Tag Archives: NATO

Blue Devils with SCARs

The famed “blue devils” of the French Army’s 13e Bataillon de Chasseurs Alpins (13e BCA) date back to before the Crimean War, when they were initially raised as the plain old 13e Bataillon Chasseurs à Pied (13e BCP), fighting as such in Algeria, the Italian unification wars, and the Franco-German War.

Transitioning into crack mountain infantry in 1888, they guarded key Alpine passes in peacetime, then in the Great War fought in the Vosges, the Somme, in the Italian Alps against the Austrians, and generally everywhere they were needed, earning seven unit Croix de Guerre by 1918.

“Les Diables Bleus” WWI Chasseurs Alpins by Georges Bertin Scott, circa 1915

The blue devils received their name due to their dark blue uniforms and large berets, retained to this day in their service and dress uniforms. Hard fighters, their motto is “Jamais être pris vivant,” (Never to be Taken Alive)

Interbellum, they remained on the move for the Occupation of Germany with vacations in sunny Tunisia to fight insurgents for the glory of the Republic.

Chasseurs alpins during the Occupation of the Ruhr in Buer (now Gelsenkirchen), 1923. Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-09896

In WWII, following honors in the battle for Narvik against German mountain troops trying to hold on to Norway, they returned home to be dissolved by the Vichy government leaving most of its members to shrug and quietly join the maquis resistance. Reforming their battalion in August 1944, they fought for and captured the Grand Roc Noir (11,752 ft) from the Germans before descending into the Aosta Valley in Italy by the end of the war.

French Chasseurs Alpins showing off a captured MG42 in the Alpine mountains, January 1945.

Since then, they fought in Algeria, prepared for mountain combat in the Cold War, and, since that thawed, have been very busy in recent years with deployments to Bosnia, Lebanon, Chad, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Djibouti.

Why all this about the 13th BCA?

Well, they were chosen to be the first unit of the French Army to receive the FN SCAR H PR series precision rifle in 7.62 NATO, for use by their designated marksmen and snipers out to 800m.

The guns will replace the old MAS-derived GIAT FR F2 bolt gun that has been the French standard sniper rifle since the 1980s.

In several ways, the fusil à répétition modèle F2 is really just an updated MAS-36 in 7.62 NATO

More in my column at Guns.com.

Autumn Forge ’78

NATO’s Historian just posted this, which is awesome for fans of Cold War gear and equipment.

A documentary presented by Robert MacNeil from NATO headquarters in Brussels and showing a 1978 combined NATO exercise, “Autumn Forge”, that took place in September 1978 in the Federal Republic of Germany, testing the capacity for rapid reinforcements to NATO’s central front in Europe, the most vulnerable area the Alliance has to defend.

Chapters

00:00 Introduction

06:23 Day One

11:49 Day Two

18:07 Day Three

22:42 Day Four

25:50 Epilogue

SACEUR, U.S. Army General Alexander M. Haig, placed great emphasis on improving the “Three Rs” – Readiness, Rationalisation, and Reinforcement – in order to counter-balance the growing military capabilities of the Warsaw Pact. One of SHAPE’s major tasks during this period was to study how to improve the command and control and flexibility of NATO forces in Europe. In 1975, Gen. Haig also introduced a major new NATO exercise program called Autumn Forge, whose best-known element was the REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) series. These exercises brought together national and NATO exercises improved their training value and annually tested the ability of the Alliance’s North American members to reinforce Europe rapidly.

More info on the new French Glocks, SCARs

Last week, the French military purchasing agency announced they are picking up 75,000 new Glocks to replace older MAS G1 (Beretta 92) and MAC 50 (Sig P-210ish) pistols. The new handguns will be two-toned (black over Coyote) Gen 5 G17s with Marksman barrels, suppressor-height night sights, ambi slide levers, a lanyard ring (G19X, is that you?) and forward slide serrations.

Voilà

The new French PSA G17

Additionally, to replace the 1980s-era FR F2 bolt-action rifle, the French will be issuing the SCAR-H PR, essentially a SCAR-17 with a heavy barrel. It will be issued with an FN-made QD suppressor, a cleaning kit, four 20-round magazines, and two 10-round magazines.

More details, including videos, in my column at Guns.com. 

Le Glock Mle 2020

French trench raiders during the First World War, winter 1917 Bezange Forest, Lorraine, note the Ruby pistol.

The French military has flirted with modern semi-auto pistols for longer than most. During the Great War, thousands of Spanish-made Ruby and Star pistols augmented the country’s rather lackluster Modèle 1892 revolvers.

This cleared the way for the later FN 1922-inspired MAB Model D pistol and Charles Petter’s famous Mle. 1935, the latter design one that went on to morph into the Swiss SIG P210, arguably one of the best handguns of the 20th Century.

After WWII, the MAC Mle 1950, itself very P210-ish, was adopted and, coupled with the PAMAS G1, a domestically-made clone of the Beretta 92F, is still in service today.

The French MAC 50 PA modèle 1950 pistol

Now, 115 years after the Ruby was first ordered, the French defense ministry has placed an order for 75,000~ new Glocks.

The Glocks, reportedly a two-tone Gen 5 G17 MOS with a threaded barrel, suppressor-height night sight, and optics plate, will be delivered through 2022.

