Category Archives: modern military conflict

If you don’t think Drone Swarms are THE Threat of the 2020s, you are Mistaken

In the recent five-week Nagorno-Karabakh war, between Azerbaijan– supported by Syrian mercenaries and Turkey — and the so-called Republic of Artsakh together with Armenia (who had the low-key support of Moscow), cheap drones proved absolutely decisive. The Azerbaijani relied heavily on Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 and Israeli Harop/Orbiter/SkyStryker kamikaze drones to strike at the Armenian/Artsakh forces.

Besides tanks and APCs, the Azerbaijan Department of Defense said that several Osa, Strela-10, and S-300 air defense systems were also destroyed by TB2s. Azerbaijan also reportedly modified its slowpoke 1950s-era Antonov An-2 Colt biplanes with remote-control systems, flying them to the front lines to draw out Armenian air defenses. In short, SEAD by UAV, showing these craft as the modern Wild Weasels.

The Bayraktar TB2, with a max takeoff weight of just 1,400-pounds, isn’t fast, pedaling around at just 120 knots, roughly the same speed as a Great War biplane. However, it can carry four laser-guided smart munitions, each capable of zapping a tank. (Photo via wiki commons)

In all, the former Soviet republic had less than 200 drones of all kinds on hand, but they proved the key to battle.

The really scary part is how plug-and-play the Turkish drones were, only fielded by the Azerbaijanis less than six months before the conflict. 

From a CSIS report on the conflict:

Azerbaijani drones provided significant advantages in ISR as well as long-range strike capabilities. They enabled Azerbaijani forces to find, fix, track, and kill targets with precise strikes far beyond the front lines. UAVs were operationally integrated with fires from manned aircraft and land-based artillery but also frequently used their own ordinance to destroy various high-value military assets. Open-source reporting suggests that drones contributed to disabling a huge number of Armenian tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery units, and air defenses. Their penetration of Nagorno-Karabakh’s deep rear also weakened Armenian supply lines and logistics, facilitating later Azerbaijani success in battle.

So for cheap, UAVs stand to flip the battlespace in favor of low power states.

For instance, Iran, which has both reverse-engineered downed U.S. drones and acquired other designs as needed, has shown off hundreds of indigenous craft of late.

All of this means that it is no surprise that DOD just released their official 36-page Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Strategy.

Expect far more counter-drone jammers and active defenses on the battlefield of the future, or else it is going to be very one-sided.

Anti-Ship Missiles for more than just the surface combat Navy

EXOCET MOBILE COASTAL battery uses four vehicles: a TOC, sensor unit, and two four-missile firing units, to put 8 AShMs on shore. It requires just 16 men. A similar concept could be used for the Naval Strike Missile or others. 

One of the facets of the current reboot of the Marines is that they are hanging up all of their armored (tank) battalions and a lot of their (tube) artillery batteries to field small and highly mobile expeditionary warfare missile batteries that would subtly appear on, say a forgotten backwater atoll, and control the sea around it for 100 miles or more in every direction. The nascent Marine Littoral Regiments are still being fleshed out, with an experimental unit formed in Hawaii last year. Nonetheless, LBASMs, or Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles, are on the menu.

Moving forward with the concept of more (anti-ship) missiles in more places, Big Blue is also weighing putting containerized Naval Strike Missiles on otherwise lightly armed ‘phibs of the “Gator Navy.”

“We have these magnificent 600-foot-long, highly survivable, highly LPD 17s,” said MGen Tracy W. King, director of expeditionary warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. “The LPDs need the ability to reach out and defend themselves and sink another ship. It’s not from the aspect of using them as a strike platform; it will drastically increase their survivability if the enemy has to honor that threat. My intent is to ensure that my desire to increase the lethality of LPDs doesn’t interfere with [Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Paul] Schlise’s efforts to increase lethality on LCSs.”

Finally, there is the concept (thanks for the tip, Philip), recently covered in the USNI’s Blog by LT. Andrew W. Corwell, U.S. Coast Guard, of the puddle pirates adding some batteries of coastal defense cruise missiles to their mix.

Fielding CDCMs provides the Coast Guard with a one-two punch as the service pivots to counter near-peer threats. First, CDCMs would provide the Coast Guard with a credible deterrent to potentially adversarial naval forces. Strategically located near major ports on each coast, a battery of U.S. Coast Guard CDCM Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL) could defend against naval surface threats and be postured to respond to emergent homeland defense missions requiring more firepower than typically found aboard Cutters. Being road mobile would complicate adversarial targeting during a major conflict by enabling the CDCM batteries to operate from both prepared and field expedient positions along the coast while simultaneously providing the ability to surge additional missiles and launchers along anticipated threat vectors.

