Tag Archives: history

Vulcan/Chaparral

This film is from circa 1965. Even in 1990, the Vulcan/Chaparral/FAAR team formed the backbone of the armored/mechanized infantry division’s Air Defense Artillery battalion, though by that time, there were also several FIM-92 Stinger missile teams available.

Some of the platoon and company life fire gunnery ranges at Graf in Germany were especially fun when, as a dismount grunt, I could stand right next to an M163 Vulcan, and watch it dispatch bursts at targets.

By 1990, both systems were clearly obsolete, and would be hard pressed to successfully engage most any Soviet aircraft, and even struggle with helicopters such as the formidable Mi-24.  The Vulcan had been slated to be replaced by the M247 SGT York 40mm gun* but the failure of that program meant the Vulcan and the Chapparal eventually were both replaced by the Stinger missile, and a lot of hope that Stinger would be enough.

*Which, the Vulcan itself replaced the earlier M42 40mm gun carriage, popularly known as the “Duster.”

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Filed under armor, army

USAF Manned Aircraft of 1954

Two clips, about 17 minutes each, showing the state of the art of manned aircraft at the end of 1954 for the USAF. It’s interesting to see which platforms were soon relegated to the dustbin of history, and which ones would go on to illustrious careers, and some even remain relevant today. It’s also amazing how ambitious some of the projects were, considering that the war in Korea had just closed, with the height of technology being the F-86, and much of the effort having been carried by such World War II stalwarts as the F-51 and C-47. At a time when going into combat in a piston engine plane was utterly unremarkable, the Air Force was looking at interceptors with a speed of anywhere from Mach 3 to Mach 5.

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Filed under Air Force, history

Dream Sheets, Hollywood, and Nuclear Weapons

So, saw this little funny at Facebook.

And of course, in my case, “Seattle” somehow got mistranslated to “Gary, IN.”

That and I was scouring YouTube last night trying to find obscure but entertaining and informative content for you, dear reader. And I got to thinking about some of the more obscure, interesting places the military might end up sending you to. Sure, there are recruiting stations in small towns and large cities. But there are also military bases tucked away in places you wouldn’t expect. For instance, the Navy has a substantial base in Crane, Indiana, of all places.  The Army has Fort DeRussy. Formerly a Coast Artillery installation, it is now a resort smack in the middle of Waikiki, Hawaii.

For twenty years, the Air Force operated a top secret base in the hills above Hollywood.

When the US began testing nuclear weapons after World War II, it soon decided it needed to document the testing. In addition to written reports, film reports were prepared, basically 30-60 minute long classified documentaries to brief senior leadership.  And while the filming was obviously done on location, the processing and editing were best accomplished at a centralized location. And where better to place such a facility than in Hollywood, home of the movie industry? The Air Force looked at the lists of government property in the area, and quickly realized that it already owned the perfect spot.

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the then Army Air Forces had established air defense control stations at major metropolitan areas along the West Coast. In the Los Angeles area, they had built a radar and control site on Lookout Mountain, above Laurel Canyon. Abandoned after the war, in 1947, it was reactivated, but this time as a movie studio.

File:United States Air Force Lookout Mountain Laboratory from above in color.jpg

Staffed by a combination of Air Force personnel, personnel from the other services, and contracted support from industry experts, Air Force Station Lookout Mountain produced hundreds of films documenting the US nuclear testing program.  You’ve seen stock footage of houses blown away by nuclear blasts? That’s their handiwork. In fact, virtually all footage you’ve seen of nuclear explosions is their product.

http://cdn.cstatic.net/images/gridfs/4f919a4385216d482002bd82/20800853_zpid-1.jpeg

With the end of above ground nuclear testing, much of the need for Lookout Mountain’s product went away. It was inactivated in 1968, and eventually sold and converted into a private residence. Actor Jared Leto reportedly bought the 100,000 square foot compound for around $5,000,000 earlier this year.

As an aside, the compound is less than half a mile from the site of the Wonderland Murders.

