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That’s a Terrängbil idea

A Swedish-manned and produced m42 KP armored vehicle in UN service during the Congo Crisis, 1960s.

Note the Carl Gustav m/45 “K-gun” submachine gun in the hands of the Swedish commo guy.

The other submachine gun– seen in the hands of what is likely a Congolese army soldier (ANC) blessed into UN operations, although it should be pointed out that peacekeepers from his Ghana, Nigeria, and Ethiopia also participated in the operation– is a rarely encountered Belgian-made Vigneron.

Formed in 1960, the Opération des Nations Unis au Congo (ONUC) became the largest, most complex, and most expensive UN peacekeeping mission during the Cold War. Between 1960 and 1964, nine different battalions of Swedes served in the Congo, with 19 soldiers of the Three Crowns losing their lives there.

As for the armor, the WWII-era Scania/Volvo Terrängbil m/42 KP used a gasoline engine and had up to 20mm of armor, though this was as low as 4mm in some places– able to be penetrated by most small arms rounds more powerful than a pistol. They could accommodate as many as a dozen men in the open hull while the exposed turret mounted a twin Kulspruta m/36 (KSP m/1936) water-cooled machine gun.

How about those watercooled m/36s?

The Swedes sent 15 KPs to the Congo and the vehicles saw lots of heavy use.

Swiss Cold War Tigers Going Home

Armed F-5A prototype, rough field trials

First flown in 1959, the Northrop F-5 became a popular “budget” air-superiority fighter in the Cold War, especially in its later F-5E Tiger variant. Essentially an upgrade of the T-38 Talon able to carry ordnance and mix it up, over 2,200 F-5s of all types were produced by the 1980s, going on to serve over 30 countries as diverse as the Mexican Air Force, the Republic of Vietnam Air Force and the Royal Libyan Air Force.

Starting in 1978, the Swiss Air Force bought 110 late-model F-5E/F Tigers to augment their locally made F+W Emmen Mirage IIIs and replace their older Hawker Hunter aircraft (and a few downright obsolete De Havilland Venoms), becoming the country’s primary fighter until license-produced F-18s were ordered from Emmen in 1996.

With the F-5 out of production since 1987, the numbers of Tigers hidden away in Swiss mountainside caverns dwindled until the type was phased out of front line operations by 2018.

Although a dozen or so airframes are still retained by the country’s version of the Thunderbirds, the Patrouille Suisse, and four birds have transferred to museums, Fighter Wings 11 and 14 out of Payerne still have 23 combat-ready F-5s in storage.

And it looks like those latter aircraft are headed back across the pond as 22 of the vintage planes will be bought by the Pentagon for $39.7 million to be used by the Navy’s aggressor squadrons.

An F-5E Tiger II aircraft assigned to the Saints of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 13 taxis at Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West’s Boca Chica Field. NAS Key West is a state-of-the-art training facility for air-to-air combat fighter aircraft of all military services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Morales/ Released)

The Swiss are reportedly happy to see them go:

“If the Americans want to take over the scrap iron, they should do it,” Beat Flach, a Green Liberal lawmaker, told SonntagsZeitung, which reported on the planned sale on Sunday. “It’s better than having the Tigers rot in a parking lot.”

Of course, other than the U.S. Navy’s OPFOR units, the largest F-5 operator in the world is the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, which has about 60 Tigers leftover from the Shah’s era and a few homebrewed Saeqeh and Azarakhsh fighters derived from the F-5’s design.

P-38 101

I’ve always had a soft spot for P-38s (the guns, not the can openers, as I find the longer P-51 type a much better form of the latter and don’t even get me into the P-38 Lightning) since I was a kid.

With that, I had the great opportunity recently while in the GDC Vault to find examples made by all three WWII makers– Walther, Spreewerk, and Mauser– as well as some Cold War-era West German Ulm-marked guns.

There you go…

For insights into how to tell them apart and what to look for, check out my column at Guns.com. https://www.guns.com/news/2019/12/04/the-world-of-german-p-38s-walther-mauser-spreewerk-and-otherwise

Berlin Wall, now gone for 30 years

As the “Iron Curtain” descended across Europe, the tensions along the border between the two new Germanys escalated until 1961 when construction began on a wall surrounding West Berlin from East Berlin. Dubbed a means to keep fascism out of the People’s Republic (antifaschistischer), the Berlin Wall was more of a mechanism to keep East Germans from escaping the soul-crushing misery that was Communism by fleeing to the West. It is estimated that more than 3 million Germans fled from East to West between 1949 and 1961. If they weren’t stopped, eventually all the workers would have fled the worker’s paradise and the country would be empty!

