Author Archives: laststandonzombieisland

Mines, Mines, Mines

Word is that Australia plans to invest the equivalent of $800 Million in new sea mines, sourced from Italy.

Comparatively, the Chinese have an active offensive mining development program counting an estimated 80,000 devices consisting of up to 30 types, including encapsulated torpedo mines and rising mines.

This comes as the Vigilance Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), pitched by VARD for the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet, was shown off at CANSEC 2023, complete with a stern Cube modular minelaying system installed.

Vigilance Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) with The Cube System

The system uses 40-foot containers for a wholly “bolt-on” minelaying option

A digital mockup of the Cube minelaying system on HMS Tamar, another small OPV currently in the Pacific. 

Suffice it to say, these could fit inside the open below-deck mission bay of the Independence-class LCS– here seen on USS Cincinnati (LCS-20)– while still leaving the helicopter deck and hangar free.(Photo: Chris Eger)

Meanwhile, here in the States, the Air Force is working on a program for a single B-52 to drop a dozen 2,000-pound mines from a distance of 40 miles off, one that could be very useful in the Pacific one day.

An inert Joint Direct Attack Munition QuickStrike Extended Range mine is attached to a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in early March 2023. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo 230524-F-AA323-1002)

From Air Force Strike Command:

A B-52H Stratofortress attached to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron validated the ability to deploy inert Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) QuickStrike Extended Range (QS-ER) mines from a standoff distance of more than 40 miles off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in early March 2023.

The QS-ER mine marries the concept of a Mk64 underwater mine to that of the GBU-64v1 JDAM Extended Range variant. The resulting weapon is the 2,000-pound QS-ER mine.

Traditionally mines are employed as unguided gravity weapons, forcing the aircraft to fly at lower altitudes and releasing the mines at multiple intervals rather than single releases. This means the mission cannot be accomplished in a contested waterway without accepting a high level of risk. But the QS-ER program changes this concept completely.

Bombarding Force ‘C’

Allied warships of Bombarding Force C, which supported the landings in the Omaha Beach area on June 6, 1944. The column is led by USS Texas (Battleship No. 35) (left), still with her 1930s mast houses, with the British Town-class light cruiser HMS Glasgow (C21), USS Arkansas (Battleship No. 33), Free French cruisers George Leygues and Montcalm following. The picture was taken from the Captain-class frigate/Buckley-class destroyer escort HMS Holmes (K581).

IWM – McNeill, M H A (Lt) Photographer

The Texas group would provide gunfire to open Dog one exit in Vierville-sur-Mer and support the Rangers attempting to destroy enemy guns at Pointe du Hoc, and remain offshore for the next ten days until the battle moved inland.

D-Day Map showing Firing Plan from USS Texas (BB-35) NHHC_1969-232-A_full

By the 15th, Texas had to flood compartments to create a list, upping the elevation of her guns enough to make the German lines near Isigny and Carentan.

Texas (and Arkansas) would come off the gun line at Normandy without a scratch only to grapple with the much more accurate 11-inch guns of Marine-Küsten-Batterie Hamburg off German-occupied Cherbourg three weeks later, costing the life of Texas helmsman Chris Christiansen and wounded 11 others. HMS Glasgow would be so badly damaged off Cherbourg that she would spend the next year in refit and repair, only steaming to join the British Pacific Fleet in August 1945.

However, that didn’t put the old American Great War-era dreadnought on the sidelines, as both Texas and Arkansas would steam to the Med where they bombarded the French Riviera during the Dragoon landings (Texas sent another 172 rounds of 14-inch and 171 of 3-inch into the Old Republic that August) and then to Iwo Jima (where Texas fired 923 rounds of 14-inch and 967 of 5-inch between 16 and 21 February 1945) and spend seven weeks in March and April off Okinawa (Texas: 2,019 14-inch, 2,640 5-inch, 490 3-inch, 3,100 40mm and 2,275 20mm rounds against air and shore targets).

‘Just’ 11,400 Hours

The last Norwegian Lockheed P-3 Orion mission is planned for the end of the month, ending a 54-year-long era of the converted Electra airliners turned sub-busters. The service still has six airframes, the four P-3C IIIs (delivered in 1989) and two P-3N (modified former P-3Bs delivered in 1969) of the historic No. 333 Sqn, based at Andøya Air Station.

They are being replaced by new P-8 Poseidon.

Also taking his last flight in Norwegian service is Major Leif Otterholms, who has flown P-3s since 1985, the last 20 years as TACCO. All in all, he has logged over 11,400 flight hours.

