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A suppressed 20-pound .338 Norma Magnum belt-fed Sig Sauer machine gun? OK!

Sig Sauer announced this week that the U.S. Special Operation Command has certified and taken delivery of the company’s new MG 338 machine gun system.

Chambered in .338 Norma Magnum, the MG 338 is billed on being able to deliver effective fire at ranges out to 2,000 meters, closing the gap between 7.62 NATO weapons like the M240 and .50 cal BMG platforms such as the M2 heavy machine gun. Weighing only 20-pounds, the MG 338 uses Sig-produced ammunition and optics as well as the company’s suppressor design to create an all-Sig product.

And it looks pretty sweet, with an almost sci-fi quality to it.

All you are missing is a power suit

More in my column at Guns.com.

So long, Sea Ranger

For decades, anyone who ever looked up to the whop-whop of a low-flying helicopter over the skies of West Florida or along Mobile Bay or the Mississippi Gulf Coast has often spied the distinctive TH-57 Sea Ranger as it put-putted along.

These:

MILTON, Fla. (June 5, 2019) TH-57 Sea Ranger helicopters from Training Air Wing (TW) 5 sit on the flight line at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Fla. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Michelle Tucker/Released) 190604-N-OU681-1003

A derivative of the commercial Bell Jet Ranger 206, NAVAIR first acquired the TH-57 in 1968 and has been using them, typically out of Whiting Field, to train budding sea service and allied chopper pilots.

As noted by the National Naval Aviation Museum, “Prospective Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard helicopter pilots spend approximately 106 hours flying the Sea Ranger at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field, Florida, before receiving their wings. Over the course of this period, they learn aerodynamic and engineering qualities of rotary-wing aircraft and in particular, how to hover. They also learn basic instrument techniques, radio navigation, rough terrain landing, night and formation flying, emergency procedures like auto-rotation, shipboard operations, and helicopter tactics.”

Now, after a 52-year run that was stayed by updated airframes in 1981 and 1989, the days of the Sea Ranger are coming to an end.

From DOD:

AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is awarded a $176,472,608 firm-fixed-price contract for the production and delivery of 32 TH-73A aircraft, initial spares, peculiar support equipment, flyaway kits, hoists, sling loads, data in excess of commercial form fit function/operations maintenance instructional training data as well as ancillary instructor pilot and maintenance personnel training. Work will be performed at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (87%); Mineral Wells, Texas (5%); and various locations outside the continental U.S. (8%), and is expected to be completed in October 2021. Fiscal 2020 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $176,472,608 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposal; five offers were received. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N61340-20-C-0007).

The TH-73A is a variant of Leonardo’s AW119, which had been marketed as the TH-119.

This:

“Today marks a great team effort to procure and deliver a helicopter trainer for the next generation of helicopter and tilt-rotor pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” said James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition. “I’m proud of the aggressive work the team did to leverage the commercial industrial base to get this capability to the warfighters, and our nation, at the best value to the taxpayer. This effort is key to ensure the readiness of our Naval Aviators for decades to come.”

Devils and Devils rushed to the Sandbox

In response to unrest at the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on 27 December following a series of CENTCOM strikes on Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) bases, a group of 100 Marines from 2/7 attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (catchily abbreviated to just “SPMAFTF-CR-CC”) 19.2, rushed from Kuwait to beef up the MSG and State Department DS contingents on New Year’s Eve. They arrived via MV-22 Osprey, as shown in the below USMC videos by Sgt. Robert Gavaldon & Sgt. David Bickel.

Of interest, 2/7 recently filmed this short where they talk about training to do more expeditionary stuff of a ship-to-shore nature.

They were quickly backfilled in the region by a reinforced battalion of the 82nd Airborne (All Americans), which were airmailed over the New Year’s holiday from Fort Bragg to Kuwait. The unit on IRF rotation was the famed 2nd Battalion, 504th PIR. The 504th since 1944 has carried the nickname “The Devils in Baggy Pants,” taken from a comment by a Wehrmacht officer at Anzio.

