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The sweepers Pelican 1917-2007, and no, that is not a bar of soap

The name “Pelican” in honor of the large and rather dopey seabird, has always been carried by a mine warfare vessel in the U.S. Navy.

USS PELICAN (AM-27) Caption: With PN-9 #1 on her fantail, after the unsuccessful San Francisco to Hawaii flight in early September 1925. The ship is going to Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Description: Catalog #: NH 44902

The first, AM-27/AVP-6, was a Lapwing-class minesweeper laid down 10 November 1917 at Gas Engine and Power Co., Morris Heights, New York. Commissioned a month prior to Armistice Day, she helped with the sweeping of the North Sea Mine Barrage and was almost blown sky high when a chain of six British mines exploded all around her on 9 July 1919. Heroically saved by her crew and responding ships, the beaten Pelican limped to Scapa and was repaired. Later converted to a seaplane tender, she served in both the Atlantic and Pacific in WWII (including work as a “Tuna boat” Q-ship) before being sold for scrap in November 1946 after 29 years service.

USS Pelican via Navsource

The second Pelican, (MSC(O)-32/AMS-32/YMS-441) was a YMS-1-class minesweeper built at Robert Jacob Inc. City Island, New York. Commisoned with a hull number only in 1945, she assumed Pelican‘s vacant moniker 18 February 1947. She supported the Eniwetok atomic bomb tests and then saw extensive service in the Korean War, including helping to clear the heavily mined port of Chinnampo. Taken out of service in 1955, she was loaned to Japan as the JDS Ogishima (MSC-659) for 13 years before striking in 1968.

The third Pelican, MHC-53, is an Osprey-class coastal minehunter built at the now-defunct Avondale Shipyard, Gulfport, Mississippi, launched 24 October 1992 and commisoned 18 November 1995. Based on the 164-foot Italian Lerici-class minehunters designed by Intermarine SpA in the early 1980s, and built in variants for Algeria, Finland, Malaysia, Nigeria, Australian and Thailand, the Osprey‘s were a good bit larger, at 188-feet overall but could float in just seven feet of water, enabling them to perform littoral sweeping and clear mines from inland waterways.

Below is a slice of her hull sandwich that I have, a two-inch-thick piece of green soap-colored carbon fiber-reinforced polymer resin that has the consistancy of a brick– and is non-magnetic.

The Osprey-class were the largest vessels built at the time, save for the eight-foot longer HMS Hunt-class minehunters, to have fiberglass hulls. This may have been surpassed since then by a mega yacht or two, but I doubt it as most of those are steel hulled.

While most countries still use their Lerci-class vessels (31 are afloat worldwide and Taiwan is building six more by 2023) the 12 Ospreys, after spending their time in the Reserves, were decommissoned 2006-2007 while still relatively young. Eight low-mileage Ospreys had either been transferred to or marked for transfer to other navies: two each to the Hellenic (Greek) Navy, Lithuanian Navy, Egyptian Navy, and Republic of China (Taiwan) Navy, anf four scrapped (!)

Pelican, struck from the Naval Register 16 March 2007, was commisoned by the Greeks as HS Evniki (M61) the same day, and she continues in active service.

Evinki, in the Corinth Canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. The rock walls, which rise 300 ft. above sea level, are at a near-vertical 80° angle.

30 Years ago today: Tea party at the pole

Here we see the famous photo of the first U.S./British coordinated surfacing at the North Pole, 18 May 1987, with three nuclear-powered hunter killer fleet submarines chilling in the Arctic.

Photo via WUWT

The ships are, left to right: the Swiftsure-class HMS Superb (S-109), and the Sturgeon-class submarines USS Billfish (SSN-676), USS Sea Devil (SSN-664).

-Superb paid off 26 September 2008 after service in the Falklands (kinda) and Afghanistan.
-Billfish was decommissioned on 1 July 1999 and recycled by 2000.
-Sea Devil was decommissioned on 16 October 1991 and recycled by 1999.

