Category Archives: war

One Hundred Years Ago, Royal Navy Revenge at the Falklands

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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.

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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.

 

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Domestic Enemies: 2014

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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.

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Grumman EF-111 Raven

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EF-111s from 42nd Electronic Combat Squadron in Upper Heyford, England format off the tanker.

The Grumman EF-111 Raven was the USAF’s counterpart to the Grumman EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft. In USAF service the “Spark ‘vark”  as it’s perhaps more commonly known, replaced the EB-66 Destroyer and the EB-57 Canberra.

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The Grumman EF-111 Raven first flew on 10 March 1977.

 

The first fully equipped EF-111 first flew on 10 March 1977 using a modified F-111. A grand total of 42 old F-111 airframes were produced at a cost to taxpayers of $1.5 Billion.

In terms of flight control the EF-111 (by modern standards) is pretty straight forward. As with the standard F-111,  there are no ailerons, as roll is controlled differentially by the horizontal stabilators and at low speeds spoilers on the upper surface of the variable geometry wings. Pitch is controlled by both horizontal stabilators and the rudder acts to correct adverse yaw. There are also tangential ventral fins that add to high-speed longitudinal stability.

Even though the Raven can be seen as a counterpart to the Navy’s Prowler there are some key differences.

Metric Prowler Raven
Maximum Speed (mph) 651 1460
Range (miles) 2400 (with drop tanks; usually carried) 2,000
Ceiling (ft) 37,600 45,000
Rate of climb (ft/min) 12,900 11,000
Thrust/weight ratio (lbs/ft) 0.34 0.598

These performance differences enabled the Raven to do some things operationally that the Prowler could not. The Raven could keep up with supersonic strike aircraft like the F-111 and later the F-15E in the escort strike role. However the Raven doesn’t have the endurance that the Prowler had because of a few factors. The Raven has a crew of 2, limiting the crew tasking loading for a given mission. The Prowler has a crew of 4 enabling more tasks to be spread to more crew members. The Raven uses “flying boom” method for aerial refueling which limits the tanker aircraft to refuel the aircraft to USAF-only tanking assets. The Prowler had the ability for fire the AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) while the Raven did not.

800px-AGM-88E_HARM_p1230047Both aircraft did use the AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS). The Raven specifically used the AN/ALQ-99E variant which had more automation for the 2 crew members and about 70% commonality with the Prowlers TJS (at least the earlier versions of the TJS).

The EF-111 houses components of the AN/ALQ-99E within the aircraft. The most visible changes to the EF-111 are the “canoe” in the ventral fuselage (that replaced the PAVE TACK pod in the F-111 variants, the “football” atop the vertical stabalitor, and an antenna on each wing glove for the ALQ-137 low/mid/high band reciever (port) and the ALR-62 forward RWR (starboard).

66-056 Tail

Components of the AN/ALQ-99E are seen on the “football” atop the vertical tail.

EF111s

This EF-111 show the ventral “canoe” fairing stowing the components of the AN/ALQ-99E TJS. The bullet fairing top is the AN/ALQ-137 multi-band receiver.

 

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EF-111 cutaway. Click to embiggenify.

 

Operationally, the first EF-111s were deployed in November 1981 to the 388th Tactical Electronic Squadron, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. From 1984 to 1992 the –111 saw service with the 42nd Electronic Combat Squadron (part of the 20 Tactical Fighter Wing) at RAF Upper Heyford, UK. The –111 also saw service with the 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon AFB in the 429th (1992-1998) and the 430th (1992-1993) Electronic Combat Squadrons. Also at Mountain Home AFB with the 388th (1981-1982) and the 390th (1982-1992) Electronic Combat Squadrons.

The EF-111 first saw combat with the 20th TFW as part of Operation El Dorado Canyon against Libya in 1986. Then during Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989.

The largest EF-111 deployment for the EF-111 was Operation Desert Storm. The 18 EF-111s in the AOR flew over 900 sorties with a mission capable rate of 87.5 % mission capable rate. EF-1111 frequently operated with the F-4G and because the Iraqis feared the F-4G and its HARM missile, they made brief, limited and ineffective use of their radars. When they did choose to operate these radars, the effective jamming of the EF-111 negated their ability to track, acquire, and target attacking aircraft. Every day the Weasels and Ravens supported shooters as they attacked their targets in Iraq and the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations (KTO). One sign of their success was that after day four, all allied aircraft operated with impunity in the mid to high altitude environment across the AOR. By decreasing the threat of SAMs to our strike aircraft, EF-111s and F-4Gs permitted aircraft to deliver their weapons from an environment where they can be very lethal.

A notable event was a “maneuver” kill by an EF-111 of an Iraqi Air Force Mirage F-1EQ on the opening night of Desert Storm:

On the first night of the war, Captain Brent Brandon was flying his EF-111 “Spark Vark” on an electronic warfare mission ahead of a group of jets on a bombing run. Several IRAF Dassault Mirage F1s came in and engaged the flight. One of them went after the unarmed EF-111. Captain Brandon executed a tight turn and launched chaff to avoid the missiles being fired by the Mirage. A F-15 on the same flight, piloted by Robert Graeter, went after the Mirage trying to protect the EF-111. The Mirage launched a missile which the Raven avoided by launching chaff. Captain Brandon decided to head for the deck to try to evade his pursuer. As he went down he pulled up to avoid the ground, the Mirage followed him through, though the Mirage went straight into the ground. An unarmed EF-111 thus scored an air-air victory against a Dassault Mirage F1, although Graeter was credited with a kill. The EF-111A pilots won the Distinguished Flying Cross

An Iraqi Air Force Mirage F-1EQ.

