Comparatively, the Chinese have an active offensive mining development program counting an estimated 80,000 devices consisting of up to 30 types, including encapsulated torpedo mines and rising mines.
This comes as the Vigilance Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), pitched by VARD for the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet, was shown off at CANSEC 2023, complete with a stern Cube modular minelaying system installed.
Vigilance Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) with The Cube System
The system uses 40-foot containers for a wholly “bolt-on” minelaying option
A digital mockup of the Cube minelaying system on HMS Tamar, another small OPV currently in the Pacific.
Suffice it to say, these could fit inside the open below-deck mission bay of the Independence-class LCS– here seen on USS Cincinnati (LCS-20)– while still leaving the helicopter deck and hangar free.(Photo: Chris Eger)
Meanwhile, here in the States, the Air Force is working on a program for a single B-52 to drop a dozen 2,000-pound mines from a distance of 40 miles off, one that could be very useful in the Pacific one day.
An inert Joint Direct Attack Munition QuickStrike Extended Range mine is attached to a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in early March 2023. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo 230524-F-AA323-1002)
A B-52H Stratofortress attached to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron validated the ability to deploy inert Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) QuickStrike Extended Range (QS-ER) mines from a standoff distance of more than 40 miles off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in early March 2023.
The QS-ER mine marries the concept of a Mk64 underwater mine to that of the GBU-64v1 JDAM Extended Range variant. The resulting weapon is the 2,000-pound QS-ER mine.
Traditionally mines are employed as unguided gravity weapons, forcing the aircraft to fly at lower altitudes and releasing the mines at multiple intervals rather than single releases. This means the mission cannot be accomplished in a contested waterway without accepting a high level of risk. But the QS-ER program changes this concept completely.
Setting itself apart from the rest of the itty bitty 9mm double-stack pack, FN’s new Reflex 9mm is a hammer-fired micro-compact with a great trigger.
Debuted just before the NRA’s Annual Meetings in April, I’ve been taking a closer look at the Reflex series as part of an extended test and evaluation that will push this little palm-sized parabellum past the 2,000-round mark.
The Reflex ships in a cardboard box with a plastic tray and comes with two magazines. For most states, this means a 15+1 round extended mag and a flush-fit 11+1 round mag with a pinky extension for better grip support. (All photos: Chris Eger)
The unloaded weight is 18.4 ounces with an empty mag. We found the Reflex in its most svelte form, with 12 rounds of Federal’s Punch JHP 124-grain self-defense loads and no optic, to hit the scales at 23.4 ounces. Shown with a DeSantis Inside Heat which, although made for the single stack FN 503, fits it like a glove.
We’ve come a long way in 60 years when it comes to helicopter gunships.
Here we see U.S. Army PFC Glenn W. Rehkamp, 57th Helicopter Company, manning his .30-caliber M1919A6 door gun on a CH-21 helicopter, 1 Feb 63.
U.S. Army Photo by PFC Jose C. Rivera DASPO via NARA
The Piasecki H-21 Workhorse/Shawnee, commonly called the “flying banana” for obvious reasons, served extensively with the French Army and Air Force in the Algerian War in the 1950s– sometimes equipped with .50 cals and 20mm cannons as some of the first helicopter gunships.
After some heavy use in the early days of U.S. involvement in Vietnam– including the 57th THC with early H-21C gunship variants– the type was soon withdrawn in favor of the Huey and Chinook.
Drink in these shots from 1957 of H-21 gunship experiments at Fort Rucker, including a chin turret repurposed from an old B-29, forward-firing M1919s, and HVAR rockets.
After what must have been a staggering yard period for the crew, the sixth Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS George Washington (CVN 73), has finally been redelivered to the Navy after 2,120 days at Newport News, wrapping up its mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH). Importantly, the carrier also now has new C4ISR systems, radars, and upgrades for full F-35 capability.
The RCOH represents 35 percent of all maintenance and modernization in an aircraft carrier’s service life and GW was pulled offline in 2017 originally for what was scheduled to be a four-year yard event, which ran seven due to COVID, “supply chain issues” and the like.
NNS made sure to work in a victory lap, because, well, at least it’s over.
