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Roll that beautiful RPK-16 footage

Designed to be the Russian military’s new light machine gun, the 5.45x39mm RPK (Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova)-16 sprouted from the Rostec state-owned Kalashnikov Group last year and is expected to be placed in service with the Rosgvardiya (think National Guard), internal affairs troops and Army to replace older RPKs.

It draws from the AK-12 program and comes in a few different barrel lengths while including a folding stock that, when swung shut, drops the overall length to just 25-inches. Weight without the detachable bipod and mag is 8.8-pounds.

No one throws a parade like the Russians

Putin has decided to celebrate the ailing (though re surging) Russia Navy in a terrific Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg this week.

As reported in the above by Vesti, about 50 warships and submarines, and 40 aircraft and helicopters of the Russian Baltic and Northern fleets navigated the raised bridges over the famous Neva River.

Notably, there were ships of the Chinese fleet (the guided-missile destroyer Hefei and frigate Yuncheng) which have just completed joint exercises with the Russians, in attendance. There are lots of close-ups of the fleet, but the aging Kirov-class battecruiser Pyotr Veliky and 48,000-ton Typhoon-class boomer Dmitry Donskoy (now age 35 years young) steal the show.

There is also a great example of a Russian “hurrah” if you have never heard one before, and the report concludes with a highlight reel from the fleet celebrations in Vladivostok, Astrakhan, Sevastopol, and others.

Russians find an old G-5

The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation announced they have discovered and identified torpedo boat AKA-76 in the Black Sea off Cape Panagia. The G-5 (Г-5) type boat was sunk 17 November 1943 by German aircraft during the Kerch-Eltigen landing operation, taking 10 personnel with her.

Not much left…

Designed in the late 1920s by famous aircraft designer AN Tupolev, the 61-foot duralumin vessels, powered by imported Italian Isotta-Frascini diesels (and later M-34 water-cooled piston aircraft gasoline engines– yikes!) were very light and could top 50+ knots at max speed on smooth water. Carrying a pair of 533mm rear-launched torpedoes and two 12.7mm Dshk guns for self-defense, they had a six man crew (with the fact that AKA-76 had 10 aboard being indicative that she was probably a control boat for the landings). They could float in just 32-inches of water when fully loaded and, at speed, pass through areas even more shallow.

Торпедный катер

Some were shipped to the Republicans in Spain as military aid in the Spanish Civil War, thought they proved ineffective.

Though 329 were completed, and at least 70 lost in WWII, these boats did not claim many anti-shipping victories other than a few smallish Romanian and German vessels in the Black Sea and some Finnish ones in the Baltic. A swarm of G5s  reportedly (Soviet legend) harassed the German cruisers Leipzig, Emden and the destroyers T-7, T-8 and T-11 enough that the Kriegsmarine abandoned an initial assault on the Estonian island of Saaremaa in 1941.

The G-5s did prove very good at helping demine coastal areas and harbors while infiltrating raiding parties and supplies behind enemy lines, as well as in racing close during landings and letting their Dshk guns do the heavy lifting alongside small-arms equipped crew.

No less than 28 Heroes of the Soviet Union, including Aleksey Afrikanov, earned their decorations in G-5s, with the aforementioned officer doing so with a group of torpedo boats that suppressed German artillery positions at close range in Tsemess Bay and Novorossiysk on the night of 10 September 1943, just before the start of the landing operation, thus ensuring a successful landing of troops from the sea.

During the Korean conflict, three DPRK-crewed G-5s attacked the cruisers USS Juneau (CL-119) and HMS Jamaica off Chumunjin on 2 July 1950, without much success. All three were splashed at long range.

More on the class (in Russki)

NATO drops Wolverines video

The above video is pretty interesting if you know the history of the guerrilla war in the Baltic states that was fought by as many as 50,000 Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans against the Red Army from the tail end of WWII through the early 1950s. It’s an unsung war, and the various “Forest Brothers” groups (whose members included several former German soldiers as well as Waffen SS members of the various Baltic legions, a facet often glossed over) that were backed in part by Western intelligence agencies.