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Filed under Air Force

Inspection Ready

Can you imagine an NCO meeting a Colonel, let alone a five star general, shirtless and greasy today?

Hap

My how times have changed.

There’s very much a place for spit and polish in the service. But there’s also very much a time for senior officers to see past the dog and pony shows and see what the actual conditions are.

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Filed under history

Almost there… Doc rolls out.

You know FiFi, the only flightworthy B-29 Superfortress in the world. Well, with a little bit of luck, Doc will be airborne this year. And today was Doc’s rollout after a stunning 300,000 man-hours of restorations. Doc still has a ways to go before she’s flightworthy, but the progress has been terrific.

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Filed under planes

Lay Aloft! Climbing the foremast of USS Constitution

Which, wow, that’s a fair bit of cordage involved.

The caption from YouTube:

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (Oct. 29, 2014) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Pablo Solano climbs to the top of USS Constitution’s foremast during the crew’s final climbing evolution prior to Constitution being de-rigged in preparation for her entry into dry dock 1 in Charlestown Navy Yard scheduled for spring 2015.

I always get a tad queasy and dizzy watching stuff like this. Do note that our cameraman climbs the foremast, and the foretopmast, up to the crosstrees, but doesn’t climb the next segment, up the foretopgallant. Which, when making sail in the old days, not only would our sailor climb that, he’d be accompanied by quite a few others. And no safety harnesses back then. And while the weather this day in Charlestown was just about perfect, many a time sailors laid aloft in less than pleasant conditions. At night.

Yo ho, no wonder a bottle of rum was needed for the sailor’s life!

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Filed under history, navy, ships

Cold War Redux

The XX Committee* has a great post on just who NATO is facing in Russia, and why our responses have been so poor.

As the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate, with the Russian military and its “rebel” minions never having honored the Minsk-brokered “ceasefire” for even an hour, something like low-grade panic is setting in among NATO capitals. Western elites have a tough time sizing up Putin and his agenda realistically, for reasons I’ve elaborated, and the situation seems not to be improving.

German has a delightfully cynical line, die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt (hope dies last), that sums up much of the wishful thinking that currently holds sway in Berlin, Paris, and Washington, DC. As the reality that Putin knows he is at war against Ukraine, and may seek a wider war against NATO too, is a prospect so terrifying that thousands of Western diplomats and “foreign policy experts” would rather not ponder it, so they don’t.

A classic example comes in a recent press report about how Western foreign ministries are striving to prevent Putin from doing more to destabilize Eastern Europe. Amidst much dithering about how to deter Putin — more sanctions? maybe some, but not too many, weapons for Ukraine? how about some really biting hashtags? — NATO leaders aren’t coming up with anything that can be termed a coherent policy, much less a strategy.

Western nations have consistently underestimated Putin’s willingness to use force.

How can we forget Putin overseeing the Second Chechen War? The 2008 invasion of Georgia? We’ve already effectively conceded Crimea. For that matter, who seriously thinks diplomacy will ever return eastern Ukrainian lands from Moscow’s grip?

Will we see a straight up invasion of Germany right out of Red Storm Rising? Probably not.

But almost certainly some “incident” will eventually take place in Latvia or one of the other Baltic nations that will, by amazing coincidence, be used by Putin to justify some Russian intervention.

Which, what a coincidence:

Increasingly frequent snap military drills being carried out by Russia near its eastern European neighbours could be part of a strategy that will open the door for a Russian offensive on the Baltic states according to defence expert Martin Hurt, deputy director at Estonia’s International Centre for Defence and Security.

The Lithuanian and Estonian defence ministries have expressed alarm at the increased military activity, and drawn comparisons with moves prior to the Russian invasion of Crimea.

Commenting on Russia’s announcement last week that its armed forces will not cease holding snap military exercises, Hurt, who has previously worked for Estonia’s Ministry of Defence as well as for the armed forces of both Estonia and Sweden, warned against taking this news lightly.

 

*If you don’t know where they got their blog name from, you most certainly should read this.

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Filed under his, history, Russia