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Coming correct in the Baltic

Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 recently concluded and was pretty wide in scope, blending both NATO forces and non-aligned Baltic nations (i.e. Sweden and Finland) with 43 maritime units, more than 60 aircraft and a combined amphibious landing force (the latter of which included such nontypical units as the Sig 550-armed Romanian 307th Naval Infantry Regiment operating CRRC inflatables from a U.S. landing dock)

For instance:

180608-N-TJ319-0239 BALTIC SEA (June 8, 2018) Members of the Romanian 307th Naval Infantry Regiment depart the well deck of the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) on a combat rubber raiding crafts during a joint personnel recovery exercise in support of exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018. BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region and one of the largest exercises in Northern Europe that is designed to enhance the flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jessica L. Dowell/Released)

They practiced some good, very relevant stuff to include mine/countermine ops, defense against fast attack craft, TRAP ops, and air defense exercise from shore-based low-flying fast jets (German Tornados).

One of the most eye-catching of the exercise footnotes was a photoex with 30 vessels to include the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), and the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). These were joined by the Finnish Hmeenmaa-class minelayer FNS Uusimaa (05), Denmark’s Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HDMS Niels Juel (F363), the German Type 702 Berlin-class replenishment ship FGS Frankfurt A.M. (A1412), the RN’s Duke-class Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth (F235) and a cornucopia of smaller patrol boats and mine countermeasure ships from such diverse players as Turkey and Lithuania.

BALTIC SEA (June 9, 2018) Thirty maritime unit ships from 12 nations maneuver in close formation for a photo exercise during Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 in the Baltic Sea. BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region and one of the largest exercises in Northern Europe that are designed to enhance the flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg/Released) 180609-N-XT273-2967

Remember that time B-1Bs simulated dropping Quickstrike mines in a Baltic op?

The Russians are sure to be a fan of the ongoing BALTOPS excercise which has seen, among other things, the Truman Strike Group including Carrier Air Wing One (CVW) 1, embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and B-1B’s sent from CONUS.

Speaking of which, how about those mines:

“In flight footage featuring drop of Navy Quickstrike Mine as well as taxi take off and landing. Two B-1B Lancers assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, dropped 12 inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mines while participating in BALTOPS 2018 which is an annual, multinational exercise designed to enhance interoperability and demonstrate NATO and partner force resolve to defend the Baltic Region. The Lancers were assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and sortied from RAF Fairford, England, June 2, 2018. (Video by Senior Airman Shawn White, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs)”

Sailors from the Navy Munitions Command Atlantic Unit at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., worked with members of the 7th Munitions Squadron to build the mines using Navy kits and Air Force practise bombs.

According to the Navy: The Quickstrike is a family of shallow water, aircraft laid mines used primarily against surface and subsurface craft. Quickstrike versions Mark 62 and Mark 63 are converted general purpose 500-pound and 1000-pound bombs, respectively. The Mark 65 is a 2,000-pound mine, which utilizes a thin-walled mine case, rather than a bomb body.

Mines can be used to deny an enemy access to specific areas or channelize the enemy into specific areas. Sea mines have been used by the U.S. Navy since the Revolutionary War. Mines have been used with significant effect in the Civil War and both World Wars. The most effective use of mines by the United States was against the Japanese Empire in World War II. U.S. aircraft laid over 12,000 mines in Japanese shipping routes and harbor approaches, sinking 650 Japanese ships and totally disrupting all of their maritime shipping.

Some stills:

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off in support of Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, June 2, 2018 (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron align 12 inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mines on a munitions assembly conveyor during Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, May 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

Warning tag is displayed on an inert Mark 62 Quickstrike mine firing mechanism for Exercise Baltic Operations at RAF Fairford, England, May 31, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

Green Beret dive teams before they were actually Green Berets

This Big Picture film on Special Forces Amphibious Training in 1956 Okinawa is insightful.

Of note is the fact that the “fighting frogman” detachment receives instruction in conducting water insertion and demolition training off the coast of White Beach aboard a U.S. Naval ship while wearing their floppy Lovat Scouts-style green berets– which was not officially approved for wear by the Army until 25 September 1961 in an evolved, more close-fitting, format.

The tactics covered are classic late WWII/Korean War-era UDT team and Marine recon evolutions. Good stuff regardless.

