A throwback to 13 April 1966: An early MkI type U.S. Navy Patrol Boat, River (PBR) near Cat Lo, Vietnam.
First fielded in 1966 (the above craft was brand new) some 250 PBRs served in Operation Market Time (TF 116) and with the RVN in Vietnam during the conflict. In all, 718 were completed in two types (the MkIs were 31 feet while the MkII’s were 32) and they continued to serve in Reserve SBUs as late as the 1990s.
How about this one-of-a-kind rare Colt AR-15/XM16E1? Yes, it’s gold-finished from the factory with polished plastic furniture.
The gun, the 1963 prototype for the Colt 603, was the first with a forward assist and was presented to Gen. Earle “Bus” Wheeler, the storied Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff through six years of the Vietnam War. It has been in his family ever since and is now up for auction.
The price? Expected to be up to $275K.
More in my column at Guns.com
While, if you squint, this beautiful variable geometry warplane seems to be an early Grumman F-14 Tomcat landing aboard a carrier, tail hook down.
That’s where you are as wrong as can be.
The truth is, it is a navalized version of the General Dynamics F-111. The plane above, F-111B Bu. No.151974, made 9 arrested landings on, and 10 catapult-launches from, the carrier USS Coral Sea (CV-43) on 23 June 1968.
The plan was something majestic, like this:
However, that day in June was the only one in which the Aardvark was considered a carrier plane.
In response to rough treatment by the locals along Route 19 in South Vietnam, U.S. Army Transport Corps drivers went to uparmor their vehicles to make it from Point A to Point B without having to be medevaced.
At first, this was just sandbags and M60s. Then came M2s, 1/2″ steel plate, and more handheld weapons such as M79 bloop guns.
Then, needing bigger rides to carry more guns, they stepped up from 2.5-ton to 5-ton trucks with everything from surplus M113 hulls and “borrowed” M134 Mini Guns aboard.
More on these in my column at Guns.com
Remember, today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day:
With that being said, dig this far out training film covering the “Small Boat Navy” as it was called in the 1960s, which consisted that wide range of Vietnam-era shallow watercraft such as the PBR, RPC, PGM, PTF, et. al
For your reference: (Drawn from Boats of the United States Navy, NAVSHIPS 250-452, 1967)
Before they merged with Northrop in 1994, the old-school Grumman Corporation fielded some of the most iconic military– and specifically carrier– aircraft ever made in the 20th Century.
We are talking the F4F Wildcat (which the Brits used as the Martlet, their most common naval fighter of WWII), the Zero-busting F6F Hellcat, the briefly-loved F7F Tigercat, the F8F Bearcat (which the French continued to fly in Indochina and Algeria well into the jet age), the F9F Panther, F11 Tiger, and, of course, the F-14 Tomcat– last of the “cats.”
They just didn’t make fighters. They also produced the Cold War ASW king S-2 Tracker and the Yankee Station bomb truck that was the A-6 Intruder.
Sadly, all of the above have long since faded from the fleet. Other than a few ragtag IRIAF F-14s and some Taiwanese and Latin American S-2s, they aren’t even in the service of Third World countries.
And last week, the last armed Grumman combat aircraft used by the U.S. was put to bed.
First flown in 1968, the EA-6 Prowler was an A-6 that had been converted to be an “Electric Intruder” developed for the Marine Corps to replace its 1950s-era EF-10B Skyknights in electronic warfare missions. By 1971, they were flying over Vietnam with VAQ-129 flying from USS America (CV-66). Over the next 48 years, the plane matured and no carrier air boss would leave home without it. Not just an EW jam spreader, it could also target enemy radar sites and surface-to-air missile launchers in SEAD missions with high-speed anti-radiation missiles– more than 200 AGM-78 Standard ARM/AGM-88 HARMs were fired by Prowlers in combat over the years, with the first “Magnum” HARM warshot being against a Libyan SA-5 battery in Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986.
Later, in Iraq and Afghanistan, they even jammed the cell phone and garage door signals used to trigger IEDs.
No Prowler was ever lost in combat, although they have been in the thick of it over Vietnam, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Afghanistan, Grenada and other points of conflict for a five-decade run.
In all, more than 20 Navy and Marine VAQ squadrons took to the sky in the flying jambox although just 170 of the aircraft were produced.
Now, replaced by the EA-18G Growler, the last Prowlers of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VMAQ) 2, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, have been put to pasture.
But Grummans are not totally out of the fleet. The E-2C Hawkeye lingers on.
Further, EA-6B BuNo. 162230/CY-02, part of the Sundown Flight, will be put on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.