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Vintage Skymaster

While cruising around Gulfport, something caught my eye and I had to stop. After all, it is not often that you see a 50-year old Cessna mating with a building.

Yup, a very early production c1963 Cessna Model 336 Skymaster (SN #336-0035).

The plane and building (the latter an old Rooms To Go outlet now owned by the city) is set to be folded into the Mississippi Aviation Heritage Museum, a project that the Brown Condor Association and others have been trying to establish since 2016.

Incidentally, the association is named in honor of Mississippi pilot John Charles Robinson, known in the media of the 1930s as “The Brown Condor of Ethiopia.” Tom Simmons wrote a book about Robinson, and I spoke to him about it at a local event and picked up a copy a while back. Good stuff.

As far as the C-336 goes, just 195 of these models, with twin Continental IO-360-A engines, were produced.

When supped up with Continental IO-360-Cs (which made them C-337s), the model flew as the O-2 Skymaster throughout the 1960s and 70s, as well as Reims Cessna FTB337 used in Rhodesia and throughout African brush wars into the 1980s, in all being used by the militaries of more than 20 countries, some as late as just a few years ago.

Don’t let the Cessna pedigree fool you, the 337 could carry a lot of ordnance

It will be interesting to see what form this 336 will take when the museum opens, which is expected sometime next year.

An aging Russki throwback, some 35 years ago today

The big 16,000-ton Sverdlov-class (Project 68bis) light cruiser Aleksandr Nevsky of the Soviet Red Banner Fleet on 26 October 1983, photographed in the Baltic.

While she would have been a mighty foe in 1938, when compared to the NATO cruisers of the Reagan-era, she was hopelessly obsolete.

Some 30 of these all-gun cruisers, based on Soviet lessons learned from WWII and study of Allied and Axis cruisers that passed through their hands then applied to the 1930’s Chapayev-class design, were ordered in the early 1950s– notably the last of their type fielded in large numbers. These ships carried a full dozen 6 inch/57 cal B-38 guns in four triple Mk 5-bis turrets. They were roughly equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Cleveland-class light cruisers (14,500-tons, 4 × triple 6″/47cal guns) of WWII.

Following Stalin’s death, just 21 were completed and by the 1960s those left in service (Ordzhonikidze, for instance, was transferred to Indonesia with disastrous results) were soon relegated to intermittent command ship tasking and use as naval gunfire platforms– much the same as seen in Western navies at the time. By the late 1970s, most were dockside reserve ships, only trotted out for photo ops or foreign port calls to wave the flag.

Nevsky was stricken in 1989 and scrapped.

That sweet, sweet ONG scattergun action

Saw these out Sportsman’s Outdoors Superstore and picked up one before they went almost immediately out of stock.

They are classic 1970s/80s-era Remington 870 Wingmaster 12 gauge Police models complete with a really groovy Ohio National Guard “ONG” stamp and state overlay.

I am hoping they will get more in as they are (what I think) is a great deal. Regardless, the pics are interesting and are here for posterity.

Some even still have brass rack tags

That bayonet lug/sling swivel bracket…

Some even had Remington-stamped, likely factory-installed, overfolding stocks installed.

They were selling for $229 to 239, depending on set-up.

The folder reminds me of this shot of 1985 USMC riot gear

Marine Corps riot control gear arrayed for inspection. Among the equipment displayed are a gas mask, protective vest, M870-1 riot shotgun, .38-caliber M10 S&W M&P revolver, DETEX watchclock, and nightstick. (NARA DM-ST-86-01722)

Which of course is a lead-in for this series of NARA shots from 1989 showing the by-the-book manual of arms with an 870, USMC-style. You gotta love the clunky old 1st-Gen kevlar, M9 Beretta/UM84 Bianchi flap holster, and crisp woodland BDUs.

A Marine demonstrates a ready position with an M-870, Mark 1 12-gauge shotgun.

A Marine demonstrates a low ready position with an M-870, Mark 1 12-gauge shotgun.

A Marine demonstrates sling arms with an M-870, Mark 1 12-gauge shotgun.

A Marine demonstrates a standing firing position with an M-870, Mark 1 12-gauge shotgun.

Is it 1991 again?

So three things happened over the weekend.

#1 & #2, the Navy christened two brand new Virginia-class SSN’s on the same day (Saturday) some 500 miles part when they broke bottles at Newport News for the future USS Delaware (SSN 791) at 10 a.m and at Groton for the future USS Vermont (SSN 792) at 11 a.m. Importantly, Delaware is the last of the Block III Virginia’s and Vermont is the first of the Block IVs as these boats increasingly replace the old 688s.

