Category Archives: US Navy

America’s Hornet

How about this beautiful Full-Scale Development (FSD) YF-18A Hornet prototype #3 (BuNo 160777) grabbing some deck? I know the scheme isn’t practical, but it is striking.

Official caption: An F/A-18 Hornet aircraft touches down and prepares to tailhook the arresting wire on the aircraft carrier USS AMERICA (CV-66). The aircraft is undergoing sea trials, 11/1/1979

330-CFD-DN-ST-83-09015 Via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6372739

The first U.S. Navy YF-18A Hornet (BuNo 160775) had only been delivered from the McDonnell Douglas plant at St. Louis, Missouri in October 1978, making the trials aircraft shown above very early indeed. At this time, the Navy still fielded lots of Vietnam-era aircraft including the A-7, A-4, and F-4, which the Hornet was intended to phase out. Heck, there were still a few EA/KA-3B Skywarriors around as well.

As noted by Joe Baugher: 

A total of nine FSD F/A-18As were built. Carrier qualifications began with the third FSD aircraft (Bu No 160777) aboard the USS America (CV-66) on October 30, 1979. These tests went extremely well. Before the carrier qualifications got underway, the Navy had determined that it would no longer be necessary to have distinct attack and fighter versions of the Hornet. The aircraft was deemed sturdy and versatile enough to carry out both jobs, and plans for separate F-18s in fighter (VF) squadrons and A-18s in attack (VA) squadrons were abandoned. The Navy introduced a new type of unit, the strike fighter squadron (VFA) to carry out both fighter and attack missions.

Sadly, while 160775 is preserved at NAWS China Lake, 160777, much like USS America herself, is long gone. Incidentally, “Triple 7” traded in her blue livery for red tips sometime in the 1980s while at Patuxent.

Nonetheless, it will live on forever in vintage Monogram model kits!

 

Welcome back: Chesapeake, Silversides, Pittsburgh

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it, I think that traditional ship names for warships need to be recycled. That goes for any fleet, not just the U.S. Navy. While current SECNAV Kenneth J. Braithwaite no doubt is updating his Linkedin and Jobs.com accounts in preparation for the new administration, he at least chalked up some great ship names last week.

The future ships will bear the names and hull numbers:

USS Chesapeake (FFG 64), Constellation-class frigate.
USS Silversides (SSN 807), Virginia-class attack submarine.
USS Pittsburgh (LPD 31), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.
USNS Lenni Lenape (T-ATS 9), Navajo-class towing, salvage, and rescue ship.
USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), Puller-class Expeditionary Sea Base.

While Simanek, named for a Korean War Marine hero, and Lenape, named after the first tribe to sign a treaty with the United States in 1778, are new names to the Naval List, the other three vessels have been there numerous times. Chesapeake, going back to 1799, has appeared four times, Silversides twice (both to other subs) and Pittsburgh four times, going back to a Civil War ironclad.

As detailed by the Navy

The future Constellation-class frigate USS Chesapeake (FFG 64) will be named for one of the first six Navy frigates authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. The first USS Chesapeake served with honor against the Barbary Pirates in the early 1800s.

To honor the Silent Service, the future Virginia-class attack submarine USS Silversides (SSN 807) will carry the name of a WWII Gato-class submarine. The first Silversides (SS 236) completed 14 tours beneath the Pacific Ocean spanning the entire length of WWII. She inflicted heavy damage on enemy shipping, saved downed aviators, and even drew enemy fire to protect a fellow submarine. A second Silversides (SSN 679) was a Sturgeon-class submarine that served during the Cold War. This will be the third naval vessel to carry the name Silversides. The name comes from a small fish marked with a silvery stripe along each side of its body.

The future San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Pittsburgh (LPD 31) will be the fifth Navy vessel to bear the name. The first was an ironclad gunboat that served during the American Civil War. The second USS Pittsburgh (CA 4) was an armored cruiser that served during WWI, and a third USS Pittsburgh (CA 72) was a Baltimore-class cruiser that served during WWII – supporting the landing at Iwo Jima. The fourth USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720) was a Los Angeles-class submarine that served the Navy from December 1984 to August 2019.

