Mirages over the Keys

This month, Textron subsidiary Airborne Tactical Advantage Company has been supporting F-35Cs from Eglin AFB’s 43rd Fighter Squadron during a deployment to Naval Air Station Key West to help sharpen their Dissimilar Air Combat Training skills.

Providing contract adversary air OPFOR airframes, ATAC brought Mirage F1s with them to the Keys, still wearing very nicely preserved French Armee de L’air camouflage.

The company bought 63 former French Air Force Mirage F1B, F1CT, and F1CR fighters; 6 million assorted spare parts, and 150 spare Atar 9K50 engines for a total value of €25 million in 2017. Last September, they pulled down a contract to use their aircraft as training assets against the USAF in seven locations.

Running around in sometimes cranky obsolete high-performance jets can sometimes be hazardous. One of ATAC’s Mirages had an “incident” earlier this year at Tyndall.

They also do “red air” for the Navy.

Check out this trio of an ATAC Mk 58 Hunter, a former IDF Kfir C-2, and a Navy F-35C.

The Hunter dates to 1959 while the Kfir is a 1979 model. Meanwhile, the F-35C is Navy NJ-121 (BuNo 169160) of VFA-101 “Grim Reapers.” The Reapers were the Navy’s Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) based at Eglin until they shuttered the unit in May 2019, moving the mission to NAS Lemoore’s VFA-125.

Italy Finally has an Aircraft Carrier

Italy got into the seaplane tender biz in February 1915 when they bought the aging 392-ft./7,100-ton Spanish-built freighter Quarto and, as Europa, converted the vessel to operate a half-dozen or so FBA flying boats. Taking part in the Battle of the Strait of Otranto against the bottled-up Austro-Hungarian fleet in 1917, she was discarded after the war.

In 1925, Rome bought the incomplete passenger/mail steamer Citta di Messina and, sending her to the La Spezia for completion, produced Giuseppe Miraglia.

Italian seaplane carrier Giuseppe Miraglia entering Taranto. Look at all those Macchis…

She wasn’t a giant ship, just under 400-feet long with a light draft of 4,500-tons. But Miraglia was fast enough for naval use (21 knots) and with enough room for as many as 20 seaplanes of assorted sizes. Her war was lackluster, ending it under British guns at Malta.

Meanwhile, Italy’s first planned aircraft carrier– a respectable 772-foot leviathan by the name of L’Aquila (Eagle) converted from an unfinished ocean liner– was left under construction at Genoa in 1943. Although it was envisioned she would carry up to 56 aircraft, the Italian eagle was never completed and finally scrapped at La Spezia in 1952. A sistership, Sparviero, never even got that far, making Miraglia the sole Italian aviation ship fielded in WWII.

After flirting with Vittorio Veneto in the 1970s and 80s, a so-called “helicopter cruiser” capable of carrying six SH-3D Sea Kings or larger numbers of smaller whirlybirds; the Italian government placed an order for several AV-8B Harriers in 1990 for use on the newly completed 13,000-ton ASW carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, returning the country’s fleet to a fixed-wing capability that it hadn’t seen since Miraglia steamed for exile in Malta in 1943.

Today, it is thought that the carrier 27,000-ton Harrier carrier Cavour will retire her aging AV-8Bs for a squadron of operational Italian F-35Bs by 2024, right at 99 years after Miraglia was conceived. Except the vessel won’t be beholden to seaplanes or Harriers, a first.

Speaking of which, on 30 July, the first Italian F-35B landed on Cavour while the now-Lightning carrier was operating in the Gulf of Taranto.

On the journey to get there: 

In related news, the current operational British Lightning carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), entered the tense waters of the South China Sea last week, with F-35Bs of RAF 617 Squadron and the USMC’s VMFA-211 taking to the air during the evolution. 

Smokey’s Lucky Witch, 77 Years Ago Today

Ensign Darrell C. “Smoke” Bennett, A-V(N), USNR, stands beside his plane, a General Motors FM-2 Wildcat fighter, on board the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73), 1 August 1944. According to reports, he had just arrived to join COMPRON (VC) 10 as Gambier Bay made Guam that day. 

