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Military surplus of a different sort

News of an operable late-model 1989-vintage MiG-29 as well as a circa 1980 ex-Jordanian F-16A Block 20 for sale (they actually have three of the latter for $8.5M apiece) on the commercial market has sparked a lot of interest as of late. The fact is, there are already several of these in private collections around the world, to include the Château de Savigny-les-Beaune in France. A number of airworthy MiG-29s owned by U.S.-based foundations and companies are on FAA-approved maintenance programs. So no big deal really.

Besides those more modern fighters, if you are looking for more of a bargain you can opt to pick up a very nice circa 1959 ex-U.S. Navy McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II in flyable condition for just $3.95M

F4H-1F 145310 was delivered to the Navy in 1959…

…and was the 11th pre-production aircraft built

Still pinching pennies? How about a 1961 Douglas A4D-2N Skyhawk– all Inspections Current– for just $1.6M? One of several available!

Loaded for bear, or asymmetric warfare, either way

Nice loadout on this Zulu Cobra for littoral warfare in The Strait: M197 3-barreled 20mm gun (with 750 rounds likely loaded), a four-pack of Hellfire missiles for big boats, a seven-cell LAU-68C/A APKWS rocket pod for small boats, a drop tank for extra loiter, and a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders for the possible random IRIAF F-5 or F-4 that wants to get muscular.

Also, note the Marine LAV-25 on the lookout. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck/Released)

Official caption: “STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 12, 2019) An AH-1Z Viper helicopter attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off during a strait transit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.”

 

New Lightning Driver

The first female Marine F-35B pilot, Capt. Anneliese Satz, has passed out of Fightertown at MCAS Beaufort and is headed to the Fleet, bound for the “Green Knights” of VMFA-121 at MACS Iwakuni.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Ashley Phillips)

In related news, Marine F-35s of the WestPac forward-deployed Wasp Amphibious Ready Group recently logged the first hot reloading of live ordnance during flight operations at sea, the first employment of the 25mm GAU-22 cannon against a simulated target, and the first joint aviation fires against a simulated target during the evolutions. The evolution took place in the Solomon Sea, August 4, 2019.

This whole thing is looking more and more like Zumwalt’s 1970s Sea Control Ship program finally coming to fruition.

‘The ships that the Navy forgot’

Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Pioneer (MCM 9) observes a controlled mine detonation while conducting joint mine countermeasures exercise with the Royal Thai Navy during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand 2019. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Corbin Shea/Released)

Pro Publica had this take on the Navy’s current state of minesweeper deficit with the protracted LCS mine countermeasures systems still a long ways off and the Avenger-class ships getting the short end of the readiness dollar.

It’s actually pretty interesting.

The U.S. Navy officer was eager to talk.

He’d seen his ship, one of the Navy’s fleet of 11 minesweepers, sidelined by repairs and maintenance for more than 20 months. Once the ship, based in Japan, returned to action, its crew was only able to conduct its most essential training — how to identify and defuse underwater mines — for fewer than 10 days the entire next year. During those training missions, the officer said, the crew found it hard to trust the ship’s faulty navigation system: It ran on Windows 2000.

The officer, hoping that by speaking out he could provoke needed change, wound up delaying the scheduled interview. He apologized. His ship had broken down again.

“We are essentially the ships that the Navy forgot,” he said of the minesweepers.

More here. 

JFK milestone

The future aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy’s (CVN 79) recently had the final deck piece, the upper bow, installed at Newport News. It was the 447th and final super-lift section to be installed.

The 100,000-ton+ behemoth is the second in the Ford-class and is expected to take to the water later this year at launching. Commissioning is set for 2024, which hopefully is enough time to get the bugs worked out of the class.

West Pac metal pirates strike again

The illegal scrappers of the Malaccan Straits and Sea of Java, in the search for cheap “low background steel,” have notoriously broken many of the venerated shipwrecks of the 1942 naval clashes of the area to include desecrating the graves of the Royal Navy’s E-class destroyers, HMS Electra and HMS Encounter, along with the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter (of Graf Spee fame). The Royal Netherlands Navy’s cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java, and HNLMS Kortenaer were likewise plundered, with some wrecks reportedly disappearing completely.

American and Japanese ships have similarly been vandalized.