I only wish that Pittsburgh could have been used on a combatant, but at least it falls in line with the naming convention of the current crop (and previous Austin– and Raleigh classes) of LPDs, which are all named after well-known large cities.

Hopefully, the new SECNAV will keep the theme going and not revert to the sins of Mr. Mabus, who was infamous for naming ships after non-serving politicans and labor/LGBT leaders.

Main Battery, Away

Check out this series of great images from LIFE photographer Bill Ray in 1964, chronicling Douglas A-1J Skyraiders from Attack Squadron 196 (VA-196) “Main Battery” aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) gearing up for a strike in Vietnam.

VA-196 was part of Carrier Air Wing 19 (CVW-19), tail code NM, aboard the “Bonnie Dick” for the carrier’s West Pac deployment to Vietnam from 28 January to 21 November 1964.

Commissioned in late 1944, Bonnie Dick was the first ship in the modern Navy to commemorate the name of John Paul Jones’ famous Revolutionary War frigate– and she got in enough licks in during WWII to earn one battlestar.

Her WWII cruise

She was much more active in Korea, carrying the F9F Panthers and AD-4 Skyraiders of first Carrier Air Group 102 (CVG-102) then CVG-7.

Stretched and given the SCB-125 overhaul in the mid-1950s, BHR was in the thick of the air war off Vietnam from 1964 onward.

USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) with her crew spelling out Hello San Diego, while en route to San Diego on 9 February 1963. She returned to San Diego, her home port, on 11 February, following a Western Pacific cruise that had begun seven months earlier, on 12 July 1962. Aircraft on her flight deck include three E-1, 11 F-8, six F-3, 13 A-4, and nine A-1 types. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 97343

Completing her sixth and last deployment to Yankee Station on 12 November 1970 (again with CVW-5), she was decommissioned the next year and, after spending 21 years on red lead row as a source for potential spare parts for the similarly laid-up but slightly younger USS Oriskany (which the Navy saw as a mobilization asset through the Reagan years), she was scrapped in 1992.

As for CVW19, it was disestablished in 1977, having conducted nine Vietnam tours from the decks of Essex-class flattops (BHR, Oriskany, Ticonderoga).

The end of VA-196 came on 21 March 1997, after more than 48 years of service, with the squadron switching to A-6 Intruders in 1966, an aircraft they put to good use not only over Indochina but also in the Persian Gulf, but that is another story. 

38 Special Standing By: Mine No More

Below we see the watercolor entitled “Mine No More” by Chip Beck, showing, “An Iraqi mine is blown in place by U.S. Navy EOD divers from USS Missouri as USS Curtis [sic] hovers in the background in the northern Arabian Gulf.”

NHHC Accession #: 91-159-D

The painting is based on a real photograph and depicts the long-hull Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Curts (FFG-38) hard at work in the Persian Gulf some 30 years ago today.

14 January 1991: The Persian Gulf – An Iraqi mine is detonated by an explosives ordnance disposal team near Curts during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Navy photo DVID #DN-SN-91-09317 by PH3 Brad Dillon)

During Desert Storm, Curts was very busy, supporting a mix of Navy and Army helicopters to capture the 51-man Iraqi garrison on occupied Qaruh Island, Kuwait. While the speck of land, just 275 meters long by 175 meters wide, is tiny, Qaruh was symbolically important as it was the first section of Kuwaiti liberated in Desert Storm on 21 January.

Curts also reportedly destroyed two mines, sank an Iraqi minelayer, and provided further support to combat helicopter operations during the Battle of Bubiyan Island.

Part of the Missouri Battleship Group, Curts, used her sonar to gingerly lead USS Missouri (BB-63) northward to get within striking range of Iraqi strongpoints ashore. Missouri gun crews then sent 2,700-pound shells crashing into an Iraqi command and control bunker near the Saudi border. It marked the first time the battlewagon’s 16-inch guns had been fired in combat since March 1953 off Korea. Missouri‘s gun crews returned to action 5 February, silencing an Iraqi artillery battery with another 10 rounds. Over a three-day period, Missouri bombarded Iraqi strongholds with 112 16-inch shells.

