GAO says National Security Cutters have issues

The Coast Guard’s latest 418-foot National Security Cutter, James (WSML 754), is underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Thursday, July 30, 2015. The James is the fifth of eight planned National Security Cutters – the largest and most technologically advanced class of cutters in the Coast Guard’s fleet. The cutters’ design provides better sea-keeping, higher sustained transit speeds, greater endurance and range, and the ability to launch and recover small boats from astern, as well as aviation support facilities and a flight deck for helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau)

The Coast Guard’s latest 418-foot National Security Cutter, James (WSML 754), is underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Thursday, July 30, 2015. The James is the fifth of eight planned National Security Cutters – the largest and most technologically advanced class of cutters in the Coast Guard’s fleet.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau)

A report by the GAO issued last month has gripes with the USCG’s new 418-foot National Security Cutters which have been slowly joining the fleet. While quantum leaps over the old 378s they are replacing on a 1:1.5 ratio due to the fact they have longer legs, better accommodations, stern launched small boats, capabilities for both a Dolphin and a UAV at the same time as well as more up-to-date EW, ELINT, radar and commo gear, they are still having problems with making their weapons suite do what it is designed for.

Now keep in mind that the weapons on Coast Guard cutters are actually “owned” by the Navy so there has always been a degree of disconnect, but there are still some pretty bad things that have surfaced over the course of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) and Combat System Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT).

national security cutter weapon systems

While the CIWS, NULKA launcher, and air search radar were all repaired following IOT&E, post operational reports indicate that problems persist with these systems as they were often unavailable during operations. For example, the CIWS was inoperable on the Stratton for at least 61 days in 2014; the NULKA was inoperable on the Stratton from October 2013 through April 2014; and, according to Coast Guard officials, the air search radar has had 18 casualties, or failures, across the three operational NSCs over the past 19 months, with a lead time for repairs of up to 18 months. Further, the ship was not tested to see if it could achieve a hard and soft kill against a subsonic anti-ship cruise missile due to a moratorium on using target drones.

Also, getting ammo to the CIWS is a bitch:

The ammunition hoists are difficult to use in their current configuration, and the crew of the NSC prefers to carry ammunition for the CIWS by hand rather than use the hoist.

Then there are engine problems which include overheating engines in tropical waters and cracked heads at an alarming rate:

The NSC has encountered casualties with the engines’ cylinder heads at a higher than expected rate, averaging four cracked cylinder heads per cutter per year. According to Coast Guard officials, cylinder heads are not normally expected to fail at this rate. The equipment manufacturer has redesigned the cylinder heads in an effort to prevent them from cracking, and all of the operational NSCs have been equipped with the re-designed part, but the NSCs have continued to experience cracked cylinder heads even with the new design, which can result in an inability to conduct operations. For example, in 2014, the Waesche missed 11 planned operational days as a result of this problem.

However, as the report states, a series of mods, upgrades and “we’re working on it(s)” are planned.

Good deal on a wall-hanger

Back a decade or so ago, Atlanta Cutlery and International Military Antiques got the arms score of the century when they talked their way into buying everything accumulated in the Old Palace of Lagan Silekhana in Katmandu, Nepal. They picked up pallets of British flintlocks, Martinis, oddball steampunk looking machine guns, and only God knows what else. It seems the Nepalese never threw anything away.

They were stacked like cordwood with little protection from the elements

They were stacked like cordwood with little protection from the elements

In the past several years I’ve stocked up on a few items that came from the Katmandu cache including some Revolutionary War era flints, a bunch of .69 caliber Brown Bess musket balls, and a Martini or two (Zulu Dawn, anyone?)

And now it seems they are ridding themselves of some “untouched” quality Gahendra rifles for $195.

But of course, these 130~ year old guns were in very much less than arsenal storage for the better part of a century so to say they are non-shooters is likely an understatement.

Nepalese Gahendra Martini Rifle. This one is in nice condition. The Wallhangers for $195, not so much

Nepalese Gahendra Martini Rifle. This one is in nice condition. The Wallhangers for $195, not so much

From IMA’s description:

The Martini-Henry Gahendra was based on an 1869 Westley Richards patented design, this unique and extremely rare early breech loading military rifle 577/450 Martini-Henry calibre was produced under the direction of General Gahendra Rana in the 1880’s to provide Ghurka regiments with what appeared to be the latest British Military Rifle. An ingenious design, it really surpassed the standard Martini in that its entire action was removable as one unit for ease of servicing or exchange. Production however caused massive logistic problems and by 1894 the Ghurkas were dangerously short of viable .450 cal. breechloaders to face ever growing threats from the east. Finally the British came to the rescue with a delivery of several thousand Martini short lever rifles in late 1894 and even more long lever Martini Rifles in 1908. The over-complicated Gahendra Rifle was thereafter basically shelved, the void in up-to-date arms having been met. Always considered the rarest Martini variety of all, the Gahendra Rifle has a characteristic loading lever but in other respects closely resembles the standard Martini externally.

wallhanger

 

The mis-labeled Coffee Mill Sharps

During the Civil War, an enterprising cavalry colonel attached to the Springfield Armory came up with the idea to put a mill in the stock of a Sharps Carbine to grind feed and the rest is fakery legend.

