(Above, a Bundeswehr film posted this week of a Leopard 2A6 of 4./Panzerbataillon 104)
From National Interest:
Germany has begun the process of upgrading 103 [or 104] out-of-service Leopard 2A4 and 2A6 tanks to the latest model, the Leopard 2A7V—an upgrade that will cost the state the equivalent of 760 million euros ($833 million). The big news is that by revamping and deploying these new vehicles, the Bundeswehr is expanding its tank fleet by over 40 percent, from 225 to 320 main battle tanks.
As noted by Defense News, this is in addition to another 32 tank chassis frames that will be used for bridging and recovery vehicles. More on the MBTs:
All told, the Bundeswehr stands to get 104 used Leopard 2 battle tanks out of storage that manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann will upgrade under a contract with the German Defence Ministry from the A4 configuration to the newest A7V standard. The latest package includes improvements in the areas of information technology, armaments and armor.
Times have changed, as a May 8 statement from the acquisition arm of the German Defence Ministry noted.
“The geopolitical developments of the past years have emphasized to us the importance of tank technology for our defense capabilities,” officials wrote.
Of course, the increase is paltry compared to the Germans pre-1989.
Back in the 1980s, the West German Bundeswehr was a massive roadblock to the Warsaw Pact hordes coming through the Fulda Gap. Established on the 200th birthday of Scharnhorst on 12 November 1955, the force used largely Allied equipment and Nazi-era officers, but within a generation, both were replaced by some of the newest and most forward-thinking leaders and gear in the World. German Leopard tanks were (and Model 2A7s today still are) seen as perhaps the most deadly armored vehicle in Europe.
At the height of the Cold War, when fully mobilized, the Bundeswehr could count on nearly a million men under arms and some 4,000 Leopards to hold the gap.
Then came the great melting of the Berlin Wall, reunification with the East, and a general downsizing of the ‘Heer over the past 25 years. Now, the 60,000-strong German Army has but two active Panzerbrigades and 225 Leopards of all types backed up by an equal number of Puma and Boxer armored vehicles. The to 320, all things considered, is not something old Scharnhorst would boast too much about.
Specialists from the Russian Defence Ministry recently pulled a U.S. tank from the bottom of the Don River where has been since the summer of 1942.
The Russian Defense Ministry on April 29 announced the recovery of the tank, an M3 Stuart, along with a host of unexploded munitions. While the tank’s turret was missing, its hull was still filled with live 37mm shells for its M6 main gun and several intact M1919A4 light machine guns.
From the markings on the vehicle, it appears the tank was part of the Soviet Red Army’s famous 24th Tank Corps, which at the time was fighting the Germans near the town of Ostrogozhsk during World War II.
It is believed the tank went into the water during a withdrawal when a bridge was destroyed by the Germans.
While the Stuart, a 16 ton light tank, was outclassed by the Soviets’ own T-34 designs as well as most of the German tanks it would be pitted against, Stalin accepted no less than 1,676 M3s as part of Lend-Lease from the U.S. — though many were lost in German U-boat attacks on convoys at sea.
Some fought in the Stalingrad campaign and at least one, an improved M5A1 version, is at the Russian Tank Museum in Kubinka in restored condition.
Besides the Stuart, which will eventually go on public display, a ChTZ S-65 Stalinets tractor and the fighting compartment of a German Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) assault gun was recovered as well.
On this VE Day, remember those East of the Oder who gave their all as well.
Colonel Andrey Vasilievich Zheludov (1922-2010) saying goodbye to his past. His jacket contains the Order of Glory, Order of the Red Star, two Military Merit medals of and at least three wound metals among other chest candy. Regardless of the politics of Stalin and the war crimes of Berlin, the Katyn and others, the Red Army in the end still accounted for more Axis soldiers in the ground than those of the West.
Russian Imperial Guard Troops landing at Feodosiya, Crimea, on April 13, 1919.
Caption: Part of the 105 members of the “White Russian” Imperial Guard ashore at Feodosiya on the Crimean peninsula on April 13, 1919, having just disembarked from the British Destroyer HMS TOBAGO (G61), which can be seen in the right background.
The men mentioned above were likely former Guards officers and NCOs assigned to the Russian Expeditionary Force sent to France by the Tsar in 1916. After the Russian revolution kicked the country out of the war, some formed what was termed the Russian Legion and remained fighting on the side of the Allies until the Armistice, after which they were landed by the Allies in the Crimea, with most electing to serve the anti-Bolshevik White army.