Second, the CDCMs would offer the Coast Guard an organic, rapidly deployable option to increase the lethality of cutters supporting combatant commanders. Designing the TELs to fit inside the hangers of Legend-class national security cutters (NSC), or the soon to be delivered Heritage-class offshore patrol cutters, integrate with the cutter’s fire-control systems, and fire from their flight deck would greatly increase the ability for cutters to contribute in a war-at-sea scenario, offset shortcomings in desired increases to U.S. fleet strength, and align with distributed lethality concepts.

And to tell you the truth, it all makes sense. The porcupine theory.

Little Groups of Marines

Ten U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command teamed up with the U.S. Navy for a three-month deployment aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10), returning to Little Creek this week. The SPMAGTF-SC detachment provided the 1,500-ton Burlington, officially a noncombatant manned by civilian mariners of the MSC alongside a USN commo team, with an embarked security team, providing force protection for the deployment.

This is the type of tasking that little groups of Marines will increasingly see in the future, no longer just the stuff of the “Gator Navy.”

Of course, it is something of a case of everything old is new again, as the Marines for something like 220 years regularly provided small dets on surface ships for security/gunnery/landing force missions. Back in the day, ships as small as gunboats, sloops, and frigates often had Marines aboard, although the practice was trimmed back to cruisers, battleships, and carriers by the 1920s (with a few notable exceptions).

The Marine Detachment, gunboat USS Dauntless (PG-61) – mid-1942

The last Marine Carrier Dets, useful for guarding admirals, performing TRAP missions, and keeping an eye on “special munitions” (aka nukes) were disbanded in 1998.

MK VIs of the Black Sea

SANTA RITA, Guam (May 8, 2019) Three Mark VI patrol boats attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2, maneuver in formation during a training evolution near Apra Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey Adams)

It looks like Ukraine will be the next operator of the MK VI patrol boat.

Via DOD Contract Awards:

SAFE Boats International LLC, Bremerton, Washington, was awarded a $19,969,119 not-to-exceed, firm-fixed-price, undefinitized contract action for long lead time material and associated pre-production and planning support for two MK VI patrol boats to be delivered to the government of Ukraine. Work will be performed in Rock Hill, South Carolina (69%); Kent, Washington (21%); Woodinville, Washington (5%); Bellingham, Washington (4%); and Seattle, Washington (1%), and is expected to be completed by December 2022. Fiscal 2020 Title 10 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding in the amount of $5,463,500 was obligated at award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. (Awarded Dec. 31, 2020)

The U.S. Navy Mark VI patrol boat is a very well-armed successor to classic PT boats of WWII (sans torpedoes), Nasty boats of Vietnam, and Cold War-era PB Mk IIIs. The Mk IIIs, a heavily armed 65-foot light gunboat, was replaced by the Mk V SOC (Special Operations Craft)– a somewhat lighter armed 82-foot go fast– and the 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol ships.

Now the Navy coughed up the idea for the Mk VI back in 2012, and plan on obtaining as many as 48 of these boats and are deployed in two separate strategic areas of operation: Commander, Task Force (CTF) 56 in Bahrain and CTF 75 in Guam.

At $10 million a pop, they are about three times as expensive as USCG 87 foot WPBs and with much shorter legs, but they have huge teeth. Notice the 25mm MK38 Mod 2 forward and aft, the M2 RWS mount atop the wheelhouse, and the four crew-served mounts amidships and aft for Dillion mini-guns, M240Gs, MK19 grenade launchers, or other party favors. Of course, these would be toast in a defended environment like the China Sea but are gold for choke points like the Persian Gulf, anti-pirate ops, littoral warfare against asymmetric threats, etc.

They also provide a persistent capability to patrol shallow littoral areas for the purpose of force protection for U.S. and coalition forces, as well as safeguarding critical infrastructure.

Aging Icebreaker Sets Polar Record

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) underway in the Chukchi Sea, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, at about 10:30 a.m. The 44-year-old heavy icebreaker is underway for a months-long deployment to the Arctic to protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham.

The country’s only heavy icebreaker, U.S Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10), on Christmas Day reached a record-breaking winter Arctic latitude while in the course of a grueling 30-day winter deployment to wave the flag in the increasingly crowded northern seas.

