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Prowlin’ no more

Before they merged with Northrop in 1994, the old-school Grumman Corporation fielded some of the most iconic military– and specifically carrier– aircraft ever made in the 20th Century.

We are talking the F4F Wildcat (which the Brits used as the Martlet, their most common naval fighter of WWII), the Zero-busting F6F Hellcat, the briefly-loved F7F Tigercat, the F8F Bearcat (which the French continued to fly in Indochina and Algeria well into the jet age), the F9F Panther, F11 Tiger, and, of course, the F-14 Tomcat– last of the “cats.”

They just didn’t make fighters. They also produced the Cold War ASW king S-2 Tracker and the Yankee Station bomb truck that was the A-6 Intruder.

Sadly, all of the above have long since faded from the fleet. Other than a few ragtag IRIAF F-14s and some Taiwanese and Latin American S-2s, they aren’t even in the service of Third World countries.

And last week, the last armed Grumman combat aircraft used by the U.S. was put to bed.

First flown in 1968, the EA-6 Prowler was an A-6 that had been converted to be an “Electric Intruder” developed for the Marine Corps to replace its 1950s-era EF-10B Skyknights in electronic warfare missions. By 1971, they were flying over Vietnam with VAQ-129 flying from USS America (CV-66). Over the next 48 years, the plane matured and no carrier air boss would leave home without it. Not just an EW jam spreader, it could also target enemy radar sites and surface-to-air missile launchers in SEAD missions with high-speed anti-radiation missiles– more than 200 AGM-78 Standard ARM/AGM-88 HARMs were fired by Prowlers in combat over the years, with the first “Magnum” HARM warshot being against a Libyan SA-5 battery in Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.

Later, in Iraq and Afghanistan, they even jammed the cell phone and garage door signals used to trigger IEDs.

No Prowler was ever lost in combat, although they have been in the thick of it over Vietnam, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Afghanistan, Grenada and other points of conflict for a five-decade run.

In all, more than 20 Navy and Marine VAQ squadrons took to the sky in the flying jambox although just 170 of the aircraft were produced.

Now, replaced by the EA-18G Growler, the last Prowlers of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, have been put to pasture.

U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers assigned to Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, fly off the coast of North Carolina, Feb 28, 2019. VMAQ-2 is conducting its last flights prior to their deactivation on March 8, 2019. VMAQ-2 is a subordinate unit to Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Liam D. Higgins)

But Grummans are not totally out of the fleet. The E-2C Hawkeye lingers on.

30 years ago today, the end of Gorbachev’s nightmare and the beginning of everyone else’s

“Goodbye Afghanistan” in Cyrillic, written with AK74 rounds

15 February 1989- The last Soviet combat soldier in Afghanistan, Col.-Gen.Boris Vsevolodovich Gromov of the 40th Guards Army, walked across the Friendship Bridge spanning the Amu-Daria river between that country and what is now Uzbekistan.

The nine-year conflict, which began with the Soviet takeover of the country on Christmas Eve 1979, cost the Motherland 14,453 killed and 264 missing (some of which have later been found alive) of the more than 600,000 that cycled through Afghanistan during the war.

It is estimated that as many as 2 million Afghans on both sides and caught in the crossfire, also perished.

Without Moscow’s support, the Pakistani-Saudi-U.S.-backed Mujahedin quickly swept away the Communist government in Kabul, replacing it after the resulting civil war with the Taliban.

Is that a Thompson M4?

This great picture popped up on MilMag, a Polish firearm magazine, showing a group of U.S. Army Soldiers milling about, digging the heat somewhere sand-colored.

On a closer look, one, a Spc. Lord, has what looks like a dead ringer for a Thompson M1921/28 submachine gun foregrip affixed to his M4 handguard, like a baller.

Now, THIS is a field mod I can get behind.

Some reverse image searching (thanks for not listing anything about the photo, Mil Mag!) found that the group was from the Tomahawks of the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th SBCT, 2ID as they were operating in in Takhteh Pol district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The photo was taken 05.02.2013 by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann with the 102nd Public Affairs Det.

In search of more images of Spc. Lord’s epic Tommy gun M4, it was no joy. A follow-up image by Hamann took three weeks later showing the specialist involved in personnel searches at a traffic control point in Panjwai district, shows him with a more traditional forward grip.

Sigh. I bet it was magnificent while it lasted.

That good ole Mk III Snider-Enfield

Pvt. McKenzie on the proper manual of excercise (1867) of the Mk III Snider-Enfield conversion, the Empire’s first breechloader adopted en masse.