The above video was put out this month by NATO, which, especially when combined with other similar videos about modern equivalent of stay-behind units, is probably meant to provide a moment of pause to the big bear on the Baltic states’ Eastern border.

And cue the Russian butt hurt, which is rich considering the little green men running around the Ukraine and Crimea, and the fact that they annexed the Baltics in 1939 by force.

End of the line for VEPR?

A classic Molot VEPR in .308 with the long 22-inch barrel and Counter Sniper Mil-Dot 4-16x44mm optic with illuminated reticle. Now more expensive than ever!

Back in January, I spoke at length with people over at Molot who were working hard on extending their exports of VEPR rifles and shotguns to the U.S. They were hopeful that the new Trump administration would be friendly to lifting some sanctions on Russian-based companies. Russian-made firearms were popular export items to the states until the conflict in the Ukraine and the resulting international backlash triggered a host of official embargos.

Per figures from the International Trade Commission, 204,788 firearms of all kinds were imported from Russia in 2013.

This figure plunged to just 9,556 in 2015 — mainly from Molot, the only large firearms maker not named in sanctions.

Well, it looks like that figure is going to be a lot lower in 2018…

Warship Wednesday, June 21, 2017: The Tsar’s everlasting musketeer

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, June 21, 2017: The Tsar’s everlasting musketeer

Here we see the Uragan/Bronenosets-class monitor Strelets as she appeared in the heyday of her career in the late 19th Century in the Baltic Fleet of the Tsar’s Imperial Russian Navy. A byproduct of a strange time in Russian-U.S. history, she somehow endures today.

The Misinterpreted Russian Navy Mission in the US Civil War that may have accidentally helped the North win the conflict.

In 1863, it looked as if the mighty British Empire may intervene in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. War fever had come to London early in the conflict after the “Trent Affair” while British firms such as Enfield and Whitworth sold tremendous amounts of arms of all kinds to Confederate agents which were in turn often smuggled through the U.S. naval quarantine via British blockade-runners. Confederate raiders including the notorious CSS Alabama and CSS Shenandoah were constructed in English harbors. British war tourist Colonel (later General Sir) Arthur Fremantle in 1863 had just returned from three months in both the U.S. and Confederate commands fighting the war and loudly pronounced that the Confederates would certainly be victorious.

Relations between the United States and Tsarist Russia were warmer than with many other European nations at the time. Cassius Marcellus Clay, a well-known abolitionist, was ambassador to the court of Tsar Alexander II during the conflict. It was Clay’s report on the Tsar’s Emancipation of 23 million serfs in 1861 that helped pave the way for Lincolns own Emancipation Proclamation of the four million slaves the next year. American engineers and railway organizers were helpful in starting the early Russian railway system. Clay openly encouraged a military alliance and  thought of Russia as a hedge between possible British intervention on the Confederate side.

On 24 September 1863, two separate Russian naval squadrons arrived in U.S. waters unannounced on both the East and West Coasts.

The Russian Atlantic fleet had sailed from the Baltic and arrived at New York under command of RADM Lesovskii with three large frigates and a trio of smaller vessels. The fleet included the new and fearsome 5,100-ton U.S.-built screw frigate Alexander Nevsky with her 51 60-pounder naval guns.

Crew of the Russian Frigate Osliaba – Alexandria, VA, 1863

The Russian Pacific fleet that arrived on the West Coast at San Francisco was under command of RADM Popov and consisted of four small gunboats with a pair of armed merchant cruisers.

The ships were saluted and allowed entry as being on a friendly port call. The American media and political machine immediately interpreted the reason for these naval visits as clear Russian support for Lincoln.

The real reason, however, seems to be something quite different.

Poland, largely occupied by Russia, was in open revolt in the summer of 1863. The crisis that followed included the possibility that Britain and or France would intervene on the side of the insurgent Poles. The Tsar, fearing his isolated Pacific and Atlantic naval squadrons would be seized or destroyed by superior British or French units in the event of war, sent them into neutral U.S. ports to seek refuge. This fact was held from the Americans and the fleets’ Russian officers simply stated that they were in American ports for “not unfriendly purposes.”