“Redelivering George Washington to the Navy is the end result of incredible teamwork between our shipbuilders, the CVN 73 crew, our government partners, and all of our suppliers,” said Todd West, NNS vice president, of in-service aircraft carrier programs. “George Washington has gone through a transformation and now returns to the fleet as a fully recapitalized ship, ready to support any mission and serve our nation for another 25 years.”
The flagship USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the Oslo fjord for its first port call in Oslo, Norway, May 24, 2023. Gerald R. Ford is the first U.S. aircraft carrier to pull into Norway in more than 65 years. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Glunt) Released.
This meant a round of community relations events and the opportunity to visit popular cultural and historical landmarks in Oslo, including the WWII War Sailors Monument near Akershus fortress.
They also got in some work with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1. Besides CVN-78, the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group consists of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron 2, USS Normandy (CG 60), USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Ramage (DDG 61) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).
The video, which shows a roughly 10,000-ton ish LPH-style vessel complete with a ski-jump and what looks like MQ-9B STOL drones, will be minimally manned but outfitted to launch and recover dozens of AUV, UUV, and USVs of assorted types along with helicopters and OTH-capable small boats. This is likely the future face of expeditionary naval aviation.
Speaking of which, the U.S. Navy just announced the first four “air vehicle pilots” completed flight training and earned their wings during a ceremony aboard NAS Pensacola on 25 May.
The four AVPs were winged at the National Naval Aviation Museum alongside a graduating class of Naval Flight Officers (NFO). The AVPs are the first service members authorized to wear the AVP warfare device.
The AVP warfare device is similar to traditional Naval Aviator wings but with an inverted delta displayed on a shield centered on two crossed anchors and flanked by wings. Service members qualified to wear this device will belong to a new community of aviation professionals who operate the MQ-25 Stingray and future UAVs. (Navy Photo by Ensign Elias Kaser).
Above we see a great 1968 image of the Edsall-class destroyer escort-turned-radar picket, USS Falgout (DER-324) with a bone in her teeth during a Westpac deployment. Some 25 years old at the time, of note her christening occurred 80 years ago this week.
A vessel that saw combat against the Germans while on convoy duty during WWII, she would continue to serve in Korea and as a Cold Warrior, seeing the atomic starburst no less than nine times.
The Edsall class
A total of 85 Edsall-class destroyer escorts were cranked out in four different yards in the heyday of World War II rapid production with class leader USS Edsall (DE-129) laid down 2 July 1942 and last of class USS Holder (DE-401) commissioned 18 January 1944– in all some four score ships built in 19 months. The Arsenal of Democracy at work–building tin cans faster than the U-boats and Kamikazes could send them to Davy Jones.
The U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Edsall (DE-129) underway near Ambrose Light just outside New York Harbor on 25 February 1945. The photo was taken by a blimp from squadron ZP-12. Edsall is painted in Camouflage Measure 32, Design 3D. U.S. Navy photo 80-G-306257
These 1,590-ton expendable escorts were based on their predecessors, the very successful Cannon-class boats but used an FMR type (Fairbanks-Morse reduction-geared diesel drive) propulsion suite whereas the only slightly less prolific Cannons used a DET (Diesel Electric Tandem) drive. Apples to oranges.
Armed with enough popguns (3×3″/50s, 2x40mm, 8x20mm) to keep aircraft and small craft at bay, they could plug a torpedo into a passing enemy cruiser from one of their trio of above-deck 21-inch tubes, or maul a submarine with any number of ASW weapons including depth charges and Hedgehogs. Too slow for active fleet operations (21 knots) they were designed for coastal patrol (could float in just 125 inches of seawater), sub-chasing, and convoy escorts.
The hero of our story, USS Falgout, is the only ship named for Seaman 2c George Irvin Falgout, a resident of Raceland, Louisiana who was a posthumous recipient of the Navy Cros for his actions while serving on the heavily damaged cruiser, USS San Francisco (CA-38) at Guadalcanal in November 1942. Falgout reportedly “remained at his gun, blazing away at a Japanese aircraft until it crashed his station.”
The only ship named in his honor was constructed by Consolidated Steel Corp, Ltd., Orange, Texas (all the Edsalls were built at one of two Texas Gulf Coast yards) and sponsored at launch by his sister, Mrs. H. J. Guidry. She was commissioned on 15 November 1943 with an all-Coast Guard crew under CDR Henry A Meyer, a Coast Guard regular who earned his first thin gold stripe in 1931.
