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Japanese Convoy HI-88J Meets Apaches, 75 Years Ago Today

On 29 March 1945, Japanese Convoy HI-88J was intercepted in the South China Sea some 35 miles off Cap Batangan, French Indochina by B-25 Mitchell bombers of the 498th and 501st Bomb Squadrons of the 345th Bomb Group (Air Apaches), U.S. Fifth Air Force. In a running battle, the Japanese Type D-class escort ship CD-18 was strafed, bombed and sunk with the loss of her skipper and 184 crewmen.

USAAC Photo B-57672

The escort was followed quickly by her sistership, CD-130, which carried her entire 178 crew to the bottom, as well as the tanker Kaiko Maru.

Also sent to the bottom that day was CD-84, another Type D, scratched by the Gato-class fleet sub, USS Hammerhead (SS-364), torpedoed and sunk with her entire crew. Onboard CD-84 were also a number of survivors from the tanker Honan Maru, which had been sunk by the submarine USS Bluegill the previous day.

On 30 March, the next day, the Apaches went out again and found HI-88J off Yulin, China, where they sank the auxiliary sub chaser Shinan Maru before the convoy made it out of range.

Sig promises a more affordable 716 rifle

Sig Sauer’s 716-series rifles have proven popular since they were introduced a few years ago. Essentially a 7.62 NATO variant of the company’s SIG516 carbine, it has been offered increasingly as a battle rifle, patrol rifle and designated marksman rifle (DMR), seeing a good bit of adoption in military and police circles. After all, India just ordered 72,400 of them last year.

The problem is, they run well north of $2K, especially for the SIG716G2 series, with is a piston gun.

That’s where the new 716i, with the appeal of being essentially the same gun at half the price, comes in at.

With a lightweight direct impingement system paired with the company’s TREAD line of semi-customization, the 716i is chambered in .308 Winchester. Standard features include a free-floating M-LOK handguard, a 2-stage Matchlite Duo trigger, and an M1913 Mil-Std top-rail for optics.

Using a 16-inch barrel with a 1-in-10 twist, the overall length of the 716i is 37-inches while weight is 8.5-pounds. The barrel has 5/8X24 TPI threads for muzzle devices.

More in my column at Guns.com.

75 Years Ago Today: The Rolling W Across the Rhine

On this day in 1945, the below image caught Soldiers of the U.S. 89th Infantry Division rolling across the Rhine at Oberwesel, Germany, 26 March 1945, carried by landing craft.

Note the above highlights the range of infantry weapons carried at the time including M-1 rifles– one with a rifle grenade attachment, Thompson M1 submachine gun, and an M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.

NARA Photo U. S. Signal Corps 202464

The 89th “Rolling W” Division landed in France on 10 January 1945 and saw first combat on 12 March– just two weeks before the above image was taken. In their 57 Days under fire in the ETO, they suffered 1,029 casualties and produced no less than 46 Silver Star recipients. In addition, they helped liberate Ohrdruf, a Buchenwald subcamp.

Surface warfare work never really changes

USS DeKalb, officer firing a 1-pounder (37mm) Hotchkiss gun while a Sailor observes, 18 May 1918.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 41702

Fast forward 102 years:

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 10, 2020) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Shelby Wilkes fires a Mark 38 25mm machine gun during a live-fire exercise aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89).

(U.S. Navy photo 200310-N-AJ005-1173 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cody Beam/Released) 

Ruger goes pistol with their PC Carbine

Based on the company’s popular PC Carbine, Ruger’s new feature-rich PC Charger pistol just hit the market. It was likely supposed to debut at the NRA Show next month but as the annual event, along with everything else in the country, is canceled, Ruger released it digitally.

Using a 6.5-inch threaded barrel and a glass-filled polymer chassis system that allows for the use of standard AR pistol grips, the takedown PC Charger is 16.5-inches long overall. Hitting the scales at 5.2-pounds, it comes with an integrated rear Picatinny rail for pistol braces.

The Charger uses a hard-coat anodized aluminum handguard with Magpul M-LOK-slots at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions and comes with a factory-installed handstop.

More in my column at Guns.com.

After 100 Years, Marines Could Lose Their Tanks

M1A2 Abrams Tank 1st Marine Division TIGERCOMP Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Aug 2019. 1st Marine Division photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb

The Wall Street Journal has a report that the Marines are set to drastically reboot in the next decade. In short, they will get leaner and lighter, shedding about 15,000 Marines, ditching lots of old-school 155mm tube artillery in favor of mobile truck-mounted anti-ship missile batteries. The 8th Marines would be disbanded along with some helicopter squadrons while the number of UAV squadrons will be doubled.