For her part, Curts received the Navy Unit Commendation for her exceptional operational performance, as well as the Admiral Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy.

Decommissioned in 2013 after three decades of hard service, “38 Special” was slated for possible transfer to Mexico but has since been placed on the list of target ships. Laid up at Pearl Harbor, she will likely be expended in an upcoming RIMPAC Sinkex.

Anti-Ship Missiles for more than just the surface combat Navy

EXOCET MOBILE COASTAL battery uses four vehicles: a TOC, sensor unit, and two four-missile firing units, to put 8 AShMs on shore. It requires just 16 men. A similar concept could be used for the Naval Strike Missile or others. 

One of the facets of the current reboot of the Marines is that they are hanging up all of their armored (tank) battalions and a lot of their (tube) artillery batteries to field small and highly mobile expeditionary warfare missile batteries that would subtly appear on, say a forgotten backwater atoll, and control the sea around it for 100 miles or more in every direction. The nascent Marine Littoral Regiments are still being fleshed out, with an experimental unit formed in Hawaii last year. Nonetheless, LBASMs, or Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles, are on the menu.

Moving forward with the concept of more (anti-ship) missiles in more places, Big Blue is also weighing putting containerized Naval Strike Missiles on otherwise lightly armed ‘phibs of the “Gator Navy.”

“We have these magnificent 600-foot-long, highly survivable, highly LPD 17s,” said MGen Tracy W. King, director of expeditionary warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. “The LPDs need the ability to reach out and defend themselves and sink another ship. It’s not from the aspect of using them as a strike platform; it will drastically increase their survivability if the enemy has to honor that threat. My intent is to ensure that my desire to increase the lethality of LPDs doesn’t interfere with [Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Paul] Schlise’s efforts to increase lethality on LCSs.”

Finally, there is the concept (thanks for the tip, Philip), recently covered in the USNI’s Blog by LT. Andrew W. Corwell, U.S. Coast Guard, of the puddle pirates adding some batteries of coastal defense cruise missiles to their mix.

Fielding CDCMs provides the Coast Guard with a one-two punch as the service pivots to counter near-peer threats. First, CDCMs would provide the Coast Guard with a credible deterrent to potentially adversarial naval forces. Strategically located near major ports on each coast, a battery of U.S. Coast Guard CDCM Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL) could defend against naval surface threats and be postured to respond to emergent homeland defense missions requiring more firepower than typically found aboard Cutters. Being road mobile would complicate adversarial targeting during a major conflict by enabling the CDCM batteries to operate from both prepared and field expedient positions along the coast while simultaneously providing the ability to surge additional missiles and launchers along anticipated threat vectors.

Second, the CDCMs would offer the Coast Guard an organic, rapidly deployable option to increase the lethality of cutters supporting combatant commanders. Designing the TELs to fit inside the hangers of Legend-class national security cutters (NSC), or the soon to be delivered Heritage-class offshore patrol cutters, integrate with the cutter’s fire-control systems, and fire from their flight deck would greatly increase the ability for cutters to contribute in a war-at-sea scenario, offset shortcomings in desired increases to U.S. fleet strength, and align with distributed lethality concepts.

And to tell you the truth, it all makes sense. The porcupine theory.

Warship Wednesday, Jan.13, 2021: Of Hurricat and Hoverfly

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Jan.13, 2021: Of Hurricat and Hoverfly

National Archives Photo 80-G-159942

Here we see a very early Sikorsky R-4 rotorcraft (BuNo 46445), a type designated the HNS-1 helicopter by the U.S. Navy and the Hoverfly I by the Royal Navy, comes in astern of the red duster-flying British Motor Vessel Daghestan during tests on Long Island Sound in early January 1944. The pilot is LCDR Frank A. Erickson, Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot No. 1, while his passenger in the two-man craft is Army Brig. Gen. Frank Lowe, the latter of whom was on special duty with the U.S. Senate’s Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program.