As noted by the USCG:

Polar Star‘s crew navigated beyond 72 degrees latitude shortly before noon Friday before changing course and heading south to continue their Arctic deployment.

“The crew achieved a notable milestone Christmas Day by traversing farther into the harsh, dark winter Arctic environment than any cutter crew in our service’s history,” said Capt. Bill Woitrya, the cutter’s commanding officer.

“Our ice pilots expertly navigated the Polar Star through sea ice up to four-feet thick and, in doing so, serve as pioneers to the country’s future of Arctic explorations.”

With frigid Arctic winds and air temperatures regularly well below zero, Polar Star‘s engineers work around-the-clock to keep frozen machinery equipment running and the ship’s interior spaces warm enough for the crew.

The 44-year-old icebreaker is underway to project power and support national security objectives throughout Alaskan waters and into the Arctic, including along the Maritime Boundary Line between the United States and Russia.

The Polar Star crew is also working to detect and deter illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and conduct Arctic training essential for developing future icebreaker operators.

The Polar Star’s record-breaking winter Arctic latitude is 72° 11′ N.

It should be noted that Polar Star, while on her regular McMurdo resupply to the Antarctic last year– a mission suspended in 2020 due to the coof– suffered a serious electrical/engineering casualty underway, so it is nice to see that she is doing better this year and is headed back home.

Of course, her crew is having to battle that age-old boogeyman of the Arctic– knocking ice off the ship that accumulated from sea spray to keep topside weight to a manageable level. 

Those who have done the task know first hand it is one of those jobs that looks fun until you do it for about two minutes. 

Cold Iron Watch Still Needs Lots of Cash

The Battleship New Jersey Museum in Camden, New Jersey has been the caretaker of the retired Iowa-class battlewagon USS New Jersey (BB-62) for the past 20 years, picking up the legendary ship after its 4th stint in mothballs. The museum normally has 92 staff, mostly part-time guides and giftshop clerks whose hours peak in summer (May-Sept), while 10 full-time maintenance and security personnel operate year-round.

The thing is, 2020 wasn’t a normal year and the vessel is closed to the public at least until March.

Further, they have a dire revenue shortfall due to COVID lockdowns. No tours = no cash. 

And it’s not Uncle Sam’s problem. In other words, lots of pork in the COVID relief bills but not a dollar for historic battleships. 

We had to cancel several of our major revenue-generating programs, including group tours, special events, and overnights. Due to the closures and elimination of programs, the ship has lost over $1.5 million this past year.

Unfortunately, our expenses do not stop. As much as we have cut back in personnel and energy usage, we still have required expenses to maintain and preserve the World’s Greatest Battleship. Below is a list of some of the expenses the ship incurs on a weekly basis:

• Gas & Electric (in energy savings mode) $7,238 or $1,034 per day
• Liability & Property Insurance $3,500 or $500 per day
• Maintenance $5,754 or $822 per day
• Security $3,500 or $500 per day
• Curatorial & Education $4,585 or $655 per day

The Battleship needs to raise $56,176 or $3,511 per day to cover the above costs through the end of the year.
We need your help now! Please consider making a donation to the Battleship, or becoming a Member, or even purchasing a gift from the online Ship’s Store this Holiday Season.

The Battleship New Jersey has answered the call to defend our nation since World War II. Now we ask you to answer the call and support our nation’s most decorated battleship.

Donations to help the Battleship New Jersey can be made through:

Online:
http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org/give

Mail:
Battleship New Jersey
62 Battleship Place
Camden, NJ 08103

Ghosts of Torpedo Tubes Past

Alternatively described by the Soviets/Russians as a “submarine chaser” or a “frigate” the vintage Udaloy I-class destroyer Marshal [Boris] Shaposhnikov (BPK 543) was commissioned the same year that young upstart Gorbachev was named General Secretary of the CPSU and had been ordered while Brezhnev was still around.

The 8,000-ton Shaposhnikov recently emerged from a three-year modernization that included the installation of 16 huge vertical-launched Kalibr cruise missiles to augment his (Russian warships are always masculine) Uran anti-ship missiles and Kinzhal SAMs. Assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Shaposhnikov just pulled off a complete live-fire test of all systems in the waters of the Sea of ​​Japan.

