Farewell, Carpet Beater

The West Germans saw how the ubiquitous UH-1 Huey was used in Vietnam in the 1960s and decided it needed some of that. Through a licensing deal with Bell and the blessing of the Nixon administration, Dornier began making copies of the UH-1D (Bell 205) stretched-fuselage single-engine 15-seat troop carrier variant in 1968, completing 352 birds for the Bundeswehr by 1981 in addition to four American-made models delivered as a control group. KHD in Oberursel was licensed to make the aircrafts’ Lycoming T53-L-13B 1400 shp turboshaft engines.

Unofficially termed the Teppichklopfer (carpet beater) in German service, they were well-liked and proved reliable. In all, the Heer (Army) operated 212 of the aircraft while the Luftwaffe picked up 132 for SAR and liaison, and the Bundesgrenzschutz (BSG) border guards got 12 of their own for use by their elite counter-terror group.

1991: Soldiers of Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 2 from Hessisch-Lichtenau practice airborne surveillance of large areas in cooperation with Hueys der Heeresflieger in the Höxter area. (Photo: Jan-P. Weisswange/Soldat und Technik)

The Kraut Huey proved to be extremely reliable even in difficult operating conditions. They served not only in Germany and on NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia (IFOR, SFOR, KFOR, and EUFOR) but also in Somalia and in Iraq. (Photo: Bundeswehr)

By the early 2000s, the aircraft were showing their age and were replaced by new NH90 and H145 (Eurocopter EC145) production until just one squadron was flying them for SAR use in dets out of Niederstetten, Nörvenich, and Holzdorf.

Putting a cap on over 2.3 million hours of service across almost 50 years, the last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99 (“Full Metal Jacket” fans?), received a “Goodbye Huey” sunset livery and flew into Bückeburg airfield (Airfield Achum) in June to finish its 10,000-hour lifespan before heading to the German Helicopter Museum (Hubschraubermuseum) there, arriving on June 22.

The last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99, in “Goodbye Huey” livery

The last German UH-1D, 73+08, callsign Joker 99, in “Goodbye Huey” livery

However, the swan song on the Teppichklopfer came this last week, halfway around the world from Germany. You see, in 2014, the Philippine Air Force took possession of 21 donated ex-Bundeswehr UH-1Ds. Long-serving and all over 20 years old at transfer, they were to be upgraded to a “Huey II” standard in a $27M program that never really came to play, and the latter deal was criticized over allegations of kickbacks to high-ranking officials. 

Nonetheless, as the PAF had other UH-1 models on hand to include former Vietnam vintage “Hotel” models from the U.S, and commercial Bell 412s, as well as as the boost of donated spare parts from Japan (where the UH-1J was built under license by Fuji Heavy Industries) it has been able to keep their German birds in the air for the past decade, supporting operations throughout the archipelago to fight the local terrorists and conduct relief operations when earthquakes and typhoons struck the archipelago.

Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. service members exit a helicopter during air assault training at Fort Magsaysay, the Philippines in 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael G. Herrero/Released)

Now, as the PAF is moving to newer rotary aircraft– including Turkish-made Augusta T129 ATAKs, Italian AW109s, and American Sikorsky S-70s, S-76s, and MD 500 Defenders– the age of the Huey is almost over, at least in the PI.

October 13 saw the retirement of the last 10 remaining Dornier UH-1Ds acquired in 2014, as the PAF welcomed aboard five S-70i Black Hawks and four ScanEagle UAS at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

Phinal Trap, 35 years ago

Official caption: A U.S. Naval Air Reserve McDonnell Douglas F-4S Phantom II aircraft from fighter squadron VF-202 “Superheats” lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) on 18 October 1986.

This was the last operational landing by a U.S. Navy F-4 aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, piloted by CDR George “Black George” Kraus. VF-202, the last U.S. Navy unit to fly the F-4, then transitioned to the Grumman F-14A Tomcat.

DN-SN-87-02837 Photo by AE3 Jeff Miller, USN

While the Phantom continued to serve around the globe with allies for decades after the above image was snapped, this was its last carrier landing. The only other flattop Phantom drivers were in the Royal Navy, who retired their F4s when HMS Ark Royal (R09) left the fleet in 1978.

