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Scooters of South America

Formation of VA-22 A4C “Skyhawk” aircraft over Mt. Fuji, Japan, 27 April 1964. NHHC

A thing of beauty: A formation of U.S. Navy VA-22 A4C “Skyhawk” aircraft over Mt. Fuji, Japan, 27 April 1964. NHHC

Some 3,000 A4D/A-4 Skyhawks were produced between 1954 and 1979, and the type flew with under no less than nine flags. While an estimated 300 are in static displays around the globe and another 50 airworthy examples are in private hands, often flown on contract dissimilar training duties by groups like Draken Intl, Ed Heinemann’s vaunted “Scooters” are today only seen in active military service in Latin America.

Argentina

Argentina, a huge operator of the Skyhawk, purchased over 130 A-4s in the 1960s and 70s. Famously, about half of these were deployed against the British in the Falklands and no less than 22 lost in combat through clashes with Harriers, AAA of all flavors, and SAMs.

Argentine A4 Skyhawks attack San Carlos Harbor, Falklands, 1982

ARA Veinticinco de Mayo makes A-4 Skyhawk jets ready during the 1982 Falklands War note “Invincible” marked bomb. The Argentine carrier never made an attack on the British task force. 

Today, the Argentines currently have 33 “A4AR Fightinghawks” (upgraded ex-USMC A-4M/TA-4F) airframes in their Air Force, operating in two ground attack squadrons of the 5th Air Brigade, with just 12 aircraft believed in service. The Argentine Navy, which used to fly ex USN A4A-4Bs from their WWII-era British-built carrier, ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (V-2), now only operates a squadron of increasingly unsupportable Super Étendards from shore as their sole combat jet.

Brazil

In a different take, the Marinha do Brasil purchased 23 former Kuwaiti A-4KU/TA-4KU Skyhawks in 1997 after the former owner upgraded to F-18s. Just four years later, the Brazilians were successfully operating the type from their former ASW-only aircraft carrier, NAeL Minas Gerais (A-11), a sistership of Veinticinco de Mayo. The Skyhawks continued to be used on Brazil’s follow-on flattop, NAe São Paulo (A12) after that ship was purchased from France.

Looks like a USN flight deck from the 1970s, yes? Nope, Brazilian Navy carrier Sao Paulo in 2005. The similarity shouldn’t be surprising as the Marinha do Brasil’s A4 drivers were trained in Pensacola and the U.S Navy had a big helping hand in establishing Brazil’s carrier jet operation. This proved supremely ironic when the country later assisted the Chinese with their own flattop start-up in 2013. 

Sao Paulo proved to be something of a lemon for Brazil and the high-mileage French ship spent very little time at sea before she was finally decommissioned in 2018. Today, the country has switched to operating the former RN assault ship HMS Ocean, as NAe Atlantico, which cannot run the good old Skyhawk.

Nonetheless, the Aviação Naval Brasileira still runs their A4s, flown from shore by the “Falcos” of VF-1, with less than a dozen airframes considered active.

And they remain beautiful aircraft.

via Marinha do Brasil

via Marinha do Brasil

via Marinha do Brasil

via Marinha do Brasil

 

A different type of Constellation in the Navy

Admiral Thomas B. Howard (USNA 1873), Commander, Pacific Fleet, in his cabin aboard USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6), circa 1915. At the time he was only the fifth full admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy-- after Farragut, Porter, Dewey and Frank F. Fletcher. More than 220 have followed, somewhat diluting the brand. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1976 NH 84403

Admiral Thomas B. Howard (USNA 1873), Commander, Pacific Fleet, in his cabin aboard USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6), circa 1915. At the time he was only the fifth full admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy– after Farragut, Porter, Dewey and Frank F. Fletcher. More than 220 have followed, somewhat diluting the brand. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1976 NH 84403

Two retired captains at CIMSEC have an interesting take on the current number of flag officer slots in the Navy. Of note, during WWII at the height of the Fleet’s size, there were an amazing 6,084 commissioned vessels but only 256 men wearing stars. The number of admirals remained about the same through Vietnam and most of the Cold War, even while the size of the force constricted greatly. Then, in the past quarter-century, the number of flag slots exploded like mushrooms on the lawn after a cool rainstorm.

