Saturday’s DOD Contract announcements included this little gem, converting a pair of Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPF) currently under construction–USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13), and Cody (EPF 14)— into hospital transports. The EPFs are speedy (43-knot) little (1500 ton, 337ft o.a.) trimarans made by Austal and manned by the civilian mariners of the MSC to carry a reinforced company-sized unit of ground-pounders or cargo intra-theatre. The Navy has been brainstorming using an EPF equipped with an expeditionary medical unit (EMU) inside the mission bay that, while falling short of a full-size hospital ship, would allow an EPF/EMU to serve as a quick transit platform for rapid medical response.
From the announcement:
Austal USA, Mobile, Alabama, is awarded a not-to-exceed $9,198,875 fixed priced incentive firm target (FPI(F)) undefinitized contract action modification to previously-awarded contract N00024-19-C-2227 for the immediate procurement of long-lead-time material, engineering, and production to support changes to the arrangement of the 02 and 03 Levels on Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPF) 13 and 14. The EPF class provides high speed, shallow draft transportation capability to support the intra-theater maneuver of personnel, supplies and equipment for the Navy, Marine Corps and Army. Work will be performed in Mobile, Alabama, and is expected to be complete by November 2021. Fiscal 2018 and 2019 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy-SCN) funding for $4,599,438 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year — fiscal 2018 SCN (62%); and fiscal 2019 SCN (38%). The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.
Spanish authorities arrested two citizens of Ecuador near the beach of O Foxo, Galicia on 24 November. Their ride? A scuttled 66-foot narco submarine carrying over three tons of coke. It is believed to be the first such craft to be seized from Latin America in Europe.
The Guardia Civil is currently trying to figure out if it was launched from a mother ship or made the entire journey on its own. Keep in mind that it is roughly 5,000 miles from the northeast tip of South America to Spain in a straight line. With an average speed of about 10 knots, said narco boat likely took more than three weeks to make a solo crossing only to be seen at the end of its run after things didn’t work out.
Meanwhile, the USCG recently popped a similar such craft in the Eastern Pacific, where they are increasingly common. How long before these are seen in asymmetric warfare by users carrying dirty bombs into a vital port or chokepoint?
Via U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War: In a scene that looks more like Burma in 1945 than Indochina in 1965, EN1 Carl L. Scott, an advisor to the Vietnamese Coastal Junk Force, stands in front of members of his team in this photo.
Note that EN1 Scott is wearing the authorized Junk Force beret and insignia along with common black “pajamas” worn by many of the Vietnamese, and carries a late WWII-era M1A1 Thompson submachine gun. Also, note the South Vietnamese with an M1 Garand and 10-pouch belt.
While the U.S. Army and Marines rarely used the Chicago Typewriter in Southeast Asia, typically only scoring occasional examples while working with ARVN units who had received them along with M1 Carbines and Garands as military aid, the Navy and Coast Guard utilized Tommy guns extensively in their brown water war, especially in the 1960s.
From NHHC on the Junk force:
Recognizing that the sea was a likely avenue of approach for Communists infiltrating from North Vietnam or moving along the South Vietnamese littoral, in April 1960 the navy established the paramilitary Coastal Force. In line with its emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, the Kennedy administration wholeheartedly endorsed the development of this junk fleet, providing the force with American naval advisors, boat design and construction funds, and stocks of small arms. By the end of 1964, the 3,800-man, 600-junk force patrolled the offshore waters from 28 bases along the coast. To coordinate the operations of these 28 separate divisions, U.S. advisors helped set up coastal surveillance centers in Danang, Cam Ranh, Vung Tau, and An Thoi, the respective headquarters of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th Coastal Districts.
Personnel problems proved equally vexing. Although authorized almost 4,000 men, the Coastal Force often fell short by 700 to 800 men. Lacking the prestige of the other combat branches and with its men underpaid and isolated in austere bases, the junk force had great difficulty recruiting personnel, especially those with technical knowledge. Further, only a few of the coastal group bases created formal training programs to increase the skills of those men enlisted. Encouraged by U.S. naval advisors, the Vietnamese Navy took limited steps in late 1967 and 1968 to improve the training effort and to better the living conditions of the junkmen, but much remained to be done.