Ruger: 1895 Stainless Big Loop will be the first Marlin in reboot

Christopher Killoy, Ruger’s CEO and president, recently said the company will begin deliveries of the Marlin Model 1895 in December.

Killoy confirmed the vaunted 1895 lever gun, chambered in .45-70 Government, is inbound with production now underway at the company’s Mayodan, North Carolina, factory. The Ruger head said they are concentrating on center-fire lever-action models at first.

“Number one priority that you’ll see coming out – and it will probably be mid-December when we launch it and begin shipping those guns, again I gotta caution folks it will be slow to start – but we’ll focus initially on the 1895,” said Killoy. “Likely the SBL model, the Stainless Big Loop, in .45 Government.”

Famously billed as being able to take everything from bear and deer to moose and velociraptors, Remington-Marlin’s M1895SBL in 45-70 Gov’t. featured a 6-shot tubular magazine, an 18.5-inch Ballard-cut stainless steel barrel, laminated pistol grip stock with a fluted comb, and an XS Lever Rail with a Ghost ring rear sight. It is unclear how the rifle will appear in Ruger’s upcoming offering. (Photo: Marlin 2020 internet archive).

Perhaps we can set up a factory tour at Mayoden before Christmas.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Strange Encounter

73 Years Ago Today: An American pilot in an Israeli-marked German plane made in Czechoslovakia went head-to-head with two Egyptian pilots behind the sticks of British-made fighters in one of the most curious dog fights in history.

“Strange Encounter” Israeli Messerschmitt Me-109 (Avia S-199) fighter piloted by the American ace Rudy Augarten vs an Egyptian Spitfire, Oct 1948, painted by Roy Grinnell (1995) https://www.roygrinnellart.com/workszoom/3108707/strange-encounter#/

Rudolph “Rudy” Augarten was born in Philadelphia in 1922 and flew for the USAAF during WWII, logging time in P-47s in Europe where he earned the DFC after shooting down two Messerschmitts with the 403rd Fighter Squadron. Notably, he also survived being shot down over Normandy where he was eventually captured and imprisoned by the Germans until he and another aviator escaped

Postwar, he threw in his lot flying for the IDF’s 101st Squadron in 1948, where he downed a total of three REAF Spitfire IXs as well as an REAF Dakota. Ironically, his plane for some of that combat was the Czech-built Avia S-199, which were assembled from surplus Messerschmitt BF-109G airframe mated to bomber engines (Junkers Jumo-211s) that resulted in an aircraft with horrible handling characteristics. Still, Rudy seemed to be able to make his work.

Via World Machal: 

On October 16, 1948, one day into the first major Israeli offensive against the Egyptians, called Operation Yoav, Augarten’s turn had finally arrived. Egypt’s airbase at El Arish had been one of the sites of the previous day’s raid by Israel’s only fighter squadron, the 101st. Augarten was on a photo-reconnaissance mission to determine what targets the Air Force had destroyed, and what it still needed to finish off. Although his assignment was not very demanding, he was happy for the chance to fly at all. Rudy flew southward toward the coast. Suddenly, in the distance, he spotted two Spitfires flying in formation. Augarten could tell by their shape that they were not ME-109s, like the plane he was flying. He was too far away to make out their markings, but that didn’t really matter. Though the Israeli Air Force had several Spitfires in its arsenal, he knew immediately that the two Spits were Egyptian, because mechanical problems and fuel shortages limited the Israeli Air Force to using only a few planes in the air at any one time. When pilots in the air saw another plane, they could always be confident that it wasn’t one of their own.

Augarten carefully got into position behind the two Egyptians, hoping they wouldn’t detect his approach. Just then, fellow 101 pilot Leon Frankel, who was patrolling in the area, saw Augarten beginning to engage the Spits. Trying to come to Augarten’s aid, Frankel rolled his plane over and dove toward the combatants. But before he reached the scene, Augarten lined up one of the Spits in his gun sight, and fired a burst from the Me-109’s two 7.92 millimeter machine guns. Pieces of the Spitfire flew off as the bullets pierced its thin aluminum body. The Egyptian plane plummeted toward Israeli lines, leaving a trail of black smoke. The other Spit fled the battle scene. With no other enemy planes in sight, Frankel and Augarten fell into formation for the trip back to the base. A few days later Augarten got a treat that few fighter pilots ever receive. An army unit took him by jeep to see firsthand the wreckage of the plane he had downed. Smiling broadly, he posed for a photograph in front of what remained of the Spit. With that victory, Augarten had experienced the Czech version of the ME-109 at its best.