An impressive career, for sure. 

Buffalo Drivers

Some 80 years ago today.

Finnish Airforce officers, fresh graduates of fighter pilot course, 5th of June 1943, at Vesivehmaa, a village outside of Lahti, with a German shepherd mascot on the wing. Note their m/36 cavalry jodhpur-style officers’ breeches, complete with stripes.

Finnish offical caption: ‘Ohjaajakurssin päättäneitä upseereja, jotka odottavat siirtoa rintamalaivueisiin.” Sa-kuva image no. 129783. Photographer: Sot.virk. A.Viitasalo

Yes, that is a Brewster Buffalo. The Finns received 44 in 1940 and, by all accounts, they accounted for over 400 “kills” against the Reds. The humble aircraft had a lot of nicknames with the service, including Lentävä kaljapullo (“flying beer bottle”).

The Ilmavoimat, or Finnish Air Force, has its roots in the old Imperial Russian Army’s air corps and sprang to life roughly 105 years ago at the country’s independence from the failing old Empire, using both inherited Tsarist and donated Swedish crews and aircraft.

The small but hearty force has earned a solid reputation fighting first the Reds in 1918 and later the Soviets in the 1939-40 Winter War (using such quaintly obsolete aircraft as Brewster Buffalos, Bristol Bulldogs, Fokker D.XXIs, and Gloster Gladiators) and WWII, which, as they largely just fought the Soviets again, they termed “The Continuation War.”

The Finns, even with a tiny air corps and beat-up planes chalked up nearly 100 aces in WWII, including “Illu” Ilmari Eino Ilmari Juutilainen, the highest (non-German) ace of the war.

Of note, the excellent Päijät-Häme aviation museum now uses the old WWII airstrip at Vesivehmaa picture above. Sadly, while they have about a dozen former Ilmavoimat-operated aircraft, all date from post-1950, and they have no Brewsters as only eight survived the war in Finnish service and the final five in operating condition were scrapped in 1948.

Hammer-Fired Micro 9: First Looks at the New FN Reflex

Setting itself apart from the rest of the itty bitty 9mm double-stack pack, FN’s new Reflex 9mm is a hammer-fired micro-compact with a great trigger.

Debuted just before the NRA’s Annual Meetings in April, I’ve been taking a closer look at the Reflex series as part of an extended test and evaluation that will push this little palm-sized parabellum past the 2,000-round mark.

The Reflex ships in a cardboard box with a plastic tray and comes with two magazines. For most states, this means a 15+1 round extended mag and a flush-fit 11+1 round mag with a pinky extension for better grip support. (All photos: Chris Eger)

The unloaded weight is 18.4 ounces with an empty mag. We found the Reflex in its most svelte form, with 12 rounds of Federal’s Punch JHP 124-grain self-defense loads and no optic, to hit the scales at 23.4 ounces. Shown with a DeSantis Inside Heat which, although made for the single stack FN 503, fits it like a glove.

More in my column at

Flying Banana Gunner

We’ve come a long way in 60 years when it comes to helicopter gunships.

Here we see U.S. Army PFC Glenn W. Rehkamp, 57th Helicopter Company, manning his .30-caliber M1919A6 door gun on a CH-21 helicopter, 1 Feb 63.

U.S. Army Photo by PFC Jose C. Rivera DASPO via NARA

The Piasecki H-21 Workhorse/Shawnee, commonly called the “flying banana” for obvious reasons, served extensively with the French Army and Air Force in the Algerian War in the 1950s– sometimes equipped with .50 cals and 20mm cannons as some of the first helicopter gunships.

After some heavy use in the early days of U.S. involvement in Vietnam– including the 57th THC with early H-21C gunship variants– the type was soon withdrawn in favor of the Huey and Chinook.

Drink in these shots from 1957 of H-21 gunship experiments at Fort Rucker, including a chin turret repurposed from an old B-29, forward-firing M1919s, and HVAR rockets.

West Pac Coasties

As covered in detail in the past few years, the Coast Guard has been pumping up its assets in the Pacific and extensively putting them to use West of Hawaii.

A few new updates came across the wires to this overall strategy recently that underline that.

First, the big frigate-sized 418-foot national security cutter USCGC Stratton (WMSL 752) is currently operating as part of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71, U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force, deployed in the Indo-Pacific. She recently called at Singapore and operated with Indonesian and Singapore naval assets.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) conducts passing exercises with the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency patrol boat KN Belut Laut-406 and the Republic of Singapore Navy MSRV Bastion on May 22, 2023. Stratton deployed to the Western Pacific to conduct engagements with regional allies and partner nations, reinforcing rules-based order in the maritime domain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Brett Cote)

Meanwhile, on the ground in the PI, San Diego-based USCG Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT West) personnel participated in Balikatan 23, the growing multi-week annual combined-joint military exercise between the Philippines and the U.S.