The guns of those two forces, with the DDR’s heavily indoctrinated Grenztruppen on the East, and the FGR’s Bundesgrenzschutz to the West, were interesting.

In 1975-76, Walther produced a limited run of 5,200 P38 P4 pistols, a shortened version of the P1, specifically for use by the West German Border Patrol and Customs agencies. The above, in the author’s personal collection, is one of those former BMI guns. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

More in my column at Guns.com

The Gipper gets an Unexpected Guest

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works recently partnered with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Insitute and National Museum of the USAF by reconfiguring F-117 Nighthawk 82-0803, nicknamed “Unexpected Guest” for permanent display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Just 64 (5 YF-117As, 59 F-117As) Nighthawks were produced with one, 82-0806 Something Wicked, shot down over Serbia.

Of interest, four of the early YF-117A Scorpion prototypes are on public display with Unexpected Guest being the first production Nighthawk put on a pedestal. The aircraft formerly flew 78 combat missions with the USAF 8th FS during Operation Allied Force over Kosovo in 1999 and Operation Enduring Freedom over Iraq in 2003 and was last spotted in the air in 2007 at Nellis. 

Retired in 2008, Unexpected Guest has been in climate-controlled storage since then with the rest of the F-117 fleet, which is still seen in the air over Tonopah from time to time. 

“The F-117 Nighthawk reminds us of our country’s ability to rapidly develop disruptive technology critical to national security,” said Michele Evans, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “Lockheed Martin is proud to partner with the Air Force and the Reagan Foundation to install a permanent symbol of American innovation at the Reagan Library for all to see.”

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019: Italian Mosquitos of the Baltic

Motortorpedbåt T 28 i full fart i skärgården 1943 Fo196168

All photos, Swedish Sjöhistoriska Museet maritime museum unless noted. This one is file no. Fo196168

Here we see HSwMS T 28, a T 21-class motortorpedbåt (motor torpedo boat) of the Svenska Marinen (Royal Swedish Navy) in 1943 as she planes on her stern, her bow completely above the waves. If she looks fast, that’s because she was– like 50 knots fast.

The Swedes in the 1930s had the misfortune of being sandwiched between a resurgent Germany and a newly ambitious Soviet Union, both having come up on the losing side of the Great War and suffered much during the generation immediately following. This fear went into overdrive as World War II began.

With a lot of valuable coast to protect, the Flottan’s plan to do so was the new Tre Kronor (Three Crowns)-class of three fast cruisers (kryssaren) who were to each serve as a flotilla flagship of a squadron of four destroyers and six motor torpedo boats while three  pansarskepps (literally “armored ships”) bathtub battleships would form a strategic reserve.

For the above-mentioned MTBs, Stockholm turned south, shopping with the Baglietto Varazze shipyard in Italy– which is still around as a luxury yacht maker). Baglietto’s “velocissimo” type torpedo boat, MAS 431, had premiered in 1932 and was lighting quick but still packed a punch.

MAS 431, via Baglietto

Just 52.5-feet long overall, MAS 431 was powered by a pair of Fiat gasoline engines, packing 1,500hp in a hull that weighed but 12-tons. The 41-knot vessel carried a pair of forward-oriented 18-inch torpedoes, a couple of light machine guns, six 110-pound depth charges for submarines (she had a hydrophone aboard) and was manned by a crew of seven.

MAS 431 craft proved the basis for the very successful MAS 500 series boats, with more than two dozen completed. These boats used larger Isotta-Fraschini engines which coughed up 2,000hp while they could putter along on a pair of smaller 70hp Alpha Romero cruising motors. The Swedes directly purchased four of these (MAS 506, 508, 511, and 524) which became T 1114 in 1939. These 55-foot MTBs could make 47 knots.

MAS 500 in the Mediterranean 1938, via Regina Marina

However, the Swedes weren’t in love with the wooden hulls of the Italian boats and went to design their own follow-up class of MTBs in 1941. The resulting T 15 class, built locally by Kockums with some support from Italy, went 22-tons in weight due to their welded steel hulls. However, by installing larger Isotta-Fraschini IF 183 series engines, they could still make 40+ knots.

Swedish Motortorpedbåt T 15. 5 Just four of these craft would be built by Kockums. The camo scheme and white “neutral” racing stripe were standard for Sweden’s wartime fleet. Fo101806

Nonetheless, there was still room for improvement. Upgrading to larger 21-inch torpedo tubes and stretching the hull to 65-feet, the T 21 class carried 3,450hp of supercharged 18-cylinder IF 184 engines which allowed a speed listed as high as 50 knots in Swedish journals. They certainly were a seagoing mash-up of Volvo and Ferrari.