Besides the Austrian polymer pistols, the French are also going FN when it comes to a rifle to replace their venerable FR F2 (itself a souped-up MAS1936).

Sniper overwatch by a 3e RPIMa marksman with a French FR-F2, Rwanda, 1993. These rifles will be upgraded to SCAR H PRs in the coming years. 

More in my column at Guns.com.

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.

Manta tin cans in the Ionian Sea

You just can’t ask for a better international pack of greyhounds than this.

NATO Photo by FRAN WO Christian Valverde.

NATO Photo by FRAN WO Christian Valverde.

The image shows the Greek frigate Elli, French FREMM-class frigate FS Auvergne (D654), Royal Netherlands Navy De Zeven Provincien-class frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805), Spanish Navy Alvaro de Bazan-class frigate Blas de Lezo (F-103), and the Turkish Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry-class (Gabya-class in Turkish service) frigate TCG Gelibolu (F-493)— ex-USS Reid (FFG-30).

They are a part of NATO Advanced Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Exercise Dynamic Manta19 started off the cost of Sicily last week. Including Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, ships and aircraft from Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Great Britain, and the U.S. are involved. A total of 5 submarines, 9 ASW surface ships, 6 MPAs and 11 Rotary Wing Aircraft (Helicopters) are slated to participate in this exercise through early March.

IONIAN SEA, Feb 25, 2019. NATO warships sail in formation while performing Dynamic Manta's Photo exercise. Dynamic Manta is an NATO Maritime Command-led exercise designed to sharpen the anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface ship warfare skills of the participating units. Dynamic Manta 2019 will be conducted in vicinity of Italy from 25 February to 8 March and include participants from 10 NATO Allies . Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States provide in total 5 submarines, 9 ASW surface ships, 6 MPAs and 11 Rotary Wing Aircraft (Helicopters) to participate in this exercise. NATO Photo by FRAN WO Christian Valverde.

Pretty sweet photo spread here

Like sniper team postcards?

Sniper teams from eight NATO countries recently visited Austria to use the Alps for some specialized training at Austria’s Hochfilzen Training Area. In such a beautiful part of Europe, the released photos from the event look like they came right from a postcard, but with a bonus sniper team inserted.

Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper team takes aim at targets across a valley. Note the Barrett MRAD. (U.S. Army Photo)

Dutch sniper engages targets in a valley below

More in my column at Guns.com

NATO drops Wolverines video

The above video is pretty interesting if you know the history of the guerrilla war in the Baltic states that was fought by as many as 50,000 Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans against the Red Army from the tail end of WWII through the early 1950s. It’s an unsung war, and the various “Forest Brothers” groups (whose members included several former German soldiers as well as Waffen SS members of the various Baltic legions, a facet often glossed over) that were backed in part by Western intelligence agencies.

The above video was put out this month by NATO, which, especially when combined with other similar videos about modern equivalent of stay-behind units, is probably meant to provide a moment of pause to the big bear on the Baltic states’ Eastern border.

And cue the Russian butt hurt, which is rich considering the little green men running around the Ukraine and Crimea, and the fact that they annexed the Baltics in 1939 by force.

The very well armored Lt. Willassen of the Norse

An interesting interview published through NATO’s channels of Lieutenant Silje Johansen Willassen, Norway’s Telemark Battalion’s first female tank platoon commander, in charge of a quartet of German-built Leopard MBTs. Telemark is the Army ‘s rapid reaction force and is equipped with Swedish CV-9030N infantry fighting vehicles and Leopard 2A4NO tanks, the latter picked up slightly used from the Dutch Army in 2001.

Norway will be sending a mixed force company to Lithuania in May to support NATO’s enhanced forward presence. The company, of around 200 troops, will be drawn from the Telemark Battalion– and Willassen will command half of the tanks slated for the force. They will provide combat support to the German-led multinational battalion. The deployment will be for six months.

NATO hangs it up on Blackbeard

NATO’s last counter-piracy surveillance aircraft is flying her final mission, as part of the now-shuttered Operation Ocean Shield. The Royal Danish Air Force crew a Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, a modified Bombardier Challenger 604, and talks about how much the coast of Somalia has changed since the height of pirate activity in the Horn of Africa.

The operation, which began in 2009 as part of a broader international effort to crack down on Somali-based pirates who had caused havoc with world shipping, was conducted alongside Operation Atalanta— the EU operation in the area which current have a frigate each from Holland and Spain supported by a German P-3– and the 25-nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, both of which are on-going.

At the height of piracy in January 2011 over 700 hostages and 32 vessels were being held by Somali pirates, with huge ransoms demanded for their release.  Today, no vessels or hostages are being held by Somali pirates. The most recent pirate incident occurred on 22 October 2016, when a chemical tanker, CPO Korea, was attacked by six armed men 330 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia.

“The global security environment has changed dramatically in the last few years and NATO navies have adapted with it,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in a statement. “NATO has increased maritime patrols in the Baltic and Black Seas. We are also working to help counter human smuggling in the Mediterranean.”

As for the EU operation, on Friday 25 November 2016, the European Council extended Operation Atalanta’s mandate to deter, disrupt and repress acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia, until 31 December 2018.

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