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Speaking of 1960s technology…

The MiG-25 Foxbat dazzled NATO when it was first spied in 1964. Theoretically capable of Mach 3 and reaching altitudes as high as 115,000 ft., the giant interceptor sent a chill through the West, especially when it was feared it was a strike aircraft.

Then, in September 1976, when Soviet Red Air Force Lt. Viktor Belenko famously defected with his late-model Foxbat-P and U.S. analysts got a first-hand look at the beast, they saw it was terribly flawed. Constructed of stainless steel due to its size and weight, its engines were fragile and could be easily damaged, especially at high speeds. The electronics left a lot to be desired. Lacking a look-down-shoot-down radar, it was limited in combat.

To fix some of the MiG-25’s shortcomings, the Soviets developed what was termed the “Super Foxbat” in the late 1970s. The airframe was crafted from a blend of composite nickel steel, various alloys, and titanium. Featuring a longer fuselage to accommodate a more advanced PESA-style radar able to track 24 airborne targets even among ground clutter and an RIO to take advantage of it, the MiG-31 Foxhound was born.

Although out of production since 1994, the Russians have about 100 updated MiG-31BM models, complete with glass cockpits, HOTAS controls, the late gen Zaslon (Flash Dance) phased array radar, and other good stuff. Still, the 26-ton monster looks like a Cold War pterodactyl.

Check out this recently released video of the aircraft operating around Perm, notably the very region where Gary Powers was lost in 1960.

Happy Fall, guys!

Soviet frontoviks with a straw-camouflaged ZPU-4, a quad PM 1910 Maxim gun set up, getting ready for the Great Pumpkin.

Or maybe it was a Stuka they were looking for…

Nonetheless, Happy Fall!

Relic retrieval and historical interpretation

The below Vesti report popped up this week showing a Russian Ministry of Defense expedition in the Northern Kuriles recovering old Japanese anti-tank guns/light artillery via helicopter. They are fairly well preserved considering they have been in a windswept saltwater environment for 75+ years. Of note, they also found reportedly 700 UXO items and kaboom’d same.

The island in question is Iturup (Yetorup) or as the Japanese call it, Etorofu-tō, and was part of the Japanese Empire from 1855 to 1945 when the Soviets came in and switched flags. Although Tokyo today still refers to it as an occupied island, the Russian news report, with Moscow’s own spin, says it was liberated by the Patriotic Red Army during WWII.

Iturup is perhaps best known in military history as the staging point for the six-carrier Japanese striking force (Kidô Butai) headed to Pearl Harbor in late November 1941.

IJN Zuikaku cruising from Hitokappu Bay, Iturup, in November 1941. The carrier Kaga and Akagi is seen in the background

The ballistic properties of the Red Army winter coat

As it’s 100 degrees outside, this seems logical to review now.

Popular legend has it that the submachine guns of WWII had trouble penetrating the Soviet Red Army’s padded winter coats. The coats, called “telogreika” (body warmer) were first fielded during the war to help keep Stalin’s frontoviks cozy amid the frosty Russian winter while they repelled the “fascist invaders” in what the country continues to call “The Great Patriotic War.”

Hero of the Soviet Union Semyon Agafonov – intelligence officer of the 181st reconnaissance detachment of the Red Army. Note his Mosin Sniper with PE scope and padded telogreika uniform

The myth is that German MP38/40 SMGs, firing puny 9mm parabellum, were no match for the awesome Ivan thus swaddled in his quilted telogreika or two. The legend further swelled with tales of Chinese volunteers fighting in the Korean war, clad in cloned jackets, overcoming .30-caliber M1/M2 Carbines through the magic of layered cotton and wool. A more modern version of this involves Carhartt jackets and the NYPD’s 9mm handguns.

To debunk this, Kalashnikov Concern’s in-house historian, Vladimir Onokoy, coats (get it?) a dummy in not one but two telogreikas then riddles the construction with an MP40 that just happens to be around in the above video. The results tend to vindicate the burp guns.

As you have come this far, check out the below debunk of the whole NYPD thing as well.


Opening 35 years ago this week, the film Red Dawn brought World War III to a small American town.

