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Toyota Wars, the next chapter

In North Africa, self-styled “Field Marshal” Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, one of the key members of the coup against the Western-backed Senussi monarchy of King Idris that brought Gaddafi to power in 1969 and current head of the so-called Libyan National Army, is flexing his military muscle and moving troops towards Tripoli.

Propaganda footage of the column, from the LNA:

Haftar today, now a wily 76-year-old, is an old-school warlord with a curious past and is arguably the most powerful single individual in North Africa.

After graduating from the Benghazi Royal Military College and attending an advanced course at Frunze in Moscow, the young staff officer was Gaddafi’s favorite for his role in the “White Revolution” that brought the wacky dictator and his Amazons to the sit on Idris’s throne.

Haftar, with X, on the back of Gaddafi, back in the good ole days

By age 30, he was commanding the forces sent to help the Egyptians in the Sinai in 1973. By the late 1970s, he was Libya’s point man in the attempt to overrun French-allied Chad to the South.

However, as any historian of French colonial efforts since the 1600s will vouch, Paris does not cede influence without a bitter fight to the last colonial soldier and the nearly decade-long “Toyota War” that ensued– so named due to the fact that the Chadians were equipped with the easiest of 20th Century weapons: cheap commercial pickup trucks fitted with recoilless rifles and AAA guns.

Something like this:

Dig the FAMAS hanging out of the passenger’s seat

It was epic.

In the end, with the help of some French Mirages and a few advisers/mercs/spy types that didn’t mind getting their hands dirty, the Libyans got licked good and by 1987 were driven back across the border in a rout, leaving behind shiploads of really nice Warsaw Pact tanks, APCs and accouterment.

Libyan T-55 tanks stand abandoned in the desert after being captured by FANT (Forces Armees Nationales Chadiennes), the Chadian National Army, as troops reconquered the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region of Chad. The Chadian Army recaptured Faya-Largeau and Wadi Doum airport, where the retreating Libyan army abandoned many dead and a great deal of military equipment, most of it of Soviet manufacture. Libyan planes made a bombing raid on the same day in an attempt to destroy material which had fallen into Chadian hands. Between April 6 and April 10, 1987, Wadi Doum, Chad

Western intel loved it as it was a treasure trove of data ripe for the taking, as much of the equipment was “never used and only dropped once” unlike the often scorched and bloody battlefield debris often captured by the Israelis from the Egyptians and Syrians.

Among the detritus of war left behind in the deserts of Northern Chad in 1987 was Col. Haftar, captured along with his entire HQ staff and a battalion’s worth of his men.

Haftar 3rd from the right, marked “2” when he was captured in Chad in 1987. He is now the owner of the most heavily armed group of Toyotas in the world.

While they were eventually repatriated, he elected to stay in the West and joined a U.S. supported opposition group, commanding a CIA-funded “brigade” in exile for almost a decade. He later slipped back into Libya in 2011 and in the morass that has been the country’s revolution and civil war, has been making a move to grab as much of the instruments of power as possible, with his LNA in bed with everyone from the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates to Moscow and Langley. The current push (or is it putsch?) is just a continuation of the book he has been working out of for 50 years.

One thing is for sure from the video of his guys moving towards Tripoli– Haftar, the proverbial cat with nine lives, learned from the Toyota Wars in spades. Most of his battle convoy looks more at home in a Mad Max movie. Hey, if it works…

The main weapon seems to be 23mm ZPU-23-2 twin anti-aircraft guns, single 12.7mm Dshkas, or quad ZPU-4’s with KPV 14.5mm HMGs mounted on Toyota Land Cruiser 70-series and Hilux series trucks.

The GNA, the UN-backed government in Tripoli, are lauching their own “Volcano of Anger” counteroffensive against the LNA, and have a similar “witness me” style armada of war trucks to back them up.

A backgrounder on the current situation, from France 24, should you be curious.

The Army went Swiss to replace German

Swiss gun maker B&T had a very short Trident Arms-marked APC9K-SD model on hand at SHOT Show earlier this year that looked like a contender for the Army’s Sub Compact Weapon program, a move to buy up to 1,000 handy room brooms to replace aging HK MP5s used by personal security details.

This thing. Of note, everyone else that has written about B&T’s SCW entry is using pictures of a different gun, because they didn’t take this one. (Photo: Chris Eger)

It turns out to have been at the head of the pack, minus the integral suppressor.

More in my column at


Loching around and cherry picking

The sometimes beautiful tale of two hard-serving forward-deployed DDGs this week, waving the flag in far off ports.:

FASLANE, Scotland (March 31, 2019) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) departs Faslane, Scotland, to participate in exercise Joint Warrior 19-1. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fred Gray IV/Released)

Porter, named for War of 1812 hero Commodore David Porter, and his son, Civil War Adm. David Dixon Porter, was built at Pascagoula and commissioned 20 March 1999. As such, the Flight II Burke doesn’t look bad for 20 years considering she has mixed it up with the Russians in the Black Sea, fired Tomahawks into Syria and survived a collision in 2012 with an oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. She is one of four DDGs assigned to Rota as part of the 6th Fleet.

Located on Gare Loch, Faslane is home to HM Naval Base, Clyde, home to the RN’s Trident fleet as well as the bulk of the country’s subs and minehunters.

YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 4, 2019) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) is moored at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyler R. Fraser/Released)

YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 4, 2019) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) is moored at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyler R. Fraser/Released)

Stethem, named for SW2 Robert Stethem, the Seabee diver killed by terrorists onboard TWA 847 in 1985, was also built an Ingalls while I worked there (and may or may not have my initials welded in her inner bottom somewhere). This early Flight I Burke commissioned 21 October 1995 and has seen lots of deployments in her 24-years of service. She is homeported in Japan, where the cherry blossoms (Sakura) are breathtaking this time of year.

As a side note, the best Asian John Denver impersonator I ever saw was in Yokosuka.

Kitchener would still not be amused

When the British Army unveiled its new recruiting campaign to flesh out the flagging ranks of non-Gurka units (whose own recruits have grueling doko run to weed out the masses applying for the annual intake), I, like many, scoffed. I mean, what’s not to joke about right?

Well, it turns out that the Snow Flake push has paid dividends. Reports contend that applications for the Army are at a five-year high and the ad campaign led to a 78% rise in website visits.

And with that, the latest ad for the Forces, which still goes tech/platform heavy and stirs the blood.

In much the same vein of making the military somewhat more appealing to the current generation, the U.S. Army National Guard has ditched their traditional Minute Man logo:

For a more “Big Army” branding that is less threatening to schools which have a zero tolerance policy towards gun imagery.


Plus, studies showed that few kids knew what the Minute Man was…sigh.

This is sad because the familiar National Guard Seal and Emblem, of course, has long featured a likeness of the famous Concord Minute Man statue in Concord, Massachusetts. The statue, first unveiled in 1875 by sculptor Daniel Chester French, symbolizes the local militia that stood to in an effort to halt the British Army’s 1775 seizure of arms and powder that sparked the Revolutionary War. The man, a farmer rather than a soldier, is holding a flintlock in his right hand while his left hand is still resting on a plow.

The National Guard further holds that its history predates the country, stemming from the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Militia which was founded in 1636.

The First Muster By Don Troiani National Guard traces the traditional foundation to the East Regiment in Salem, the regiment formed as part of three organized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636-37

The First Muster By Don Troiani traces the traditional foundation to the East Regiment in Salem, the regiment formed as part of three organized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636.

Happy Birthday San Marco!

Although today’s Italian marines trace their unofficial lineage back to the 16th century Fanti da Mar of the old Republic of Venice, the modern unit that houses them has a history somewhat newer. Formed from the old Great War-era Naval Brigade which saw much service along the Piave River, the Battaglione San Marco was established at the Piazza San Marco in Venice– to keep the tradition alive– on 17 March 1919.

Interestingly, the motto of the regiment, “Per mare, per terram” (By sea, by land), is the same as the British Royal Marines.

The San Marcos before the San Marcos. The Battle of the Piave River, June 1918 Group of Italian Marines at the entrance to their dugout, Piave Front. IWM Q19087

Now a 1,500-man brigade, the San Marcos conducted amphibious landings in Yugoslavia in 1941, trained to storm Malta (Operazione C.3) then went on to fight at Tobruk and Tunisia as one of the best Italian combat units of WWII. Post-war, they were reformed and went on to serve on UN duty in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Last week saw a celebration of their 100th anniversary, held, like the first, in the Piazza San Marco.

The original grey uniforms and Carcano 91s.

Of course, has been replaced today with camo and Beretta ARX 160s


Nice to see a Gator laying some steel down

With small fast attack craft easier than ever to produce in swarms on the cheap in both manned and unmanned versions, it is nice to see the Gator Navy at least practicing on these as targets.

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 21, 2019) A fast inshore attack craft is damaged after being fired on by the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a live-fire gunnery exercise in the Pacific Ocean, March 21, 2019. Sailors and Marines of the USS Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) train together at sea to increase the tactical proficiency, lethality, and interoperability in an Era of Great Power Competition. USS Boxer is underway conducting routine operations as a part of USS Boxer (ARG) in the eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker)

Of course, today its all just 25mm and 30mm guns as well as some .50s, but back in the old days ‘Phibs bristled with a mix of 3″ and 40mm cannon as well as a smattering of 5-inchers.

Church services for men of the Third Division, on the forecastle of USS LST-4, one day out while en route to the Southern France “Dragoon” landings, 13 August 1944. Photographed by Smith. Note 20mm and 40mm guns, with limiting rails around them to prevent firing into the ship’s structure. Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: SC 192719

Torch Landings, November 1942: “Navy gun crews man their weapons, on the after deckhouse of a transport en route to Morocco, 26 October 1942. Note other ships of the invasion convoy in the background. Guns seen include 3 inch/50 dual-purpose, 20mm A.A. machine gun, .30cal Lewis Machine Gun, and A 5 inches/51 Low Angle Gun.” Description: Catalog #: SC 162349

Speaking of which, the original first few vessels of the Tarawa-class LHAs– of which Boxer is a later Wasp-class LHD outgrowth off– toted a pair of 5-inch Mk45s forward for just such occasions as well as some NGF support ashore. Not well liked, they were removed to get a little more deck space.

USS SAIPAN (LHA-2) note 5-inch guns forward. Now that will scratch the paint job of an incoming FAC at distance…

Maybe its time to bring a few (bigger) guns back to the Gator Navy?

Salty Mineman says to the Master Chief…

And the kicker: everyone warned him beforehand…

Gold stripes are overrated, anyway. Oh, wait…


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