The respective admirals of the Russian squadrons had sealed orders to place themselves at the disposal of the U.S. government in the event of a joint British or French intervention on both Russia and the United States. In the event of Russia entering war with the Anglo-French forces alone then the Russian ships were to sortie against the commercial fleets of those vessels as best as they could and then seek internment.

Several historians claim that the British government saw this mysterious visit by the Russians in U.S. waters as an open confirmation of a secret military pact between the two future superpowers. This interpretation further helped deter foreign recognition of the Confederate cause and resulted in the extinguishing of the South’s flame of hope. It can also be claimed that it stalled British intervention in the Tsar’s problems in Poland with the thought that it could result in a U.S. invasion of Canada.

When the Polish crisis abated in April 1864, the Russian fleets were recalled quietly to their respective home waters. The dozen Tsarist warships had conducted port calls and training cruises in U.S. and neighboring waters for almost seven months during the war while managing to avoid the conflict altogether. In the late fall of 1863, with rumors of Confederate raiders lurking on the West Coast, Popov reassured to the governor of California that he and his fleet would indeed protect the coast of their de facto ally if the raiders did appear.

The U.S. Navy, on the cutting edge of ironclad steam warship design, passed along plans and expertise to their Russian colleagues who had no such vessels. By 1865, the Tsar had a fleet of 10 ultra-modern 200-foot long ironclad battleships based on the monitor USS Passaic. These ships, known to the Russians as the Uragan/Bronenosetz class were a match for any European navy of the time– at least in their home waters.

In 1867, Russian Ambassador Baron Stoeckel advised US Secretary Seward that the Russian government would entertain bids for the failing colony of Alaska, which was rapidly accepted. Cassius Clay, still in Russia, helped to conduct the negations from inside the Winter Palace. The Russians even rapidly transferred control of the territory, which was seen by many to be worthless nearly a year before Congress ratified the transfer and in effect, couldn’t give it back.

This odd incident of the Russian fleets’ visit may have prevented what would have certainly been one of the planet’s first and possibly oddest of world wars. The real reasons for the Russian interlude were only uncovered and publicized nearly 50 years later in 1915 by military historian Frank Golder.

But let’s get back to the monitors

These modified Passaic-type ships were low in the water, single turret “cheesebox on a raft” style armored ships that could be fearsome in coastal waters. Their wrought-iron armor, stacked in 1-inch plates, varied between a single plate on deck to 10 inches on the turret, which was filled with a pair of 9-inch smoothbore guns with 100 shells each. The steam-powered turret took 35 seconds to make a full rotation.

A pair of boilers vented through a single stack pushed a 460ihp engine to about 8-knots when wide open, though in actuality they rarely broke 6.

As they had a very low freeboard indeed (just 18 inches above the waterline when fully loaded) the ships were intended for the defense of the Gulf of Finland and St. Petersburg, with memories of the Anglo-French fleet ruling the Baltic during the Crimean War still a recent memory.

Ten vessels were built, all with colorful names: Uragan “Hurricane,” Tifon “Typhon,” Strelets “Sagittarius,” Edinorog “Unicorn,” Bronenosets “Armadillo,” Latnik “Cuirassier,” Koldun “Sorcerer,” Perun (the Slavic god of lightning and thunder), Veshchun “Snake Charmer,” and Lava.

The hero of our story, Strelets, while named for a zodiac symbol for Sagittarius, was the Tsarist terminology for the early corps of musketeers established in the 16th century and retained until Peter the Great decided they were getting too big for their collective britches after a series of palace coups by the Moscow-based units.

“Streltsy” . Sergei Ivanov 1909

Laid down at the Galernyi Island Shipyard, Saint Petersburg on 1 December 1863, just weeks after her plans had been obtained in the U.S., she was commissioned 15 June 1865, built at a cost of 1.1 million rubles alongside sister Edinorog. The pair were the last of the 10 completed.

Sistership Edinorog. Note how low the freeboard was.

Their eight remaining sisters were completed in a series of four other yards, with all joining the fleet by the summer of 1865.