As noted by the Arsenal’s records, one Lt. Col. Walter King was on loan from the 4th Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment (itself a four company amalgamation formed in 1862 by consolidation of the colorful Fremont Hussars and three companies of the Hollan Horse) to the site from 1864-65 and though it would be pretty sweet if he could add a hand cranked mill to the stock of the standard .52 caliber Sharps Carbine.

The 'coffee grinder' Sharps Carbine with a mill right in the stock (10)

The idea was that the mill would be enclosed in the stock itself with a detachable crank on the right-hand side. The horse trooper would dump wheat or oats in the opening at the bottom and grind them up for horse feed while on the move if needed.

The 'coffee grinder' Sharps Carbine with a mill right in the stock (5) The 'coffee grinder' Sharps Carbine with a mill right in the stock (7) The 'coffee grinder' Sharps Carbine with a mill right in the stock (8)

Over the years, people just kinda took it that the Sharps was meant to grind coffee, which is often more important to an Army on the move, but they were wrong. Historians with the National Park Service attempted to grind coffee beans with one of the rifles in their collection and found that it was unsuitable.

The 'coffee grinder' Sharps Carbine with a mill right in the stock (3)As for the guns themselves, its believed that fewer than 100 were ever converted and only 12 are believed to be around today.

In fact, so few verified “coffee grinder” Sharps are in circulation, that Springfield Armory specifically mentions them as an example of one of the more commonly faked relic firearms of the 19th Century saying, “There are probably more weapons with ‘coffee grinder’ adaptations on the market today than were ever originally produced.”

For instance, a few years ago RIA had an 1863 Sharps (wrong model) with a repro Coffee Mill attachment built in up for grabs. Why was it obviously a repro besides being on the wrong model carbine? Well, the crank was on the left and not the right…

Whoops

Whoops

The 4th Missouri, after seeing lots of Nathan Bedford Forrest across Northern Mississippi and Alabama while King was making bad ideas at Springfield, was mustered out of service on November 13, 1865 at San Antonio where they were watching the border and keeping an eye on Maximilian as part of Phil Sheridan’s 25,000-man force.

As for the good Lt.Col King himself, he faded into history though tales of his time with the 4th, which included bumping into but not fighting with Quantrill’s raiders around Lawrence and being the victim of a stage coach robbery by bushwhackers leave a quiet legacy all their own.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Vernon Howe Bailey

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday : The Martial Art of Vernon Howe Bailey

Born in Camden, New Jersey in the peaceful time that was 1874 in the United States, young Vernon Howe Bailey was a skilled artist already in his youth, earning a place at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Art in Philadelphia at the tender young age of 15. This led to further study in London and Paris and by 1892, at age 18, he was a regular illustrator on the staff of the Philadelphia Times back in the day when virtually every image was drawn rather than photographed.

Fitchburg elevator fire of 1898

Fitchburg elevator fire of 1898

While at the Times, he submitted works to weekly and monthly periodicals such as Scribner’s, Harper’s, Leslies Weekly and Colliers— all big names at the time. In 1902, he left Philly and took a job at the Boston Herald.

Before the Great War, he toured Europe extensively and created enduring architectural studies that preserved the lamplight era just before the lamps themselves were blown out.

Brasenose College, Oxford by Vernon Howe

Brasenose College, Oxford by Vernon Howe

Red Lion Passage

Red Lion Passage

Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Antwerp

Antwerp

When WWI came, he did war work for the Navy and some of these images grew acclaim for their attention to detail. in fact, he was the first artist authorized by the U. S. Government to make drawings of America’s war effort in the Great War.

h86448

NH 86449 USS Kaiser Wilhelm II

NH 86449 USS Kaiser Wilhelm II

NH 86451 USS NEW YORK (BB-34) and USS ARIZONA (BB-39) fitting out note torpedo boat loading fish

NH 86451 USS NEW YORK (BB-34) and USS ARIZONA (BB-39) fitting out note torpedo boat loading fish

NH 86454 USS NEW MEXICO (BB-40) Building

NH 86454 USS NEW MEXICO (BB-40) Building

USS Barracuda in dry dock

USS Barracuda in dry dock

Postwar, it was more architecture and travel, though the number of pieces he did per month began to dwindle as his rates had gone up in accordance with his renown. He was even commissioned to produce watercolors for the Vatican.

