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Two WWII vets, still hard at work

Here we see past Warship Wednesday subject, the oldest vessel in the U.S. Coast Guard, and one of the last ships afloat and in active service that dates from World War II: the Gorch Fock-class segelschulschiff USCGC Eagle (WIX-327), America’s only active-duty square rigger.

This uncommon view of her was taken last week at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, the only one in the service, as Eagle undertakes the next step in her five-year SLEP modernization. She is inside the former U.S. Navy ARD-18 Class Auxiliary Repair Dock, USS Oak Ridge (ARDM-1).

Built at Alameda in 1944, the Oak Ridge is 81-years young and during her lengthy Naval career was based in the Philippines, Groton, Rota, and Kings Bay until she was disposed of in 2001. The 551-foot dock can lift ships up to 437-feet long, making her ideal for the Coast Guard as her largest vessels, the new National Security Cutters, are just 418-feet oal.

The dock was transferred to the Coasties in 2001 with the assumption she had about five more years left on her before she would be condemned, and Eagle may be Oak Ridge‘s last customer.

The dock is in bad shape.

According to a 2015 DHS report, she sank in 2011 resulting in $4 million in repairs and costs $1 million per year to barely maintain– 11 times greater than the more modern Syncrolift shiplift system the Yard has installed.

Her gantry cranes, installed in 1963, are inoperative as “it is no longer cost-effective to fabricate replacement parts for crane engines, structure, and controls.” Further, “Other installed equipment including diesel generators, auxiliary pumps, boilers, streamlines, welding gas, air compressors, airlines, and crew berthing have all been removed from
service over the past 10 years as a result of disrepair.”

As far as her hull, she is supposed to be dry-docked herself every 10 years but hasn’t been since the 1990s and there are no active shipyards within a safe distance from the CG Yard capable of drydocking her, so, “this work has been permanently deferred until Oak Ridge is removed from service,” which is expected in 2018.

As for Eagle, on the other hand, the last mid to walk her decks likely hasn’t been born yet.


Those who haven’t been to sea have never really seen the sky

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) patrols waters off the coast of Australia under a star-lit night during Talisman Saber 17.

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

Part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, the “phibron” is being up-gunned by USS Sterett (DDG 104) and the old Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate HMAS Darwin (FFG 04) in charge of the air defense of the ESG while MH60Rs cross-decked from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group were embarked on Big Rich.

More on that here

Russki piratoopasnyye

According to the Russian Navy, they have been really involved in counter-pirate ops the past decade, with some years being more involved than others:

Since 2008, Navy ships have carried out 32 trips to the Gulf of Aden and other pirate destinations, escorting 152 convoys and 727 ships (56 ships under the Russian flag).

Ten attempts were also prevented, seven boats and 80 Pirates were detained. In addition to the Gulf of Aden, Russian military vessels have conducted anti-pirate patrols in the Singapore and Malacca Straits, South China and the Caribbean Sea.

The Russians also seem to be fans of breaking lots of eggs, no matter how small the omelet.

As GPS becomes questionable, backups in commo and nav afoot

Quartermaster 1st Class John Lenson, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), peers through a marine sextant, a navigational instrument used to determine celestial navigation. Lassen is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility supporting law enforcement operations as part of Operation Martillo. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr./Released)

There are a lot of interesting things going on when it comes to GPS systems and their use.

The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally Navstar GPS, is operated and maintained by the U.S. Air Force and is a series of 24 satellites in orbit‎ that helps find things down to about 5m. Set up in the late 1970s, China (BNSS), India (NAVIC), the EU (Galileo), Russia (GLONASS) and Japan (Zenith) have likewise set up their own systems to assist their own needs.

Long the gold standard for land and sea nav, GPS has replaced Loran and Omega systems as well as in many cases traditional celestial navigation and good old compass/map based land nav as well. I mean why not, you can buy a GPS system for sub-$100 these days.