Russian monitor Veshchun as completed. She was built from sections at the Cockerill yard in Seraing, Belgium. Courtesy J. Meister Collection, 1976. Catalog #: NH 84753

Russian monitor Lava as completed. She was built at the Nevsky factory. Courtesy J. Meister Collection, 1976. Catalog #: NH 84754

Monitors at Kronstadt. Watercolor by A. A. Tronya

By 1868, the 9-inch smoothbores were replaced by 15-inch Dahlgren-style guns built to U.S. plans at the Aleksandrovsk gun factory, for which just 50 shells could be carried in her magazine.

However, these guns were soon obsolete and were in turn replaced by Krupp-designed, Obukhov-made M1867 229/14 breechloaders. One of these guns was the subject of an explosion near the breech in 1876 that claimed the lives of five.

Diagram showing the location of sailors in the tower of the monitor Sagittarius at the time of the breakthrough of the powder gases on August 10, 1876

This led to another armament replacement in 1878 with 229/19 M1877 rifles augmented by a pair of 45-mm rapid-fire guns on an increasingly cluttered deck to which 5-barreled 37/17 Hotchkiss revolving cannon were also later added.

Rapidly obsolete in the twilight of the 19th Century, on 1 February 1892 Strelets and the rest of her class were deemed “coastal defense ships” and by 1900 all 10 sisters were withdrawn from service and disarmed.

While many were soon scrapped, Strelets was reclassified as a floating workshop at Kronstadt on 22 February 1901 and was retained by the fleet until Christmas Eve 1955.

As such, she witnessed the Baltic Fleet sail away to destruction in the Russo-Japanese War in (1904-05), supported operations against the Germans (1914-1917) in the Great War, witnessed the Red Fleet rise in the Revolution, withstood the British in the Russian Civil War, survived the storming of Kronstadt by the Reds in 1921, lent her shops to the Red Banner Fleet against the Finns (1939-40) then the Germans again (1941-45)– in all spending over 90 years on the rolls in one form or another.

After leaving naval service she was retained in a variety of roles in and around Leningrad/St. Petersburg and in 2015 was found in floating condition, her internals still showing off those classic Civil War lines.

She has since been recovered by a group terming itself “The Foundation for Historic Boats” who, together with the Russian Central Military History Museum, are attempting to restore her to a more monitor-like condition. She could very well be the oldest monitor remaining afloat.

At rest near the cruiser Aurora

For more information in that, click here.

Specs:


Displacement: 1,500–1,600 long tons (1,524–1,626 t)
Length: 201 ft. (61.3 m)
Beam: 46 ft. (14.0 m)
Draft: 10.16–10.84 ft. (3.1–3.3 m)
Installed power:
460hp 2-cylinder direct-acting steam engine, 1 shaft, 1 4-lop. screw
2 rectangular Morton boilers, 1 stack
Speed: 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph)
Range: 1,440 nmi (2,670 km; 1,660 mi) at 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) with 100 tons coal
Complement: 1865: 96 (8); 1877: 110 (10); 1900, assigned support personnel
Armament:
1865: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) smoothbore guns
1868: 2 × 15 in (381 mm) smoothbore Rodman guns
1873: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) rifled guns, 2x45mm guns
1890: 2 × 9 in (229 mm) rifled guns, 2x 47/40, 2x 5-barreled 37/17 Hotchkiss revolving cannon
1900: Disarmed
Armor: wrought Izhora iron
Hull: 5 in (127 mm)
Gun turret: 11 in (279 mm)
Funnel base: 6 in (152 mm)
Conning tower: 8 in (203 mm)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

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Ouch, tovarish! Russian bayonet fencing rifles

Going back a half century before the M1805 muskets that Napoleon’s legions faced at Borodino, Russians have been in love with the bayonet. The “white weapon” of elan given special deference in Russian military usage. No less a Russian General than the 18th century tactician Suvorov, even today considered a national hero, once noted “The bullet is a fool, the bayonet is a fine chap.”

The Mosin M91 series rifles were mounted with huge pigstickers, even in their later M44 and M59 folding variants.

Which brings us to this great image of a 1930s Mosin bayonet fencing rifle, used in training with a dull ad very springy light steel blade. The rifle is in the museum collection at Izhevsk.

It still looks like it could put your eye out…

Below is a page from the 1938 Red Army practice manual showing its use.

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