What your average Tommy DMR looks like

Photos via British MoD

Photos via British MoD

Here we see the British Army’s L129A1 service rifle, sniper, better known on this side of the pond as an LMT LM308MWS. The Brits bought 3,000 of these bad boys in 2014 and are known for a sub-MOA group at 800m with match 7.62x51mm NATO ammo, which is not bad out of a 16-inch barrel. The basic optic is the Trijicon 6×48 ACOG. Also shown are the standard SA80/L-85 Enfield bayonet (note the wirecutter sheath in the top left), and the MilSight S135 Magnum Universal Night Sight (MUNS).

Not pictured is the L17A2 Schmidt & Bender 3-12 × 50 Sniper Scope for long distance work and the SureFire SOCOM762-RC husha can for when you want to spend some quiet moments in the hills looking for ISIS-types. Weight all up (with the ACOG) is 11-pounds, if carrying other sights or the can, this jumps, as does adding a bipod or scrim. She takes regular AR-10 style mags, which you will notice that the Brits use PMAGs (doesn’t everyone).

What she looks like with her shit together

With the U.S. Army looking for a new commercial-off-the-shelf Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) in 7.62x51mm, you better believe guns like the LMT 308MWS are being looked at.

When it comes to captured enemy weapons, the Army never throws anything away

I recently had the chance to tour U.S. Army’s Museum Support Center at Anniston Army Depot, the keepers of the flame for military history in the country.

The 15,200-acre installation in North Alabama was established in World War II and overhauls both small arms and vehicles for the Army. A longstanding tenant on the sprawling base, based out of Building 201, is the Museum Support Center, operated by the Center of Military History. The CMH maintains an immense collection of 650,000 historic items across 228 sites including 57 large museums that are a part of the Army Museum Enterprise. Items not yet on display, waiting for a public home, or are excess to current museum needs are stored in the “Army’s attic” in Anniston.

In secured storage at the MSC are 13,000 live weapons of all sorts, ranging from 13th Century Ottoman gear to guns captured recently in Afghanistan…and they were gracious enough to roll out the red carpet for me:

More in my column at Guns.com

DARPA XM-3 Marine sniper rifle up for auction

I got a chance to check this out in April when I was at CMP in Anniston for visit and tour (see articles here and here ICYMI) and just absolutely drooled over this bad boy.

Mmmm, smells like Kandahar

There were only 52 made and many have been scrapped. Thankfully, this one (#S6533990) was transferred to the CMP for sale on the civilian market and is complete with the NF optic, PVS22 night scope, case (which is very interestingly marked on the outside!) and accessories to include data book.

What is an XM-3?

From the DD:

These XM-3 sniper rifles used by the United States Marine Corps. In mid-2005, DARPA worked with Lt. Col. Norm Chandler’s Iron Brigade Armory (IBA) to field items to expeditionary units in Afghanistan. Since they already had a great working relationship, DARPA contracted IBA to build and test lightweight sniper rifles that incorporated the improvements the snipers desired in combat. The mission was to be lighter and smaller than the existing M40s, while having better accuracy, clip-on night vision that did not require re-zero, better optics, and better stock, and it had to be suppressed. The barrel had to be short enough to allow maneuverability yet long enough to deliver a 10” group at 1,000 yards. If the barrel was too heavy, maneuverability would decrease, yet if the barrel was too light it would only be able to shoot a few rounds before the groups started to shift due to barrel temperature. IBA tested a number of barrel lengths, ranging from 16 to 20 inches and in different contours. Each rifle with a different length was assigned an XM designator starting with XM1 through XM3. In each case, everything on the prototype rifles was kept the same except the barrel. During the final phases of testing it was found that the 18” barrels had no issues keeping up with their longer 20” brethren. The final barrel length was set at 18.5”, and the contour was a modified #7. The straight taper on the barrel was only 2” vs. 4” and the overall diameter at the muzzle was .85” vs. .980”. This helped reduce a lot of the rifle’s weight while not negatively affecting accuracy or effective range. A number of the groups at 1,000 yards were <1 MOA. The Marines of I-MEF were the first to field test the rifles at Camp Pendleton. Shortly after I-MEF took receipt of the XM-3s, the first units in II-MEF took receipt of theirs. By mid-2006 there were dozens of XM-3s in Iraq. There were 52 XM-3s made.

Of course, the bidding is past $20,000 but hey, it’s not your average Remmy M700

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