Rudy lived to a ripe old age of 78 and died in California in 2000.

Rising Suns and whales

While there has been lots of heartburn, particularly in East Asia, about Japan’s use of their traditional 16-ray Kyokujitsu-ki rising sun flag, especially in martial settings– with some comparing it to the swastika– the Japanese Navy really don’t care about the haters. 

The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force launched the second of the very advanced Taigei-class diesel-electric submarines this week, JS Hakugei (SS-514). As Taigei means roughly “Big Whale” it is appropriate that Hakugei means “White Whale.”

And you better believe the current naval ensign, which was the old IJN’s ensign going back to the 1870s, was front and center (although it should be pointed out that an alternative version of the flag, with fewer rays and gold added to it, is used by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force).

Other than possibly the Germans, the Japanese are making the world’s most deadly SSKs. Post-WWII, they have earned lots of experience in that realm with domestic production including the Sōryū class (12 boats), Oyashio-class (11), Harushio-class (7), Yūshio-class (10), Uzushio-class (7), Asashio-class (4), JDS Ōshio, Natsushio-class (2), and Hayashio-class (2) since 1960, a run of 56 boats thus far, not counting the new Taigeis.

But, with neighbors like Communist China and North Korea, can you blame them?

80 Years Ago: Siege Bread

Siege of Leningrad.

This is the ration card and daily norm of “bread” (200 grams) in October 1941, only a month into the 872-day siege.


Recipe for blockade bread:

*defective rye flour -45%
*presscake -10%
*soy flour-5%
*bran-10%
*cellulose-15%
*wallpaper dust -5%
*malt -10%

The Museum of the History of St. Petersburg has kept about 700 unique children’s drawings that were created during the siege (September 8, 1941 – January 27, 1944). These drawings were recently brought to life using VR animation technologies.
 

Blue Devils with SCARs

The famed “blue devils” of the French Army’s 13e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (13e BCA) date back to before the Crimean War, when they were initially raised as the plain old 13e Bataillon Chasseurs à Pied (13e BCP), fighting as such in Algeria, the Italian unification wars, and the Franco-German War.

Transitioning into crack mountain infantry in 1888, they guarded key Alpine passes in peacetime, then in the Great War fought in the Vosges, the Somme, in the Italian Alps against the Austrians, and generally everywhere they were needed, earning seven unit Croix de Guerre by 1918.

The blue devils received their name due to their dark blue uniforms and large berets, retained to this day in their service and dress uniforms. Hard fighters, their motto is “Jamais être pris vivant,” (Never to be Taken Alive)

Interbellum, they remained on the move for the Occupation of Germany with vacations in sunny Tunisia to fight insurgents for the glory of the Republic.

Chasseurs alpins during the Occupation of the Ruhr in Buer (now Gelsenkirchen), 1923. Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-09896

In WWII, following honors in the battle for Narvik against German mountain troops trying to hold on to Norway, they returned home to be dissolved by the Vichy government leaving most of its members to shrug and quietly join the maquis resistance. Reforming their battalion in August 1944, they fought for and captured the Grand Roc Noir (11,752 ft) from the Germans before descending into the Aosta Valley in Italy by the end of the war.

Since then, they fought in Algeria, prepared for mountain combat in the Cold War, and, since that thawed, have been very busy in recent years with deployments to Bosnia, Lebanon, Chad, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Djibouti.

Why all this about the 13th BCA?

Well, they were chosen to be the first unit of the French Army to receive the FN SCAR H PR series precision rifle in 7.62 NATO, for use by their designated marksmen and snipers out to 800m.

The guns will replace the old MAS-derived GIAT FR F2 bolt gun that has been the French standard sniper rifle since the 1980s.