Of course, as actual Warsaw Pact military gear was hard to come by in 1984 California, director and directed by noted Hollywood gun guy John Milius — legend has it that 1911-toting bowling purist Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski was partially based on him — had to improvise. This meant that semi-auto Egyptian Maadi ARMs and Finnish Valmet M78s were made up by Stembridge to look like Soviet AKMs (although the Reds at the time had been increasingly switching to the super-secret AK74) and RPKs. Likewise, even though you can buy MiG-29s and T72s for chump change today, they were hard to find during the Reagan years, which led to some very unusual vis-modded vehicles and aircraft.

Even the smocks worn by the faux Russki Guards Airborne troops were something unique to the movie. While at the time the VDV was heavily involved in Afghanistan and did indeed wear camo smocks (the one-piece KLMK), Milius and the gang only had access to grainy photos that left shading and color up to the imagination.

Example: Actual Soviet KZS “Sun Ray” pattern camouflage of the late 1970s and early 1980s, seen in two different lights.

And the late pattern KLMK over-suit, which is a little brighter.

Contrast this with the Red Dawn film camo:

Now that is some BRIGHT camo! And yes, that is a CZ 75 9mm, rather than a more correct Makarov PM


Of interest, Kaplan’s in South Africa used to make the Milius-pattern stuff in the 1990s.

Anyway, Wolverines!

Flotsam at the crossroads of the history

The city of Ostroh (Ostrog) in what is today Western Ukraine has flown many flags over the past 900 years. Just in the last century, it was part of the Tsarist Russian Empire, then Poland, then the Soviets in 1939, then German occupation during WWII, then the Soviets again in 1944, and finally, since 1991, an independent Ukraine.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that when a local house was torn down in the city, it disgorged some interesting contents.

Belted ammo, 7.62x54R on stripper clips, and what looks like a Mosin 91 that has been given an indigenous obrez or SBR treatment

Yes, that is a very obrezed Mosin

Some German occupation-era matches. The ammo at the bottom looks like either .30 Mauser pistol or Soviet 7.62x25mm Tok. 

Potato Masher: Everyone loves a bundle of Stielhandgranate 24s!

How about a gently used Steyr-Hahn 1912? Adopted by the KuK as the Repetierpistole M1912, Poland, Germany and others used these through the 1940s, which means this bad boy could have come from numerous sources

Another Mosin as well as what looks like an SVT barreled action

Some people get all the luck. The best thing I ever found left behind on a house demo was a coffee cup.

American Mosins in Russia

This view inside the boxcar quarters of troops of the American  Expeditionary Forces, North Russia, who are fighting the Reds along the line of the Vologda railway in early 1919, shows something interesting in the center– a Mosin-Nagant M91 complete with dog collar-style sling.

LOC: 111-SC-50646

Why is a Russian rifle in Russia interesting? Because the troops are of the 85th Infantry Division, likely of the 339th Infantry Regiment involved in the “Polar Bear Expedition,” and the Mosin shown was probably brought with them from the U.S.

Guard at the doorway of this warehouse of food supplies for the Allied troops campaigning south of Archangel in 1919 is an American of the 339th, note his distinctive M91, with its lengthy spike bayonet affixed. 111-SC-50607

Like the American Intervention forces that landed in Vladivostok in late 1918, the men of the 85th carried new U.S.-made Remington and Westinghouse Mosins with them from the States.

American sailors equipped with rifles and helmets in Vladivostok, Russia, 1918, largely citied to be from the old cruiser, USS Olympia. Note the third sailor from the right has the Mosin’s bayonet inverted for storage as no bayonet scabbards were issued, a typical Russian practice. 111-SC-50100

Tsar Nicky’s government, short on Mosins (and everything else needed for both war and peace) had ordered over 2 million M91s from the U.S. in 1915, although most were not delivered before the country dropped out of the war after the Bolsheviks came to power. The companies passed them on to Uncle Sam in 1918 on the cheap to recoup their losses and, other than the Russian vacation, the War Department continued to utilize them for training (Google= Cummings Dot Rifle) and ROTC use through the 1940s.

I recently had a chance to fool with a bunch of Mosins in the Vault, ranging from a nice 1922 Izzy to 91/30s, M38s, M44s, PU snipers, and 91/59s as well as the occasional Chinese Type 53.

More on that after the jump. 

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