An Iraqi Air Force Mirage F-1EQ.

The aircraft was EF-111 66-0016 and is on display at the Cannon AFB Museum:

EF-111 66-0016 on outside display at Cannon AFB New Mexico.

EF-111 66-0016 on outside display at Cannon AFB New Mexico.

There was one combat loss of the EF-111 during Desert Storm:

On 13 February 1991, EF-111A, AF Ser. No. 66-0023, callsign Ratchet 75, crashed[11] into terrain while maneuvering to evade a perceived enemy aircraft threat killing the pilot, Capt Douglas L. Bradt, and the EWO, Capt Paul R. Eichenlaub

After Desert Storm the F-111 also flew missions in Operation Provide Comfort,Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch.

The victory from Desert Storm was shoret lived. The last deployment of the Spark ‘vark was 1998 to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arablia. Due to the aircraft’s age the USAF decided to retire the aircraft and the last EF-111s were retired on 2 May 1998, at Cannon AFB, New Mexico.

Aside from the EC-130, and the later “acquisition” (if you will) of the Prowler, the USAF pretty much ignored tactical electronic warfare. You can pick up that part of the story here.

 

EF-111 retied at AMARG.

EF-111 retired at AMARG.

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SECDEF Fired: Hagel Goes Under the Bus

Chuck Hagel

Big news this morning that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been fired by President Obama.  Big news, but not surprising.  Hagel has openly contradicted the President several times, especially regarding the Administration’s rather childish assertions regarding the necessity of ground forces in the fight against ISIS.   You will hear various stories about how this was Hagel’s idea, and of course, the media will dutifully report as fact the White House’s version of events.  But that version will be as accurate and honest as WH proclamations on Benghazi, the IRS, Fast and Furious, ISIS intelligence failures, etc.

Though Hagel was not known as a deep thinker, the idea that he somehow couldn’t grasp the deeper and more complex defense issues smells like the intellectual elitism of the self-proclaimed far-left “ruling” class.  It is far more likely that Hagel attempted to keep Obama and his National Security Council grounded in reality, only to be poo-pooed and brushed aside by the overwhelming cacophony from the Marxist ideologues that have the President’s ample ears.   I was never a big Chuck Hagel fan, as he was a Global Zero guy whose viewpoints at various times bordered on the curious, but as SECDEF I thought he was one of the few at the top of the Defense structure with the spine to stand up to the rampant amateurish stupidity that emanated from 1600 Pennsylvania.  We could have done far worse.  We certainly might going forward.

Whether talks were “initiated” by Hagel or not, the nature of those talks were probably discussions about whether Obama was going to keep tossing aside wise counsel or not in favor of the childlike and naive rantings of his fellow-travelers.  And, the answer today seems to be a resounding YES.  Obama will continue to march forward in secular progressive lockstep to the Internationale, wreaking the concomitant damage on US security, foreign relations, and national power.

Funny that the Secretary of Defense that HE chose, to replace another that had had enough (Panetta), is now thought not to be up to the job.  One has to wonder who is.  Michele Flournoy has been mentioned, along with Ash Carter.  One has to think Bob Work is in the mix.  All are far too talented to want to serve out the last two years of the military train wreck that is the Defense Department under Obama.   It is like being hired to coach the Washington Generals, and being told you are expected to win.

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“…In This, I Think, Is Glory.”

Still my favorite.

Happy Birthday, Marines!  Semper Fidelis!

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The BBC’s 1964 Masterpiece “The Great War”

Of all the events of the Twentieth Century, it is the First World War that has had the most dramatic and longest-lasting impact on the psyche of Western civilization, more so than all the events that followed.   For anyone with an abiding interest in that war, the 1964 BBC documentary The Great War is an invaluable reference to understanding.  Narrated by Sir Michael Redgrave, the 26-part documentary is a superbly-crafted work.  The tenor of the broadcasts reflects the erosion of the naïve hopes of the warring parties in 1914 into the grim fatalism that the years of slaughter evoked, and the upheaval that would ultimately topple the crowned heads of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia.  BBC producers make excellent use of voice to read the actual words of the key participants such as Edward Grey, Bethmann-Hollweg, Conrad von Hotzendorf, Joffre, Haig, Falkenhayn, and others.  The series features remarkable and little-seen motion footage of the world of 1914-18, including the civilians, the politicians, the armies, and the great battles of that war.   The battle footage heavily emphasizes the two great killers of that war (in inverse order), the machine gun, and modern breech-loading recoil-dampened artillery.

Of note also are the poignant, and sometimes extremely moving, interviews with the participants of events of the great tragedy.  Some had been in the thick of the fighting, others young subalterns or staff officers at the sleeve of the decision-makers.   Most remarkably, the BBC managed to produce a documentary about momentous events that changed the world and yet also managed to allow the viewer insight into the inestimable human tragedy that these events summoned.   At the time of the release of The Great War, those events were closer in time to the audience than the beginning of the Vietnam War is to our contemporary world.   The twenty-six episodes are around forty minutes each.  Worth every second of the time spent.

Oh, and as the credits roll at the end of each episode, one can spot the name of a very young (19 years old) contributor named Max Hastings.

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Video: The World War Two Flight Deck

A great video from Zeno’s War Birds.   Worth a sit-down with a cup of coffee.

Some shopworn Wildcats and Avengers.  A great description of the incredibly complex ballet that was the operation of a WWII carrier flight deck.   Hand and arm signals, whistles, muscle and discipline.  With powerful reminders that there were a thousand and one ways to get killed then, as now.

(Honestly, this was written before XBRAD posted about tailhook design.  I did not intentionally go all “Goose and Mav” on you….)

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