Sure, Daghestan is a merchie, but she truly deserves her place in a Warship Wednesday as you shall see.

Wartime construction built for the Hindustan Steam Shipping Co. Ltd, of Newcastle to replace a lost ship of the same name, MV Daghestan was a 7,200-ton Santa Rosa SR-3 type grainer with four holds. Laid down at William Doxford & Sons Ltd., Pallion, as Yard No. 674, she was completed in August 1941. As a British cargo ship plying the North Atlantic during the “Happy Times” of Donitz’s U-boat wolf packs, her life expectancy outlook was mixed at best, and she was soon on regular convoy runs.

Freighter SS Daghestan going south 13 January 1942 out of Halifax. She has a pair of 3-inch guns on her stern and carried smaller portable Lewis guns for AAA work. It is hard to tell, but she also should have a catapult over her bow. H.B. Jefferson Nova Scotia Archives 1992-304 / 43.1.4 11

Soon after she was completed, Daghestan was one of eight privately-owned British merchies that, along with 27 Ministry of War Transport-owned ships, were selected for use in the Catapult Armed Merchantman program. The CAM ships were a desperate effort by the Brits to counter long-ranging German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor patrol bombers of Fliegerführer Atlantik who were prowling the sea lanes between Canada and Ireland, bird-dogging convoys who had no air cover.

Carrying a low-UHF band sea search radar and a 2,000-pound bomb load, the Condor could remain aloft for 14 hours, ranging some 2,200 miles from bases in occupied France, haunting not only the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel but pushing out to the Irish Sea and North Atlantic proper as well.

Egbert Friedl Scalemates box art

The ungainly Condors proved extremely effective in both cueing U-boats and plinking freighters on their own, reportedly taking credit for some 365,000 tons of Allied shipping between June 1940 and February 1941 via low-altitude bomb drops on slow-moving targets.

Winston Churchill described the Condor as the “Scourge of the Atlantic” and penned a March 1941 memo to the MOD saying:

  1. We must take the offensive against the U-boat and the Fokke Wulf wherever we can and whenever we can. The U-boat at sea must be hunted, the U-boat in the building yard or in dock must be bombed. The Fokke Wulf, and other bombers employed against our shipping, must be attacked in the air and in their nests.
  2. Extreme priority will be given to fitting out ships to catapult, or otherwise launch, fighter aircraft against bombers attacking our shipping. Proposals should be made within a week.

As with the other CAM ships, Daghestan had a short 85-foot catapult fitted over her bow, just past her forward cargo hatch– these mini aircraft carriers were still expected to carry their full cargo load on escort missions. Her aircraft, mounted on the cat for a single-use launch, was a decrepit “Sea Hurricane Mk. IA,” an aircraft essentially on its last legs and otherwise unfit for further front-line service but still flyable enough to take on a slow and relatively lightly armed Condor in a one-on-one dogfight.

Sea Hurricane I Merchant Ship Fighting Unit aboard a Catapult Armed Merchant Gibraltar IWM CH6918

Sea Hurricane I aboard a CAM ship

Modified by General Aircraft Limited to be carried by CAM ships, these Sea Hurricanes, typically referred to as Hurricats or Catafighters, were given more than 80 modifications including an easily removable canopy (as the pilot likely had to ditch at sea), a 44-gallon overflow fuel tank to extend the plane’s range (which might make it able to reach shore) and an on-board rapidly deployable dinghy for logical reasons. About 50 such Hurricanes were converted, assigned to the RAF’s purpose-formed Merchant Ship Fighter Unit, and manned by volunteers.

To give the aircraft a little extra boost, they have a rocket-assisted take-off.

The catapult was angled to starboard over the bow, both to prevent the blast from its rockets smoking the superstructure, and to reduce the risk of the pilot being overtaken by the ship, should the Hurricat wind up ditching on launch.