When the Second World War came, it was back to work with the Navy. Throughout the war he toured extensively stateside and created some of the best military art of the era from any pen or brush.

An entire set of 22 watercolors sprang from a three-week long stay in March 1942 at NAS Jacksonville where he recorded the seaplane operations there with a more painterly approach than he did in 1918.

Landing planes at NAS Jacksonville.

Landing planes at NAS Jacksonville.

PBY Patrol planes at the beach.

PBY Patrol planes at the beach.

Patrol plane on the air station apron.

Patrol plane on the air station apron.

Crane hoisting a sea plane from the St. Johns River.

Crane hoisting a sea plane from the St. Johns River.

Apron with patrol squadron planes.

Apron with patrol squadron planes.

Hauling a sea plane up the ramp.

Hauling a Kingfisher sea plane up the ramp.

Patrol Plane 33.

Patrol Plane 33.

Seagoing Rescue Tugs,” by Vernon Howe Bailey, Watercolor, 1942, 88-165-LN. This painting went south http://www.navalhistory.org/2010/04/12/misappropriated-navy-art but, as noted by the NHC, was recovered: "This painting recently returned to us from a DC area auction house. The consignor had found it at a Goodwill store, I’m told. Its last location before it went missing was with the Bureau of Ships before 1969. One of our local NCIS agents very kindly visited the auction house two hours before the start of our first big snowstorm in February to let them know the Navy had a claim on the painting."

Seagoing Rescue Tugs,” by Vernon Howe Bailey, Watercolor, 1942, 88-165-LN. This painting went south but, as noted by the NHC, was recovered: “This painting recently returned to us from a DC area auction house. The consignor had found it at a Goodwill store, I’m told. Its last location before it went missing was with the Bureau of Ships before 1969. One of our local NCIS agents very kindly visited the auction house two hours before the start of our first big snowstorm in February to let them know the Navy had a claim on the painting.”

Postwar, he returned to New York and continued where he left off, never fully retiring.

In addition to numerous medals, ribbons and awards, Bailey was a full and celebrated member of the Society of Illustrators and of the Architectural League of New York.

He passed in 1953 in New York City, at the ripe old age of 79.

Besides works maintained by the NAS Jacksonville and the Naval Historical Command, he is also exhibited in the Smithsonian’s extensive collection who maintain some 600 of his illustrations and papers, North Carolina State University the French War Museum in Paris and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. A number of his architectural drawings from the Victorian era can be found online at The Victorian Web.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Ah, those hard serving Lithuanians

Staff captain of the Life-Guards Lithuanian Regiment Bogutskiy, WWI, Russian Army (with the Order of St. Vladimir 4 degrees with swords) mosin photo bomb

Here we see a young guards officer of the Tsar’s Russian Imperial Army, Staff captain of the Life-Guards Lithuanian Regiment Bogutskiy in June 1915 during some of the darkest days of the First World War. The good captain wears the Order of St. Vladimir, to the 4th degrees with swords.

Note he has an officer’s sword on his left and a holstered revolver, likely a Nagant 1895 on his right, both set up to cross-draw. The photobombing guardsman with the Mosin 91 and eschew cap is the moneymaker in this one. Olga Shirnina from Russia colorized this image and the original is here.

By the time Bogutskiy’s picture was taken, the Lithuanian regiment, which started the war as part of the 23rd Army Corps of General AV Samsonov’s doomed II Army had escaped German encirclement the Battle of Tannenberg East Prussian operation and gone on to fight the Kaiser’s troops halfway across Poland. This officer with the sad eyes and well trimmed mustache, incidentally, was killed on the front in 1916.

The Regiment had much history in its short life.

Originally, a part of the Moscow Life Guards Regiment (formed in 1811) they fought Napoleon at Borodino and all through Europe, marching through France at the end of the little Emperor’s Empire. When the Tsar picked up the Kingdom of Poland in the peace that followed, the Lithuanians were split from the Regiment and sent to Warsaw and a new Life Guards unit, being officially given its standard on 12 October 1817.

1830s uniform

1830s uniform

They helped put down Polish uprisings in 1830 and 1863, marched into Hungary in 1849 to do the same there for the Austrian Kaiser on the Tsar’s behalf, fought in the Crimean War and against the Turks in 1877 and Japanese in 1905. Drawn from ethnic Lithuanians, they had distinctive yellow trim to their uniforms in all of its variations (though only a thread on the shoulder boards of the 1909 field uniform shows at the top of the post). Their regimental crest, below, is however seen distinctively on Bogutskiy’s blouse.