Note pinup art and nickname Smokey’s Lucky Witch adorning the engine cowling; what appears to be a Composite Squadron Ten (VC-10) insignia below the cockpit windshield; plane numbers (27) in white on the wing leading edge and in black under the lip of the cowling; and Bennett’s flight gear and .45 caliber M1911A1 pistol carried in a shoulder holster. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. Catalog #: 80-G-243864

Born in Hamburg, Iowa 30 March 1924, “Smoke” Bennett joined the Navy as an aviation cadet volunteer 1 October 1943, age 19, and was a deployed combat pilot on his first flattop just 10 months later. He spent most of the war in ground support missions from escort carriers supporting the liberation of the Philippines and narrowly avoided going down with Gambier Bay in the Battle off Samar just two months after the above image was snapped.

He would survive WWII as well as later service in Korea, continue his Navy career as a pilot, a flight instructor, and as Commander Fleet Air Miramar, retiring in 1965. CDR Bennett received the following decorations: Air Medal (5), Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Citation, Korean Presidential Unit Citation, WWII Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal (Europe), National Defense Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, Korean Service Medal, and the United Nations Service Medal.

Retiring to the Florida panhandle after a second career as a corporate and personal pilot to Hollywood types, CDR Bennett was a well-known supporter of the Pensacola National Naval Aviation Museum, where one of his former airframes was on display, and the USS Gambier Bay Association. He passed last December, age 96, leaving behind “two sons, seven grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.”

A Look at Baltic Minebusting

A land of fishermen and sailors going back thousands of years, the Latvian Navy was formed in 1919 and survived until the Soviets occupied the country in 1940 but was soon reformed in 1991. Today, the force consists of a dozen assorted coast guard and patrol craft for sovereignty but their most active, and possibly important assets, are the vessels of the very professional Mine Ship Squadron.

NATO just released a very well done 9-minute mini-doc following the LVNS Talivaldis (M-06), an Alkmaar-class (Dutch Tripartite) minehunter of the Latvian Navy, as she performs her very dangerous work in the ancient sea. Formerly the Royal Netherlands Navy minehunter Dordrecht (M852) the 500-ton vessel was sold to Latvia in 2000 after 17 years of service. She has been since modernized with a new AUV A18-M sonar for detection and Seascan MK2 and K-STER C USVs/ROVs for identification and clearance.

In the presser for the video:

The Baltic Sea is said to contain 30,000 leftover unexploded ordnance from two world wars. The crew of Latvian minehunter M-06 Tālivaldis explains how these historic mines pose a threat to both military and civilian ships today, and why it is so important to dispose of them. The ship has been part of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One several times; this group is responsible for countering the threat of sea mines and unexploded ordnance in the northern seas.

This is a rare opportunity to explore life on board a Latvian Navy mine-hunting ship as it conducts its work in the Baltic Sea. This footage includes shots of the Tālivaldis in the Baltic Sea, searching for and destroying unexploded historic ordnance as well as interviews with crew members.

The Swiss Military Bicyclist Tradition Endures

This week at the Tokyo Olympics, the Women’s cross-country mountain biking event may have gone little noticed here, but in Switzerland, it was big news. The two-wheeled ladies from the Alpine redoubt made a clean sweep of the event with Jolanda Neff taking gold, Sina Frei pulling down silver, and Linda Indergand completing the Swiss triple victory with bronze.

There was only a 79-second spread between the three while there was a full 50-second gap between Indergand and the 4th place finisher, Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary.

While all three Swiss bicyclists are top-notch athletes, Neff is in a class by herself. As detailed by Trek, whose TFR Cross-Country team she races for:

At 27 years old, Jolanda Neff has already made an indelible mark on cycling. She won the mountain bike cross-country World Championship title in 2017, is three-time XCO World Cup Champion, four-time XCO European Champion, five-time Swiss XCO Champion, and the winner of 12 XCO World Cups. Jolanda has raced a fair bit of cyclocross and on the road as well, even achieving Swiss road champion and finishing eighth in the 2016 Olympics road race.

Another noteworthy aspect of the Swiss triple threat is that they are all reservists in the Schweizer Armee.

The Swiss first established bicycle infantry units in 1905, using the now-famed (and much-sought by collectors) M0-5, and later the MO-93 army bicycle (Armeefahrrad) for nearly a century, only formally disbanding them in 1998.

However, seeing utility in the bikes for both exercise and use by Fernspäh-Grenadier patrols, the Swiss bought some 4,000 new MO-12 models in recent years, showing the “old ways” are still remembered.