One of the pilots assigned to Daghestan during her CAM service, Alec Lumsden, reportedly told his son that “his back was never the same” after being catapult certified.

Sea Hurricane Ia MSFU LUB A Lumsden V6802 MV Daghestan Atlantic Sep-Oct 1941

Between August 1941 and August 1942, Daghestan shipped out on at least seven Atlantic convoys as a CAM ship, often with similarly equipped vessels to help share the load.

While she did not have to launch her Hurricat, at least nine combat launches from other CAM ships took place during the conflict, resulting in nine downed German aircraft, thus proving the concept. When it came to the Hurricats themselves, eight of the nine launched ditched at sea, with seven pilots recovered alive. The ninth aircraft, on a Murmansk convoy, was close enough to Russia to make shore– after splashing two He 111s out of Norway.

Sea Hurricane I Merchant Ship Fighting Unit MS Empire Faith summer 1941-01

Regardless, with the increased use of escort carriers, the CAM project was phased out by 1943, leaving Daghestan and her fellow Hurricat-carrying partners to land their catapults and bid the RAF goodbye. She went on to pull at least another seven convoys with just her guns for protection by October 1943, but that doesn’t mean she was done with aviation.

Enter the whirlybird

Igor I. Sikorsky’s attempts to create a practical helicopter got a big boost from the Army in December 1940 when they gave him $50,000 for his XR-4 concept aircraft, itself a development of his earlier VS-300. The helicopter first flew on 14 January 1942, with Sikorsky chief test pilot Les Morris at the controls. The first production aircraft, 41-18874, was adopted by the Army in May 1942.

By 1943, more advanced versions of the R-4 were fielded, and the aircraft was theorized to be able to carry small bombs or casualty litters.

Soon, floats were fitted to make the eggbeater amphibious, leading to tests from the decks of the hastily converted freighter SS Bunker Hill and the troopship USS James Parker. From there, the Coast Guard and Navy ordered a trio of YR-4Bs while the Royal Navy signed on for seven. In the end, the Navy would up this to a full 20 aircraft, designating it the HNS-1 (Helicopter, Navy, Sikorsky, model 1) while the British Fleet Air Arm, in conjunction with the RAF, would eventually buy 45.

The first British ship to operate them was our humble Daghestan.

Coast Guard LCDR Frank A. Erickson, an unsung aviation pioneer, trained at Sikorsky Aircraft Company’s plant at Bridgeport then by November 1943 was aboard Daghestan, which was anchored in Long Island as a floating testbed for the YR-4 series. With her bow catapult long removed, she now carried a stern helicopter pad.

MV DAGHESTAN (British freighter) Lies anchored in Long Island (top), while a Sikorsky HSN-1 (BuNo 46445) landing in the water (below). Note, she now has four elevated gun tubs as her two original stern tubs were replaced by the landing pad. Photograph received in January 1944 but was likely taken in late 1943. 80-G-159947

In all, Erickson would conduct shipboard trials with the R-4 while eventually training 102 helicopter pilots and 225 mechanics, including personnel from the Army Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, and the British Army, Royal Air Force, and Navy.

HNS-1 in Flight. Note the litter. (Coast Guard Historian’s Office)

He also made history on 3 January 1944 when he rushed much-needed plasma by helicopter from Battery Park to a hospital in Sandy Hook through a severe winter storm. The plasma, used to treat injured sailors from the damaged destroyer USS Turner (DD-648), was a literal lifesaver.

U.S. Navy Sikorsky HSN-1 (BuNo 46445) Landing on board the British MV DAGHESTAN in Long Island Sound, likely in late 1943. Pilot: Lieutenant Commander Frank A. Erickson, USCG. Note details of the landing platform; markings and color scheme on HNS-1. 80-G-159946

BuNo 46445 takes off from a platform constructed on board the British MV, DAGHESTAN, then anchored in Long Island Sound. Pilot: Lieutenant Commander Frank A. Erickson, USCG; Note details of cameraman and platform. Photograph received January 1944 but was likely taken in late 1943. 80-G-159940

As for our ship, she solidified her place in naval lore when she left New York in convoy HX 274 on 6 January 1944, headed to Liverpool, with two Royal Navy-manned R-4s aboard, ready to fight. Daghestan’s choppers were fitted with floats and believed to have flown convoy-protection trials from the ship during the voyage.