From an article in Maritime Executive, MARAD found about ships operating in and around the Black Sea have observed cases of GPS spoofing. These included cases of lost signals and “For few days, GPS gave a position inland (near Gelendyhik aiport) but vessel was actually drifting more than 25 NM from it.”

Some 20 vessels reported problems. Last year, the Norks jammed GPS in the DMZ.

This comes as the Navy has returned celestial navigation (CELNAV) courses to the Naval Academy’s curriculum (NROTC dropped it in 2000, USNA in 2006).

Further, an improved radio-nav system known as eLoran is making in-roads in navigational support with the Coast Guard being the proposed recipient of $200 million in funding to help muscle it up.

Meanwhile, the Navy, in particular Guam-based CTF-75, has been testing HF systems in the case of satellite communication failure, recently sending broadcast voice and data 6,050 miles from Naval Base Guam to Port Hueneme on the West Coast via radio.

It seems like everything old is new again.

I’m just waiting on the seaplanes and battleships to come back.

With that, let’s roll this 1971 CELNAV training film for those who want some naptime.

All the suppressed subguns you need via your local machine shop

Police in Edmonton, Alberta, in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, found a pair of full-auto DIY MAC-11’s (out of an estimated six made) complete with matching suppressors as well as other sundry illegal arms last month.

Police say that a half-dozen MACs were made, but only two were recovered. (Photos: Edmonton Police)

Made in a machinist’s shop without his knowledge, “The MAC-11s were fully automatic, with one trigger pull resulting in the entire magazine of 30 rounds being fired in just seconds,” according to a release.

They also recovered a very interesting little Beretta M71, a .22LR famed for its use by Mossad agents ‘ala Munich.

More in my column at

Royal Navy pushing for 5 so-called ‘budget battleships’

With the RN shrinking from what MoD called an “absolute minimum” of 30 surface combatants, they now just have 19, and are looking to replace some long in the tooth frigates, but are coming up short.

Plans for the procurement of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e frigates were announced by the Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin. These new ships will replace five Type 23 Duke-class frigates and will cost £250m ($327 million) each, which is bargain basement figures for a tin can. Keep in mind that the LCS project ships, which are the lightest of light frigates, cost $636.1 million a pop in the FY17 Pentagon budget.

As part of the new National Shipbuilding Strategy, these could be built in the same way as the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers – in UK shipyards across the country through subassemblies.

One contender for the Type 31e design is the BMT Venator series, a 383-foot, 4,000-ton light frigate with a SAAB integrated combat system, including 9LV CMS, Sea Giraffe AMB, 127mm gun system and both an active and passive variable depth sonar.

Some versions of the Venator show four 3-cell Lockheed Martin VLS quad packed with 48 MBDA Sea Ceptor missiles to provide AAW support while a a single 8-cell Mk41 Strike Length VLS would allow for Tomahawks.

IF they can get that for $327 million (holds breath) where does the USN need to sign up?

However, as the one-sheeter released by the RN states, the Type 31e will have a medium caliber main gun (76mm), large helicopter deck/hangar, and a 80-100 man crew– no mention of ASW, ASuW, strike or AAW capabilities– which in the end could leave the Brits with their own version of the LCS, which is great for asymettric warfare and constabulary duties, not so much for action against a real foe with legit weapons systems.

The first ships are set to be in service by 2023 when he seniormost Duke, HMS Argyll, will be 32-years young.

With the Type 31e to replace five Type 23 frigates, the other eight Type 23s are set to be replaced by the upcoming Type 26 class, a much more muscular design optimized for air defense.

What the deuce? Black powder in an AR…

As someone who has written a number of zombie books (shameless plug), I found the above attempt to run black powder hand loads through an AR-15 very interesting.

Using normal primers and powder-coated lead bullets, he runs them through a Ruger Blackout in .300BLK with the gas system opened up all the way and gets some decent accuracy, though the smoky loads only hit about 900fps. Of course, they jam on every shot, but even taking time to clear the action it is a faster follow-up shot than a Civil War-era muzzleloader any day.

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