The below shows not only the missiles, 100mm AK-190 main gun, and AK-630 CIWS going loud but has a great view of the distinctive trainable four-pack 21-inch torpedo tubes, reminiscent of old-school WWII era tubes.

I guess if it ain’t broke…

Just three Udaloys are in fleet service with the Russians today although several others are in reserve with at least two of those sidelined ships– Admiral Levchenko and Admiral Chabanenko— expected to be reworked to the same standard as Shaposhnikov.

By comparison, the oldest American Tico, USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), is still almost two years newer than Shaposhnikov and is expected to head off to red lead row very soon.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020: All I Want for Christmas is a New SSK

Here at LSOZI, we 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 each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020: All I Want for Christmas is a New SSK

Photo via the Taiwanese MNA

Here we see the beautifulTench-class diesel attack sub, ROCS Hai Shih (SS-791) of the Republic of China Navy during a celebration at Keelung Port last summer. Formerly USS Cutlass (SS-478), the Taiwanese boat is the oldest operational submarine in the world, at some 76 years young, and is set to continue to hold that title for a few more years.

Designed by the Bureau of Ships in conjunction with the Portsmouth Navy Yard and Electric Boat, the Tenches were the epitome of WWII U.S. Navy fleet boats. Some 311-feet overall, these 2,000-ton boats were an enlarged version of the preceding Balao-class. Strong, with 35-35.7# high-tensile steel pressure hull plating and eight watertight compartments in addition to the conning tower, they had a 400-foot operating depth. Their diesel-electric arrangement allowed a surfaced speed of just over 20-knots and a submerged one of 8.75 while a massive fuel capacity granted an 11,000nm range– enough to span the Pacific.

Some 80 Tenches were planned (some reports say over 120) but most– 51– were canceled in the last stages of the war when it became clear they would not be needed.

Janes’s referred to the class in 1946 somewhat curiously as the Corsair-class.

With construction spread across three yards– Boston NSY, Electric Boat and Portsmouth– the subject of our tale, the first and only U.S. Navy ship to be named after the Cutlass fish, was laid down at the latter (as were most of those that were completed) and commissioned 5 November 1944.

After shakedowns, she headed for the Pacific and left out of Pearl Harbor on her maiden war patrol on 9 August 1945 from Midway. By the night of the 14th she reached the Kurile Islands, some 1,700 miles to the West.

As described in her 17-page patrol report, by 0700 on 15 August, Cutlass received the initial news that the Japanese may be surrendering while surfaced seven miles offshore of the enemy’s coastline.

As noted by a history of Cutlass on a reunion site:

Everyone was at his station when the Chief Radioman yelled up the open hatch from the control room, ‘Sir, they are celebrating, in New York; the war is over”

Nonetheless, Cutlass was still in an active war zone and soon busied her crew with the task of sinking floating mines, a sport she spent the next two weeks pursuing. After detonating one such floating device on the 24th, her log noted, “the explosion came as a surprise because the mine was old, rusty and filled with barnacles.”

Mooring at Midway again on 27 August, Cutlass’s war was effectively over and the next month she departed the Pacific for the East Coast, hosting curious visitors for Navy Day in New York on 24 September.

USS Cutlass, likely in 1948, with only one 40mm gun mounted. USN photo # 80-G-394300 by Cdr. Edward J. Steichen

Spending most of the next two years on a spate of service around the Caribbean– tough duty– she entered Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in March 1949 for modernization.

A New Life, a New Look

She was to become a GUPPY, specifically an SCB 47 GUPPY II series conversion, ditching her topside armament, picking up a new sail, better batteries, and, most importantly, a snorkel.

Of the 48 GUPPY’d WWII diesel boats that were given a second life in the Cold War. Cutlass was one of the 14 Type II conversions

Cutlass (SS-478) port side view, circa the 1950s with stepped “Portsmouth Sail” as an early Guppy type. Photo courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired) via Navsource.

In her Cold War career, she spent the early 1950s at Key West, then shifted to Norfolk for the bulk of her career before returning to Florida to cap it. This included hosting President Truman on at least one occasion in March 1950.