Many of these ships have simply vanished from the seafloor, to include the human remains resting inside their compartments for 70 years.

“We often found the bones,” an Indonesian ship breaker told The Guardian in 2018. “We worked here all the time, so we didn’t pay attention to them, whether there was bones or no bones, it made no difference to us.”

“There were plenty of human skeletons inside that ship. They gathered them, put them in a sack, and buried them here. I think there were four sacks,” another man told the Guardian. “Like the ones used to carry rice.”

Closer to Singapore, Malaysian junkers have hit the wrecks of HMS Repulse, HMS Prince of Wales (of Bismarck fame), as well as HMS Tien Kwang and HMS Kuala.

Add to this list, according to Dutch media, are the lost submarines HNLMS O 16 and HNLMS K XVII, along with the 79 men they carried.

At the start of the war in the Pacific, the Netherlands had at least 15 submarines based at Surabaya in the Dutch East Indies (O-16, O-19, O-20, K-VII, K-VIII, K-IX, K-X, K-XI, K-XII, K-XIII, K-XIV, K-XV, K-XVI, K-XVII, and K-XVIII.) While they fought hard against the Japanese and got a lot of licks in, O-16, O-20, K-XVI, and K-XVII were all lost early in the conflict while K-VII was later sunk in harbor by Japanese bombs, and K-X, K-XIII, and K-XVIII was scuttled at Surabaya to prevent their capture.

Many of these lost onderzeeboten are now gone in every sense of the word.

Dutch minelayer HNLMS Medusa and HMNLS K 17 in 1940-41 via Dutch Archives. (Mijnenlegger Hr. Ms. Medusa en de onderzeeboot Hr. Ms. K 17 c. 1940-1941)

Now more than ever, the expression “On a sailor’s grave, there are no roses blooming (Auf einem Seemannsgrab, da blühen keine Rosen)” remains valid.

Splash one drone in the SOH

Back in my slimmer days, I used to crawl around at Ingalls in Pascagoula as part of the long-running effort to put flesh against steel to produce warships. One of the hulls that I worked on during that period was USS Boxer, to include getting underway on her during builder’s trials. With that being said, LHD-4 carved herself an interesting footnote in the annals of modern asymmetric warfare last week.

The Pentagon reported Friday that she splashed an unidentified Iranian drone (labeled by multiple analysts as a Mohajer-4B Sadegh) in the Strait of Hormuz that came inside the ship’s defense bubble while a WSJ writer onboard reported an Iranian helicopter and small craft came almost as close. 

The ship, with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked, has had Marines positioned topside with their light vehicles arrayed on her flight deck so they could bear crew-served weapons on low-key targets if needed. It was apparently one of the lightest of these, a Polaris MRZR 4×4, that was used to pop the drone.

A what?

The little brown thing on Boxer’s deck in the below image.

190718-M-EC058-1558 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (July 18, 2019) A UH-1Y Venom helicopter assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a strait transit. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Swanbeck/Released)

Outfitted with a Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS) system, the go-cart-sized vehicle killed the Iranian UAV via aggressive freq interference.

An LMADIS operated by the 22nd MEU on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in May. The system was developed specifically to combat the weaponized commercial drone development. It is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors, optics to track and monitor targets at extensive ranges, and capabilities to physically disable a UAS on approach.

1st Lt. Taylor Barefoot, a low altitude air defense officer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, programs a counter-unmanned aircraft system on a Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS) during a pre-deployment training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 13, 2018. The LMADIS is a maneuverable, ground-based system, mounted to a Polaris MRZR that can detect, identify and defeat drones with an electronic attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

Of course, the Iranians, in their best Baghdad Bob Act, said they recovered their drone safe and sound and they have the video to prove it. 

The same day, CENTCOM announced the start of Operation Sentinel:

U.S. Central Command is developing a multinational maritime effort, Operation Sentinel, to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region.

The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman.

This maritime security framework will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance.

Meanwhile, off Venezuela

Maduro can’t afford much, but he can still flex some Flankers from time to time apparently.

U.S. Southern Command released a series of short (20 sec) videos of a Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker as it “aggressively shadowed” a U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II reportedly at an unsafe distance in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea July 19, jeopardizing the crew and aircraft.

“The EP-3 aircraft, flying a mission in approved international airspace, was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30 that took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas.”

And the beat goes on…

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