The CNO, ADM Ernest J. King, had, in June 1943, ordered the Coast Guard to staff and operate 30 new (mostly Edsall-class) destroyer escorts on Atlantic ASW duties, trained especially at the Submarine Training Centers at Miami and Norfolk. Each would be crewed by 11 officers and 166 NCOs/enlisted, translating to a need for 5,310 men, all told.
By November 1943, it had been accomplished! Quite a feat.
The USCG-manned DEs would be grouped in five Escort Divisions of a half dozen ships each, 23 of which were Edsalls:
These ships were soon facing off with the Germans in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Following shakedown along the East Coast and the Caribbean– where Falgout picked up 11 survivors from the American tanker Touchet that was torpedoed and sunk on 3 December 1943 by German U-boat U-193— our new destroyer escort was bound for the Med in February 1944 as part of the escort of Convoy UGS 32 to Casablanca, and returned to New York with GUS 31.
Then came Convoy UGS 38 out of Hampton Roads to Bizerte in Tunisia in April. This crossing proved much more contentious and suffered from German air attacks by waves of Junkers and Heinkel bombers with the Benson-class destroyer USS Landsdale (DD-426) sunk after hits from torpedo-carrying Ju 88s on the night of the 20th. Falgout expended no less than 600 rounds of 20mm and 16 rounds of 40mm on bombers that came close enough to swat.
While on the next homeward bound convoy, GUS 39, Falgout’s sistership USS Menges (DE 320), was hit by a G7es acoustic torpedo from U-371 on 3 May. The German fish destroyed a third of the tin can, and created casualties of a third of the ship’s crew but would amazingly survive the war. Just two nights later, the Buckley-class destroyer escort USS Fechteler (DE-157), would be sunk near Falgout by German submarine U-967, with the bulk of the crew rescued.
Not all the Coast Guard-manned DEs would come through to VE-Day. USS Leopold (DE-319) of CortDiv 22 was torpedoed by U-255 and later sank in the North Atlantic, 400 miles south of Iceland on 10 March 1944, with a loss of 13 officers and 158 men. Two other classmates with Navy crews, USS Frederick C. Davis (DE-136) and USS Fiske (DE-143), would also be lost in the Atlantic to U-boats.
Falgout would make two further roundtrips to Bizerte and back followed by three to Oran and back, although not coming as close to death as on UGS 38/GUS 39. Notably, however, she did pluck four Ju88 crewmembers from the water following a raid on GUS 45 in July 1944.
USS HAMUL (AD-20) Caption: At Bermuda in early 1944, while serving as flagship of the DD-DE shakedown group (CTG-23.1). Alongside are: CALCATERA (DE-390), PRIDE (DE-323), FALGOUT (DE-324), ALGER (DE-101), and EICHENBERGER (DE-202). Description: Collection of Captain D.L. Madeira, 1978. Catalog #: NH 86271
She was in Oran when the news of the German surrender was received.
Her final WWII skipper was a young LCDR Henry C Keene, Jr.,(USCGA 1941), who had been aboard the Treasury-class cutter USCGC Bibb (WPG-31) earlier in the war when that vessel plucked 235 survivors (and a dog) from U-boat-infested waters in the North Atlantic. Keene would later retire in 1965 as commander of Ketchikan CG Base and go on to be a noted Superior Court judge in Alaska. Meanwhile, the good CDR Meyer, who was the greyhound’s first commander, would continue his career with the Coast Guard for at least until 1956, retiring sometime later as a full captain.
For her 14 convoys, Falgout received one battle star for her wartime service, her only casualty being EM3c James G. O’Brien who died in a 1944 accident while on libo in Casablanca, falling from a second-story window.
After limited post-war service, during which she spent most of 1946 “in commission, in reserve” in Charleston with a caretaker crew (the USCG was returned to the Treasury Department in December 1945, and most of its wartime personnel discharged and Navy-owned ships returned) Falgout was classified “out of commission, in reserve” 18 April 1947 and lowered her flag.
The Edsall class, 1946 Janes.
