Archive by Author | laststandonzombieisland

Going the Distance with FN’s New Baby

The original pocket Browning (FN) was a slim, six-shot .25ACP blowback-operated handgun that weighed about 13-ounces and used a rear grip safety much like the one later seen on his M1911. This early Browning grew into the Colt 1908 Vest Pocket and a slightly modified variant was sold by FN in Belgium as the Model 1905 for decades.

That’s where Belgian small arms guru Dieudonné Saive (who later finished the Browning Hi-Power and designed the FN-49 and FAL) came in.

Working with the original Model 1905 as a baseline, Saive dropped the grip safety in favor of a manual thumb-operated safety lock that doubled as a hold-open. Lighter, weighing just over 9-ounces while still being an all-steel pistol, the gun was sold from 1931 onward as the Baby Browning.

The Browning Baby was a half-inch shorter than the FN M1905 or Colt Vest Pocket and 4-ounces lighter, while still being a 6+1 shot .25ACP. (Photo: Richard Taylor/Guns.com)

Out of production since 1983, FN has since moved on to polymer-framed double-stack 9mm pistols that were a good bit larger. However, their new FN 503, the company’s smallest and slimmest gun since the Baby line ended, came out in March and I have been burning one up as of late.

The new FN 503 pistol is a 6+1 9mm that has a 3.1-inch barrel with recessed target crown which contributes to a 5.9-inch overall length. Some 4.6-inches high, the gun is slim– with a width of 1.1-inches overall.

A big baby, but a more mighty one for sure.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Sun is getting low for the 210s

When the 16 Reliance-class medium endurance cutters were ordered in the 1960s, they were the first cutter built as part of the Coast Guard’s post-World War II fleet revitalization and the first new USCG-designed seagoing cutter construction since the 1930s, with the 255-foot cutters and Wind-class icebreakers wartime Navy-oriented designs.

This black and white photo shows newly the commissioned Reliance (WMEC-615) with an HH-52 Sea Guard helicopter landing on its pad and davits down with one of its small boats deployed. Notice the lack of smokestack and paint scheme pre-dating the Racing Stripe or “U.S. Coast Guard” paint schemes. She has a 3″/50 forward as well as 20mm cannons for AAA work and weight and space for Mousttraps, a towed sonar, and Mk.32 ASW tubes, although they were never fitted. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Humble 210-foot cutters, they had a lot of innovation for the period.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian’s Office, they were the first class of cutter with a combined diesel and gas (CODAC) powerplant that “drove the cutter at speeds of up to 20 knots, so it could tow a 10,000-ton vessel or keep pace with Navy carrier fleets.” Other groundbreaking facets included the first use of air conditioning on a cutter and the first fleet of cutters designed with a flight deck for helicopter operations, a new-fangled device the USGC helped developed in the 1940s.

Built in four yards, 16 Reliance-class cutters joined the fleet in just four years, at a program cost of $54 million ($446M today), which is a deal in any decade.

In the 1980s, the 210s were given a mid-life upgrade in which their CODAC suite became diesel-only with a pair of pitch controlled main diesel engines capable of reaching a max speed of 18 knots, a midship exhaust stack, and her WWII-era armament landed for a 25mm Mk.38 and two .50 caliber machine guns. Her flight deck, although shortened due to the new stack, was still capable of carrying and deploying an HH/MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, albeit without a hangar.

Coast Guard Cutter Reliance patrols the Western Caribbean in support of the Joint Interagency Task Force – South October 2014. The cutter’s crew worked with an aviation detachment from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron based in Jacksonville, Fla., to detect and interdict suspected smugglers. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Clinton McDonald)

They even appeared in a number of films, with class member USCGC Dauntless (WMEC-624) showing up in the Peter Benchley/Michael Caine vehicle The Island as both a supporting actor and set for the last act of the movie.

(Check out from the 3:21 mark on)

With that being said, the 210s are in their last days and several have been decommissioned and given away as military aid. The Galveston-based USCGC Dauntless (WMEC-624) and the Pascagoula-based USCGC Decisive (WMEC-629), the latter of which I toured several times for an article in Sea Classics magazine, transferred to Pensacola in 2017, where the service is gathering the last of the tribe “to better leverage efficiencies gained by clustering vessels of the same class.”