They certainly are in Tokyo.

Hyundai’s 120mm Laser

OK, well maybe not a laser but it sure looks like one! The Republic of Korea Army last week released several images of one of their K1A2 main battle tanks firing its 120mm KM256 smoothbore gun at a firing range.

Designed from Chrysler’s XM1– which later roughly became the M1 Abrams– the Hyundai K1 88-Tank is a beast that was intended to augment, then replace the ROKA’s obsolete M47 and M48 tanks in the 1980s and stand ready to eat North Korean T-62s (usually locally-made Chonma-ho knock-offs) for breakfast. It is perhaps most notably different from the Abrams line in the respect that most of the electronics are domestic (largely Samsung-made) and it uses an efficient German MTU 871 diesel powerpack similar to that used by the Leclerc, Challenger 2, and Leopard 2 MBTs rather than the M1’s thirsty gas turbine.

Updated with the license-built K256 120mm gun, the electronics and commo fit from the K2 Black Panther, and a redesigned armor scheme after 2012, the K1A2 is one of the most advanced and capable MBTs in the world– and they can still eat Nork T-62s, still Pyongyang’s most numerous front-line tank, for breakfast.

The 1911 is a Perma Staple of the Gun Community

With a narrow profile and an excellent reputation for “stopping power” (in certain calibers) coupled with a host of on-board safety features, John Browning’s big M1911 format single-action pistols can be exceptionally accurate, and, if given a few tweaks and made correctly, can last a lifetime so long as the small internals and barrel are swapped out when overworn. Plus, there is probably no other platform other than the Glock that is backed up by so wide a spread of aftermarket parts and skilled smiths who know how to wring every ounce of performance out of them. Little wonder that gun companies seem to always be introducing new takes on the same gun.

Speaking of which, Springfield Armory this week came out with a new version of Mr. Browning’s single-action single-stack.

Using a forged steel barrel, slide, and frame, Springfield’s new Emissary sports a two-tone finish, with a blued carbon steel slide and a stainless-steel frame with a squared trigger guard. Carrying a “Tri-Top” cut to the slide, the single-action pistol runs a bushing-less heavy stainless steel bull barrel with a one-piece full-length guide rod. For those who want texture in their grip, the Emissary is fully wrapped in a grenade pattern texture from its slimline G10 VZ grips to the matching machining on the mainspring housing and front strap.

The Emissary is billed as blending defensive and custom pistols to create a striking .45 ACP railgun that looks great while still being very capable.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Hovering around the Amazon

The Marina de Guerra del Perú recently published a photo essay on brown water infantry troops doing what they do via some interesting watercraft. As part of the 45th annual Exercise BRACOLPER, in which Colombian and Brazilian riverine units visit Peru for a joint training op, the Peruvians have been showing off their British-made T-class Griffon Hoverwork (GHL) 2000TD hovercraft, of which they own seven.

The 2000TD is in use with several NATO countries such as Belgium, the Baltic states, and Poland, as well as with the Royal Marines, Finnish border guard, and Colombian naval infantry– which is the largest user. Some 38-feet long, they can carry 20 passengers at a speed of 35 knots. The Peruvian models are fitted with aluminum armor and have a forward gun mount that can accept anything from a 5.56mm LMG to a Mini Gun.

The 25,000-member Peruvian Navy has a decent blue water force to include modern frigates and a professional submarine force (they were also the last fleet in the world to operate a large gun-armed cruiser outside of the U.S. and Russia) but, as the country is bisected by the Amazon, Apurimac, Ene, Mantaro, and Madre de Dios river systems, they also have significant riverine forces as well.

The Peruvians have a marine (naval infantry) brigade that includes three battalions oriented towards blue-water and coastal operations and two (Teniente Quevedo and Teniente Villapando) to riverine ops as well as a commando unit and supporting artillery and engineer assets.

For reference, check out this video of Peruvian 2000TDs at work.

105mm Echos in the Russian Kurils

In the windswept and remote northern portion of Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk, currently-Russian owned Paramushir (AKA Paramushiro or Paramushiru) was part of the Japanese Empire from 1875 through 1945. During WWII, the local garrison, formed around the Imperial Japanese Army’s 91st Infantry “Future” Division (with six infantry and two artillery battalions), crisscrossing the island with a maze of coastal artillery positions and fortified bunkers, ready to pull an Iwo Jima on invading American (or Soviet) landing forces. Following the American liberation of the Aleutians in 1943, regular bomber air raids stitched up the island.