Break out the white paint.
With the dramatic surge in air and maritime traffic across some downright vacant stretches of the Pacific that came with the Korean War, the USCG was again tapped to man a growing series of Ocean Stations. Two had been formed after WWII and the Navy added another three in 1950, bringing the total to five.
These stations would serve both a meteorological purpose– with U.S. Weather Bureau personnel embarked– as well as serve as floating checkpoints for military and commercial maritime and air traffic and communication “relay” stations for aircraft on transoceanic flights crisscrossing the Pacific. Further, they provided an emergency ditch option for aircraft (a concept that had already been proved by the Bermuda Sky Queen rescue in 1947, which saw all 69 passengers and crew rescued by the cutter Bibb.)
As detailed by Scott Price in The Forgotten Service in the Forgotten War, these stations were no picnic, with the average cutter logging 4,000 miles and as many as 320 radar fixes while serving upwards of 700 hours on station.
Ocean station duty could be monotonous at one moment and terrifying the next, as the vessels rode out storms that made the saltiest sailors green. One crew member noted: “After twenty-one days of being slammed around by rough cold sea swells 20 to 50 feet high, and wild winds hitting gale force at times, within an ocean grid the size of a postage stamp, you can stand any kind of duty.”
A typical tour was composed of arriving at Midway Island for three weeks on SAR standby, three weeks on Ocean Station Victor midway between Japan and the Aleutian Islands, three weeks on SAR standby at Guam, two weeks “R and R” in Japan, three weeks on Ocean Station Sugar, three weeks on SAR standby Adak, Alaska, and then back to home port.
To stand post on these new ocean stations and backfill for other cutters detailed to the role, the Navy lent the USCG 12 mothballed Edsalls (Newell, Falgout, Lowe, Finch, Koiner, Foster, Ramsden, Rickey, Vance, Lansing, Durant, and Chambers), nine of which the service had originally operated during WWII.
To man these extra vessels and fill other wartime roles such as establishing new LORAN stations and pulling port security, the USCG almost doubled in size from just over 18,000 to 35,082 in 1952.
The conversion to Coast Guard service included a white paint scheme, an aft weather balloon shelter (they would have to launch three balloons a day in all sea states), and the fitting of a 31-foot self-bailing motor surfboat for rescues in heavy weather. The USCG designator “W” was added to the hull number, as was the number 100, therefore, our vessel went from USS Falgout (DE-324) to USCGC Falgout (WDE-424).
Falgout’s sister, the Edsall-class USS Durant (DE-389/WDE-489/DER-389) in her Coast Guard livery. Note the WWII AAA suite is still intact. Falgout carried the same white and buff scheme.
Falgout was on loan to the Coast Guard between 24 August 1951– the second Edsall so converted– and 21 May 1954, in commission for duty as an ocean station vessel out of Tacoma, Washington.
Schenia notes that she pulled eight patrols in this period including two on OS Queen, two on OS Sugar, one on OS Nan, and two on OS Victor in addition to serving as the policing cutter for the International Cruiser Race Regatta in British Columbia in 1952 and the Lake Washington Gold Cup Race in 1953.
Besides nine Edsalls, two similarly loaned ex-Navy seaplane tenders, two 180-foot buoy tenders, and nine existing 255-foot/327-foot Coast Guard cutters also clocked in on Pacific Ocean station detail, with a total of 22 vessels and their crews earning the Korean Service Medal during the conflict. The Pacific Ocean station cutters in all assisted over 20 merchant and Navy vessels in distress, including one transoceanic airliner during the war.
The USCG-manned Edsalls were all retrograded to the Navy in 1954, with the last, Chambers, striking 30 July. It turned out that the Navy had other plans for these humble vessels, now double war vets.
Falgout, laid back up after her 32 months of USCG service during Korea, was picked to become a radar picket ship, and given a new lease on life, reclassified into the Navy at Mare Island on 28 October 1954 as DER-324.
The DER program filled an early gap in the continental air defense system by placing a string of ships as sea-based radar platforms to provide a distant early warning line to possible attack from the Soviets. The Pacific had up to 11 picket stations while the Atlantic had as many as nine. A dozen DEs became DERs (including Falgout) through the addition of SPS-6 and SPS-8 air search radars to help man these DEW lines as the Atlantic Barrier became fully operational in 1956 and the Pacific Barrier (which Falgout took part in) by 1958.