Via NARA

Note the differences in sails. Cutlass (SS-478), Trutta (SS-421), Odax (SS-484), Tirante (SS-420), Marlin (SST-2) & Mackerel (SST-1), alongside for inspection at Key West. Wright Langley Collection. Florida Keys Public Libraries. Photo # MM00046694x

USS Cutlass (SS-478) Torpedoman’s Mate Second Class William Meisel prepares to load a torpedo in one of the submarine’s torpedo tubes, circa 1953. Photographed from inside the tube. #: 80-G-688314

Cutlass: Quartermaster Seaman Ronald Petroni and Henry Seibert at the submarine’s diving plane control, circa 1953. 80-G-688318

On 28 June 1961, Cutlass was given the task of testing Mark 16 War Shot torpedoes, by sinking the ex-USS Cassiopeia (AK-75) (Liberty Ship, Melville W. Fuller, Hull No. 504), 100nm off the Virginia Capes. She did so with a brace of four fish, earning the sub the distinction of claiming 10,000 tons on her tally sheet.

She would later receive the partial GUPPY III treatment in the early 1960s to include a tall, streamlined fiberglass sail and fire control upgrades but not the distinctive BQG-4 PUFFS passive ranging sonar. This much-changed her profile for the third time in as many decades. 

USS Cutlass (SS-478), early 1960s NH 82299

Cutlass photographed 9 May 1962, while operating with USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CVS-29). USN 1107442

Cutlass (SS-478) at Genoa Italy, 29 June 1968. Note the windows in the sail. Photo courtesy of Carlo Martinelli via Navsource

USS Cutlass (SS-478) photographed circa 1970. NH 82301

Busy throughout the 1950s and 60s, she would hold the line during the Cuban Missile Crisis and deploy to the 6th Fleet on Med cruises at least four times, one of which she would extend by a tour around the Indian Ocean, operating with the Pakistani Navy– a fleet that would go on to use a few of her sisters (losing PNS/M Ghazi, ex-USS Diablo in the Bay of Bengal in 1971).

She ended her career as part of the rusty and crusty GUPPYs of SUBRON12 in Key West, tasked primarily with being a target vessel for destroyers, aircraft, and SSNs to test out their sonar and fire control on, often making daily trips out to the Florida Straits to be the “fox” for the hounds.

An anecdote from that time:

While on these operations, CUTLASS was a target for destroyers going through Refresher Training. During the week CUTLASS would outwit the destroyers by firing beer cans from the signal gun, so as to give the destroyers a false target for their Sonar while the CUTLASS evaded them. Then on Saturday CUTLASS went out to get “Sunk” so as to allow the destroyers to pass their exercise.

On her last Med Cruise in early 1972, she was able to get close enough to the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt to fire a signal flare within torpedo distance of her in an exercise, to the reported dismay of FDR’s destroyer screen. It wasn’t just American carriers the 28-year-old diesel boat counted coup upon that cruise, she also came close enough to the Soviet Moskva-class helicopter carrier Leningrad to get a snapshot. 

Nonetheless, she was not long for the U.S. Navy. 

Another New Life

Finally, as SUBRON12 was disbanded and the last GUPPYs were liquidated in the early 1970s, many were gifted to U.S. allies overseas. With that, Cutlass was refurbished, her torpedo tubes sealed, then was decommissioned, struck from the Naval Register, and transferred to Taiwan under terms of the Security Assistance Program, 12 April 1973. 

There, she was renamed Hai Shih (Sea Lion) (SS-1) and was intended to serve as an ASW training platform, essentially an OPFOR for Taiwan’s destroyer and S-2 fleet.

1973 entry in Jane’s, noting that Cutlass and Balao-class near-sister USS Tusk (SS-426), were the country’s first submarines.

As a matter of course, the long-held belief is that the Taiwanese soon got both Cutlass and Tusk’s combat suite up and running with a combination of assistance from freelance Italian experts and West German torpedoes.

While the GUPPY combat record in 1982 wasn’t impressive, it should be noted that even old SSKs can prove extremely deadly in a point defense role of an isolated island chain when operating on home territory. They can basically rest with almost everything but their passive sonar off and wait for an enemy invasion force to get within torpedo range. After all, there are only 13 beaches that are believed suitable for an amphibious landing in Taiwan.

She recently underwent extensive refurbishments of her hull, electronics, and navigational systems to allow her to continue operations for another six years. 

Those tubes sure look well-maintained for being sealed dead weight.

Check out the below video of Cutlass/Hai Shih in action (go to the 2:58 mark).

 

While Taiwan currently has Cutlass on the books until 2026 (Tusk is sidelined as a pier-side trainer) and operates a pair of 1980s vintage Dutch-built Zwaardvis/Hai Lung-class boats, the country is set to produce their own design moving forward and is requesting MK-48 Mod6AT torpedoes and UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles from the under FMS sales. 