By 2012, the 280~ ship Navy had 359.

While the military, writ large, is clearly more sophisticated than it was in the past, and while political, acquisition and joint/combined organizations impose a greater demand than ever before for senior representation, it is still hard to understand how the number of flag officers and senior executives are sustained in the Navy with intractable fervor even as the active ship list has declined by about 70 percent.

More here.

Happy Birthday USN!

As you may know, the 244th Birthday of the U.S. Navy (well, technically begun as the Continental Navy) is this week.

Continental Navy sloop-of-war Fly (8 guns) along with Continental Navy sloop-of-war Mosquito (4 guns). Both ships were mentioned as being on station in Delaware Bay with Fly watching six British ships in a letter dated 30 December 1776. This image from a 1974 painting by William Nowland Van Powell currently in the U.S. Navy Art Collection

Continental Navy sloop-of-war Fly (8 guns) along with Continental Navy sloop-of-war Mosquito (4 guns). Both ships were mentioned as being on station in Delaware Bay watching six British warships in a letter dated 30 December 1776. This image from a 1974 painting by William Nowland Van Powell currently in the U.S. Navy Art Collection

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer wishes the Navy and all the Sailors and civilians around the fleet a happy 244th birthday:

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger 244th U.S. Navy Birthday message:

That’s a lot of oily M4s

So I told you guys that I spent some time in the Palmetto State last month filming at FN with Guns.com. Want to see how the tour went? I think you will find the M240 and M4 production lines interesting. Do you know FN makes roughly 500 M4s every single day?

After they’re test fired, they’re disassembled, cleaned, then reassembled and given a 101-point inspection. Then, they’re literally dipped in preservation oil and packaged 50 rifles to a large wooden crate.

Some poor Joe or Devil is going to have to clean that off one day…

Anyways, check out the full video below.

Queen City, Fifth Edition

The fifth U.S. Navy warship built for the first city constructed after the War of Independence was commissioned into the Fleet this weekend.

All photos: Chris Eger, feel free to share. Note that big bow thruster marking and the fact that she is drawing under 5m. 

USS Cincinnati (LCS-20), an Independence-class littoral combat ship, follows on the heels of a Los Angeles-class SSN, two cruisers (more on that later) and a City-class ironclad gunboat that was sunk and raised twice during the Civil War. This, of course, all befits the mold of storied Roman statesman and military leader Quintius Cincinnatus.

I attended the ceremony– which had Adm. Jamie Foggo (COMNAVEUR-NAVAF) in attendance, who spoke eloquently about Cincinnatus and, in the end, broke his flag aboard the Navy’s LCS– met her crew and toured the vessel.

For a 420-foot/3,100-ton frigate-sized (although not frigate-armed) warship, the wardroom is small.

Her skipper and XO are both CDRs, while OPS is an LCDR. Ten O2/O3s flesh out the rest of the departments (NAV, CSO, 1stLT, EMO, Weaps, Ordnance, Chief Engr, Main Prop Aux, Aux, Electrical). There are 25 Chiefs including an HMC who serves as the ship’s independent duty corpsman. The rest of the crew is made up of just 33 ratings and strikers. This totals 71 souls, although it should be noted that some of those were from other LCS crews. Notably, Crew 214 recently commissioned a previous Independence-class LCS only months ago.

Of interest, her first watch was just four-strong (including two minemen) with just two watchstanders on the bridge.

A few other things that struck me was the size of the payload bay on the trimaran– the ship has a 104-foot beam, more than twice that of the FFG7s!– which was downright cavernous for a ship that could float in 15 feet of brownish water. This translates into a helicopter deck “roof” that is the largest of any U.S. surface warship barring the Gator Navy and, of course, carriers.