Note the two R-4s on her stern. This is during the Jan 6-22 convoy to the UK, the first with helicopter support. Her platform looks to have been greatly extended to support the embarked airwing

FAA marked FT835 YR-4B ex 42-107246, on Daghestan

FAA-marked R4 NNAM 1993.501.073.092

The trials must have been successful as the Brits soon deployed other R-4s, dubbed Hoverfly Is, with the escort carrier HMS Thane (D48) at the end of December 1944.

In the meantime, our freighter was back to her more traditional convoy runs, sans choppers. Typically carrying Canadian wheat/grain/flour and mail, she crossed the Atlantic at least 18 times* headed West to Britain, and then returned back east again with largely empty holds.

*Convoys, via War Sailors.com:

ON 11 Liverpool to New York (Halifax) Aug. 30- Sept 11, 1941, CAM
HX 151 Halifax to Liverpool Sept 22-Oct. 7, 1941 CAM with fellow CAM Empire Spray
HX 160 Halifax to Liverpool Nov. 15-30, 1941 CAM with five other CAM ships!
HX 170 Halifax to Liverpool Jan. 13-28, 1942 CAM along with Empire Spray
HX 187 Halifax to Liverpool April 26- May 8, 1942 CAM along with Empire Foam and Primrose Hill
HX 194 Halifax to Liverpool June 14-26, 1942 CAM along with Empire Day
HX 203 Halifax to Liverpool Aug 16- 28 1942 CAM (with Clyde Commodore aboard)
HX 210 Halifax to Liverpool Oct. 1-16, 1942
HX 216 Halifax to Liverpool Nov. 19-Dec. 6, 1942
ON 159 Liverpool to New York (Halifax) Jan 4-20, 1943
HX 225/226 Halifax to Liverpool Feb. 8-24, 1943
ON 170 Liverpool to New York (Halifax) March 3-20, 1943
HX 252 Halifax to Liverpool Aug 14-28, 1943
ON 203 Liverpool to New York (Halifax) Sept. 22-Oct 8, 1943
HX 274 New York to Liverpool Jan 6-21, 1944 helicopter mission
HX 282 New York to Liverpool March 6-22, 1944
HX 292 New York to Liverpool May 19-June 2, 1944 (96 ship convoy!)
HX 299 New York to Liverpool July 11-24, 1944
ON 223 Belfast to New York Aug. 2-16, 1944
HX 305/306 New York to Liverpool Aug. 31-Sept. 17, 1944
HX 319 New York to Liverpool (Hull) Nov. 9-25, 1944
HX 342 New York to Liverpool April 1945

Coming through the war in one piece, Daghestan was disarmed and soon back on the commercial trade with Hindustan Steam.

SS Daghestan at the dock, Vancouver, Dec. 20, 1951. City of Vancouver Archives, Walter Frost photo. CVA 447-4171

Sold in 1957 to Asimarfield Shipping Corporation of Monrovia, she left her Red Duster behind for a Liberian flag as MV Annefield for another decade of service.

As MV Annefeld, via the Coll. of Hans Hoffman, courtesy of Sunderland Ships

On 21 February 1969, MV Annefield was delivered to Isaac Manuel Davalillo in Castellon, Spain, where demolition began in May.

Various wartime reports on Daghestan are in NARA and the IWM but are not available online.