RUSSIAN-IMPERIAL-BADGE-OF-THE-LITHUANIAN-LIFE-GUARDS

Below is an interesting German newsreel archive of Emperor Nicholas II and his son Alexei watching the military parade of the Life Guards regiment of Lithuania at the annual maneuvers at Kransoe Selo just south of St. Petersburg in the summer of 1914. Of interest is the parade of the unit that begins about the 3.18 mark after Major General Konstantin Schildbach, then unit commander, takes a toast to the Emperor health. You will notice the color’s company come through wearing all of the Regiment’s various uniforms issued from 1811 through 1914.

Schildach was in interesting fellow. An ethnic Baltic German from a wealthy ennobled family with some 200 years of service to the Tsar, he graduated from the Alexander Military School and joined the Army in 1888, serving far and wide in the Empire. He commanded the Lithuanians during WWI until June 1915 when he changed his last name to Lithuania due to anti-German sentiment in the country. That’s ballsy. Could you see an officer with an Arabic-sounding name today in the U.S. Army change his to “Ranger” or some sort. That’s being married to the Army there.

The toasting Schildach seen in the video

The toasting Schildach seen in the video

Anyway, Schildach left the unit to command the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Guards Infantry Division then six months later was made chief of staff of the 39th Corps and by the end of 1916 was commander of the 102nd Infantry Division of 16,000 recently trained men. When the March Revolution came that swept away the old order, he was cashiered by the new government but quickly called back in May to command the rapidly disintegrating 79th Infantry Division as a Lt. Gen. When the war ended and the Civil War began he found himself first working in the Ukrainian puppet army of Skoropadsky with the Germans then in the White Army.

However when the Whites left in permanent exile in 1920, Schildach stayed in Russia and talked his way to a job as a military instructor in Moscow with the Reds but was later thrown in the gulag for three years and, even though allowed to return to Moscow, was arrested again in 1938, shot, and dumped in a bag in Donskoy cemetery. The Putin government declared him officially rehabilitated in 1996, which is nice.

Anyway, back to the war service of the Lithuanian Regiment.

Soon after the good Captain Bogutskiy’s photo bomb above, the unit kept up its fighting retreat during the great defeats by the Russian Army in the summer of 1915 but remained intact. Rebuilt over the winter, they participated in the Brusilov Offensive that came very close to knocking Austria out of the war. Interesting that a unit that helped keep the Austrian Kaiser on the throne in 1849 would come so close to sweeping him off just 60 years later.

Speaking of thrones….

On March 12, 1917, the day the Lithuanian Life Guards Reserve Regiment in St. Petersburg (Petrograd) mutinied, Capt. Bogdan K. Kolchigin was elected commander by the committee of soldiers at the front and remained in command until the Moscow Regional Commissariat for Military Affairs, in their Order No. 139, disbanded the former regiments of the Imperial Guard on March 4, 1918 (though the order did not cover the Reserve Regiment in St. Petersburgh which lingered until the Commissariat of Military Affairs of the Petrograd Labor Commune ordered it disbanded on June 6, 1918).

Interestingly, Kolchigin threw his hat in with the Reds and, taking his ex-Guards with him in an orderly withdrawal to Voronezh when the front collapsed after Russia withdrew from WWI, they became the Lithuanian Soviet Regiment and were one of Trotsky’s most professional units in the Civil War.

Kolchigin went on to keep his head and rose to become a Lt. Gen in the Red Army proper, ending his career as commander of the 7th Guards Rifle Corps, 10th Guards Army in 1945 after having lost his foot to a German mine and picking up three Order of the Red Banners and an Order of Lenin from Papa Joe Stalin in the Second World War to go along with his Knights of the Order of St. George awarded by Tsar Nicky in the First.

Kolchigin, in Red Army regalia.

Kolchigin, in Red Army regalia. Look at all of those Red Banners.

He became a military historian of some note and, when he died in in 1976, was given a hero’s funeral, taking the Lithuanian Regiment of Life Guards with him in his heart to the rally point in the great drill field in the sky. It’s likely Kolchigin had an interesting conversation with Bogutskiy and Schildach when he got there.

And was maybe even photobombed by a guardsman with a crooked hat.

Ah, home away from home…

Spending a lot of time in all points very far South moving forward…

truman

 

The Poor Man’s SAW

Karl at In-Range TV on why a Slide-Fire stock, a heavy barrel AR and an length adjustable bipod can make a cheap squad automatic weapon that you don’t need an NFA tax-stamp for because you are just bump-firing a semi-auto rather than using a select-fire weapon.

I’m guessing you could build this for under $1K (closer to $2K if you use the Gemtech HALO suppressor as shown in part of the video) if you shop around and do the work yourself. Of course, even with a heavy barrel you are gonna get too hot to trot after a few hundred rounds and you are gonna want it to be free-floating to avoid a flame up or meltdown, but still.

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