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, deploy from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Jan. 1, 2020. Elements of the Immediate Response Force mobilized for deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities. The IRF and the All American Division remain postured and ready to deploy in support of the National Command Authority. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robyn J. Haake)

In a statement from SECDEF Dr. Mark T. Esper

At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq.

Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days.

This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world.

Meanwhile, the “haze gray stabilizers” of Carrier Strike Group Eight (CSG-8), built around USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), are now reporting to the 5th Fleet. 

Further, the U.S. upped the ante on Friday by dusting Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who had almost cult hero status within IRGC and Quds Force Shia militias in the region, with many referring to him as the real man behind the curtain. The pressure for Tehran to retaliate will be immense.

From DOD this morning:

General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.

This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.

Just heading out for a little Dshk Gun or two

Near Con Thien, RVN, 3rd Recon Marines tote back some captured antiaircraft guns, namely dismounted Soviet DShK 1938 heavy machine guns, in 1969:

“Antiaircraft Guns: Three Marines of 3d Reconnaissance Battalion carry captured North Vietnamese Army 12.7mm antiaircraft guns. Front to the rear is Private First Class Albert O. Covington (Hamlet, North Carolina), Corporal Lester L. Reardon (East Greenwich, Rhode Island), and Lance Corporal James B. Taylor (Miami, Florida). The three were members of a small reconnaissance force that uncovered a large enemy munitions cache (official USMC photo by Corporal Bob Partain).”

“Enemy Weapons: Two Marines of the 3d Reconnaissance Battalion carry captured North Vietnamese Army antiaircraft guns. Left to right are Corporals Mike Schatz (Tonkawa, Oklahoma), Robert I. Scheid (Hartford, Connecticut), and Ken B. Williams. The 12.7mm antiaircraft guns were part of a large enemy munitions cache uncovered near Con Thien (official USMC photo by Corporal Bob Partain).”

For reference, Dushka weighs 75-pounds without any ammo or mounts, so PVT. Covington, who is humping that hefty girl solo in the top picture while still carrying bandoliers and field gear, is truly a man amongst men.

100K MHS Series Pistols and Counting

New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer announced last week that they have reached a milestone in delivering new pistols to the U.S. Armed Forces.

Since winning the contentious Modular Handgun System contract in 2017, beating out big-name pistol makers from around the globe to replace the M9 Beretta, Sig has exceeded performance standards and recently delivered the 100,000th MHS series gun to the military.

The MHS system comprises the Sig Sauer M17 full-size, and M18 compact handguns, each based on the company’s P320 series pistols, as well as Winchester Ammunition’s 9x19mm M1152 Ball, M1153 Special Purpose, and M1156 Drilled Dummy Inert cartridges.

Over the coming five-to-seven years, upwards of 350,000 handguns and 100 million rounds of ammunition are scheduled for delivery to the Pentagon.

More in my column at Guns.com 

Happy Turkey Day from Da Nang to Bagram

Official caption: TURKEY TIME—Lance Corporal Walter R. Billetdeoux (Johnstown, PA) takes a healthy bite from a turkey leg on Thanksgiving Day in Vietnam. Sitting in a foxhole on the front lines, just outside of Da Nang, the combat-clad Marine is enjoying his first hot meal in more than two weeks. LCpl Billetdeoux is a member of L Company, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines.

3m-1-142-65, III MAF, Da Nang, Vietnam, 26 Nov 1965, Photo By: Sgt W. Weih. Defense Dept Photo (Marine Corps) A186195

The more things change:

 

Bloody Tarawa

As a note, this week is the 76th anniversary of the bloody and hard-fought Battle of Tarawa.

Maj. Gen. Julian C. Smith’s 2nd Mar Div– consisting of the 2nd, 8th, 10th, and 18th Marines– hit the Red Beach 1, 2, and 3 and Green Beach. The Marines were opposed by 4,800 mixed Imperial Japanese Navy SNLF and Korean construction troops, who were holed up in more than 500 sand-and-log pillboxes under command of RADM Keiji Shibazaki.

The effort for the Gilbert Islands atoll raged for three days, resulting in 3,301 Marine casualties out of the 18,000 that landed– a rate of one-in-six.

Of the four Marines who received the Medal of Honor for Tarawa, three did so posthumously.

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