Nice loadout on this Zulu Cobra for littoral warfare in The Strait: M197 3-barreled 20mm gun (with 750 rounds likely loaded), a four-pack of Hellfire missiles for big boats, a seven-cell LAU-68C/A APKWS rocket pod for small boats, a drop tank for extra loiter, and a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders for the possible random IRIAF F-5 or F-4 that wants to get muscular.
Official caption: “STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 12, 2019) An AH-1Z Viper helicopter attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off during a strait transit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.”
The largest Australian-led amphibious landing and offensive assault in history were the OBOE 2 landings at Balikpapan, Borneo (then the Japanese-held Dutch East Indies) in which some 33,000 troops hit the beach in July 1945. We’ve talked about that operation a couple weeks ago on a Warship Wednesday.
Therefore, it is fitting that this month’s Talisman Saber ’19 exercise saw the largest Australian-led amphibious landing since OBOE with an extended multi-day combined force assault on Langham Beach, near Stanage Bay, Queensland, involving not only the Australians but also U.S. Marines, New Zealand troops, and elements of the British MoD, Japanese Self-Defense Force (ironically) and Canadian Forces.
As part of the exercise scenario, the fictional Pacific nation Kamaria invaded nearby “Legais” island, sparking global outcry and a response from the Blue Forces to liberate the occupied territory. Recon elements were inserted on D-3 with a full-on landing on D-Day with amphibious assault vehicles, landing craft, and helicopters bringing troops to shore.
The imagery was great.
Back in my slimmer days, I used to crawl around at Ingalls in Pascagoula as part of the long-running effort to put flesh against steel to produce warships. One of the hulls that I worked on during that period was USS Boxer, to include getting underway on her during builder’s trials. With that being said, LHD-4 carved herself an interesting footnote in the annals of modern asymmetric warfare last week.
The Pentagon reported Friday that she splashed an unidentified Iranian drone (labeled by multiple analysts as a Mohajer-4B Sadegh) in the Strait of Hormuz that came inside the ship’s defense bubble while a WSJ writer onboard reported an Iranian helicopter and small craft came almost as close.
The ship, with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked, has had Marines positioned topside with their light vehicles arrayed on her flight deck so they could bear crew-served weapons on low-key targets if needed. It was apparently one of the lightest of these, a Polaris MRZR 4×4, that was used to pop the drone.
The little brown thing on Boxer’s deck in the below image.
Outfitted with a Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS) system, the go-cart-sized vehicle killed the Iranian UAV via aggressive freq interference.
Of course, the Iranians, in their best Baghdad Bob Act, said they recovered their drone safe and sound and they have the video to prove it.
The same day, CENTCOM announced the start of Operation Sentinel:
U.S. Central Command is developing a multinational maritime effort, Operation Sentinel, to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region.
The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman.
This maritime security framework will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance.
Meanwhile, off Venezuela
Maduro can’t afford much, but he can still flex some Flankers from time to time apparently.
U.S. Southern Command released a series of short (20 sec) videos of a Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker as it “aggressively shadowed” a U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II reportedly at an unsafe distance in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea July 19, jeopardizing the crew and aircraft.
“The EP-3 aircraft, flying a mission in approved international airspace, was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30 that took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas.”
And the beat goes on…
Here we see the Portuguese Navy Cacine-class coastal patrol vessel patrol craft (patrulha) NRP Zaire (P1146) off the African archipelago nation of Sao Tome e Príncipe, a former colonial possession of Portugal which maintains strong economic and military ties with Lisbon.
Built in 1969 as part of a class of 10 vessels, she has been used in fisheries protection role (SIFICAP) and search and rescue (SAR) roles in addition to defense patrol taskings, the Cacine-class replaced the WWII-era craft used by the Portuguese until the disco era and were built at Estaleiros Navais do Mondego (Figueira da Foz, Portugal) and the Arsenal do Alfeite over a half-decade period.
Some 157-feet long overall, they could float in 7 feet of saltwater. These 300-ton OPVs were powered by a pair of Maybach (later MTU) diesel engines which gave them enough speed (20-knots) to overtake poaching trawlers and illegal coasters landing guns to African rebel groups (Portugal was involved in a series of crazy colonial brush wars when the Cacines were produced). To help with their tasking on Africa patrol, they had a decent range of some 4,500nm.
In the interest of saving cash, the Portuguese used recycled WWII deck guns for these boats and gave each Cacine a 40mm/L60 Bofors single forward and a 20mm/80 Oerlikon over the rear along with a pair of MG3 machine guns.