And such, Reliance, which has been based at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the town of Kittery, Maine for the past 32 years, pulled stumps for P-Cola on Monday, set for her last chapter in U.S. maritime service.

The Coast Guard will soon build the “Heritage”-Class 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters, often recycling 210-class cutter names, to replace both the Reliances and the 270-foot Bear/Famous-class cutters. Or at least that’s the plan, anyway.

Sherman was right, 1945 revisit

Here we see a P-47N Thunderbolt of the 7th AAF’s 19th Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group, at Ie Shima Airfield on Ryukyu Retto, Okinawa on 7 July 1945, with an M2 machine-gun-armed M3 half-track on anti-paratrooper/banzai defense.

Photo 65093AC

Notably, the “Jug” (S/N 44-88104) is named “Sherman Was Right” (which was apparently a popular name for AAF fighters in both theaters of the war).

AC45606

The reference is likely an ode to the Union General’s 1879 ” war is Hell!” speech to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy.

Of course, you could also argue that sections of Sherman’s well known, “War is a Terrible Thing” rant from the eve of the Civil War referencing the South’s slim likelihood of victory in the coming fracas between the states as a direct allegory to Japan’s own chances of winning the Pacific War.

That quote, below:

“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!

You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it.

Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail.

Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

~William Tecumseh Sherman, December 24, 1860.”

Guns of the U.S. Army, 1775-2020

While you may know of today’s standard U.S. Army infantry rifles, and those of the 20th Century, how about those present at Lexington and Concord or the line of Springfield muskets from 1795 through 1865? What came after?

For all this and more, check out the easy 2,000-word primer I did for this last weekend at Guns.com.

It’s official, first four LCSs headed to “Red Lead Row.” Why not Blow Row?

As we have talked about previously, the first flight littoral combat ships (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth, and Coronado) have been deemed too beta to be upgraded enough for regular fleet use. In a  burst from the CNO last month, the word is now official: all four will be shifted to OCIR status (Out of Commission, In Reserve) on 31 March 2021, with the youngest, Coronado, being just six years old.

Oof.

In a case of bad timing, the Navy’s PAO just released this very well done “A Day in the Life of an LCS” video, filmed on the new Freedom-class USS Indianapolis (LCS 17).

Notably, the three Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft not up to their neck in the Persian Gulf (USS Zephyr PC-8, USS Shamal PC-13, and USS Tornado PC-14) are also to be disposed of on the same date.

MAYPORT, Fla. (Aug. 02, 2016) – The Cyclone-class Patrol Coastal USS Shamal (PC 13) returns to homeport U.S. Naval Station Mayport after a 62-day deployment to the 4th Fleet area of responsibility where they conducted counter illicit trafficking operations in support of Operation Martillo. Operation Martillo is a joint international law enforcement and military operation involving U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targeting illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hendricks/Released)

The other 10 craft has been at Bahrain for most of the past decade while Zephyr, Shamal, and Tornado– two of which were formerly Coast Guard-manned out of Pascagoula’s old NAVSTA– have been based in Mayport under 4th Fleet’s control– just about the only Navy vessels that are regularly outside of ships transiting through or on training evolutions.

This of course begs the question of, why not give the “old” LCSs to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT)? Call em PCs? Get some tax dollars out of them.

Is this where I point out that the lastest 4th Fleet deployments have surged DDGs? Wait, wasn’t the LCS program designed to prevent billion-dollar Aegis ships from being used in constabulary work?

Whomp Whomp.

Fireworks Underway

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) alongside USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) providing Iron Ike’s crew a “fireworks” barrage from her embarked guns in honor of Independence Day. While short of the famed “death blossom” possible with a VLS-equipped Aegis ship, it is nonetheless remarkable.

Normally this is the last thing a carrier sailor wants to see from their escorting cruiser while underway. (Photos by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Aaron Bewkes and Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Trent P. Hawkins)

Packing a Wallops, 75 Years Ago Today

The first research sounding rocket launched from Wallops Island, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, was an experimental 17-foot Tiamat JB-3 “Jet-Bomb” on July 4, 1945. A Scout launch vehicle, it took off from an angled rack from the beach and used a 7-chamber custom booster developed by Hughes to get it off the ground. Tiamat went on to equip a few modified A-26 Invaders in 1946, sans booster, as an early air-to-air missile.

