In the past, several weeks there have been a series of sensationally bad slip-ups of law enforcement officers forgetting basic gun safety. Not throwing rocks at the boys in blue, we will present the facts, for your own education. This run down includes: not pointing your gun at your own abdomen at 6:30 in the morning, not firing warning shots at cadets milling around in hallways, and not letting kids play with your loaded and chambered AR15 during Red Ribbon Week. (Not. Making. This. Up)
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You’ve heard of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and the Jersey Devil, but one of the newest mythical beasts is the chupacabra. The thing is, no less than three Mississippi hunters have claimed kills against these so-called fictional animals in the past few years.
And there is at least one still around.
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The picture above shows soldiers of the 64th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division of the US Army Expeditionary Force in France celebrate at the stroke of the 11th Hour, of the 11th Day of November 1918. This is when the ceasefire armistice went into effect between all of the Allies and the Germans in what was then known as the Great War. They are happy because the survived. For them, the war, with its mustard gas, machine-guns, artillery, and trench warfare was over and it did not claim their mortal vessel.
Today we think of this day as Veterans Day but in 1918 it was Armistice Day. In no less than 70 countries around the world, this day is remembered with somber introspection. Over 37-million lost their lives in that war, including no less than 117,465 Americans.
In fact, the war was so bitter, so ghastly, so abominable, that it led to the Kellogg-Briand Pact ten years later in which in effect, bans all wars. This led, in turn, to the Great War being then known as the “War to End all Wars”.
Although we have lost our last Great War veteran of what we call now World War One, we will still have to mourn new warriors lost in war every year for a foreseeable future.
To them, those hardy Doughboys in 1918, and all those who have fallen and served before and since, we remember.
To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coastguardsmen, and Marines of today, we toast.
Back in the early 1970s, the US Navy needed a replacement for the old FRAM’d WWII era Sumner and Gearing leftovers from the 1940s and 50s in the fleet. These were small, 3500-4000 ton ships that carried a 8-cell ASROC launcher, 4 5-inch/58 guns in twin mounts, and two triple Mk32 ASW torpedo launchers. They were sitting ducks to anti-ship missiles, could not carry helicopters, and packed almost 400 sailors into a tin can made to all the best specs of 1942.
To replace these old boats, the Spruance class, a mighty 31 destroyers, were built between 1972-1983, all at Ingalls shipbuilding in Pascagoula. As a kid I used to sit at the old Point on Beach Boulevard and watch these sleek 563-foot long greyhounds birthed for Poseidon’s fox hunts.
They were called the “Love Boats” back then, since they were the size of WWII light cruisers (8000-tons), yet only carried a pair of 5-inch guns (Mk45 rapid fire jobs that provided more firepower than twice as many of the old Sumner‘s 5-inch/58s), twin triple ASW tubes, and an 8-cell ASROC launcher. In their defense, most were funded by the bankrupt Carter military and their armament suite was superior to the destroyers they were supposed to replace. In addition, they had a twin helicopter hangar that could support a pair of sub-busting choppers, a battle implement that the WWII destroyers never dreamed of.
Over the 1980s and 90s, they were increasingly armed with other weapons systems. Some 24 ships of the class swapped out their ASROC launcher for a 61-cell Mk41 VLS system like on the Ticonderoga class cruisers (which were based on the Spruances hull). All ships also gained an 8-pack of Harpoon SSMs, a 8-cell NATO Sea Sparrow SAM launcher (also capable of being used against surface ships), and a pair of 20mm CIWS R2D2 guns for swatting away incoming missiles. Ten more of these had a 21 cell RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile launcher mounted on the starboard fantail to further protect these ships from more modern anti-ship missiles. Several of those that weren’t converted to VLS were given quadruple ABL Mark 43 Tomahawk missile launchers like on the recommissioned Iowa class battleships.
They proved the backbone of fleet operations throughout the last decade of the Cold War, the sordid engagements in the Persian Gulf, and the Navy’s part in the war on drugs. Their long legs (6000+ nm at 20 knots on two turbines), allowed them to self-deploy away from the battle group and a lot of the flag waving done in foreign ports during the Regan-Bush-Clinton years was done by Spruances operating alone.
Then, starting in 1998, these hardy destroyers that were at the top of their game, began to retire.
When the Spruance‘s left the Navy, they took with them 1494 Mk41 VLS cells which carried mainly Tomahawk cruise missiles along with a smattering of ASROC subbusters. They also faded away with 62 5-inch guns, 62 CIWS guns, 249 Harpoon anti-ship missile launch spots, 62 LAMPS helicopter hangar spots, 249 Sea Sparrow missile launcher cells, 210 RAM missile cells, and 186 Mk32 ASW Torpedo tubes. Those 7 hulls that were not equipped with VLS retained their ASROC launchers which gave the fleet another 56 of those weapons.