As for Tobago, she was a 273-foot Thornycroft S-class destroyer newly commissioned just six months before the above photo was taken. She spent her entire active career supporting the Whites in the south of Russia, helping to evacuate refugees and support General Shkuro’s cossacks in the Caucus, among others. She was later damaged by a mine 12 November 1920 in the Black Sea and paid off on 15 December as a constructive total loss.
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, April 12, 2017: The Tsar’s German tin-can four-pack
Here we see a group of five German and Russian destroyers in the bay at Kaiochau (Jiaozhou), China, then part of the German colonial concession in late 1904. If the ships look similar– the German vessels are in gleaming white tropical scheme while the Russians are in a gray war coat– that is because all the above were recently produced by the firm of Schichau, Elbing, Germany, for the respective emperor-cousins. Why are the Russian ships in a German harbor? Well, that’s because they just made it there by the skin of their teeth after Battle of the Yellow, 10 Aug. 1904, running from the Japanese.
Why are the Russian ships in a German harbor? Well, that’s because they just made it there by the skin of their teeth after Battle of the Yellow, 10 Aug. 1904, running from the Japanese.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The Tsarist Imperial Navy of the 1900s was an amalgam force that included not only capital, second-line and support ships made in Russia, but also craft purchased from France, the U.S., Germany, Great Britain and Italy. Girding for war with everyone from the Ottoman Empire to Sweden to Japan, the Russian Admiralty liked to hedge their bets.
The nation’s first class of modern “tin cans” were a large group of 27 300-ton Sokol-class vessels built at Yarrow and at Russian yards with British assistance between 1895-1903. Capable of making better than 30-knots, they were armed with two 15-inch (381mm) torpedoes and one 75mm gun, as well as several smaller 3 pounders.
Then came an exploratory order for five Forel-class ships from France, the single Som-class ship from Laird in England, and four Kit-class destroyers from Germany in 1899, all of nominally the same size– 350-tons. Armed with a trio of 15-inch tubes with six (three plus three reloads) Whitehead torpedoes capable of a 900-yard range, they carried a single 75mm gun with 160 rounds and five rapid-fire Hotchkiss 3 pdrs with 1350 rounds.
Fueled by four coal-fired steam boilers, they could make 27-knots or better. The destroyers were given one 24-foot whaleboat, as well as one 17-foot, one 19-foot, and one 12.5-foot canvas boats. In all, the boats were probably not enough to cram the 67-man crew into all of them if need be, but at least a good size portion could land ashore at once. The hulls were 35mm wood plank frames covered with 3mm of steel.
Our four German-built ships: Kit (Whale), Skat (Skate), Kastatka (Killer Whale), and Delfin (Dolphin), were laid down in 1899 at Schichau and completed by the summer of 1900. The cost of construction of each destroyer averaged 472,000 rubles or 1,020,000 German marks.
Once complete, the four German-built units formed the First Detachment of the destroyers of the First Pacific Squadron under the overall command of Cdr. Kita Kevnarsky and sailed from Kronstadt in the Baltic on 12 October 1900 to Port Arthur– Russia’s new Pacific concession wrested away from China in 1895– arriving at the latter on 23 April 1901.
In 1902, they were renamed and their “fish” names later used for early Russian submarines. The Kit was called Bditelnyy (Vigilant), Delfin became Besstrashnyy (Fearless), Kastaka– Besshumnyy (Silent) and Skat – Besposhchadnyy (Merciless).
Then, after just a couple years of quiet peacetime service, came the Russian Pearl Harbor, when Japanese torpedo boats skirted into Port Arthur at night and made hay with the resting Tsarist battle line before an official declaration of war.
Our class leader, Kit/Bditelnyy, made patrols to sea and, due to ruptured boiler pipes after hitting a mine in October later was relegated to the role of a floating artillery battery, hitting out at Japanese land positions as they grew closer.
She was destroyed by her crew 20 December 1904 as the Japanese closed in and was later salvaged.
The other three ships of our class, as you probably figured out from the first image of this post, made it out of Port Arthur.
When the Japanese attacked the Port in February 1904, Delfin/Besstrashnyy reportedly landed a hit on the Japanese Yarrow-built destroyer Akatsuki but did not do her any great damage. Akatsuki later hit a Russian mine and was written off. After helping evacuate Russian troops along the coastline before the Japanese blockade was airtight, she slipped out with her two sisters and the rest of the capable fleet for the Battle of the Yellow Sea which saw Russian Admiral Wilhelm Vitgeft’s plan to break out for Vladivostok before that port was iced in foiled by Japanese Adm. Togo’s fleet.