To make room for the extra topside weight of the big radars, they gave up most of their WWII armament, keeping only their Hedgehog ASW device and two Mark 34 3-inch guns with aluminum and fiberglass weather shields.
DER conversion of Edsall (FMR) class ships reproduced from Peter Elliot’s American Destroyer Escorts of WWII
Detail of masts. Note the WWII AAA suite, one of the 3″ guns, and centerline 21-inch tubes have been landed
Her conversion complete, Falgout was recommissioned on 30 June 1955.
30 June 1955: Mare Island NSY, Vallejo, Cal. – Radm. Frederick L. Entwistle, USN (Commander, Mare Island Naval Shipyard) is commissioning speaker at the ceremony marking USS Falgout’s re-commissioning. Lcdr. Walter P. Smiley is on the far right of the photo. (U.S. Navy photo #DER-324-063055-1TH) via Darryl Baker, Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum, via Navsource.
30 June 1955: Mare Island NSY, Vallejo, Cal. – Colors are raised aboard USS Falgout at Mare Island after her conversion at the shipyard. (U.S. Navy photo #DER-324-063055-3TH) via Darryl Baker, Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum, via Navsource.
She was assigned to Seattle as a homeport, with orders coming from the Continental Air Defense Command, heading out to serve regular radar picket in the Early Warning System.
USS Falgout (DER 324) underway
In March 1959, this changed to duty out of Pearl Harbor.
On 31 January 1961, she received her 10th skipper, LCDR Samuel Lee Gravely Jr., a mustang who enlisted in 1942 and went through NROTC in 1944 to earn his commission. Gravely had previously served on USS PC-1264 in WWII, then aboard the battleship USS Iowa during Korea and the cruiser USS Toledo (CA-133), and served as executive officer and acting commander of the destroyer USS Theodore E. Chandler (DD-717) immediately before taking command of Falgout. This act, noted by the NHHC, put Gravely as the first African-American to command a combat ship.
In late 1962, Falgout, with Gravely as skipper, was detailed to Joint Task Force 8, operating out of Pearl Harbor, for Operation Dominic.
Sparked by the Soviet resumption of nuclear testing after the 1958–1961 moratorium, Dominic would see no less than 31 air dropped, high-altitude rocket, parachuted, and underwater tests of prototype and existing weapons (including the first Polaris SLBM war shot) carried out over the Eastern Pacific spanning from the coast of California to Christmas and Johnston Island.
Falgout would closely participate (sometimes within 90 miles of the detonation) in at least nine of these tests, all off Johnston Island as part of TU 8.3.6, while she would be a more distant weather ship (over 500 miles away) for much of the remainder of the other tests, in the latter tasked with chasing off Soviet spy trawlers.
The Defense Nuclear Agency’s 432-page report on Operation Dominic I compiled in 1983, has the below rundown of Falgout’s nine hottest experiences:
Notably, of the more than 80 Army, Navy, and Coast Guard vessels that took part in or supported Dominic I, only 16, Falgout included, had personnel with “suspect” radiological film badges.
And the detonation maps for Tightrope (Operation Fishbowl, less than 20 kt), Housatonic (9.96 Mt), Calamity (800 Kt), Chama (1.6 Mt), and Bumping (11.3 Kt):
Dominic Chama blast, 18 October. B-52 Airdrop; 11,970 Feet detonation. This was a free-fall LASL test of the Thumbelina device in an Mk-36 drop case.
Another shot of Chama. This was a test of a lightweight small-diameter device, possibly a replacement for the W-38 (the 2-4 Mt warhead for the Atlas and Titan I missiles). The results are variously described as “thoroughly successful” while the yield was reported to be below the predicted value.
Tightrope. Nike Hercules Missile Airburst; 69,000 Feet. Carrying the LASL-designed W-31 air defense warhead.
Brushing the dust off Dominic off her decks, Falgout would continue to be based out of Pearl for the rest of the decade.