When the Russkies arrived in force on 18 August 1945, although the surrender of Imperial Japan was announced by Hirohito three days prior, both sides still wanted to fight for the frozen Kurils, and for two weeks, Soviet troops carried out the final opposed landing operation of the war.

Soviet-era painting depicts the landing of Soviet forces on Kurils, where two inexperienced Russian Naval Infantry divisions learned the same bloody lessons the U.S. Marines had already paid for on Tarawa

In the end, the Russians suffered some 1,500 casualties taking Paramushir and nearby Shumshu– which saw the last Japanese tank combat in history.

Today, Paramushir is home to a small Russian settlement (the Japanese locals were deported to Siberia in 1947) and the parts that are not current military bases are often visited by historians of all stripes to poke around and look for WWII sites and objects. One such expedition recently photographed a fairly well-preserved Japanese Type 92 10 cm (105x737R) howitzer still buried in its hillside position.

The long-barreled Type 92 was well-known to U.S. troops, having been the bane of American positions at Corregidor and Henderson Field. The Soviets, meanwhile, had experienced the gun in 1939 at Khalkhin Gol where some guns fired so many shells in such a short period that they reportedly glowed red

Pistol Pete was a type 92 10cm field gun used by IJA at Guadalcanal.

Warship Wednesday, July 28, 2021: What a Loony Idea

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 28, 2021: What a Loony Idea

National Archives Photo 80-G-416714

Here we see, some 73 years ago this month, an LTV-N-2 guided missile going dramatically to pieces over the Balao-class guided-missile submarine USS Cusk (SSG-348), while off Point Mugu, California.

Let’s get another view of that, from the same day.

NH 72684

Of the July 7 Loon explosion, from her Veterans’ group:

Horrified onlookers saw the boat disappear beneath a towering fireball and smoke cloud. “Everyone thought the Cusk had sunk,” remembers Captain Pat Murphy, USN (ret.) another Loon-era veteran. “But the Cusk’s captain [Fred Berry] saw what happened through the periscope and saw that there was no hull rupture. Well, he submerged. They had all the water they needed to put out the fire.” The Cusk survived with minor damage.

We’ll get on to the rest of the story of Cusk, but first, we should probably talk about the German rocket-carrying submarines of WWII.

Gruppe Seewolf and Operation Teardrop

The concept of strapping a primitive vengeance weapon rockets to a U-boat, then allowing it to creep across the Atlantic to get within range of American ports at, say New York or Boston, was attractive to the cropped mustachioed Austrian corporal and was even trialed. In 1942, U-511*, an advanced IXC type, test-fired a variety of rockets in the Baltic.

As detailed by Uboat.net:

A rack for six 30 cm rockets was installed and extensive tests carried out. These concluded with the successful launch of rockets from a depth of 12m (40ft). These amazing tests failed to convince Donitz’s staff of the merit of this innovatory weapon system, and it was not put into service. The rocket in question, the 30cm Wurfkörper 42 Spreng, was not advanced enough to target ships, but it might have been used to bombard shore installations such as oil refineries in the Caribbean. This idea was developed in late 1944 with a proposal for Type XXI electro boats to tow V-2 launchers which would attack shore bases. Neither the launchers nor the type XXI boats became available before the war ended.

*Interesting, but beyond the scope of today’s post, U-511 was handed over to Japan on 16 September 1943 at Kure as a goodwill donation from Germany to the Emperor and became Japanese submarine RO-500, ultimately handed over to the USN and scuttled in 1946.

Fast forward to September 1944 and, although there was no functional German rocket submarine afloat, Abwehr agent Leutnant Oskar Mantel, who was to be landed on the East Coast near NYC to act as a paymaster for German spy rings, instead fell into the hands of the FBI after his U-boat was sunk off the coast of Maine. Spilling his guts, Mantel told tall tales of Vergeltungswaffen-equipped U-boats headed to Amerika. This was later backed up by Abwehr agents William Curtis Colepaugh and Eric Gimpel, the last agents Germany attempted to land in the United States, who were captured in late 1944.

