(U.S. Navy Museum Number: 428-GX-USN 1172664) Soviet strike bomber Tupolev Tu-22M (Russian: Туполев Ту-22М; NATO reporting name: Backfire) Photograph received by U.S. Naval Intellegence, July 1978.
Though the type first flew in 1969 and was operational by 1972, it’s existance was not widely known in the West until it popped up over the Baltic on an excercise in 1980 during the international heartburn over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the footage appeared on state-run TV.
Raptor Aviation has a Polish-made Lim-5, which was a licensed variant of the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 attack aircraft designed to use an afterburner, up for grabs in a “Make Offer” sale. Located in the U.S., the Warsaw Pact combat aircraft was made in 1960 but has had the same owner in the West for the past 23 years and has been refurbished.
The Polish-produced fighter, NATO designation Fresco-D, is kinda rare as the line just numbered about 500~ out of a total MiG-17 production worldwide of over 10,000.
This particular specimen was active in the Polish Air Force until 1966 when it was pulled and transferred to a mechanic training school where it sat until 1993 and was subsequently sold to a collector in the West– and it is now up for grabs.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time 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, Oct. 11, 2017: I’d like to be back on my horse
Here we see the Balao-class diesel-electric fleet submarine USS Tilefish (SS-307) returning to San Diego on 5 December 1958 for inactivation. You may not recognize her in the photo, but she was always ready for her closeup.
A member of the 128-ship Balao class, she was one of the most mature U.S. Navy diesel designs of the World War Two era, constructed with knowledge gained from the earlier Gato-class. U.S. subs, unlike those of many navies of the day, were ‘fleet’ boats, capable of unsupported operations in deep water far from home.
Able to range 11,000 nautical miles on their reliable diesel engines, they could undertake 75-day patrols that could span the immensity of the Pacific. Carrying 24 (often unreliable) Mk14 Torpedoes, these subs often sank anything short of a 5000-ton Maru or warship by surfacing and using their 4-inch/50 caliber and 40mm/20mm AAA’s. The also served as the firetrucks of the fleet, rescuing downed naval aviators from right under the noses of Japanese warships.
We have covered a number of this class before, such as Rocket Mail slinging USS Barbero, the carrier-sinking USS Archerfish, the long-serving USS Catfish and the frogman Cadillac USS Perch —but don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.
Laid down at Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California, on 10 Mar 1943, USS Tilefish was the first and only naval vessel named for homely reef fish found in the world’s oceans.
Commissioned just nine months later on 28 Dec 1943, Tilefish completed her trials and shakedown off the California coast and made for the Western Pacific in early 1944.
Her first war patrol, off Honshu in Japanese home waters, was short and uneventful.
Her second, in the Luzon Strait, netted a torpedo hit on the 745-ton Japanese corvette Kaibokan 17 south of Formosa on 18 July.
Her third patrol, in the Sea of Okhotsk and off the Kuril Islands, resulted in sinking a sampan in a surface action, as well as two small cargo ships, a larger cargo ship and the 108-ton Japanese guard boat Kyowa Maru No.2. Tilefish also picked up a Russian owl in these frigid waters, which was duly named Boris Hootski with the ship’s log noting, “He is now official ship’s mascot and stands battle stations on top of the tube blow and vent manifold.”
She closed the year with her fourth patrol in the Kurils and Japanese home waters with sinking the Japanese torpedo boat Chidori some 90 miles WSW of Yokosuka.
Early 1945 saw her fifth patrol which sank a small Japanese coaster and effectively knocked the IJN minesweeper W 15 out of the war. She also plucked LT (JG) William J. Hooks from the USS Hancock (CV-19) of VF-80 out of the water after he had to ditch his F6F at sea off Amami Oshima in the Ryukyus.
After refit on the West Coast, Tilefish completed her sixth patrol on lifeguard station off the Ryukyus where she ended the war, being ordered back to California on 7 September.
In all, Tilefish received five battle stars for World War II service. Her tally included 7 vessels for a total of 10,700 claimed tons– though many were disallowed post-war by JANAC. Her six patrols averaged 48 days at sea.
While most of the U.S. submarine fleet was mothballed in the months immediately after WWII, Tilefish remained in service. She even managed a sinkex in August 1947 against the crippled Liberty tanker SS Schuyler Colfax, at 7,200-tons, Tilefish‘s largest prize.
When the Korean War kicked off in 1950, Tilefish made for the region.
As noted by DANFS:
“From 28 September 1950 through 24 March 1951, the submarine operated out of Japanese ports conducting patrols in Korean waters in support of the United Nations campaign in Korea. She made reconnaissance patrols of La Perouse Strait to keep the Commander, Naval Forces Far East, informed of Soviet seaborne activity in that area.”
Tilefish received one battle star for Korean service.
The next nine years saw her conducting regular peacetime operations and exercises including a goodwill visit to Acapulco; a survey mission with four civilian geophysicists on board from the Hydrographic Office of Eniwetok, Wake, and Midway; and other ops.
These “other ops” included filming some scenes for the 1958 Glen Ford WWII submarine flick Torpedo Run, which were extensively augmented by scale models, and more extensive shoots for Up Periscope, a film in which James Garner, a Korean war Army vet and Hollywood cowboy, plays a frogman ordered to photograph a codebook at an isolated Japanese radio station.
The film was an adaption of LCDR Robb White’s book of the same name.
Garner was not impressed by the Tilefish.
As related by a Warren Oaks biographer, Garner, bobbing along on the old submarine offshore at 9-kts in groundswells, said, “You know something? I’d like to be back on my horse.”
After her brief movie career and service in two wars, Tilefish was given a rebuild at the San Francisco Navy Yard and was decommissioned in May 1960.