USS Falgout (DER 324) at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, June 1963
DE-397 Wilhoite Feb 1966 Pearl Harbor with Falgout DER 324
From 1966 to 1969 Falgout rotated to service along the coast of Vietnam where she served in Operation Market Time, attempting to interdict Viet Cong maritime traffic. This would include the TEE SHOT V operation which saw our tin can serve as a mother ship in Qui Nhon Bay to two 50-foot PCFs including berthing for two spare PCF crews.
A stalwart of the Brown Water Navy in Vietnam: the PCF. Here, PCF-94 of Coastal Division 11in the Gulf of Thailand, March 1968. USN 1130655
As detailed by NHHC, TEE SHOT V “was established in the coastal area from Dong Phu village south to Chanh Oai village to detect and capture or destroy any hostile craft attempting to exfiltrate the area…During the operation a total of 2,448 junks were detected, 1,210 inspected and 484 boarded. Twenty-three persons and six junks with a total of seventeen tons of salt were apprehended and delivered to VNN authorities.”
On 10 October 1969, Falgout was decommissioned at Mare Island after just over 14 years of service to the Navy and four to the USCG under Navy orders. Her fellow DERs shared a similar fate, either laid up in mothballs or transferred to overseas allies.
USS Falgout and Canberra laid up at Stockton, California on 20 May 1972. The bow of USS Canberra (CA-70) is visible astern. Probably photographed by Ted Stone. Courtesy of Ted Stone, 1980. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 90588
1973 Janes on the Edsall class DERs.
On 1 June 1975, Falgout was struck from the NVR then in early 1977 was towed out to sea off the coast of California and sunk as a target.
As for LCDR Gravely, once he left Falgout in 1963, he went on to complete 38 years of service, command USS Taussig (DD-746), USS Jouett (DLG-29), Naval Communications Command, Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two, the Eleventh Naval District, Third Fleet, and the Defense Communications Agency.
In 1976, while serving as commander of the Third Fleet, he was promoted to Vice Admiral. He passed away in 2004 and is buried in Arlington.
The Flight II Burke, USS Gravely (DDG 107), is named for him. Here seen Oct. 26, 2013, with an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74 overhead. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho/Released) 131026-N-QL471-333
As for the rest of the Edsalls, the former Coast Guard-manned USS Forster (DE/DER-334/WDE-434) may possibly still be afloat in Vietnam as the pier side trainer Dai Ky, while ex-USS Hurst (DE-250) which has been in the Mexican Navy since 1973, is still in use limited use as the training ship ARM Commodore Manuel Azueta (D111).
The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.
With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.
PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships, you should belong.
In what is a logical next step from the company that brought the world the FNX-45 and FN 509, the FN 545 Tactical is loaded with extras– and is chambered in “God’s caliber.”
Debuted just prior to this year’s SHOT Show alongside the new FN 510 in 10mm Auto, the 545 is essentially an enlarged FN 509 Tactical chambered in .45 ACP. While John Browning’s venerable 118-year-old chunky monkey of a caliber is best known in single-stack 1911s, the popular round keeps on ticking with a new generation of double-stack 2011s and guns like the Gen 5 Glock 21.
At first look, the FN 545 Tactical gets its name honestly, being optics ready, with an extended threaded barrel, and shipping complete with two magazines including a flush 15+1 rounder and an extended 18+1 round mag.
The overall length of the FN 545 Tactical is 8.3 inches, which is about as long as a Government profile 1911, while the weight is a lighter 31 ounces.
The 4.71-inch cold hammer-forged, target-crowned barrel on the FN 545 is threaded .578x28TPI to mount compensators and suppressors. Seen here with a SilencerCo Omega installed. A great thing about the .45 ACP round is that it is inherently subsonic in velocity, which makes it natural for use with suppressors.
These three interesting mentions from DOD in the past week include the next two Virginia-class hunter killers (SSN 812 & 813)– which will be Block V subs if not improved Block VI boats, which will be the 38th and 39th of the class.
General Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut, is awarded a not-to-exceed $1,075,896,000 undefinitized contract action modification to previously awarded contract N00024-17-C-2100 for long lead time material associated with the Virginia class submarines SSN 812 and SSN 813. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, California (34%); Florence, New Jersey (5%); Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (3%); Spring Grove, Illinois (2%); Tucson, Arizona (2%); Windsor Locks, Connecticut (2%); Annapolis, Maryland (2%); Minneapolis, Minnesota (2%); Peoria, Illinois (1%); Ladson, South Carolina (1%); Warren, Massachusetts (1%); and other locations less than 1% (45%), and is expected to be completed by September 2033. Fiscal 2022 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) $352,017,000 (33%); and fiscal 2023 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) $723,879,000 (67%) funding will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The statutory authority for this sole source award is in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation 6.302-1(a)(2)(iii) – only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.
If curious about the Virginias, the Navy recently released a very good short tour of classmember USS Delaware (SSN-791):
The recent contracts include a ninth ship (T-AO 213) in the John Lewis-class fleet oiler program (which have some of the worst names possible– can we just go back to rivers for oilers?).
General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, California, is awarded a $736,160,588 modification to previously-awarded contract N00024-16-C-2229 to exercise the option for the detail design and construction of T-AO 213. Work will be performed in San Diego, California (58%); Iron Mountain, Michigan (8%); Crozet, Virginia (5%); Beloit, Wisconsin (4%); Mexicali, Mexico (4%); Chula Vista, California (2%); Chesapeake, Virginia (2%); National City, California (1%); Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1%); Walpole, Massachusetts (1%); and various other locations less than one percent (14%), and is expected to be completed by March 2028. Fiscal 2023 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $736,160,588 (100%) will be obligated at time of 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 May 19, 2023)
Class leader, the future USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205) on sea trials.
In 2016, the Navy awarded NASSCO with a contract to design and build the first six ships in the next generation of fleet oilers, the John Lewis-class (T-AO 205), previously known as the TAO(X). Designed to transfer fuel to U.S. Navy carrier strike group ships operating at sea, the 742-feet vessels have a full load displacement of 49,850 tons, with the capacity to carry 157,000 barrels of oil, a significant dry cargo capacity, aviation capability and up to a speed of 20 knots. The first ship, the future USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205), was delivered to the Navy last year. The future USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO 206), the future USNS Earl Warren (T-AO 207), the future USNS Robert F. Kennedy (T-AO 208), the future USNS Lucy Stone (T-AO 209), and the future USNS Sojourner Truth (T-AO 210) are currently under construction.
And going back to submarines, this contract is interesting:
Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Connecticut, is awarded a $48,627,265 modification (P00034) to previously awarded, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract N00014-19-C-1002 for the Next Generation Submarine Science and Technology Research effort. The contract modification adds five new option periods. The proposed effort is to develop technologies for transition to the Virginia and Columbia submarine acquisition programs, and to provide technology options for the next SSN class that improve submarine performance, operations, life cycle and affordability. The effort includes development of numerical modeling and simulations tools, development of engineering analysis methods, development and demonstration of component and system concepts, technology assessment, and application of ship builder expertise in engineering and submarine arrangements to evaluate and transition technology into submarine designs. The total cumulative value of this contract is $88,289,172. Work will be performed in Groton, Connecticut, and is expected to be completed by May 31, 2028. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test, and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $4,899,265 are obligated at time of award and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity.
Official caption: “A Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 2 (HC-2) SH-3G Sea King helicopter takes off from the stern of the dock landing ship USS Mount Vernon (LSD 39). A Mark 33 3-inch/50-caliber anti-aircraft gun is in the foreground.”
Note that the autoloaders on the Mk33 are filled with 13-pound shells at the ready while the Sea King, likely of the “Desert Ducks” detachment out of Bahrain, has a beautiful full-color livery.
U.S. Navy image DN-ST-88-03592 via NARA.
Filed October 1987 in the Persian Gulf by PH2 (SW) Jeffrey Elliott, this image dates from Operation Earnest Will in the midst of the Tanker War phase of the Iran-Iraq war which saw Kuwaiti-owned tankers reflagged as American vessels and placed under the protection of the Navy.
Mount Vernon, a 14,000-ton Anchorage-class dock landing ship, was commissioned in 1972 and, as with the other four members of her class, had been fitted with a quartet of MK 33 twin 3-inch AAA DP mounts when constructed, a system that first entered service in 1948.
