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The next generation of choppers are well on the way

With the U.S. entering their 8th decade with operational helicopters, there is a lot of interesting work currently afoot in that arena for the 9th.

Sikorsky and Boeing have teamed up to replace the UH-60 Blackhawk in the Army’s service with the SB1 Defiant, a “rotorcraft” that gives V-22-like performance without the tilting wing.

NASA is ready to beat the thin air of Mars into submission with a cube-shaped whirlybird

Ramrod to get a well deserved MoH

Born in 1975, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia loved show tunes and theatre before he found himself on his 29th birthday leading the “Ramrods” of Coy A, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment as the Big Red One made its way through Fallujah. You see, he was in charge as his sergeant major, company commander and executive officer had all been cut down by enemy fire.

Charging into a tough what could politely be called a persistent strong point in the form of a multi-story house during the city fighting that took place there, he started off with an M249 and ended fighting room-to-room with guys jumping out of closets and getting super CQB on him at bad breath distances. In the end, he ended up falling back on a Gerber Gator to get out of there.

“I have had better birthdays, for sure,” Bellavia later said.

I read his book, House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, then saw him speak at the Pritzker back in like 2009 and found his experience and the way he told it haunting.

The recipient of the Silver Star, SSG Bellavia, now 43, is set to the Iraq War’s first (living) Medal of Honor recipient.

The Everlasting P38

Here we see a Portuguese Corpo de Fuzileiros Marine on UN duty in the Central African Republic.

Of note, his rifle is the 7.62 mm Espingarda m/961, essentially an updated HK G3 and in the holster is the m/961 9mm pistol, which is a Walther P38.

The guns date back to Portugal’s brutal African brush wars in Angola, Guinea, and Mozambique during the 1960s and 70s.

As such, the P38 is one of few WWII-era combat handguns (besides the Hi-Power, 1911 and to a lesser extent the TT-33) that are still in regular use downrange some 75 years later.

More on the P-38’s longevity in my column at Guns.com.

D-Day at 75: An Epilogue

P-47 with invasion stripes knocked out Sherman M4 Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, France, 1944

As The Greatest Generation ages and increasingly drifts from the present and into memory with each passing day, their footprints on those hallowed beaches on Normandy are washed away. With that, I find tributes tying today’s active military units, to their historical forebearers very important, a sign that those heroic deeds will continue forward.

At Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, the U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed the almost vertical cliff face to take out (what they were told) was a battery of strategically placed 155mm guns which could control the entire beach.

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day M1 Garand BAR 80-G-45716

U.S. Army Rangers show off the ladders they used to storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of Omaha Beach landings on D-Day. NARA # 80-G-45716

Of the 225 men with the 2nd Rangers at the dawn of D-Day, just 90 were still standing on D+1 when they were relieved.

To salute the Pointe Du Hoc Rangers, active duty Rangers of 2nd Battalion, 75th Rangers, some in period dress, reenacted the climb yesterday.

The 101st Airborne and 1st Infantry, meanwhile, had their own representatives on hand to walk in the footsteps of their predecessors that landed on the Cotentin (Cherbourg) Peninsula and on Omaha Beach.

Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa (CNE-A), dedicated a Lone Sailor statue on the seawall over Utah Beach, in honor of the bluejackets who cleared the beaches.

“The Frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the follow-on wave of Allied forces,” said Foggo. “The Lone Sailor statue is a reminder to honor and remember their bravery and to act as a link from the past to the present as we continue to protect the same values they fought to protect.”

“The Lone Sailor statue stands on a plaza at the Utah Beach Museum overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from where the U.S. invasion force appeared on that historic morning. Although people come and go from this statue, the Lone Sailor will continue to serve as a universal sign of respect towards all Sea Service personnel for generations to come.”

At the same time, down the beach, CNE-A Fleet Master Chief Derrick Walters and U.S. Navy SEALS assigned to Special Warfare Unit 2 re-enacted the D-Day mission that Navy Combat Demolition Unit Sailors conducted in the cover of darkness to clear the beaches for the main invading force on Utah Beach, to include blowing up a recreated Czech Hedgehog beach obstacle with a bit of C4, as one does.

Meanwhile, the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CV-69), read Ike’s famous D-Day Message

Make no mistake, a few precious Veterans of that Longest Day were able to be on hand in Normandy this week, such as 97-year-old 101st Airborne trooper Tom Price who came in just how he did back in 1944– jumping from a C-47.

As men like Mr. Price rejoin their units in the halls of Valhalla, memory is everything. It echos through eternity.

Army tries out new Airborne Vehicle

With the looming 75th anniversary this week of the more than 22,000 Allied paratroopers and glider-borne light infantry dropping behind German lines in Normandy on the eve of D-Day, I thought this was relevant. During Exercise Immediate Response 19, the 173rd Airborne Brigade got to test out it’s newest vehicle addition, the Army Ground Mobility Vehicle (AGMV), in Europe of course.

This, obviously, opens us up to a look at the gear, weapons, and special equipment of the 82nd and 101st Airborne during Overlord, as presented by the Army’s Center for Military History.

Sending a lot of small UAVs to the WestPac

Saw the below pop up on the DoD’s contracts list. Apparently, there are lots of hungry hungry hippos looking to get ScanEagle UAVs in the Western Pacific. Good for watching that littoral on the cheap.

DOD:

Insitu Inc., Bingen, Washington, is awarded $47,930,791 for firm-fixed-price delivery order N0001919F2602 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-17-G-0001) for 34 ScanEagle unmanned air vehicles for the governments of Malaysia (12); Indonesia (8); Philippines (8); and Vietnam (6). In addition, this order provides for spare payloads, spare and repair parts, support equipment, tools, training, technical services, and field service representatives. Work will be performed in Bingen, Washington (77 percent); and multiple shore and at sea locations in Malaysia (9 percent); Philippines (5 percent); Vietnam (5 percent); and Indonesia (4 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2022. Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $47,930,791 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the fiscal year. This order combines purchases for the governments of Malaysia ($19,329,334; 40 percent); Philippines ($9,633,665; 20 percent); Vietnam ($9,770,120; 20 percent); and Indonesia ($9,197,672; 20 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales program. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.

Of note, ScanEagles have been deployed from vessels as small as 65-feet oal, making even patrol craft capable of operating these interesting little UAVs as they can launch from a small catapult and be captured in-flight to be recovered in very little deck space.

In short, ScanEagle is essentially the WWII floatplane of the 2020s.

The Vought OS2U Kingfisher that appears here on the USS Missouri (BB-63) shakedown cruise was taken after an abandon ship drill in August 1944. (Click to embiggen)

The naval formations of the future will likely look nothing like they do today

I just watched this really informative and thought-provoking 1~hour long lecture from Capt. Jeff Kline, USN (Ret.), professor of practice, operations research, at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif.

Then I watched it again.

The subject: Naval Warfare in the Robotics Age.

Check it out

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