The rumors, mixed with intel that seven advanced U-boats, assigned to Gruppe Seewolf, the last Atlantic Wolfpack, were headed across the Atlantic, sparked Operation Teardrop, an extensive barrier program of ASW assets that ranged the East Coast in early 1945. In the end, Gruppe Seewolf was a dismal failure and the German rocket submarine program never got off the drawing board.

Mark Felton on the German program if you want a deeper dive:

Enter Cusk

The U.S. Navy had, simultaneously with the Germans, attempted to use rockets from submarines in WWII, having mounted and semi-successfully fired a ripple of Mk 10 5-inch unguided rockets from the surfaced Gato-class submarine USS Barb (SS-220) on 22 June 1944, against the Japanese coastal town of Shari from a range of 5,250 yards.

As detailed by DANFS:

She fired 12 rockets that exploded in the town center causing damage but no fires. The Japanese believed that an air raid was in progress and activated air search radar and turned searchlights to the sky while Barb retired safely seaward.

Cusk, meanwhile, was too late for the war. Launched 76 years ago today– 28 July 1945– by Electric Boat Co., Groton, Connecticut, she only commissioned 5 February 1946. Following a Caribbean shakedown, she reported for duty at her planned homeport at San Diego on 6 June to join Submarine Division Fifty-One.

First Publicity Photo USS Cusk 1946. Note her late war “gunboat submarine” layout of two 5″/25cal deck guns and two 40mm singles on her sail. She could also mount two .50 cal BMGs which were kept below deck. 

Crew of USS CUSK (SS-348) Group portrait, photographed by O.W. Waterman at San Diego, about 1946.
Courtesy of Ted Stone, New York. NH 64048

As VE-Day faded to the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, the U.S. was eager to update its technology in the new Atomic era, borrowing where it could from captured German trade secrets to help stay a few steps away from the Russkis. This included snorkel and sonar tricks borrowed from Donitz’s boys, and modified V-1 rockets, cloned by Republic-Ford as the JB-2 (Jet Bomb no 2), popularly just called the Loon. While the Army Air Force soon launched hundreds of these American buzz bombs from ramps near Destin and Santa Rosa Island in West Florida, the Navy was eager to try out a few of their own.

Outfitted with an AN/ANP-33 radar transponder (instead of the V-1’s simple gyrocompass autopilot control) the Navy’s version of the JB-2, of which 399 were ultimately produced, could receive course corrections while in flight via a ship-or trailer-borne microwave radar. The Navy’s model of the Loon was the LTV-N-2 (Launch Test Vehicle, Navy 2) and the idea was that it could be fired from ramps located either on surface ships or ashore. However, instead of either of those, the first test platform was to be our humble little fleet boat.

With Cusk retrofitted at Mare Island with an airtight missile hangar and launch ramp behind her sail, it was thought she could carry and launch a Loon while at sea. As the ramjet engine had no possible underwater launch capability, the idea was that the submarine would battle surface, unpack the missile from the hangar, make it ready to fire by attaching wings and four JATO rockets, and fire it from the surface with support from the sub’s SV-1 type radar for the first 50 miles or so– no speedy task. Early tests found that it took an hour to accomplish. As Loon could carry a 2,200-pound warhead of conventional explosives (the V-1 only carried 1,870-pounds) to a target approximately 160 miles away, though, it was deemed worth the risk.

USS CUSK (SSG-348) With an LTV “Loon” on launcher and deck hangar during operations off Point Mugu, California, 20 January 1948. 80-G-410665

The arrangement of Cusk’s hangar and launch rail, from a Point Magu report on the Loon.

On 12 February 1947, Cusk made the Navy’s first missile launch from a submarine, ushering in the era of today’s Harpoon, Tomahawk, and Trident-equipped attack boats and boomers. It was not a success. 

USS CUSK (SS-348) First launching of a Loon missile, off Point Mugu, California. Wed, Feb 12, 1947. The missile reportedly traveled 6,000 yards and then crashed. NH 72680

Of course, there were dramatic incidents such as the one shown at the top of this post– Loon had a failure rate of about 45 percent as a whole and it would not be until Cusk’s fifth launch that the missile was considered fully successful– other launches would be more productive. To note her new mission, Cusk was designated Submarine, Guided Missile (SSG) 348, on 20 January 1948.