While the Sturgeons have been turned to razor blades, some of their parts are on display such as the 22 fairwater planes located at Magnuson Park at Sand Point in Seattle and 11 emplaced (along with 11 Soviet fins) at Miami’s Pelican Harbor Park, North Bay Villages:

Notably, the Miami installation includes fins from both of the Sturgeon’s that surfaced for our tea party!

Seattle fin pod: Seahorse SSN-669,  Simon Bolivar SSBN-641, Puffer SSN-652, Gato SSN-615, John Adams SSBN-620, Plunger SSN-595, Whale SSN-638, Bergall SSN-667, Flying Fish SSN-673, Tullibee SSN-594, Pargo SSN-650, and Gurnard SSN-662.

Miami fin pod: Sea Devil SSN-664, Pogy SSN-647, Sand Lance SSN-660, Pintado SSN-672, Trepang SSN-674, Billfish SSN-676, Archerfish SSN-678, Tunny SSN-682, Von Steuben SSBN-632, Sculpin SSN-590, Cavalla SSN-684.

There is also the intact sail of the Sturgeon herself (SSN-637) at the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport, Washington.

Russkis come correct in the Arctic

Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation posted a ton of photos taken during the annual May Day military parade in Moscow marking the 72nd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

Of course, there is lots of these.

Skirts and boots just seem so…1960s Soviet.

And this ridiculously photogenic Airborne Guards officer.

Note the AK-74Ms in the background, often you see these guys with the shorter AK-105, but I guess since this is a parade, why not make them carry the longer stuff

But then, the Russians also made a point to highlight some new systems– all with a polar angle to them.

These included white camo’d BTR-82A armored personnel carriers, a Tor-M2 air defense systems based on the chassis of the DT-30 all-terrain tracked vehicle and a Pantsir-SA air defense systems based on the chassis of the DT-30 all-terrain tracked vehicle.

Pantsir-SA air defence system on DT-30PM transporter chassis

BTR-82A armored personnel carriers and a DT30 carrier

A Tor-M2 air defense systems first time seen in the wild

As noted by Sputnik:

The Russian army’s Land Forces Commander-in-Chief Col. Gen. Oleg Salyukov earlier said the new anti-aircraft systems were capable of fulfilling the tasks of ensuring Russia’s security in the difficult climatic conditions of the Arctic, with complete absence of roads and remoteness from the bases.

Then on 9 May, the MoD posted this:

The participants of the first mass landings units and military equipment #commandos of Russia on the island of Kotelny Island in the Arctic.

Maybe not so photogenic as our guards officer above, but an interesting development nonetheless.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other officials from the world’s eight Arctic nations are meeting in Alaska amid concerns about the future of the region after Trump called for more oil drilling and development….

Dad’s Army, Norwegian edition

There are lots of reasons why someone should not mess around with Norway. One is the Norwegian Home Guard (Norwegian: Heimevernet – “HV”) which today consists of some 45,000 part time soldiers.

Here is one of their rapid-reaction forces at work:

Norwegian Home Guard QRF soldiers from Vestfold on a recent training mission. Note the HV shoulder flashes and general “Most interesting man in the world” vibe of its troopers. These guys could ski circles around potential invaders and, when operating with home field advantage, bring the pain.

SOF has an interesting article from a few months back about these guys from a 1980s encounter in which the author bumped into hardlegs still armed with German WWII weaponry but ready to use it.

Norwegian reserve engineers in the 1980s with a P08 Luger and MP40 SMG. Via SOF

This jibes with my own personal Norwegian buddy, a fellow by the name of Kim that I have known for years. Back in the early 1990s he did his national service in Brigade South (also known then as 4th Brigade) and has shown me fading Kodaks of a skinnier/hairier version of him using everything from 1940s vintage M1 Carbines and Walther P-38s to HK G3s and MP5s. He said they learned to use it all and stacked it deep, just in case.

At the time, the Land Home Guard had 470 platoon-sized units stippled across Norway equipped with small arms and man-portable anti-tank weapons such as the Carl Gustav 84mm and  L-18 57mm recoilless rifle– a nice addition to any choke point.