Specs:

Displacement: 7248 grt, 4389 nrt, 10325 dwt
Length: 442.9 ft.
Beam: 56.5 ft.
Draft: 27.4 ft. (35.5 depth of hold)
Propulsion: Oil 2SA 3cyl (600 x 2320mm), 1 screw
Speed:
Armament
(1941-43)
2 x 3-inch guns
Lewis guns
(1943-45)
4 x AAA guns, possibly 40mm or 3-inch DP
Aircraft:
1 x Sea Hurricane (single use) CATODITCH, Aug 1942-Aug 1943
1-2 R-4 series helicopters (stern deck, no hangar) Nov 1943- Jan 1944

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Little Groups of Marines

Ten U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command teamed up with the U.S. Navy for a three-month deployment aboard the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10), returning to Little Creek this week. The SPMAGTF-SC detachment provided the 1,500-ton Burlington, officially a noncombatant manned by civilian mariners of the MSC alongside a USN commo team, with an embarked security team, providing force protection for the deployment.

This is the type of tasking that little groups of Marines will increasingly see in the future, no longer just the stuff of the “Gator Navy.”

Of course, it is something of a case of everything old is new again, as the Marines for something like 220 years regularly provided small dets on surface ships for security/gunnery/landing force missions. Back in the day, ships as small as gunboats, sloops, and frigates often had Marines aboard, although the practice was trimmed back to cruisers, battleships, and carriers by the 1920s (with a few notable exceptions).

The Marine Detachment, gunboat USS Dauntless (PG-61) – mid-1942

The last Marine Carrier Dets, useful for guarding admirals, performing TRAP missions, and keeping an eye on “special munitions” (aka nukes) were disbanded in 1998.

Zapping Saddam’s Navy

The Operations Room has a great seven-minute play-by-play breakdown of the 24-hour battle by the Royal, U.S., and Royal Canadian Navy that left no less than 21 Iraqi vessels, mostly fast attack craft and minelayers, at the bottom of the Northern Persian Gulf during Desert Storm. I knew about 75 percent of these actions, but some, like the Canadian CF-18A strafings, were new to me.

Enjoy.

MK VIs of the Black Sea

SANTA RITA, Guam (May 8, 2019) Three Mark VI patrol boats attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2, maneuver in formation during a training evolution near Apra Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey Adams)

It looks like Ukraine will be the next operator of the MK VI patrol boat.

Via DOD Contract Awards:

SAFE Boats International LLC, Bremerton, Washington, was awarded a $19,969,119 not-to-exceed, firm-fixed-price, undefinitized contract action for long lead time material and associated pre-production and planning support for two MK VI patrol boats to be delivered to the government of Ukraine. Work will be performed in Rock Hill, South Carolina (69%); Kent, Washington (21%); Woodinville, Washington (5%); Bellingham, Washington (4%); and Seattle, Washington (1%), and is expected to be completed by December 2022. Fiscal 2020 Title 10 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding in the amount of $5,463,500 was obligated at award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. (Awarded Dec. 31, 2020)

The U.S. Navy Mark VI patrol boat is a very well-armed successor to classic PT boats of WWII (sans torpedoes), Nasty boats of Vietnam, and Cold War-era PB Mk IIIs. The Mk IIIs, a heavily armed 65-foot light gunboat, was replaced by the Mk V SOC (Special Operations Craft)– a somewhat lighter armed 82-foot go fast– and the 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol ships.

Now the Navy coughed up the idea for the Mk VI back in 2012, and plan on obtaining as many as 48 of these boats and are deployed in two separate strategic areas of operation: Commander, Task Force (CTF) 56 in Bahrain and CTF 75 in Guam.

At $10 million a pop, they are about three times as expensive as USCG 87 foot WPBs and with much shorter legs, but they have huge teeth. Notice the 25mm MK38 Mod 2 forward and aft, the M2 RWS mount atop the wheelhouse, and the four crew-served mounts amidships and aft for Dillion mini-guns, M240Gs, MK19 grenade launchers, or other party favors. Of course, these would be toast in a defended environment like the China Sea but are gold for choke points like the Persian Gulf, anti-pirate ops, littoral warfare against asymmetric threats, etc.

They also provide a persistent capability to patrol shallow littoral areas for the purpose of force protection for U.S. and coalition forces, as well as safeguarding critical infrastructure.