Launch of a Loon missile from USS CUSK (SSG-348), off Point Mugu, California. Sun, Sep 12, 1948. NH 72688

Same as above, NH 72689

Same as above, NH 72690

Loon Derby launch #586 (SL-160) from USS Cusk (SSG-348), Naval Air Facility, Point Mugu, California, June 29, 1949. 80-G-405931

One other fleet boat, the Balao-class USS Carbonero (SS-337), would join Cusk as a Loon launcher in a series of tests conducted between 1947 and 1952, demonstrating that the Germans, if they had pushed just a little harder or had an extra year or two worth of time, could have produced an Unterseeboot-carried vengeance weapon. The sisters would participate in a fleet operation that would herald today’s missile boats.

As detailed in a scholarly work on the Loon by Gary Francis Quigg:

A November 1949 Navy exercise, off Hawaii, provided convincing evidence. Loon missiles fired from the submarines USS Cusk and USS Carbonero managed to escape unharmed through a gauntlet of anti-aircraft fire from thirty-five surface vessels and elude the machine guns of fighter aircraft from carriers USS Valley Forge and USS Boxer.

And Cusk would set a few records that today sound like footnotes but for the time were incredible. Quigg:

In the most successful transfer of radio guidance control of a missile from ship to shore on March 22, 1950, the USS Cusk launched a Loon just off Point Mugu. The Cusk guided the missile for twenty-five miles before surrendering radio control to a station on San Nicolas Island. Navy technicians on the island guided the missile another twenty-five miles to a splashdown in the Pacific just over a thousand feet from the center of the target. On May 3, the Cusk set a new distance record for the Loon. Diving to periscope depth immediately after the launch, the submarine controlled the missile and tracked its position for 105 nautical miles.

In all, the Navy would launch 46 Loon missiles from shore launchers at Point Mugu, 38 from our two submarines, and three from the seaplane tender USS Norton Sound. Coupled with launches made elsewhere in the Pacific, Cusk would fire at least 77 Loons in her short career, with the last taking to the air on 6 November 1952.

However, the twin Loon boats would be left behind by technology, the program canceled in 1953– although 25 missiles had been married up to warheads and made available just in case they were needed for use in Korean War. Carbonero was redesignated an Auxiliary Submarine (AGSS-337) in 1949 and both subs would soon chop to help develop the follow-on SSM-N-8A Regulus missile program, which would successfully launch a 400-mile range missile in 1953. Meanwhile, Cusk would continue to be a testbed platform for missile guidance equipment but would lose her “SSG” designation in 1954 as she carried no missiles of her own.

Just nine years to the day after Pearl Harbor: USS Cusk (SSG-348) off the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, 7 December 1950. She has her missile hangar but no Loon present. Courtesy of Jack Howland, 1980. NH 90848

USS CUSK (SS-348), same location and date as above, NH 90846

In 1954, Cusk would receive a basic “Fleet Snorkel” GUPPY conversion at Mare Island and leave her “hangar” and ramp behind, and pick up a new, more streamlined fairweather while still maintaining her advanced missile avionics gear. Her AN/BPQ-1 (XN-1) Regulus missile guidance equipment was only finally removed in 1960.

USS CUSK (SS-348) Off the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, California, circa 1954, following SCB 47B conversion to a “Fleet-Snorkel” submarine. NH 90849

This unusual view shows 11 vessels of Submarine Squadron Five (nine submarines in a variety of GUPPY configurations, a submarine rescue vessel, and a submarine tender) moored side by side for a recent change of command ceremony at San Diego, California. CPT Eugene B. “Lucky” Fluckey, USN, MOH, relieved CPT Francis B. Scanland, USN, as Commander, SUBRON5 on August 1, 1955. Nested alongside the submarine tender USS Nereus (AS 17) are the Regulus missile boat USS Tunny (SSG 282), USS Cusk (SS 348), USS Carbonero (SS 337), USS Tilefish (SS 307), USS Spinax (SS 489), USS Rock (SS 274), USS Remora (SS 487), USS Catfish (SS 339), and USS Volador (SS 490), and the submarine rescue vessel, USS Florikan (ASR 9). USN photo 681920

Cusk (SSG-348) and Remora (SS-487) in 1963. What might be an SSK, Bashaw (SSK-241), Bluegill (SSK-242), or Bream (SSK-243)) is bringing up the rear. Photo i.d. courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired).
USN photo courtesy of flickr.com via Stephen Gower, through Navsource. 