Though inconclusive, both sides suffered a mauling (the Japanese battleship Mikasa was hit 20 times by large caliber shells while the Russian pre-dreadnought Peresvet had 39 hits) while the three German-made destroyers of Vitgeft’s were low on coal and forced to withdraw towards China rather than make for either Port Arthur or Vladivostok.
Making it to Kaiochau, they were disarmed and interned by the Chinese government on 15 August for the remainder of the conflict.
After the war, the three surviving destroyers were modernized in 1909 with larger 17.7-inch torpedo tubes and a second 75mm gun. To balance the increase in topside weight, the Hotchkiss 47mm battery was replaced by six lighter 7.62x54R Colt M1895 machine guns.
Serving together in the Siberian Flotilla based in Vladivostok, the interwar period between fighting the Japanese and scrapping with the Germans was quiet.
When the Great War erupted, the tin cans put to sea to fruitlessly scout for German ships until Vladivostok iced over and they continued their operations from the Chinese coast into the summer of 1915.
Once the threat of enemy raiders in the Pacific abated, two of the three destroyers– Delfin/Besstrashnyy and Kastaka/Besshumnyy— were ordered to sail for the Arctic Sea Flotilla at Murmansk in the Barents Sea in early 1917, arriving there that September.
There, they were in turn captured by the British when they seized the port after the Russian Revolution and remained part of the White forces in that region until early 1920 when the Reds recaptured the pair in poor condition. With parts for their Schichau-built plant hard to come by in 1920s Europe, the old girls were broken up in 1924-25.
Skat/Besposhchadnyy, unable to make the trip back to Europe, was captured by the Japanese Navy when they landed in Vladivostok in June 1918. Turned over to the Whites there, she was scuttled in 1922 so the Reds couldn’t use her further.
Between the four ships, they saw a lot of weird action in their 20~ year lifespan and some changed flags 3-4 times serving Tsar, White and Red governments with some allied intervention in between. But hey, that’s Russia for you.
1 – aft flagpole; 2 – 47-mm gun; 3 – stern bridge; 4 – “17-foot” mined vehicle, 5 – chimney, 6 – Francis system boat, 7 – galley, 8 – chopping (combat) felling, 9 – mast, 10 -75-mm gun, 11 – 12-steam boiler, 13-main machine, 14-officer rooms, 15-non-commissioned officer’s cabin, 16-aft cockpit of the crew, 17-propeller, 18-pen handle, 19-pit pit, 20-condenser, 21 – Officer’s cabins, 22 – Cabin-room, 23 – Cabin of the ship’s commander, 24 – Buffet, 25 – Wash basin, 26 – Anchor, 27-like hatch, 28 – Throat pit, 29 – Engine hatch, 30 – Skylight.
Displacement: 354 tons (full)
Length: 200-feet (61 m) (between perpendiculars)
Beam: 23-feet (7 m) (the largest for frames)
Draft: 5.9 ft. (1.8 m)
Engines 2 triple-expansion steam engines, 6,000 shp, 4 Shichau water-tube boilers
Speed: 27.4 knots full
Coal: 90t, 1500-mile range 10 kts.
1x75mm Canet gun
5x47mm (3 Pdr) Hotchkiss
3x trainable 381mm TT with six torpedoes
2x75mm Canet guns
3x trainable 450mm TT with no reloads
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During the 1939-40 Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union, a hunter and farmer by trade by the name of Simo Hayha returned to his reserve unit and picked up 542 confirmed kills with iron sights.
While versions of Hayha’s story is well known in the West, the 192 pages of Tapio Saarelainen’s White Sniper goes past the second and third-hand accounts and brings you, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
It should be noted that Saarelainen is a career military officer who spent two decades training precision marksmen for the Finnish Army and even helped write that Scandinavian country’s manual for snipers. Besides this obvious resume to prepare him to write the work on Hayha, the author also met and interviewed the Winter War hero dozens of times over a five year period.
That’s a good part of what makes White Sniper such an interesting read is that it is drawn largely from first-hand accounts from a man who has been referred to as the deadliest sniper in history, but also from those who lived next to, fought alongside with, and knew the man personally. As such, it sheds insight on the man not known in the West. Such as the fact that he used his own personal Finnish-made Mosin M/28-30 rifle that he had paid for with his own funds. That his outnumbered fellow Finns, fighting alongside him in the frozen Kollaa region during that harsh winter, called him “Taika-ampuja” which translates roughly as the “Magic Shooter.” That he took almost as many moose and foxes in his life as he did Russians. That he was unassuming in later life, spending most of his time calling on old friends in his yellow VW Bettle.
To check out Saarelainen’s book on Amazon here.