Sure, it is just a handful of guys, but this is how connections are made.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Special Warfare Operators pose for a photo with members of U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT West) after conducting close-quarters training during Balikatan 23 near El Nido, Philippines, April 13. 2023. MSRT West personnel operated in multiple locations throughout the Philippines, and provided maritime interdiction operations training alongside other U.S. and Philippine armed forces. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo).

Dig that tiger stripe camo and the M203! Armed Forces of the Philippines Naval Special Warfare Operators conduct close-quarters training with members of U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT West) members as part of Balikatan 23 near El Nido, Philippines, April 14. 2023. MSRT West personnel operated in multiple locations throughout the Philippines and provided maritime interdiction operations training alongside other U.S. and Philippine armed forces. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo).

Via USCG PAO, emphasis mine:

During the exercise, MSRT West personnel trained, operated, and lived alongside partner agencies in the Philippines, including the Philippine National Police Maritime Group, the Philippine Coast Guard Special Operations Forces, the Philippine Force Reconnaissance Group, and the Philippine Naval Special Operations Unit.

The deployed MSRT West personnel participated in the exercise’s opening ceremonies, integrated with command-and-control elements, conducted close-quarters combat training, shared tactical shipboarding skills, maritime operational planning, littoral and maritime target analysis, static hook and climb training, basic tropical environment survival training, and law enforcement case package preparation exchanges.

Finally, some 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) ODAs recently teamed up with Coast Guard reservists from Port Security Unit 308 to train to “clear and re-take a vessel overrun by adversaries,” with the subject vessel being the USCGC Walnut, a 225-foot buoy tender.

Sure, 3rd Group is tasked with Africa deployments, but the takeaway here is all of the Coast Guard’s PSUs are worldwide deployable, and VBSS-style ship takedowns are a bit past what they were traditionally trained for. Such skills could be very useful in a white hull vs blue hull struggle in the South China Sea.

Of note, the Philippine coastguard recently anchored five navigational buoys carrying national flags in several locations including the Whitsun Reef, where China has routinely moored hundreds of Chinese Maritime Militia “little blue men” vessels since 2021.

Electric Acorn adding Raider Boats to the Mix

The U.S. Army’s Hawaii-based 25th Infantry “Tropic Lightning” Division has been putting its troops into Zodiacs for what the Marines these days would call a Maritime Raid Force or combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC) boat company work.

A series of great images released this week on social media show elements of the 25th ID’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team including B Coy, 2-35 Infantry, and 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry getting wet. Photos: SPC Jet Hodgkin | HHC, 2-35 IN

Official captions:

“Recently Beast Company strategically executed Amphibious Assault training consisting of ocean navigation, beachfront terrain, and a hasty assault on a Military Operations in Urban Terrain site. Upon securing their objective, B Co egressed via Zodiac waterborne vehicles to follow on with interrogation operations with their captured high-value target.”

“Soldiers assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID conducted waterborne operations, honing their skills on zodiac small boats. Soldiers focused on open water transit, insertion, and extraction techniques. Training like this prepares Soldiers for difficult transitions between sea and land, making them more flexible and lethal in the Pacific theater.”

There have also been lots of pool training and swim tests across the 25th ID in the past few years.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Scott)

Keep in mind that, while over-the-beach ops are the Marines’ specialty, it was the Army that pulled off D-Day, and any future Pacific dust-up could see lots of Joes in boats at some point.

The Pistol Brace Clock Just Hit Zero

While a series of preliminary injunctions for certain plaintiffs have been issued, for most owners of stabilizing pistol braces, June 1 hits a little differently. 

The Biden Administration’s controversial and arbitrary rule on pistol stabilizing braces set a May 31 deadline for owners of upwards of 40 million large-format pistols equipped with such long-legal devices to comply with the new regulations as enforced by the ATF. 

Acceptable options included (1) removing the brace (which was explained by the ATF director to Congress although many legal scholars wisely contend that may not be enough), (2) destroying the firearm altogether, (3) surrendering the firearm to ATF, (4) reconfiguring the pistol as a rifle with a barrel at least 16 inches long, or (5) registering the braced pistol as a “tax-free” NFA-regulated short-barreled rifle with the ATF. 

