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MSC Adding Fast Hospital Ships ?

Saturday’s DOD Contract announcements included this little gem, converting a pair of Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPF) currently under construction–USNS Apalachicola (EPF 13), and Cody (EPF 14)— into hospital transports. The EPFs are speedy (43-knot) little (1500 ton, 337ft o.a.) trimarans made by Austal and manned by the civilian mariners of the MSC to carry a reinforced company-sized unit of ground-pounders or cargo intra-theatre. The Navy has been brainstorming using an EPF equipped with an expeditionary medical unit (EMU) inside the mission bay that, while falling short of a full-size hospital ship, would allow an EPF/EMU to serve as a quick transit platform for rapid medical response.

USNS Spearhead EPF Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPF)

Paint it white and put a red cross on it…

From the announcement:

Austal USA, Mobile, Alabama, is awarded a not-to-exceed $9,198,875 fixed priced incentive firm target (FPI(F)) undefinitized contract action modification to previously-awarded contract N00024-19-C-2227 for the immediate procurement of long-lead-time material, engineering, and production to support changes to the arrangement of the 02 and 03 Levels on Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPF) 13 and 14. The EPF class provides high speed, shallow draft transportation capability to support the intra-theater maneuver of personnel, supplies and equipment for the Navy, Marine Corps and Army. Work will be performed in Mobile, Alabama, and is expected to be complete by November 2021. Fiscal 2018 and 2019 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy-SCN) funding for $4,599,438 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year — fiscal 2018 SCN (62%); and fiscal 2019 SCN (38%). The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

That’s a lot of British flattop

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), the first semi-active big deck aircraft carrier to sail under the White Ensign since the F-4 toting HMS Ark Royal (R09) was retired in 1979, has returned home to Portsmouth after more than a month at sea working up with British-flown F-35s.

Upon coming home, she was met by her brand spanking new sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales (R09– the same pennant as Ark Royal’s!) for the first time.

Boom, 130,000 tons of Royal Navy carriers. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) is expected to deploy in 2021ish while HMS Prince of Wales (R09) is to follow in 2023

The last time more than 130,000 tons of British carriers were in one place at one time was Bruce Fraser’s 1944-45 Pacific Fleet. His force included six Implacable/Illustrious-class fleet carriers, four Colossus-class light carriers, two maintenance carriers, and nine escort carriers, for a total of 320,000-tons of flattop real estate parking for 750 embarked aircraft.

The British fleet carriers HMS Indomitable (R92), HMS Indefatigable (R10), HMS Unicorn (I72), HMS Illustrious (R87), HMS Victorious (R38) and HMS Formidable (R67) at anchor, with other shipping, 1945. IWM MH 5309

The Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Captain Steve Moorhouse said:

“Homecomings are always a special occasion, but to be returning to Portsmouth with HMS Prince of Wales welcoming us home makes this a particularly special occasion.

“This has been an extremely successful deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth. Embarking UK F-35 Lightning jets for the first time and integrating them within the carrier strike group is a significant milestone and we are well set for an equally demanding 2020 and our first operational deployment in 2021.”

Recently, it was detailed that the HMSQE-class has deck parking for 45 F-35s, which is a serious (and seriously unlikely without USMC cross-decking) airwing.

Photo via Chris Canvas

Also of note, the Indian government is talking of moving ahead with a plan (and formal offer from BAE) to acquire a CATOBAR version of the class for their own use as well, in response to China moving towards a four-carrier fleet.

Which makes the planned first deployment of HMSQE in 2021 to the Indian Ocean a no-brainer.

Maybe there will be another British (Commonwealth) Pacific Fleet in the future?

Not bad for a narcosubmarino

Spanish authorities arrested two citizens of Ecuador near the beach of O Foxo, Galicia on 24 November. Their ride? A scuttled 66-foot narco submarine carrying over three tons of coke. It is believed to be the first such craft to be seized from Latin America in Europe.

The Guardia Civil is currently trying to figure out if it was launched from a mother ship or made the entire journey on its own. Keep in mind that it is roughly 5,000 miles from the northeast tip of South America to Spain in a straight line. With an average speed of about 10 knots, said narco boat likely took more than three weeks to make a solo crossing only to be seen at the end of its run after things didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, the USCG recently popped a similar such craft in the Eastern Pacific, where they are increasingly common. How long before these are seen in asymmetric warfare by users carrying dirty bombs into a vital port or chokepoint?

Yikes

U.S. Coast Guard boarding team members climb aboard a suspected smuggling vessel in September. Crews intercepted a drug-laden, 40-foot self-propelled semi-submersible (SPSS) in the Eastern Pacific carrying approximately 12,000 pounds of cocaine, worth over $165 million and apprehended four suspected drug smugglers. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

The more things change

Loading a torpedo in an early U.S. submarine, 1900s. Note monitor in the background:

A submarine crewman guiding a torpedo through the loading hatch on USS Adder (Submarine Torpedo Boat No. 3), Cavite Navy Yard, Philippines. 1912:

“Loading Submarine Torpedoes. Three men guide the torpedo as it is lowered to the deck of the submarine at New London, Connecticut, circa 1943”:

80-G-K-16059

USS Greenfish (SS-351) loading a torpedo, 1950s, by John Houlden NHHC

191018-N-UN744-1196 HAAKONSVERN NAVAL BASE, Norway (Oct. 18, 2019) Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Minnesota (SSN 783) guide a Mark 48 advanced capability torpedo during an expeditionary ordnance onload at Haakonsvern Naval Base in Bergen, Norway, Oct. 18, 2019. Minnesota, the 10th ship of the Virginia class, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Travis Simmons/Released)

Speaking of which, I for one am really tickled that the Torpedoman’s Mate rate is back. Check out the below on them just put out by Big Navy. These days, they also fill the role of a GMG in the surface Navy, which makes sense.

Kimball meets Pearl

Check out these great pictures of a recent lightning storm over the USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756) and Honolulu Harbor

Photos courtesy of MSST 91107

Kimball is the Coast Guard’s seventh Legend-class National Security Cutter, commissioned at Honolulu 24 August this year after completion at Ingalls in Pascagoula. She is the first ship named for Sumner Increase Kimball, a Bowdoin College alumni, former head of the Coast Guard’s predecessor Revenue Marine Bureau, and organizer of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the latter of which he served as superintendent of from 1878 until it was folded into the modern USCG in 1915.

Hands up if it reminds you of the storm scene from The Final Countdown

Sig Churning out .300 Win Mag…for the Army

U.S. Army Spc. Kristofer Encinas, a sniper with the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, engages targets with an M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle during an advanced rifle marksmanship event as part of the 2019 European Best Sniper Team Competition at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, July 22, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jeremiah Woods)

While standard small arms rounds in the U.S. military are 5.56 and 7.62 NATO, the Army and SOCOM units have fielded precision rifles chambered in .300 Win Mag for over a decade, noting that it allowed for shots at ranges past 1,300 meters. Current platforms chambered for the round include the M2010 ESR, the AICS/Remington Mk.13, and the new Mk 21 Precision Sniper Rifle (MSR).

And with that, Sig just won a $10 million contract to supply the rounds to the Army.

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Dazzling

I get that haze grey and shades of are great visual camouflage at sea these days, but you just have to love these “throwback” North Atlantic camo schemes that the Royal Canadian Navy is using to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

HMCS Regina, a Halifax or City-class frigate seen earlier this month passing under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, Vancouver:

Photo by CPL Naples, Canadian Forces

 

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