T 28 MTB Fo200188

Motortorpedbåten T 28. 1943 Fo88597A

T30. Bild Sjöhistoriska Museet, Stockholm SMM Fo88651AB

Besides the torpedoes, the craft was given a 20mm AAA gun in a semi-enclosed mount behind the pilothouse while weight and space for two pintle-mounted 6.5mm machine guns on either side of the house and one forward was reserved. As many as six depth charges were also carried.

Torpedbåt, motortorpedbåt typ T 21

The T 21s proved more numerous than the past Swedish MTB attempts, with a total of 11 boats produced by 1943. They proved invaluable in what was termed the Neutralitetsvakten (neutrality patrol) during the rest of WWII.

Assorted Swedish splinter boats clustered at Galo Island in Stockholm, 1943. (Motortorpedbåtar vid Gålö år 1943 Fo88679A)

Hkn Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, who in the 1970s served as heir to his nephew King Carl XVI Gustaf, clocked in on Swedish torpedo boats during the first part of WWII before he was reassigned in 1943 as a naval attaché to London.

HRH Prince Bertil of Sweden aboard a torpedo boat, holding a pair of binoculars Nordiska Museet NMA.0028790

Due to their steel hulls, the craft proved much more durable than comparable plywood American PT-boats or the Italian MAS boats and, while the latter’s days were numbered immediately after WWII, the Swedish T 21s endured until 1959, still keeping the peace on the front yard of the Cold War.

In late 1940s service and throughout the 1950s they carried a more sedate grey scheme.

1947 Janes entry

Motortorpedbåt T 25. Propagandaturen på Vättern, Juli 1947 Fo88595A

T24, note another of her class forward, with the M40 20mm cannon showing

Swedish torpedo boat Motortorpedbåten T29, 1950 Gota Canal. Note the 20mm cannon, which is now better protected, and the depth charges with two empty racks. The Swedes, then as now, were not squeamish when it came to dropping cans on suspect sonar contacts in their home waters. 

The T 21s were later augmented by the similar although up-gunned (40mm Bofors) T 38 class and finally replaced by the much-improved Spica-class, which remained in use through the 1980s with the same sort of tasking as the craft that preceded them.

At 139-feet oal, the Spicas were more than twice as long as the T 21s and carried a half-dozen torpedoes in addition to a 57mm Bofors gun.

However, that welded steel hull and the mild salinity of the Baltic has meant that at least one of the old T 21s, T 26 to be clear, has been preserved as a working museum ship in her Cold War colors and is still poking around, although she probably could not make her original designed speed at this point.

Fo196168

Specs:

Displacement: 28 tons
Length: 65.66-feet
Beam: 15.75-feet
Draft: Puddle
Engines: 2 Isotta-Fraschini IF184 supercharged gas engines, 3450hp
Speed: 50 knots max
Range:
Crew: 7 to 11
Armament:
2 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
1 20 mm LuftVärnskanon M.40 AAA gun, rear
up to 6 6.5mm machine guns (if using dual mounts on three pintles)
6 depth charges

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Speaking of 1960s technology…

The MiG-25 Foxbat dazzled NATO when it was first spied in 1964. Theoretically capable of Mach 3 and reaching altitudes as high as 115,000 ft., the giant interceptor sent a chill through the West, especially when it was feared it was a strike aircraft.

Then, in September 1976, when Soviet Red Air Force Lt. Viktor Belenko famously defected with his late-model Foxbat-P and U.S. analysts got a first-hand look at the beast, they saw it was terribly flawed. Constructed of stainless steel due to its size and weight, its engines were fragile and could be easily damaged, especially at high speeds. The electronics left a lot to be desired. Lacking a look-down-shoot-down radar, it was limited in combat.

To fix some of the MiG-25’s shortcomings, the Soviets developed what was termed the “Super Foxbat” in the late 1970s. The airframe was crafted from a blend of composite nickel steel, various alloys, and titanium. Featuring a longer fuselage to accommodate a more advanced PESA-style radar able to track 24 airborne targets even among ground clutter and an RIO to take advantage of it, the MiG-31 Foxhound was born.

Although out of production since 1994, the Russians have about 100 updated MiG-31BM models, complete with glass cockpits, HOTAS controls, the late gen Zaslon (Flash Dance) phased array radar, and other good stuff. Still, the 26-ton monster looks like a Cold War pterodactyl.

Check out this recently released video of the aircraft operating around Perm, notably the very region where Gary Powers was lost in 1960.

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