In several ways, the fusil à répétition modèle F2 is really just an updated MAS-36 in 7.62 NATO

More in my column at Guns.com.

The 10th Light Horse Rides Again

Irwin Barracks, Karrakatta, recently saw the return to the Australian Army, in regimental strength, of the venerable 10th Light Horse Regiment. With a lineage that hails back to the country’s colonial militia units, notably the Western Australia Mounted Infantry (WAMI) of Boer War fame, the 10th LHR was officially formed 10 October 1914 for service in the Great War.

Mounted on his horse in front of the Pyramids, 244 Trooper T. Buckingham, 10th Light Horse. He died of wounds on 10 August 1915 at Gallipoli. AWM photo H05686A

And serve it did, earning battle honors at Gallipoli (with its doomed action at A-Nek immortalized in the 1981 Mel Gibson film of the same name), Gaza-Beersheba, Jerusalem, Megiddo, and Damascus.

Notably, one of the 10th’s squadron commanders, Capt. Hugo Vivian Hope Throssell, was the only light horseman during the “War to End All Wars” to receive the Victoria Cross, appropriately earned at Gallipoli.

During WWII, the unit was the last Australian Army outfit to be mounted on horses, maintaining them into April 1944, spending the war patrolling the remote Western Australian coastline for landings and saboteurs.

Disbanded as a regiment once the threat of Japanese invasion disappeared, it was only reformed in understrength squadron strength in 1949, using a combination of Land Rovers, armored cars, and APCs since then in the light reconnaissance role.

Now, on 10 October, the 107th anniversary of its founding prior to heading out to fight the Ottomans, the regiment is back.

As noted by the Australian Army:

The sound of hooves has blended with the dull roar of protected mobility vehicle engines during the re-raising of a historic Australian Army unit in Western Australia.

The 10th Light Horse Regiment has been re-raised at a ceremony in Perth, which also marked the 107th anniversary of the raising of the regiment in 1914.

The return of the unit to Army’s Order of Battle is a significant milestone of the Army Objective Force in enhancing Army Capability and Defence in Western Australia.

The regiment will now considerably increase its size to form a well-trained and capable new cavalry squadron for the West as part of the Australian Army’s modernisation program to be Future Ready.

Rather than horse, however, they will use Hawkei PMVs and Bushmasters (6×6 up-armored variants of the G-Wagon), in at least two squadrons and an HHC unit.

Their regimental motto is Percute et Percute Velociter (Strike and Strike Swiftly)

“Members of the 10th Light Horse Regiment fire a Feu-de Joie at the ceremonial parade to commemorating the re-raising of the Regiment at Langley Park, Perth.”

One Can to Quiet Them All…

Utah-based SilencerCo on Tuesday announced a new addition to its lineup, the Hybrid 46M, billed as “the world’s first and only truly modular large-bore suppressor.”

Built to a design that incorporates titanium, 17-4 heat-treated stainless steel, and Inconel, the full-auto-rated Hybrid 46M adds modularity to the company’s already popular Hybrid 46. In its long configuration, stretching over the front module and endcap, the suppressor runs 7.72-inches and weighs 14.9 ounces. In its shorter format, ideal for SBRs or pistols, it tapes out at 5.78 inches and weighs 12.2 ounces.

When it comes to accommodating calibers, it is omnivorous and is rated for all centerfire pistol and rifle calibers– including 45ACP, 10mm, .450 Bushmaster, .458 SOCOM, .45-70 Government, .338 Lapua Magnum– up to .460 Weatherby Magnum. This gives it the appeal of being a single can for just about everything in the gun safe.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Shadow Warriors: The Unsung Story of the 112th Signal Battalion in Panama

CPT Steve Kestner (right) and another unidentified Company A, 112th Signal Battalion soldier (left) conduct rappel training at Fort Bragg, NC (circa 1989-90). (Photo courtesy of James S. Kestner)

From Veritas, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2020. “Formed in 1986, the 112th Signal Battalion first experienced combat in Panama, during Operation JUST CAUSE, December 1989. Their support to Special Operations Command, South, validated the need for a dedicated Army Special Operations signal battalion.”

All in all, an interesting (and free) online read. 

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