The focus of the new 2030 USMC would be an updated Wake Island 1941 program-– landing on and defending small Pacific islands to deny the use of an area to a Chinese naval force.

Oh yeah, and the Marines will also lose all of their beautiful and hard-serving Abrams main battle tanks.

A century of support to the Devils

The Marines got into the tank game in the 1920s and has employed armor in every major combat action ever since– with the exception of Wake Island.

In 1923, the Marines established Light Tank Platoon, East Coast Expeditionary Force at Quantico with a handful of Great War surplus U.S. Army (a trend that would continue) M1917 Renault light tanks, two-man 6-ton vehicles armed with a light machine gun.

Marine M1917 Renault Light Tanks, “Tanks Going into Action, Antietam, 1924”

In 1927, this platoon was assigned to the 3d Marine Brigade in China, where it would operate for a year before it returned to the States and was disbanded in 1930.

Then came two armored platoons stood up in the mid-1930s equipped with the light (5-ton) Marmon-Harrington tankettes, of which a whopping 10 were acquired.

Marine Marmon-Herrington tankette landing from lighter, 1930s

On 1 August 1940, the USMC established the 3d Tank Company with M2A4 light tanks. This unit the next year became Alpha Company, 1st Tank Battalion and by early 1942 were rushed to defend American Samoa. By August, they were landing at Guadalcanal.

A Marine M2A4 light tank on Guadalcanal, 1942 “MOP UP UNIT– Two alert U.S. Marines stand beside their small tank which helped blast the Japanese in the battle of the Tenaru River during the early stages of fighting on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Those well-manned, sturdy machines readily mopped up strong points of enemy resistance.”

Upgrading to M4 Shermans in time for 1943’s Cape Gloucester, New Britain operation, the Marines would continue to use the hardy medium tank in a force that would grow to six battalions.

1944 M4A2 Sherman tank Company A, 1st Tank Marine Battalion passing a Japanese blockhouse at Peleliu

By Korea, the Marines were able to put their Shermans to pasture and begin using the 90mm-equipped M26 Pershing and the M46 tank.

“Marine tanks parked in the southwest part of the perimeter of Koto-ri. The high ground was within the perimeter. 1950”

Lessons learned in Korea brought about the medium-and-heavy combo that was the M48A1 and the M103, which were used in Lebanon in 1958, the Cuban Missile Crisis (where Marine tankers were ashore at GTMO) and the 1965 landing in the Dominican Republic.

Then came Vietnam, where the Marines continued to utilize the upgraded M48A3 although the Army was switching to the M60 Patton.

6 March 1967, a Marine M48A3 in Vietnam. Note the Playboy Bunny. “Tankers Construct Road: A blade-wielding tank of the 1st Tank Battalion carves a road for Leathernecks of the 2d Battalion, 26th Marines [2/26] during an operation south of Da Nang (official USMC photo by Private First Class Warren E. Wilson).”

The Marines would only upgrade to the M60A1 in 1975, once Vietnam was in the rearview, a tank they would keep– with much modification– through the First Gulf War. Importantly, it was the M60s of the Marines that were the first serious armor on the ground in Saudi Arabia in Desert Storm.

Since 2001, Abrams-equipped Marine tank platoons have been very busy, deploying multiple times to the Middle East. This included company-size deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq as well as carving platoons off to float around with MEUs in the Fleet.

Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, 3d Platoon during the Battle of Nasiriyah in 2003– note the M1 tank support

The Corps currently fields 403 M1A1/A2 variants, less than one-tenth of the amount the Army/National Guard has on hand. Of course, as the Marines just have three tank battalions, one of which is a reserve unit, there are only about 180 of these tanks in unit service, with the rest of the hulls forward-deployed in places like Norway and in other forms of long-term storage.

If all goes according to plan, by 2030 the Marines will have zero Abrams.

Planned upgrades, scheduled to take place through 2024, naturally will be a footnote.

And the beat goes on…

India goes Negev for GPMG

Israeli-based IWI last week was named as the winner for a contract to supply the second largest army in the world with machine guns.

The Indian Ministry of Defence announced that IWI would supply 16,479 Negev NG7 light machine guns to the force at a cost of Rs 880 crore, or about $117 million.

Developed and designed with the Israeli Defense Forces in mind, the select-fire IWI Negev NG7 light machine gun was introduced in 2012. It has a weight of 17.41-pounds, providing a 7.62 NATO-caliber gun in a SAW-sized platform with either 16.5- or 20-inch barrel lengths.

Very nice

More in my column at Guns.com. 

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