Since then, Wallops has been steady in the rocket-launching biz. Today, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is NASA’s only owned and operated launch range.

As detailed by NASA: 

Since 1945, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has launched more than 15,000 rockets from Wallops Island for science studies, technology development, and as targets for the U.S. military.

Wallops roots are based on this country’s need for missile research during World War II. The Langley Aeronautical Laboratory in Hampton, Va. was tasked with supporting this research. A place was needed on the water, near Langley and near a military facility. Wallops Island fit the bill. The first test rocket was launched on June 27, 1945. The first research rocket, a Tiamat, was launched several days later on July 4.

Today, Wallops still launches Antares rockets with Cygnus resupply pods to the International Space Station, among other bottle rockets.

Happy Independence Day: NAVAIR Bicentennial Schemes

The 1976 Bicentennial celebration these days is probably best remembered for the occasional side-drum Minuteman quarter coin they find in their change.

However, for those who don’t remember or weren’t around, the year saw a host of NAVAIR assets with special livery. The time was a curious crossover from the Navy and Marine Corps, as it was the twilight of Vietnam-era assets such as the A-4, F-8 and F-4, while new warbirds such as the F-14 were coming online.

The below images are from the NHHC Photographic Section, Navy Subject Files, Aviation (120); the National Archives, and the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Enjoy, and stick a feather in your cap, you Yankee.

Bicentennial Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk BuNo 15-4290 of the “Bandits” of VF-126 speeds past Mt. Rushmore, circa March 1976. This Navy photo was published on the front page of the LA Times, as well as other major regional newspapers, the last week of May 1976

F-14A Tomcat BuNo 15-9616 of VF-124 “Gunfighters” Miramar Naval Air Station in Bicentennial colors, April 1, 1976. Of note, the Tomcat had only entered deployable service a three years before and the “Wolfpack” and “Bounty Hunters” of VF-1 and VF-2 had flown CAP over the Operation Frequent Wind evacuation of Saigon in April 1975. PH3 Bruce Gray DN-SC-88-06706

Naval Air Station, Miramar, San Diego, California. A Bicentennial paint scheme on the tail of a Sundowners (VF-111) F-4N Phantom II fighter aircraft (BuNo.15-1510) from USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42). Also, note the Shark-Mouthed F-4N still marked with the Coral Sea’s stencil from their 1973 deployment. 428-GX-K-113545

Pacific Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, California. A parked Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four, VX-4, F-4J Phantom II fighter painted for the Bicentennial. 428-GX-KN 24280

A better view of the above Phantom’s tail feathers. 428-GX-K-112653

RF-8G Crusader BuNo 14-6858 of Light Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron 63 (VFP-63) parked on the flight line at Naval Air Station, Miramar, April 1, 1976. The aircraft has been painted in Bicentennial theme PH3 Bruce Gray DN-SC-88-06704

The Marines also got into the act, of course.

A U.S. Marine Corps McDonnell RF-4B Photo Phantom (BuNo 153101) from Marine Reconnaissance Squadron VMFP-3 “Eyes of the Corps” in flight. The plane is painted in US Bicentennial markings. Flying out of El Toro, this plane deployed on USS Constellation the same year with Det RF-10. NNAM

A-6E Intruder VMA(AW) 121 Green Knights Bicentennial scheme NAS Moffett Field April 30, 1977. NNAM

And another 1976 holdover, since you came this far:

That’s a lot of DUKWs

The popular tourist trap, Ride the Ducks of Seattle, recently filed for bankruptcy after a high-profile 2015 fatal bridge accident with one of their vehicles resulted in a $123 million jury award.

With that being said, they have a collection of more than a dozen vintage DUKW amphibious vehicles up for liquidation in an online auction that runs until the 8th. Several of the vehicles are 1944-45 vintage GMCs and Sparkmans.

More details, here. 

Then I Guess I’ll see You In Hell

With the temperatures hovering around 100 already and another three months of summer to go, I needed a bit of chill in my life.

Maybe not as much as this poor guy, though, busy putting the “cold” back in the Cold War.

A U.S. Army soldier stands guard in the snow armed with an M16A1 rifle at an undisclosed location, 17 September 1985. NARA DA-ST-85-12838

If you ask me, the Joe is certainly rocking a similar vibe to one certain scruffy nerf herder of the same era

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