and recuperate until the next Republican POTUS appears.

But the folks in and behind the anti-war crowd were never anti-war, just anti-America and if hampering the war effort hurt America, they were all for it. Once Obama won, these people could turn to more productive pursuits. They are working on an “American Spring.” Legitimate protests of law enforcement are being hijacked to bring about rebellion. There are problems with race in America, as well as problems enforcing the an unknowable and incoherent body of law. Domestic enemies don’t care about race or relations with the police – domestic enemies wish to supplant the Constitution and become their own law and engage in mass murder. The NSA knows who they are, where they live, and who is paying them. January 20, 2017 can’t come soon enough – we need to cut out this cancer of domestic enemies.

Every link Dave puts in his post is worth the read.  This Administration has embarked on a systematic shredding of our Constitution, and with it, our liberties protected thereby.  The 14th Amendment has already been a casualty, when the Attorney General defined just who would face prosecution for crimes, based on skin color.  DaveO is entirely correct.  January of 2017 cannot come soon enough.

5 Comments

Filed under Air Force, army, Around the web, guns, history, marines, navy, obama, Politics, terrorism, Uncategorized, veterans, war, weapons