As for me, since I have several braced pistols that I am publicly tied to, I did a mix of Nos. 4 and 5 above as, in my opinion, No. 1 was too vague and Nos. 2 and 3 just plain out of the question.

Other than that, those found with a pistol fitted with a stabilizing brace installed– currently seen as an unregistered SBR by the federal government– starting June 1, could face felony charges that carry up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. 

Is anyone coming through the window to find out what is in your safe? No, but should you choose non-compliance, don’t pull the dummkopf move of taking your “illegal SBR” to the range and have someone see you with it, or ever taking a photo of it.

When it comes to legal challenges, sadly, there was no 11th-hour “Hail Mary” style nationwide injunction of the rule although there are several cases filed in federal court as to the constitutionality of the ATF’s final brace rule. 

There are some pro-gun member organizations, however, that have secured more limited preliminary injunctions while their cases are being litigated– with courts signaling the challenges are likely to prevail in the end. Be aware that a final ruling on these could be years in the future.

These injunctions cover members of the Firearm Policy Coalition via Mock v. Garland, members of the Second Amendment Foundation via SAF v. Garland, and those of Gun Owners of America via Texas v. ATF. Likewise, the latter order, which the State of Texas signed on to as a plaintiff, may also exempt some Texas state employees. I say “some” because this is all very gray legally and some 2A attorneys caution that not all members of all groups may have legal protection due to the wording of the various orders and how courts interpret them. 

In short, the pistol brace rule is now chugging along for better or worse and lots of legal miles are still to be covered before it is all said and done. 

Be safe out there.

Flattops (and drones) Making Waves

After what must have been a staggering yard period for the crew, the sixth Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS George Washington (CVN 73), has finally been redelivered to the Navy after 2,120 days at Newport News, wrapping up its mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH). Importantly, the carrier also now has new C4ISR systems, radars, and upgrades for full F-35 capability.

The RCOH represents 35 percent of all maintenance and modernization in an aircraft carrier’s service life and GW was pulled offline in 2017 originally for what was scheduled to be a four-year yard event, which ran seven due to COVID, “supply chain issues” and the like.

NNS made sure to work in a victory lap, because, well, at least it’s over.

“Redelivering George Washington to the Navy is the end result of incredible teamwork between our shipbuilders, the CVN 73 crew, our government partners, and all of our suppliers,” said Todd West, NNS vice president, of in-service aircraft carrier programs. “George Washington has gone through a transformation and now returns to the fleet as a fully recapitalized ship, ready to support any mission and serve our nation for another 25 years.”

In related news, the first Ford-class supercarrier, CVN-78, just made the first visit by an American flattop to NATO member Norway in 65 years, escorted up the fjord by His Norwegian Majesty’s Ship (HNoMS) Roald Amundsen (F311) as the GRFCSG Surface Warfare Commander. Of course, this came during a scheduled meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Oslo.

The flagship USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the Oslo fjord for its first port call in Oslo, Norway, May 24, 2023. Gerald R. Ford is the first U.S. aircraft carrier to pull into Norway in more than 65 years. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Glunt) Released.

This meant a round of community relations events and the opportunity to visit popular cultural and historical landmarks in Oslo, including the WWII War Sailors Monument near Akershus fortress.

They also got in some work with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1. Besides CVN-78, the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group consists of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron 2, USS Normandy (CG 60), USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Ramage (DDG 61) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).

Meanwhile, in Portugal, the navy is proceeding with the Plataforma Naval Multifuncional, a new drone mothership project.

The video, which shows a roughly 10,000-ton ish LPH-style vessel complete with a ski-jump and what looks like MQ-9B STOL drones, will be minimally manned but outfitted to launch and recover dozens of AUV, UUV, and USVs of assorted types along with helicopters and OTH-capable small boats. This is likely the future face of expeditionary naval aviation.

Speaking of which, the U.S. Navy just announced the first four “air vehicle pilots” completed flight training and earned their wings during a ceremony aboard NAS Pensacola on 25 May.

The four AVPs were winged at the National Naval Aviation Museum alongside a graduating class of Naval Flight Officers (NFO). The AVPs are the first service members authorized to wear the AVP warfare device.

The AVP warfare device is similar to traditional Naval Aviator wings but with an inverted delta displayed on a shield centered on two crossed anchors and flanked by wings. Service members qualified to wear this device will belong to a new community of aviation professionals who operate the MQ-25 Stingray and future UAVs. (Navy Photo by Ensign Elias Kaser).

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