Her homeport shifted to Pearl Harbor, Cusk completed five lengthy Westpac cruises (1958, during which she would participate in Special operations near Soviet ICBM range in Vladivostok; 1960; 1962, where she would serve as the Subplot 7 Mining platform, 1963, where she would spend two months in North Korean water before her and sister ship USS Carbonero were rewarded with a show-the-flag visit to French Polynesia; and 1964-65) as a standard diesel-electric fleet boat in a “smooth” condition. During her 1962 cruise, Cusk made a month-long patrol in the tense South China Sea and spent another month in Yokosuka and Sasebo, serving as a sonar training target for Japanese destroyers and aircraft. Her 64-65 Westpac would include significant time on Yankee Station as an ASW asset, and three close-in patrols of the North Vietnamese coast via the Gulf of Tonkin.

Again, moving homeports, this time to San Diego, in 1966, Cusk would go on to complete two further Westpac cruises in 1967 and 1969, with both spending time in the Vietnam area of operations. On her last tour, she would be submerged on patrol for 43 days in the South China Sea, conducting special operations in Communist Chinese waters, of which her Veteran’s group recalls, “It was an adventurous time that included on one occasion, accidentally straying into an abandoned minefield. Later during the reconnaissance patrol, the Cusk was detected and attacked by unfriendly forces.”

Her time with the Navy coming to an end, Cusk sailed to Hunter’s Point Shipyard, was Auxiliary Research Submarine (AGSS-348) on 30 June 1969, and “she was gutted of virtually all of her equipment by her final crew. Everything that would fit through a hatch was lifted out, stacked on pallets on the pier, and hauled away for scrap.”

Following that, she was decommissioned on September 24, 1969, and the hulk was sold 26 June 1972, to Zidell Exploration, Inc. of Portland, Oregon, for $112,013.

Besides her 77 Loons and title as the world’s first guided-missile submarine, Cusk stood by to deliver said missiles during Korea, was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Award (1964) and four Vietnam Service Awards (1965, 1967, 1968, and 1969) in addition to holding down numerous Battle Efficiency “E” awards.

Epilogue

A former Navy-owned Loon was donated to the Smithsonian in 1965, 12 years after the program shuttered, and is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

One-half right side view of Loon Missile as displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia

Loon launches from the Cusk were featured in an episode of Time for Defense (a radio program broadcast nationally on the ABC network), and in the May 1950 issue of Popular Science along with the January 1953 issue of Parade, where she graced the cover.

On Christmas weekend 1950, Columbia Pictures released the Glenn Ford submarine vehicle The Flying Missile, which features the actor as the skipper of the fictionalized SSG USS Bluefin, including footage of our very own USS Cusk, although the Loon program was on its last legs before the film hit cinemas.

 

There is a Cusk Veteran’s group, that was very active from 1990 through 2019.

 

Specs:

Cusk’s rapidly shifting profile from 1946 to 1947, to 1954, as told by Submarine Sighting Guide Spec VA52.A92 ONI 31SS Rev.1.

(1946)
Displacement: 1,570 tons (std); 1,980 (normal); 2,415 tons submerged
Length: 311 ft. 8 inches
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Operating depth: 400 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks Morse main generator engines, 5,400HP, two Elliot Motor Co. main motors with 2,740HP, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Speed: 20 surfaced, 10 submerged
Fuel Capacity: 113,510 gal.
Range: 11,000nm @ 10 knots surfaced, 48 hours at 2 knots submerged, 75-day patrol endurance
Complement 7 officers 69 enlisted (planned), actual manning 10 officers, 76 men
Radar: SV. APR and SPR-2 receivers, TN tuning units, AS-125 antenna, SPA Pulse Analyzer, F-19 and F-20 Wave Traps, VD-2 PPI Repeater (1946 fit)
Sonar: WFA projector, JP-1 hydrophone (1946 fit)
Armament:
(1946)
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max (typically MK V), or up to 40 mines
2 x 5″/25 deck guns (wet mounts)
2 x 40mm guns (wet mounts)
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)
(1947, as SSG)
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max or up to 40 mines
1 Loon surface-to-surface missile
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)
(1954, as Fleet Snorkel SS)
6 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, forward, 18 torpedoes (typically MK 14), or up to 30 mines.
2 x .50 cal. machine guns (detachable)

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