Here we see a warrant officer in dress whites aboard USS Walke (Destroyer # 34) leaning jauntily on a stanchion-mounted machine gun, circa 1914. This weapon is a .30 caliber U.S. Model 1909 Machine Rifle (Benét-Mercié), a modification of the French Hotchkiss Portative. The gun appears to be on an AAA mount, which is novel for the time.
Walke, an early Paulding-class destroyer, carried as her main battery a half-dozen 18-inch deck-mounted torpedo tubes, intended to poke holes in enemy ships. Her gun armament consisted of five 3-inch guns and a few European-designed machine guns, as shown. Commissioned in 1911, she remained in the fleet until 1934.
Fast forward 105 years…and you still have destroyers with a few .30-caliber European-designed machine guns as well as a half-dozen deck-mounted torpedo tubes, intended to poke holes in enemy ships, albeit of the submarine nature.
The (A)SECNAV over the weekend announced that, in honor of MLK Day, USS West Virginia Pearl Harbor hero cook PO3 Dorie Miller will be the namesake of a new Gerald Ford-class carrier, the future CVN-81.
Of course, it does kinda rub me a skosh the wrong way as far as naming conventions go, with aircraft carriers generally named after famous battles, other aircraft carriers, and presidents. Traditionally, destroyers and frigates were named in honor of naval heroes up to and including Medal of Honor winners. In fact, Miller formerly had a Cold War-era Knox-class frigate named after him (DE/FF-1091)
Still, in my mind, it is far better to name a carrier for Miller than for Carl Vinson and John Stennis, as have been done in the past, just saying.
Sure, you can argue that Vinson and Stennis both held and pulled important purse strings while in Capitol Hill for the military– but they never had to face down an incoming Japanese Val with a machine gun they were never trained to use.
As noted by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly’s office:
This will be the second ship named in honor of Miller, and the first aircraft carrier ever named for an African American. This will also be the first aircraft carrier to be named in honor of a Sailor for actions while serving in the enlisted ranks.
“In selecting this name, we honor the contributions of all our enlisted ranks, past and present, men and women, of every race, religion and background,” said Modly. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed, ‘Everybody can be great – because anybody can serve’. No one understands the importance and true meaning of service than those who have volunteered to put the needs of others above themselves.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was collecting laundry on the battleship West Virginia (BB-48), when the attack from Japanese forces commenced. When the alarm for general quarters sounded he headed for his battle station, an anti-aircraft battery magazine, only to discover that torpedo damage had wrecked it. Miller was ordered to the ship’s bridge to aid the mortally wounded commanding officer, and subsequently manned a .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition. Miller then helped move many other injured Sailors as the ship was ordered abandoned due to her own fires and flaming oil floating down from the destroyed Arizona (BB-33). West Virginia lost 150 of its 1,500 person crew.
Miller’s actions during the attack earned him a commendation from then Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and the Navy Cross, which was presented to him personally by Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time.
Nimitz stated: this marks the first time in this conflict that such high tribute has been made in the Pacific Fleet to a member of his race and I’m sure the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts.
“Doris Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation, and his story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue the watch today,” said Modly.
In 1943, Miller died aboard USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) when the ship was hit by a torpedo and sank off Butaritari Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.
The future USS Doris Miller and other Ford-class carriers will be the premier forward asset for crisis response and humanitarian relief, and early decisive striking power in major combat operations. The aircraft carrier and the carrier strike group will provide forward presence, rapid response, endurance on station, and multi-mission capability throughout its 50-year service life.
Meanwhile, USS Gerald R. Ford is apparently making good progress when it comes to launches and traps on Hornets, Greyhounds and T-45 Goshawks, working through teething problems on its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), which is good news as far as the class itself goes.
Hopefully, they will get the bugs worked out before the next “big one,” a factor that could help deter just such an event.
The Indian Army, the largest armed force in the world after China, this week celebrated its 72nd Army Day, noting their founding as an independent force in 1948 after a century of British Imperial rule. While the force still has a very Commonwealth feel to it, the Indian Army still does a lot of things their own way.
Sig Sauer announced this week that the U.S. Special Operation Command has certified and taken delivery of the company’s new MG 338 machine gun system.
Chambered in .338 Norma Magnum, the MG 338 is billed on being able to deliver effective fire at ranges out to 2,000 meters, closing the gap between 7.62 NATO weapons like the M240 and .50 cal BMG platforms such as the M2 heavy machine gun. Weighing only 20-pounds, the MG 338 uses Sig-produced ammunition and optics as well as the company’s suppressor design to create an all-Sig product.
And it looks pretty sweet, with an almost sci-fi quality to it.
More in my column at Guns.com.
I thought this was interesting in how the Navy trains using the Surface Training Advanced Virtual Environment for the Littoral Combat Ship (STAVE-LCS). Hopefully one day the actual ships will mature and fit the bill they were designed to pay, or at least hold the line until a frigate program can be developed.
For decades, anyone who ever looked up to the whop-whop of a low-flying helicopter over the skies of West Florida or along Mobile Bay or the Mississippi Gulf Coast has often spied the distinctive TH-57 Sea Ranger as it put-putted along.
A derivative of the commercial Bell Jet Ranger 206, NAVAIR first acquired the TH-57 in 1968 and has been using them, typically out of Whiting Field, to train budding sea service and allied chopper pilots.
As noted by the National Naval Aviation Museum, “Prospective Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard helicopter pilots spend approximately 106 hours flying the Sea Ranger at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field, Florida, before receiving their wings. Over the course of this period, they learn aerodynamic and engineering qualities of rotary-wing aircraft and in particular, how to hover. They also learn basic instrument techniques, radio navigation, rough terrain landing, night and formation flying, emergency procedures like auto-rotation, shipboard operations, and helicopter tactics.”
Now, after a 52-year run that was stayed by updated airframes in 1981 and 1989, the days of the Sea Ranger are coming to an end.
AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is awarded a $176,472,608 firm-fixed-price contract for the production and delivery of 32 TH-73A aircraft, initial spares, peculiar support equipment, flyaway kits, hoists, sling loads, data in excess of commercial form fit function/operations maintenance instructional training data as well as ancillary instructor pilot and maintenance personnel training. Work will be performed at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (87%); Mineral Wells, Texas (5%); and various locations outside the continental U.S. (8%), and is expected to be completed in October 2021. Fiscal 2020 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $176,472,608 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposal; five offers were received. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N61340-20-C-0007).
The TH-73A is a variant of Leonardo’s AW119, which had been marketed as the TH-119.
“Today marks a great team effort to procure and deliver a helicopter trainer for the next generation of helicopter and tilt-rotor pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” said James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition. “I’m proud of the aggressive work the team did to leverage the commercial industrial base to get this capability to the warfighters, and our nation, at the best value to the taxpayer. This effort is key to ensure the readiness of our Naval Aviators for decades to come.”