Speaking of 1960s technology…

The MiG-25 Foxbat dazzled NATO when it was first spied in 1964. Theoretically capable of Mach 3 and reaching altitudes as high as 115,000 ft., the giant interceptor sent a chill through the West, especially when it was feared it was a strike aircraft.

Then, in September 1976, when Soviet Red Air Force Lt. Viktor Belenko famously defected with his late-model Foxbat-P and U.S. analysts got a first-hand look at the beast, they saw it was terribly flawed. Constructed of stainless steel due to its size and weight, its engines were fragile and could be easily damaged, especially at high speeds. The electronics left a lot to be desired. Lacking a look-down-shoot-down radar, it was limited in combat.

To fix some of the MiG-25’s shortcomings, the Soviets developed what was termed the “Super Foxbat” in the late 1970s. The airframe was crafted from a blend of composite nickel steel, various alloys, and titanium. Featuring a longer fuselage to accommodate a more advanced PESA-style radar able to track 24 airborne targets even among ground clutter and an RIO to take advantage of it, the MiG-31 Foxhound was born.

Although out of production since 1994, the Russians have about 100 updated MiG-31BM models, complete with glass cockpits, HOTAS controls, the late gen Zaslon (Flash Dance) phased array radar, and other good stuff. Still, the 26-ton monster looks like a Cold War pterodactyl.

Check out this recently released video of the aircraft operating around Perm, notably the very region where Gary Powers was lost in 1960.

A different type of Constellation in the Navy

Admiral Thomas B. Howard (USNA 1873), Commander, Pacific Fleet, in his cabin aboard USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6), circa 1915. At the time he was only the fifth full admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy-- after Farragut, Porter, Dewey and Frank F. Fletcher. More than 220 have followed, somewhat diluting the brand. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1976 NH 84403

Admiral Thomas B. Howard (USNA 1873), Commander, Pacific Fleet, in his cabin aboard USS SAN DIEGO (CA-6), circa 1915. At the time he was only the fifth full admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy– after Farragut, Porter, Dewey and Frank F. Fletcher. More than 220 have followed, somewhat diluting the brand. Courtesy of D.M. McPherson, 1976 NH 84403

Two retired captains at CIMSEC have an interesting take on the current number of flag officer slots in the Navy. Of note, during WWII at the height of the Fleet’s size, there were an amazing 6,084 commissioned vessels but only 256 men wearing stars. The number of admirals remained about the same through Vietnam and most of the Cold War, even while the size of the force constricted greatly. Then, in the past quarter-century, the number of flag slots exploded like mushrooms on the lawn after a cool rainstorm.

By 2012, the 280~ ship Navy had 359.

While the military, writ large, is clearly more sophisticated than it was in the past, and while political, acquisition and joint/combined organizations impose a greater demand than ever before for senior representation, it is still hard to understand how the number of flag officers and senior executives are sustained in the Navy with intractable fervor even as the active ship list has declined by about 70 percent.

More here.

Even the Mona Lisa has cracks in it

Portugal has a long and treasured military history. For more than 115 years the Portuguese Army (Exército Português) has issued German-made 9mm steel-framed pistols starting with the DWM Luger in 1906 and moving to the Walther P-38 after WWII.

Dubbed the M1961, the single stack P38 saw lots of service in places like Angola and Mozambique during the African bush wars of the 1960s and 70s, and still equips soldados in Afghanistan and Mali today.

Now, at the end of an era, Lisbon has gone Glock, adopting the Austrian-made polymer-framed G17. The model selected by the Portuguese Army, a Gen 5 variant, includes several features from the G19X such as a Coyote Tan scheme, night sights, and lanyard ring.

Note the Exército engraving and Portuguese rampant lion

More in my column at Guns.com.

Happy Birthday USN!

As you may know, the 244th Birthday of the U.S. Navy (well, technically begun as the Continental Navy) is this week.