181020-N-LW591-159 Groton, Conn. (Oct. 20, 2018) Ship sponsor Gloria Valdez, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, and Acquisitions), breaks a bottle of wine produced by a Vermont vineyard to christen the Virginia-class, fast-attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Vermont (SSN 792), during a ceremony at Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut. PCU Vermont is the third U.S. Navy vessel to be named in honor of the state of Vermont and the 19th Virginia-class, fast-attack submarine. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins/Released)

And in the “welcome to Red Storm Rising, redux:”

For the first time in nearly 30 years, a U.S. aircraft carrier entered the Arctic Circle Oct. 19 to conduct operations in the Norwegian Sea.

“Accompanied by select ships from Carrier Strike Group Eight (CSG-8), the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) traveled north to demonstrate the flexibility and toughness of U.S. naval forces through high-end warfare training with regional allies and partners. USS America (CV 66) was the last ship to operate in the area, participating in NATO exercise North Star in September 1991.”

181019-N-EA818-0127 NORWEGIAN SEA (Oct. 19, 2018) An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Sunliners” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81, launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). For the first time in nearly 30 years, a U.S. aircraft carrier has entered the Arctic Circle. Accompanied by select ships from Carrier Strike Group Eight (CSG- 8), Harry S. Truman traveled north to demonstrate the flexibility and toughness of U.S. naval forces through high-end warfare training with regional allies and partners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley/Released)

HST will be taking part in Trident Juncture, which sprawls across Norway and the surrounding areas of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden from Oct. 25 to Nov. 23.

More than 50,000 participants – including 14,000 U.S. service members – are expected to participate, utilizing approximately 150 aircraft, 65 ships, and more than 10,000 vehicles in support of the exercise.

Part of the surge is an amphibious landing in Iceland that includes Iwo Jima‘s Amphibious Ready Group:

Which was not lost on MCT:

Everything old is new again…I feel like I should be playing Harpoon, optimized for Windows 2.11.

Baltic Panzerhaubitze, fresh from staring down the Soviets and Yugoslavs

After Austria de-Anschluss’ed in 1945, their Army was no-existant for a decade until the (largely token) Bundesheer was formed in 1955. Holding a cautious neutrality during the Cold War, the ‘Heer was in large part obsolete on purpose for much of the conflict: a force in being that could provide a competent defense if invaded but not so much that neighbors would think it a threat.

Then, very rapidly after the Cold War, Yugoslavia fell literally to pieces and the series of increasingly nasty wars between its former components broke out. With the prospect that it could spill over its common border, the Austrians looked to beef up. At the same time, the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), its largest armored force post-WWII, was stood down leaving lots of surplus kit available in London. It was kismet and Vienna in 1992 bought 112 early-production (1970s) M109A2 and A3 155mm self-propelled howitzers for a song and, in conjunction with Switzerland, began a program to update these guns which the Brits were keen to be rid of as they were fielding their new L131/AS-90.

The rebuilt gun– with a longer tube to extend the range to 30km, new NORA inertial navigation system coupled with a new gun-laying system and more ammunition storage– became known as the Panzerhaubitze M109 A5Ö (PzHb M109 A5Ö) and started to be fielded in 1994. The guns were comparable to the U.S. M109A6 Paladin, although with a disco-era hull.

Austrian Panzerhaubitze M109 155 (Via Bundsheer)

Fast forward to 2017. With the Balkans settled down but the Baltics under increasing stress due to the Russian bear next door, Latvia went ahead with a deal to buy 47 of the now-surplus A5Os from Austria, many of which had been in storage for a decade.

Now, all 47 have been delivered, and for a quoted price of between €60,000 and €140,000 depending on condition per gun, is a deal.

Which goes to show that even twice-previously owned howitzers are still marketable, depending on which way the wind blows.

Latvian M109AO5 howitzer

What’s a pongo and how low can you go?

From The Observation Post, a great military blog covering the SADF.

This extremely low flying South African Air Force Harvard was flown as a ‘dare’ to the pilot by the South African ‘pongo’ (army) personnel about to be buzzed. ‘Pongo’ is a derogatory term used by other arms of the forces, such as the Navy or the Air Force to describe the Army – comes from the British army tradition of saying .. “where the pong (smell) goes – the army goes”

It gets worse.

Head on over for more background.

The colors, the colors

A series of photos showing colored water slugs being fired from a missile tube aboard the James Madison-class ballistic missile submarine USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629) at Mare Island in February 1964 as part of her sea trials, pre-commissioning. These are not colorized and look something like Kool Aid being launched into low Earth orbit.

USN photo # 61778-4-64, courtesy of Darryl L. Baker., via Navsource

USN photo # 61779-4-64

Commissioned 23 April 1964, Boone served 30 years in the Navy, decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register, 18 February 1994 after completing an amazing 75 strategic deterrence patrols. Her primary weapon was first the 2,500nm-ranged/3-warhead Polaris SLBM then later the 3,200-nm/10 warhead Poseidon C-3 and finally the Trident I C-4 after 1980.

Gratefully, all she ever fired from her 16 tubes in anger was those waterslugs.

The U.S. Navy and the Western Pacific

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