Tilefish was then sold to Venezuela, which renamed her ARV Carite (S-11). As such, she was the first modern submarine in that force. She arrived in that country on 23 July 1960, setting the small navy up to be the fifth in Latin America with subs.
As noted by El Snorkel (great name), a Latin American submarine resource, Tilefish/Carite was very active indeed, making 7,287 dives with the Venezuelan Navy over the next 17 years. She participated in the Argentine/Dominican Republic/Venezuelan -U.S. Quarantine Task Force 137 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and intercepted the Soviet tug Gromoboi in 1968.
In 1966, she was part of the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion program and (along with 20 other boats), was given the very basic Fleet Snorkel package which provided most ofthe bells and whistles found on the German late-WWII Type XXI U-boats– which would later prove ironic. This gave her expanded battery capacity, steamlined her sail conning tower fairwater into a so-called “Northern or North Atlantic sail”– a steel framework surrounded by thick fiberglass– added a snorkel, higher capacity air-conditioning system, and a more powerful electrical system and increased her submerged speed to 15 knots while removing her auxillary diesel. A small topside sonar dome appeared.
However, during this time, her most enduring exposure was in helping film Murphy’s War, in which a German U-boat (U-482) hides out in the Orinoco River in Venezuela after sinking British merchant steamer Mount Kyle, leaving Peter O’Toole as the lone survivor on a hunt to bag the German shark. The thing is, she looked too modern for the film after her recent conversion.
For her role, Carite was given a far-out grey-white-black dazzle camo scheme and, to make her more U-boat-ish, was fitted with a faux cigarette deck after her tower complete with a Boffin 40mm (!) and a twin Oerlikon mount (!!). Her bow was fitted with similarly faked submarine net cutting teeth.
Her “crew” was a mix of U.S. Peace Corps kids working in the area (to get the proper blonde Germanic look) with Venezuelan tars at the controls.
The movie, filmed in decadent Panavision color, shows lots of footage of the old Tilefish including a dramatic ramming sequence with a bone in her teeth and what could be the last and best images of a Balao-class submarine with her decks awash.
By the mid-1970s, Tilefish/Carite was showing her age. In 1972, the Venezuelans picked up more two more advanced GUPPY II conversions, her Balao-class sister USS Cubera (SS-347), renaming her ARV Tiburon (S-12) and the Tench-class USS Grenadier (SS-525) which followed as ARV Picua (S-13) in 1973.
Once the two “new” boats were integrated into the Venezuelan Navy, Tilefish/Carite was decommissioned on 28 January 1977 and slowly cannibalized for spare parts, enabling Cubera and Grenadier to remain in service until 1989 when they were replaced by new-built German Type 209-class SSKs, which still serve to one degree or another.
According to a Polish submarine page, some artifacts from Tilefish including a torpedo tube remain in Venezuela.
Although she is no longer afloat, eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country.
Please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:
-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
–USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
–USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
–USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which may not be there much longer)
–USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also on borrowed time)
–USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
–USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
However, Tilefish will endure wherever submarine films are enjoyed.
Displacement, surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,424 t.
Length 311′ 10″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 15′ 3″
Speed surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts
Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10kts; Submerged Endurance, 48 hours at 2kts
Operating Depth Limit, 400 ft.
Patrol Endurance 75 days
Propulsion: diesels-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks-Morse main generator engines., 5,400 hp, four Elliot Motor Co., main motors with 2,740 hp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Fuel Capacity: 94,400 gal.
Complement 6 Officers 60 Enlisted
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,
one 4″/50 caliber deck gun,
one 40mm gun,
two .50 cal. machine guns
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,
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From somewhere deep in the Old World’s borscht belt, a Russian with a rough haircut shows off the APS auto pistol and the PP-90 and PP-91 sub guns:
Sgt. Kirill Gorgoth lays mitts first on the wacky Stechkin APS automatic pistol, a hopped-up Makarov-ish handgun capable of dropping 9x18mm at 750rpm.
Next, he rolls deep with the PP-90 folding subgun which looks like a wonky VHS– because VHS is apparently still a thing in
the USSR Russia.
Kirill then finishes with a Kedr PP-91 submachine gun, a handy (12-inches folded) blowback SMG designed by Evgeny Dragunov of SVD fame that can rat-a-tat at 1,000rpm.
Eye and ear pro? Nyet. Putin’s workout gloves and sweet full-auto action? Da. So much da.
Actress Barbara Lang hanging out with one of the 327th Fighter Interceptor Squadron’s Convair F-102 Delta Dagger interceptors, 1957. The location is George Air Force Base, California, about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles, meaning Lang only had to drive a little over an hour to get there.
And, yes, the shorts were standard issue, being part of the brief 1956 USAF Summer Uniform which paired the 505 short sleeve shirt with khaki short pants.
Everything you see above soon faded.
The USAF ditched the shorts soon after the photo was taken. The 327th moved to Thule Air Base, Greenland in July 1958 and was inactivated just two years later. Lang retired from acting in 1960 with about a dozen credits to her name and passed in 1982 at the still young age of 54. The F-102 by the 1960s were increasingly transferred to Air National Guard units and retired altogether by 1976, with the type just in Air Force service for 20 years. George AFB itself outlasted them all, closing in 1992.
More photos from the same series above here.
Last week eight combat controllers of the USAF’s 352d Special Operations Wing surveyed a two-lane section of the Jägala-Käravete Highway in Estonia, deconflicted airspace, and exercised command and control on the ground and in the air to land a eight-aircraft stick of A-10Cs from the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing’s 104th Fighter Squadron.
Does it get any more 1970s Reforger than that?