Those triple tank rigs, tho…

Thanks, Jeff!

Meet RNMB Hussar

The MHC Sweep Capability demonstrator and her three coil boats seen on 2 May during trials in Portland harbor. Source: MOD

The Royal Navy’s first unmanned minesweeping system, an 11m prototype unmanned surface vessel that has been dubbed RNMB Hussar, has been accepted.

The MHC Sweep demonstrator combines the 10-ton ARCIMS USV with a power generation module, with towed magnetic, acoustic, and electrical influences, including up to three coil auxiliary boats

As noted by Defence Minister Guto Bebb:

“This autonomous minesweeper takes us a step closer to taking our crews out of danger and allowing us to safely clear sea lanes of explosives, whether that’s supporting trade in global waters and around the British coastline, or protecting our ships and shores. Easily transported by road, sea, and air, the high-tech design means a small team could put the system to use within hours of it arriving in theatre. We are investing millions in innovative technology now, to support our military of the future.”

In development since 2014, ArcIMS says their craft, in addition to mine hunting/sweeping, can perform maritime surveillance, force protection, diver support and ASW roles as well.

Which could be very interesting.

Pre-owned RNZN dive ship up for grabs

HMNZS Manawanui (A09), a 141-foot diving support/mine countermeasures ship was decommissioned 23 February 2018 after 30 years of service to the Kiwi fleet. Prior to that, she had been built in 1979 for commercial service as Star Perseus by Cochrane Shipbuilders Limited, Selby, for the North Sea oil rig service.

HMNZS Manawanui (A09), (Photo: RNZN)

Needing a canceled $14 million overhaul, the New Zealand Navy has put the nearly 40-year old ship on the block and one publication says she would make the perfect fishing vessel:

“It comes with a triple-lock compression chamber and a wet diving bell if you’re keen to go diving for crays. The 13.6-tonne crane means you’ll be able to pull anything on board – and with a range of 5000 nautical miles, trawling for marlin will be no problem,” says Newshub.

The vessel is up for sale “as a going concern, as-is where-is” alongside Devonport Naval Base, Auckland.

RNZN LCDR Muzz Kenneth told The Stuff there has been some interest:

“We’ve already had a guy from Singapore come and have a look, and he wants to take it up to Malaysia and moor it permanently as an accommodation and dive support vessel for dive training,” said Kenneth. “I also know the Mayor of Thames-Coromandel is very keen to get her hands on the ship and sink it as a dive attraction somewhere out in the Hahei reserve.”

It looks like ONR is picking up Sea Hunter

I give you, DARPA’s robot subchaser, Sea Hunter, testbed of the ACTUV program, which is now part of ONR.

From DARPA:

DARPA has successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has officially transferred the technology demonstration vessel, christened Sea Hunter, to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). ONR will continue developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle—the first of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).

The handover marks the culmination of three years of collaboration between DARPA and ONR that started in September 2014. An April 2016 christening ceremony marked the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing conducted jointly with ONR. That same month, the vessel moved to San Diego, Calif., for open-water testing.

ONR plans to continue the aggressive schedule of at-sea tests to further develop ACTUV/MDUSV technologies, including automation of payload and sensor data processing, rapid development of new mission-specific autonomous behaviors, and exploring coordination of autonomous activities among multiple USVs. Pending the results of those tests, the MDUSV program could transition to U.S. Navy operations by 2018.

The Bomb Brothers

Found this recently and, if you are into Civil War history, 19th-century naval conflict, or mine warfare, it could be of interest to you.

Though slim, it covers George and Gabriel Raines, the Confederacy’s “Bomb Brothers” and inventors of the Raines Patent “Landmines and Torpeado’s.”

George ran the Confederacy’s Torpedo and Mine Bureau while his younger brother Gabriel managed the Confederate Powder Works at Augusta, Georgia, which produced some 3-million pounds of powder during the conflict. Raines patented Keg “Torpeado’s and Subterranean Shells” were used to great effect during the Mobile Campaign 1864-65 (Damn the Torpedoes!) and the book has an appendix that covers each use of mines during the war.

You should get a blast out of it!

Confederate Torpedo #817 recovered from Light House Inlet, Charleston SC

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