Continental Navy sloop-of-war Fly (8 guns) along with Continental Navy sloop-of-war Mosquito (4 guns). Both ships were mentioned as being on station in Delaware Bay with Fly watching six British ships in a letter dated 30 December 1776. This image from a 1974 painting by William Nowland Van Powell currently in the U.S. Navy Art Collection

Continental Navy sloop-of-war Fly (8 guns) along with Continental Navy sloop-of-war Mosquito (4 guns). Both ships were mentioned as being on station in Delaware Bay watching six British warships in a letter dated 30 December 1776. This image from a 1974 painting by William Nowland Van Powell currently in the U.S. Navy Art Collection

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer wishes the Navy and all the Sailors and civilians around the fleet a happy 244th birthday:

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger 244th U.S. Navy Birthday message:

53 feet of rock and roll, 119 years on

Here we see Mr. John Philip Holland’s iconic submersible, adopted by the Navy as Submarine Torpedo Boat # 1, partially submerged off the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, in the summer of 1901.

Courtesy of the Clarence Grace Collection. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 63088

Note USS Holland‘s 13-star boat flag, signal mast fitted amidships and commissioning pennant. A monitor is in the left background.

Just over the size of a modern semi-truck trailer, she carried an 8-inch dynamite gun (!) as well as an 18-inch torpedo tube and three torpedoes, making her fairly deadly for her size.

Holland, just 53-feet long, was commissioned 12 October 1900– 119 years ago today– and served only five years before being laid up. The Navy sold the little 74-ton vessel in 1913 and she was on public display until scrapped during the Depression.

That’s a lot of oily M4s

So I told you guys that I spent some time in the Palmetto State last month filming at FN with Guns.com. Want to see how the tour went? I think you will find the M240 and M4 production lines interesting. Do you know FN makes roughly 500 M4s every single day?

After they’re test fired, they’re disassembled, cleaned, then reassembled and given a 101-point inspection. Then, they’re literally dipped in preservation oil and packaged 50 rifles to a large wooden crate.

Some poor Joe or Devil is going to have to clean that off one day…

Anyways, check out the full video below.

The Gray Ghost arrives on Yankee Station

Official Caption: “The biggest and fastest guns operating in the Tonkin Gulf belong to the USS NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148). Her 8-inch/55 caliber rapid-fire guns rake North Vietnamese targets daily during Operation Sea Dragon. The NEWPORT NEWS arrived on Yankee Station in October 1967 to enter combat for the first time in her 19 years, 11 October 1967.”

Photographer, Journalist First Class Willard B. Bass, Jr. USN, Wed, Oct 11, 1967, 1127808 National Archives

Commissioned 29 January 1949, “The Gray Ghost from the East Coast,” was a 21,000-ton Des Moines-class heavy cruiser. The pinnacle of U.S. big-gun cruisers, only eclipsed by the ill-fated Alaska-class battlecruisers, Newport News and her sisters Des Moines and Salem (CA-139) carried nine 8″/55 cal Mk 16 RF guns in three 450-ton triple turrets that used automatic shell handling and loading to produce a rate of fire three times greater than that of previous 8″ (20.3 cm) guns.

They could zip out an impressive 10 rounds per minute, per gun, or 90 x 260lb shells in 60 seconds.

Oof.

Newport News would fire more than 50,000 shells on her 1967 deployment including one incident on 19 December when she exchanged fire with as many as 28 separate North Vietnamese shore batteries, simultaneously, being bracketed by 300 enemy shells without taking a hit.

Newport News would return to Yankee Station two more times before she was decommissioned in 1975, the last all-gun heavy cruiser in US service. She was scrapped in 1993.

This week, however, a model of the Gray Ghost was moved into the gallery of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum by a contingent of sailors from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG-64). The model is incorporated into a larger exhibit, “The Ten Thousand-Day War at Sea: The US Navy in Vietnam, 1950-1975.”

The new exhibit opened on Wednesday.

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