Apparently along the Afghan/Paki frontier, among the cottage industry of local gunsmiths who craft anything the market could want, AK variants chambered in 8mm Mauser are a thing.
Via The Silah Report:
The AK can be had in various calibers from gun manufacturers and gun shops but this large caliber round is a mystery, why did the gunsmiths choose this round? The simple answer as with most questions is this; the 7.92 × 57 mm Mauser cartridge isn’t regulated like its 7.62 × 51 mm NATO counterpart, which is in use by the Pakistani military, and there were large stockpiles of the ammunition available when this rechambering was conceptualized.
Just wait till Century finds out about this…
More after the jump
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House on Wednesday. Williams earned the award for his actions in Shok Valley, Afghanistan, on April 6, 2008, while a weapons guy on an SF A-team, Operational Detachment Alpha 3336.
“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden everything exploded all at once – machine gun fire, some RPGs started going off. [The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”
Originally recognized with the Silver Star, which was ugraded in September, he is still on active duty.
Over the weekend in the freshwater Great Lakes harbor at Burns Harbor, Indiana, USS Indianapolis (LCS-17), the latest Freedom-class littoral combat ship, commissioned. She is the fourth such vessel, and second surface combatant, to carry the moniker. While I would personally have liked to see a cruiser, LHA, or destroyer carry the name due to the legacy of CA-58, the second Indianapolis, I am nonetheless happy to see the name on the Navy list once again. Indy is the 19th LCS to be commissioned and is expected to be assigned to Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two in Mayport. She is the fifth such Freedom assigned to LCSRON2.
Elsewhere in U.S. Navy news last week, the latest Virginia-class attack submarine, PCU USS Delaware (SSN 791) was delivered to the Navy by Ingalls. Notably, when she is fully commissioned as the 7th Delaware, it will end a nearly century-long drought on the Navy List for that name which was last issued to Battleship No. 28 in 1909, a vessel that was broken up for scrap under the 1921 Washington Naval Treaty. SSN-791 is the 18th Virginia and last of the Block III boats.
USS Gerald R. Ford
Further, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) finally departed Newport News Shipbuilding and returned to sea for the first time since beginning their post-shakedown availability in July 2018 (!) to get back to the business of conducting sea trials, now well over a year since she was commissioned. Navy officials hope she will be ready for regular fleet service by 2024.
John S. McCain
Speaking of gone for a while, USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is underway to conduct comprehensive at-sea testing. She has been sidelined for repairs and extensive, accelerated upgrades over the last two years, following a collision in August 2017.
“This whole crew is eager to get back to sea, and that’s evident in the efforts they’ve made over the last two years to bring the ship back to fighting shape, and the energy they’ve put into preparing themselves for the rigors of at-sea operations,” said CDR Ryan T. Easterday, John S. McCain‘s commanding officer. “I’m extremely proud of them as we return the ship to sea, and return to the operational fleet more ready than ever to support security and stability throughout the region.”
And in South Pacific news, the planned 75-year lease on the entire island of Tulagi (Tulaghi) in the Solomon Islands looks like it is going to fall through. Well known to students of WWII, the Japanese occupied Tulagi in May 1942 in the days just before the Battle of the Coral Sea and was captured by the 1st Marine Raiders that August, forming an important PT-boat base during the Guadalcanal Campaign (JFK’s PT-109, part of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron 2, operated from there.) They proved important in winning control of “The Slot” during that campaign. Likewise, if the Japanese had held Tulagi that summer, the whole operation would have been just that much harder to pull off.
As the crow flies, Tulagi could have been a strategic key to that part of the region as it is directly between Hawaii and Australia. This is especially true if you could pick up those keys for cheap on an extended multi-generational lease.
”I want to applaud the decision of the Solomon Islands attorney general to invalidate the Chinese effort to lease the island of Tulagi for 75 years,” said Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper. “This is an important decision to reinforce sovereignty, transparency, and the rule of law. Many nations in the Pacific have discovered far too late that Chinese use of economic and military levers to expand their influence often is detrimental to them and their people.”