Over the past several years, all of the Cacines have been put to pasture, replaced by the new and significantly larger (1,600-ton/272-feet) Viana do Castelo-class OPV
Zaire was the final to go, is decommissioning this month and her crew final crew is being decorated by the Sao Tome government for their efforts at saving lives and stopping poachers.
In the bonkers short video below, you see a U.S. Coast Guard Deployable Specialized Forces TACLET guy deployed on the U.S. Coast Guard Legends-class National Security Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) going for a ride on a 31-foot Long Range Interceptor “somewhere in the Eastern Pacific.”
Said Coastie makes a perfect landing on what JIATF-South calls “a self-propelled semi-submersible suspected drug smuggling vessel (SPSS)” but best just known as a Narco-Sub. The below happened June 18, 2019.
This is the SPSS when surfaced, to give a scale at just how much of the hull was below the sea:
Just two weeks after the above video was shot, crewmembers of the USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South interdicted a second SPSS while conducting counter-trafficking operations in the Eastern Pacific.
The Coast Guard hasn’t been this busy fighting submarines since the Germans!
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship (or unit) each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, July 3, 2019: The Frogmen of Balikpapan
Here, on a special WW where we take a break from an actual warship, we see a group of young U.S. Navy Underwater demolition personnel of UDT-18 aboard the fast transport (converted destroyer) USS Kline (APD-120) watching as Army B-25 bombers of the 13th Bomber Command plaster the Operation OBOE 2 invasion beaches off Balikpapan, Borneo circa 3 July 1945– 74 years ago today. They are waiting orders to leave their boat to clear underwater obstacles to go clear the beach to allow allied Australian troops to land. While the Pacific War would be over in less than two months, these frogmen, many of which are on their first mission, could not know that was looming and they had a Japanese-held beach to clear of obstacles.
According to Lt. JG C.F. Waterman, who took these amazing pictures, “Things looked rather bad at the moment and everyone was thoroughly scared.”
Originally formed in May 1943 as Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU), teams were created to clear beach obstacles in enemy-held areas. During the Torch Landings in North Africa, a group of Navy salvage personnel with a one-week crash course in demo hit the beaches but it was obvious a more dedicated force would be needed. That led to LCDR Draper L. Kauffman’s efforts to train teams ready to go ashore to clear a path. By Normandy, 34 NCDU teams would land on D-Day, suffering 53 percent casualties. They would repeat their efforts in the Dragoon Landings in Southern France in August 1944.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific, nine dedicated Underwater Demolition Teams were formed, largely from Seabees with a smattering of Marines, to work across Japanese-held atolls. First hitting Kwajalein on 31 January 1944, the Pacific teams initially were dressed for land combat like many of the NCDU members in Europe, with uniforms, boots, M1 helmets, and small arms in addition to their demo charges.
This soon changed as men skipped down to their swim trunks and swam on night missions to map the beaches before the landings. This later morphed into standard gear.
Across Peleliu, the Philippines, Guam, and Iwo Jima, UDTs left their mark and went in first to guide the landing craft in and make a hole for them to hit the beach if needed.
By Okinawa, no less than eight full teams with 1,000 frogmen were utilized. There the nearly naked combat recon swimmers used aluminum paint (yikes!) to camouflage their skin against Japanese snipers– and to help insulate against the chilly Northern Pacific waters which could quickly lead to hypothermia.
Balikpapan would be the swan song of WWII frogmen ops with the final UDT demolition operation of the war on 3-4 July 1945, as the swimmers UDT-11 and UDT-18 removed their helmets and slid over the side of their landing craft before paddling to destiny in broad daylight.
Under the watchful eyes of Gen. MacArthur, whose flagship was just offshore, the frogmen, armed just with knives and demo charges, first mapped the beaches and then helped clear them, coming within range of Japanese mortars and small arms.
Back to the swan song:
Balikpapan was to be no walkover, as the roughly 2,000 Japanese regulars there (augmented by 3,000 local Indonesian conscripts) defended the beaches well and, while they did not have Rommel’s Atlantikwall complete with Belgian Gates and Czech Hedgehogs, they did have thousands of punji stakes to impale infantry, mines, fougasse oil traps to burn men alive, wire obstacles, log barriers to hole landing craft, and the like.
Amazingly, the UDT teams at Balikpapan only suffered one, non-fatal, injury.
As for our frogmen, it was expected that if they would have hit the beaches at Honshu in late 1945, a mission they were detailed to until the A-bombs intervened, the men of UDT-18 would have suffered 100 percent casualties.
At the SEAL/UDT Museum in Fort Pierce, where NCDU’s and UDTs were formed and trained in WWII, they have a massive 7-foot long model of the old USS Kline on display and a statue of an era frogman dedicated to the “naked warriors” of Balikpapan and all the other beaches in which their brothers landed.
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