Another Mount Vernon shot from 1987. The 16-ton MK33 twin mount had a AAA ceiling of 30,400 feet and a surface engagement range of 14,600 yards, capable of 40-50 rounds per minute per gun, at least until the auto-loader ran out. They required an 11-man crew. It was believed one Mk33 was successful in an AAA role, with USS Biddle (DLG-34) credited with damaging a North Vietnamese MiG fighter in the Tonkin Gulf on 19 July 1972.
The fire-control directors for these dated mounts, of questionable use even in the 1970s, were removed from the Anchorage class during the Carter administration, while the first two tubs and then the last four were deleted by the early 1990s as the weapon was sunsetted. They were replaced by a pair of CIWS and another pair of Mk 38 25mm chain guns during late-career refits.
Mount Vernon would be decommissioned on 25 July 2003, the same year the last of her class left active service and was sunk as a target two years later.
The last 3-inch guns in U.S. maritime service were the 3″/50 singles on the 210-foot Reliance class cutters of the Coast Guard, which were removed during the completion of the cutters’ midlife maintenance availability in 1996.
As for the mighty Sea King, which first entered Navy service in 1961, they retired in late 2006 when the final unarmed UH-3H model was paid off from support duty at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, although the “white top” VH-3Ds of Marine One would continue to serve for much longer.
A U.S. Navy Sikorsky VH-3A Sea King (BuNo 150613) and an SH-3G of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 2 (HC-2) stand on the flight line following their arrival at the Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia (USA), in 1991. HC-2 was the last squadron that operated the type, finally retiring them in 2006 for H-60 models. Photo by Capt. Joe Mancias, USN – U.S. DefenseImagery photo VIRIN: DN-ST-91-07128.
I recently hit the road in southwest Alabama and visited the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, one of the largest military helicopter collections in the world.
Located at Fort Novosel (formerly Fort Rucker, aka “Mother Rucker”), the sprawling 60,000-acre complex has been home to all Army helicopter training since 1959 and all aviation training since 1973.
The Museum has over 250 aircraft in its inventory – some incredibly rare.
The post earlier this year was named in honor of Army CWO Michael J. Novosel, a UH-1 medevac pilot who evacuated an amazing 5,589 wounded personnel while in Vietnam, earning a well-deserved Medal of Honor.
The only warship named for CDR Mannert Lincoln “Jim” Abele (USNA 1926), a posthumous Navy Cross-earning submarine skipper who was thought to have bagged three Japanese destroyers in a single day before disappearing with his command (USS Grunion, SS-216) off Alaska in 1942, the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) was laid down at Bath in Maine in late 1943, sponsored by his widow, Catharine, and commissioned at Boston Navy Yard, on Independence Day 1944.
USS Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) Off the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, 1 August 1944, soon after commissioning. She is wearing Camouflage Measure 32, Design 11A. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command. Catalog #: NH 46646
Our destroyer soon transited to the Pacific and was part of Kelly Turner’s Task Force (TF) 51 off Iwo Jima and later Okinawa, where, unfortunately, she was the first U.S. warship sunk by a Japanese suicide rocket bomb– the same day Franklin Roosevelt passed.
One of these, as seen at the Pima Air and Space Museum (Photo: Chris Eger)
As noted by NHHC:
On April 12, 1945, Mannert L. Abele was operating 75 miles off the northern coast of Okinawa, when enemy aircraft appeared on radar. Mannert L. Abele engaged with, and damaged, multiple enemy aircraft, until eventually an aircraft managed to crash abreast of the after-fireroom on the starboard side, penetrating the after-engine room. A minute later, the ship was hit at the waterline by a Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (Cherry Blossom) rocket-powered human-guided bomb, and the resulting explosion caused the ship’s bow and stern to buckle rapidly.
WWII Sumner Class Destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele multi-beam sonar 4500 feet deep offshore Okinawa Japan (Lost 52 Project)
WWII Sumner Class Destroyer USS Mannert L. Abele Bow Hull Number 733. (Lost 52)
“Mannert L. Abele is the final resting place for 84 American Sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country,” said NHHC Director Samuel J. Cox, U.S. Navy rear admiral (retired). “My deepest thanks and congratulations to Tim Taylor and his team for discovering this wreck site. Its discovery allows some closure to the families of those lost, and provides us all another opportunity to remember and honor them.”