In 1989, the US Navy had 63 Knox/Brooke/Garcia-class frigates, 51 OHP type guided missile frigates, 31 Spruances, 4 Kidd-Class DDGs (Mk-26/SM-2 armed Spurances) 27 Ticonderoga class CGs, 23 older Charles Adams-class DDGs, 10 Farragut-class DDGs, six nuclear CGNs, 19 Belknap/Truxtun/Leheay-class CGs, four huge Iowa-class Battleships, and the 15,000-ton cruiser Long Beach as large surface combatants. This is a total of 239 surface warships capable of blue water operations.
Today they have in commission: 22 remaining Ticos, 12 OHPs (that are largely disarmed and rapidly retiring), 4 (unproven) LCS’s, and 62 Burke class destroyers, the first of which was laid down on 16 September 1989. That’s an even 100-ships, or a reduction by about 58% from the late 1980s. Granted, the US Navy doesn’t have to go to war with the Soviets anymore ala-Red Storm Rising, but there is still a global need for surface combatants from the South China Sea to the HOA to the Med and the Persian Gulf. A hundred surface ships cant be everywhere at once.
You can argue that the 96-cell VLS equipped DDG-51 class destroyers replaced the Spru-cans, DDGs and retired CGs on a 2:3 basis, but the DDG-51 lacked the extra 5-inch mount, and, in early models, the aircraft capability. Instead of being crammed full of TLAMs, these new DDGs have to allocate most of their space to carrying surface to air missiles. Further, the ’51s are tasked increasingly with fleet air defense and (now) with ABM missions. All the while thier ASW, ASuW, and NGFS capability is being marginalized. Yes, the 51′s replaced the Spurances and the 1970s vintage CGNs of the South Carolina and Virgina-class in so much as AAW is concerned, but they did not fully replace their capability in ASW and NGFS. The Spruances, unlike the Burkes, were dedicated to ASW, ASuW, and land strike with both naval gunfire and cruise missiles. With the Burkes, its a side-job.
Surely the Spurances would now be long in the teeth, ranging from the 1975-commisoned DD-963 to the 1983-dated DD-997, they would all be over thirty years old. However the Ticonderoga-class cruisers are roughly the same age. In fact they use the same hull and below-deck machinery. In 2003, the newer 22 of the 27 ships (CG-52 to CG-73) in that class were upgraded to keep them combat-relevant, giving the ships a service life of at least 35 years each. Had a similar mechanical upgrade been given to the 24-VLS equipped Spurances, they would all still be in service. In fact, given that time line, DD-997 would only be expected to decommission in 2018. More on this ship below.
Instead, all 31 Spruances were rapidly decommissioned and mothballed between 1998 and 2005, when the ships were all in their 20′s. Instead of being refirbed to serve another decade or two, they were stricken from the Navy List. No sooner were they stricken then they were systematically sunk in a series of fleet training exercises, dismantled, or otherwise scrapped.
It can be guessed that since they were too close in design to the still very active Tico class cruisers, they were too sensitive to give away as military aid to the likes of Pakistan, Mexico, or Colombia. Just one of their number, the former USS Paul Foster, remains. She has been in use since 2004 as an unnamed and non-commissioned test ship for the US Navy as the Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS). In this role she is a remote control drone boat, used as a hard target for new weapons systems.
And so goes another wasted opportunity.
I love the smell and feel of an old nautical chart. Growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and spending my youth bobbing around on the water, I often held NOAA Chart 11374 and poured over it. My grandfather had one hanging framed in his living room. There were some on every boat I set foot on. At a friends house, it was guaranteed to find one open on a tabletop somewhere. On trips to Lawson’s hardware store, Montie’s sporting goods, or Bozo’s Seafood, versions of it were for sale.
In Naval ROTC, when the Naval Science Instructor pulled out a chart, a set of dividers, and a parallel ruler for each of us, I was already well ahead of the game. Color me able to chart a course.
Well, digital chart plotters, smart phone apps, and GPS has killed the beautiful old paper charts.
According to NOAA, “Effective April 13, 2014, the federal government will no longer print lithographic nautical charts.”
Get one while you can and put it up. Even an old chart is better than none at all.
Such is progress.
I mean, come on….Phillip K Dick…..sci-fi noir at its best.
Well, it never made it to a Hurricane, and by the time it got close enough to be a concern had dropped down to a Tropical Depression.
Then fell away to nothing.
This was Biloxi Beach this weekend. Those are 13m kite board kites laid out by local boarders hoping to get some wind. They have to have at least 12mph winds to get airborne.
So yeah, they mainly just waited.
What tropical storm?
In other news, if you look in the far left corner the ship silhouetted in the distance is the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) also known as “The Black Pearl” for her part in Anti-Pirate operations around the Somali Coast.
The frozen far north of the continent, most of it above the Arctic Circle, is patrolled by a group of part time soldiers known as the Canadian Rangers. This force of some 5,000 volunteer locals are armed with rifles that in some cases date to the First World War. Canada is now crawfishing on buying them new guns for budgetary reasons.
Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk.com