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Air Superiority, 1945 meets 2017

Official caption: To celebrate 70 years of air dominance, the United States Air Force showcased an array of aircraft at the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo, July 16, 2017, at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom!

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball)

This shot is great, showing a Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor keeping pace with a North American P-51 Mustang, the Cadillac of the sky.

The P-51 is made up to match Inglewood-made P-51D-5-NA, #44-13318, “Frenesi” flown by USAAF ace Lt. Col. Thomas L. Hayes, Jr. of the 357th Fighter Group, and is complete with 84 bomb marks, each indicating a completed ground attack mission rather than a bomb strike, as well as two Japanese kill marks and nine German ones.

In actuality, she is a late-production Dallas-made P-51/F-51K (P-51D with a different propeller, widely exported postwar) SN 44-12852, FAA N357FG, a former air racer and Dominican Air Force fighter recently very nicely restored by Dan Friedkin and the crew at Midwest Aero Restorations, Danville IL. She is one of only 1,500 or so Mustang-Ks made.

The F-22A is a late-model Block 35 bird, SN 09-4180, delivered in 2009, and active with the 27th FS/1st Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, and has no mission marks as of yet. She is one of only 195 made, though production only halted on her line in 2012.

NATO drops Wolverines video

The above video is pretty interesting if you know the history of the guerrilla war in the Baltic states that was fought by as many as 50,000 Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans against the Red Army from the tail end of WWII through the early 1950s. It’s an unsung war, and the various “Forest Brothers” groups (whose members included several former German soldiers as well as Waffen SS members of the various Baltic legions, a facet often glossed over) that were backed in part by Western intelligence agencies.

The above video was put out this month by NATO, which, especially when combined with other similar videos about modern equivalent of stay-behind units, is probably meant to provide a moment of pause to the big bear on the Baltic states’ Eastern border.

And cue the Russian butt hurt, which is rich considering the little green men running around the Ukraine and Crimea, and the fact that they annexed the Baltics in 1939 by force.

The Army’s Blackhorse ‘Russian’ brigade: Vehicles of the OPFOR

The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center has a lot of vehicles that look more Moscow than Motown.

Since 1994, the 11th ACR’s task at the NTC is to serve as the armored opposing force, the home team at the sprawling 996 sq. mile Mojave Desert base where they regularly engage active and reserve mechanized and armor units in war games. In a tradition going back to the 1980s, the OPFOR uses a series of what are termed “surrogate vehicles,” visually modified Humvees, M113 armored personnel carriers, and others, which provide a different silhouette, closer to former Warsaw Pact BMP-1 vehicles and T-72 tanks, for visiting units to look for and fight against.

Deep down inside, there is a Humvee under there. (Photos: Sgt. David Edge and Pfc. Austin Anyzeski/U.S. Army)

Oddball would fit right in. “Well, yeah, man, you see, like, all the tanks we come up against are bigger and better than ours, so all we can hope to do is, like, scare ’em away, y’know. This gun is an ordinary 76mm but we add this piece of pipe onto it, and the Krauts think, like, maybe it’s a 90mm. We got our own ammunition, it’s filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people!”

These started life as M113s. In the 1980s, the NTC OPFOR used M551 Sheridans, but they were replaced by 2004 with the cheaper and more prolific M113.

More in my column at Guns.com

The M9’s goofy Iraqi cousin: The Tariq

I’ve been corresponding with Eric B., who reached out to fill in the blanks on a version of the M1951 rarely seen outside of the sandbox — the Beretta-licensed Iraqi Tariq pistol.

Made by Al-Qadisiyyah in great numbers, many Americans who have served in CENTCOM have encountered one of these so-called “Saddam Berettas” but only a small handful have made it over to the states and Eric was lucky enough to acquire one.

The guns are kinda clunky for U.S. users familiar with a Beretta 92/M9, as they have a single stack mag, use a heel-mounted release for the same, and suffer from a lack of Western quality control.

More, including a bunch of photos, in my column at Guns.com

DARPA is making progress on their autonomous FLA program

These things are pretty interesting, and could really save lives, especially in MOUT-style operations. The only human input is the target image, a basic map, and a bearing to the search area, then the quad is off, in fully autonomous flight without GPS or remote control (RC) communication links.

Phase 1 of DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program concluded recently following a series of obstacle-course flight tests in central Florida. Over four days, three teams of DARPA-supported researchers huddled under shade tents in the sweltering Florida sun, fine-tuning their sensor-laden quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during the intervals between increasingly difficult runs. DARPA’s FLA program is advancing technology to enable small unmanned quadcopters to fly autonomously through cluttered buildings and obstacle-strewn environments at fast speeds (up to 20 meters per second, or 45 mph) using onboard cameras and sensors as “eyes” and smart algorithms to self-navigate.

And if you don’t think drones are the new thing in the modern battlefield, just look at the report below on how ISIS forces are using commercial quadcopters and the like around Rakka today.

Buy a Chinese-made RC copter, attach a mortar shell or hand grenade to an actuator, and you have a sub-$1K attack craft. Using swarms of these things, some local forces are reporting 10-15 drones strikes against them per day. The DGI Phantom is reportedly the go-to quad for the IS air corps for recon and attack.

USCG keeps swelling FRC ranks

The big 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, built to replace the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats of the 80s and 90s, (which in turn replaced the 1950s era 95-foot Cape-class cutters, et.al) are fast becoming a backbone asset for the Coast Guard. Designed for five day patrols, these 32-knot vessels have a stern boat ramp like the smaller 87-foot WPBs, but carry a stabilized 25mm Mk38 and four M2s as well as much more ISR equipment. In a hattip to the fact they are so much more capable, the USCG uses the WPC hull designation, used last by the old “buck and a quarter” 125-foot cutters of the Prohibition-era with these craft, rather than the WPB patrol boat designation of the ships they are replacing.

You can bet these cutters are being looked at for littoral work such as in the Persian Gulf where the Navy has a whole squadron of 170-foot Cyclone-class (PCs) that are showing their age.

The latest FRC accepted, USCGC Oliver Berry (WPC 1124), is the 24th of 58 envisioned for the service.

Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) cruises out of Key West, Fla., following the cutter’s delivery to the Coast Guard, June 27, 2017

And kudos to the worst-funded branch of the military for keeping to solid naval naming conventions in honoring past heroes by naming these ships after them, rather than for politicians and the like.

From the presser this week on Berry‘s acceptance:

The cutter’s namesake, Oliver Berry, is the first enlisted helicopter mechanic in naval aviation history and was an instrumental part in pioneering the use of the helicopter for search and rescue after World War II. In September 1946, he successfully disassembled a helicopter in Brooklyn, New York, organized transportation from New York to Newfoundland, Canada, and reassembled the helicopter for use to rescue 18 stranded passengers of a Belgian airliner that crashed near Gander, Newfoundland. He subsequently received the Silver Medal of the Order of Leopold II from the Belgian monarchy for his efforts.

Wanna see the Glock MHS entry?

With the Army’s Modular Handgun System contract now firmly in the hands of Sig Sauer, images of Glock’s entry for the M17 and M18 pistol have emerged and they have a number of differences from their standard offerings.

These include a lanyard ring at the bottom of the grip, black ambi surface controls, a lack of finger grooves, a manual thumb safety, extended mags, and a flat dark earth finish. The models offered outwardly seem like otherwise variants of the Gen 4 G19 in 9mm and G23 in .40S&W. Not pictured are threaded barrels, a contract requirement, or ammunition, which was provided by Federal.

More in my column at Guns.com.

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