Warship Wednesday, Jan.6, 2021: Of Camels, Williwaws, and 6-inch Salvos

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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

–As I am traveling for work and have an abbreviated period of downtime this week, we likewise have an abbreviated WW this week as well, sorry–

Warship Wednesday, Jan.6, 2021: Of Camels, Williwaws, and 6-inch Salvos

U.S. Army Signal Corps – Photograph USA C-627 from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives. A much better resolution example of this shot is SC 229057, but it is not in color. 

Here we see the Omaha-class light cruiser USS Concord (CL-10), some 78 years ago today as she stood off Balboa, Panama Canal Zone, on 6 January 1943, “for a South Pacific destination.” A fine ship with beautiful lines, she did not see much of World War II until the final acts of the Pacific War.

The fourth Concord was a “peace cruiser” built at William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, and commissioned on 3 November 1923. Used to range the globe on flag-waving missions while abiding by the various naval limitations treaty of the interwar period, she was named in honor of the famous scrap between the Americans and British troops during the “Shot Heard Round the World.”

What an epically great image! Talk about “Join the Navy, See the World”. USS Concord (CL-10) At the edge of the desert off the North African coast, with local camel troops in the foreground, circa late 1923 or early 1924. During her maiden cruise at that time, Concord steamed through the Mediterranean Sea and returned to the United States by way of the Suez Canal and the Cape of Good Hope. Donation of Franklin Moran, 1967. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 64647

When the balloon went up in the Pacific on 7 December 1941, Concord was at sea headed to Mare Island from Pearl Harbor for an overhaul, or else she may have been a target on day one.

Her armament and armor sparse but her legs long, she was assigned to Task Force 81 in early 1942 after she completed her yard availability. If you haven’t heard of TF81, there is a reason as it was the patrol force off the Pacific coast of South America, a definite backwater.

As the flag of the group, which was later renamed Task Force 93 in 1943, she would carry RADM Byrd, the famed polar explorer, around the Southeast Pacific on a tour of possible seaplane bases in the remote region.

USS Concord (CL-10) Hoists a Grumman J2F (wearing the nickname: “The Galloping Ghost”) during flight operations at Hanga Roa, Easter Islands, in support of Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s South Pacific Base Examination Cruise, 10 November 1943. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-K-2343

By March 1944, Concord shipped to the frozen North, where she joined Task Force 94 (later 92) in Alaskan waters.

USS Concord (CL-10) Underway in Puget Sound, Washington, 1 November 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 33, Design 2f. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-75591

From there, her war heated up some and she was used extensively over the next year to raid the Japanese northern islands, conducting a series of anti-shipping sweeps through the Sea of Okhotsk and shore bombardments in the Kuriles and elsewhere.

In some of these rounds of shore bombardment, she would expend in excess of 500 6-inch shells per sortie.

During her 1944-45 tour in the Northern Pacific, Concord would often face thick fog banks and “100-knot Williawas” at sea in her unsung area of the war.

From her War History:

Except when weather conditions entirely prohibited, the Concord took to the rugged sub-arctic seas in the best tradition of New England sailormen. With a handful of destroyers and from one to five other cruisers– old like herself– the Concord was regularly on the prowl approximately 10 days each month, operating well over 1,000 miles west of Attu, the nearest U.S. base, and without any air cover of any sort.

Interestingly enough, she was credited by some with firing the last salvo of the war at 8:06 p.m., 12 August 1945 (Japan Time).

After supporting the occupation landings at Ominato, Japan, between 8 and 14 September, Concord sailed through the Canal Zone one final time before ending her career at Philadelphia, where she was decommissioned on 12 December 1945.

She was sold to Patapsco Scrap Co., Bethlehem, PA for the amount of $67,228 on 21 January 1947, receiving just one battle star for World War II.

Since Concord’s passing, her name was recycled one final time, issued to a combat stores ship (AFS-5), commissioned in 1968, which served for four decades.

Her diaries and histories are online at NARA.

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