At the end of the Cold War, with a population of 4.2 million, Norway could put up the following numbers:
Army:  19,000 (plus 146,000 reserves)
Navy:  5,300 (plus about 26,000 reserves)
Air Force:  9,100 (plus about 28,000 reserves)
Home Guard:  85,000 reserves.

In short, over 300,000 ready when the balloon went up. Those aren’t rookie numbers.

Today it seems the HV is half the size it was in the tail-end of the Cold War, but you can bet there are probably well-maintained WWII stocks still housed in a warehouse somewhere, ready if needed.

Lawrence Livermore just cleared a whole lot of boom

On Tuesday, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory released 63 rare, restored, and declassified nuclear test films, saved from decomposing on fragile nitrate film. They include Operations Teapot, Dominick, Nutmeg, Hardtack, Plumbob, and others. They are short but powerful.

“For the past five years, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapon physicist Greg Spriggs and a crack team of film experts, archivists and software developers have been on a mission to hunt down, scan, reanalyze and declassify these decomposing films. The goals are to preserve the films’ content before it’s lost forever, and provide better data to the post-testing-era scientists who use computer codes to help certify that the aging U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

(Photo via Friends of the Tank Museum)

(Photo via Friends of the Tank Museum)

“U.S. M60 and the Soviet-built T62, showing the much lower profile of the Warsaw Pact vehicle. Although armament was roughly equivalent, the lower profile of the T-62 made it a much harder target.”

The T-62, at about 40-tons, was eight feet high– three feet less than the M-60, giving it the tactical advantage. However, due to the low depression of the T-62’s gun when compared to the 105mm hull cracker of the M-60, was seen in the West as a handicap.

The T-62 carried 40 rounds of ammunition, with most of the rounds stored in the hull and the gun suffered from a very long ejection period. The M60 carried 60 rounds, with more ready in the turret, and could fire about twice as fast with a well-trained crew.

Plus, the T-62 was seen as being cramped and hard to drive.

The M60 Patton was introduced in 1961, augmenting and then replacing the M48 in U.S. service (though it should be noted that upgraded M48A5’s, up-gunned with the 105 mm M68 gun to make them basically M60s, remained in some National Guard armored units until as late as 1990). The M60 was in turn replaced after 1980 by the M1 Abrams, though Marine M60A1s fought in Desert Storm, reportedly accounting for as many as 200 Iraqi tanks including some rather modern T-72s. Though the U.S. phased out the last M60s, used as training vehicles, by 2005, they remain in service with over 20 foreign allies. Some 15,000 were built.

As for the T-62, armed with the 115 mm U-5TS “Molot” (2A20) Rapira smoothbore tank gun, it was the go-to tank of the Soviet Union, its Warsaw Pact partners, and overseas commie friends. The Soviets alone produced 20,000 variants through 1975 when they moved on to the T-72, though the simplified “monkey model” as former Soviet military intelligence officer Viktor Suvorov called them, are still produced in North Korea as the Ch’ŏnma-ho I with upgraded 125mm 2A46 guns complete with autoloaders.

T-62s and M-60s met at least three times in combat: In the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the Syrian and Egyptian T-62 was an effective adversary for Israeli Pattons, though better training and more ammo carried the day for the IDF; Iraqi T-62s under Saddam clashed with Iranian M-60s in the 1980s, and of course the story of the Marines from Desert Storm.

Though both of these MBTs were a product of late 1950s tech, they will both continue to be encountered worldwide for the next several generations.

And for a great throwback, here is a 1977 Army film on how to best kill the T-62, likely shot with the use of some captured Syrian vehicles as well as intelligence footage.

Bringing the M1’s back from the ROK

m1 garand

A House measure introduced last week would override the Obama-era State Department’s embargo on thousands of M1 Carbines and Garands long blocked from import.

The legislation comes as the latest installment in an effort by Republican lawmakers to change the 2009 decision to block the importation of no less than 87,000 rifles donated to South Korea and now surplus to that country’s needs.

“These M1 models represent a significant piece of our military history and should be available to collectors in America to the extent that other legal firearms of the same make are routinely bought and privately owned,” said bill sponsor, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., in a statement.

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