One thing is for sure, you can pack a lot of expeditionary gear and modules in here.

She also has a lot of speed on tap, packing 83,410 hp through a pair of (Cincinnati-made) GE LM2500 turbines and two MTU Friedrichshafen 8000 diesels pushing four Wartsila waterjets. She is rated capable of “over 40 knots” although Foggo noted with a wink she could likely best that.

She has a 3200kW electrical plant including four generators and an MTU 396 TE 54 V8 prime mover.

Sadly, she doesn’t have a lot of firepower, limited to topside .50 cals, her Mk-110 57mm Bofors and C-RAM launcher.

She is expected to be optimized for mine countermeasures with the MH-60-based ALMDS and AMNS systems along with an Unmanned Influence Sweeping System (UISS) and AN/AQS-20A mine detection system. She has a missile deck for the new Mk87 NSM system, although the weapon itself is not currently installed.

Still, should she be headed into harm’s way, I’d prefer to see more air defense/anti-missile capabilities installed, but what do I know.

USS Cincinnati will join her nine sister ships already homeported in San Diego: USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), USS Montgomery (LCS 8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10), USS Omaha (LCS 12), USS Manchester (LCS 14), USS Tulsa (LCS 16) and USS Charleston (LCS 18).

Built just at Austal’s Alabama shipyard, an hour away from where she was commissioned, five sisters are currently under construction in Mobile. Kansas City (LCS 22) is preparing for sea trials. Assembly is underway on Oakland (LCS 24) and Mobile (LCS 26) while modules are under production for Savannah (LCS 28) and Canberra (LCS 30), with four more under contract through to LCS 38.

Retiring the Colours

“The Royal Fusiliers marching through the City of London in 1916” At the time, the Regimental Colour carried honours for “Namur, 1695,” “Martinique, 1809,” “Talavera,” “Busaco,” “Albuhera,” “Badajoz,” “Salamanca,” “Vittoria,” “Pyrenees,” “Orthes,” “Toulouse,” “Peninsula,” “Alma,” “Inkerman,” “Sevastopol,” “Kandahar, 1880,” “Afghanistan, 1879-80,” “Relief of Ladysmith,” “South Africa, 1899-1902.” Plate by Ernest Eggersun, via Regimental Nicknames and Traditions of the British Army 5th ed. London Gale & Polden. 1916

Today’s Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is a fairly new unit, only formed in 1968. However, it was amalgamated from at least four previous regiments (20th Foot/The Lancashire Fusiliers, 5th Foot/Northumberland Fusiliers, 7th Foot/The Royal Fusiliers/City of London Regiment, and 6th Foot/Royal Warwickshire Regiment) which dated back to as far as 1674.

The current colours Royal Regiment Of Fusiliers carry more than 40 honors from past campaigns, presented to the units in the Regiment’s lineage. (All photos: British Army)

Recently, the long-retired colours of the 2nd Battalion (carried in the Second Anglo-Afghan War 1880) and later 10th Battalion of the old Royal Fusiliers, having deteriorated to a point where dignified preservation was apparently no longer an option, were honorably burned and buried in the Royal Fusiliers Garden of Remembrance.

Moving forward, 3 October will be known in the Regiment as “Afghanistan Day” honoring the chain from 1880 to today, when the modern unit has been active in the same region, although with a different mission.

“The vibrant colours of the current Standards and Colours laid on the high altar in the church with the Royal Fusilier Victoria Crosses contrast sharply with the burnt remains of the Colours buried today. In the moving ceremony, enacted for the first time by the Regiment of Fusiliers, there is time to reflect on the bravery and service of the officers and men who have served through the Regiment’s history. The final, formal burial of old Colours which have decayed over the decades is still a rare event in modern-day soldiering.” noted the Army on Thursday.

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