It would be interesting if Cutlass came “home” in 2027 after her then-54-year career with Taipei. At that point, she will be well into her 80s.

As for her remnants in America, the Cold War logbooks, WWII war diaries, and ship drawings of USS Cutlass remain in the National Archives, with many of them digitized. Two of her classmates, the “Fleet Snorkel” converted USS Requin (SS-481) and USS Torsk (SS-423), are preserved as museums in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, respectively. 

A Cutlass reunion site was updated as late as 2018 and has some interesting ship’s lore archived. 

Specs:
(1945)
Displacement: 1,570 tons (std); 1,980 (normal); 2,415 tons submerged
Length: 311 ft. 8 inches
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Operating depth: 400 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks Morse main generator engines, 5,400HP, two Elliot Motor Co. main motors with 2,740HP, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Speed: 20 surfaced, 10 submerged
Fuel Capacity: 113,510 gal.
Range: 11,000nm @ 10 knots surfaced, 48 hours at 2 knots submerged, 75-day patrol endurance
Complement 7 officers 69 enlisted (planned), actual manning 10 officers, 76 men
Radar: SV. APR and SPR-2 receivers, TN tuning units, AS-125 antenna, SPA Pulse Analyzer, F-19 and F-20 Wave Traps, VD-2 PPI Repeater
Sonar: WFA projector, JP-1 hydrophone
Armament:
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max or up to 40 mines
1 x 5″/25 deck gun
2 x 40mm guns
2 x .50 cal. machine guns

(1973, as GUPPY II+)
Displacement: 1,870 tons (std); 2,420 tons submerged
Length: 307.5 ft.
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Propulsion: 3 Fairbanks Morse (4) (FM 38D 8 1/8 x 10) diesels, 2 Elliot electric motors, 504 cell battery, 5400 shp, 2 shafts
Speed: 18 surfaced, 15 submerged
Range:  
Complement: 80
Armament:
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft

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Santa, C-130s, and isolated Pacific resupply

The U.S. Air Force, operating in conjunction this year with the Japan Self-Defense Force, just wrapped up the 69th annual Operation Christmas Drop, tossing out 3,200-pounds of humanitarian aid from the back of a moving Herky bird in 64 bundles over the course of a week to eagerly awaiting communities in Micronesia.

A bundle is airdropped from a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to Yokota Air Base, Japan, onto Kayangel, Republic of Palau, during Operation Christmas Drop 2020, Dec. 10. By using low-cost low-altitude airdrop procedures, the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force were able to deliver humanitarian aid across the South-Eastern Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)

To be sure, it is a feel-good operation. Something to be proud of. Winning hearts and minds. 

However, keep in mind that such drops are real-world training for these same Western Pacific-based C-130 units should they be needed to, say, handle low-key resupply for isolated company-sized Marine rocket batteries dropped off on random atolls with little infrastructure but within range of Chinese maritime assets.

Speaking of which, this year’s OCD was the first that saw bundles dropped on Peleliu.

For those keeping track at home, Peleliu was, of course, a hard-won strategic pin in the map on the push towards Okinawa and the Philippines in 1944-45. The historic island currently has a population of about ~400 locals and the WWII-era airstrip, seen towards the end of the OCD video, is in pretty rough shape.

That beat-down airstrip doesn’t negate the fact that places like Peleliu are getting important once again. Maybe important enough that C-130s ought to be practicing cargo drops there. Oh wait. 

Welcome back, HMS Anson

After a 63-year break, the Royal Navy is set to have another HMS Anson on the list as S-123, the fifth Astute-class submarine, currently under construction, was announced last week. She will be the eighth to carry the historic name which dates back to a 60-gun warship in 1747, in honor of the 1st Lord of the Admiralty, George Anson.

The seventh Anson was a King George V-class battleship, which commissioned on 14 April 1942. Cutting her teeth chasing KMS Lutzow and Hipper around the Arctic while escorting convoys to Russia, she later assisted with a diversionary effort to support the Husky landings in the Med and screened the carrier groups that attempted to sink Tirpitz.

Refitted for service with British Pacific Fleet in 1945, Anson was on hand for the liberation of Hong Kong and served as a guard ship in Tokyo for the occupation there.

KGV-class battleship HMS Anson (79) dressed in Sydney Harbor for the Australia Day sailing regatta, 1946.

The mighty battlewagon was sent for breaking in 1957.

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