How the Civil War revolutionized artillery - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Want to win a war game? Plan carefully, work hard, and get lucky. Want to win a war? You need to get good (or, Git Gud, as you Fortnite players might say). That was the challenge facing military leaders at the start of the Civil War. Industry and daily life had changed year by year over the preceding decades, and if military leaders didn’t evolve and rise to the challenges brought on by the new conflict, they and their men would be lucky to get shallow graves.


How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

A railway gun used during the U.S. Civil War during the Siege of Petersburg, June 1864–April 1865.

(Library of Congress)

The Industrial Revolution took a while to get started and into full swing, but by the 1850s, it was raging across North America with wooden (and, quickly, steel) railroads crisscrossing the country while horses and engines, were pressed into service to pull the train cars. Steam-powered shovels dug canals, and ships crossed the oceans in record time with coal-heated boilers pushing them along.

So, when rebels fired on Fort Sumter in 1861, it was time to use the new manufacturing techniques and technology to improve the weapons of war and produce them on a grand scale. When it came to artillery, the growing industrial might of the U.S. was full of things that could improve cannon design.

Improvements in metallurgy and machining had allowed for more powerful pistons for steam engines, but if you used the same techniques to create cannons, you could safely pack more powder per shot and create more cannons in total. And, the massive improvements in the understanding of iron mining and smelting meant fewer weapons made of brass.

And since machining and interchangeable parts had also improved, it had become possible to manufacture rifled cannons in large numbers. Rifled cannons were more accurate, more destructive, and could deliver explosives into stone masonry.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

30-pounder Parrot rifle at Port Hudson, Louisiana.

(Public domain)

These changes had, obviously, begun before the war actually broke out. For instance, the Parrot rifle was created in 1860. It was designed by a former Army captain who had left the service in 1836. It was actually a cannon and relied on a cast-iron barrel, a then-recent development in cannon design, but far from revolutionary.

Cast-iron barrels have better accuracy than those made of wrought iron, but cast iron is brittle and has less tensile strength, essential for surviving repeated firings. Parrot wrapped the cast-iron barrel in wrought iron with a focus on the breech where the worst pressures were experienced. The addition of rifling helped improve accuracy and range.

But the 1861 outbreak of war drastically increased the market for the Parrot rifle and similar weapons. And, it also created a market for new artillery munitions.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

A display with different rounds for the Parrot rifle.

(Dr.Stew82, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Explosive shells, chained shot, heated shot, all had been around for a while, but the industrial war had created industrial demand. Again, new manufacturing techniques allowed for many more rounds to be created. But, even better, when well-made explosive shells were fired from rifled cannons, they could pierce walls, drilling feet into the surface before exploding.

This destroyed stone walls and timber fortifications with ease. While Parrot rifles and other long-range artillery, were able to fire up to 1.5 miles or more, wrought-iron, rifled cannons firing smaller shells could reach out over 2 miles.

For defenders, that was a guaranteed catastrophe. Traditionally, forts counted on altitude to outrange their opponents. If opposing artillery had similar weapons, the fort’s defenders gained a considerable range advantage because they were firing from 15-feet above the ground or potentially higher.

But if the attacker showed up with wrought-iron, rifled cannons with reinforced breeches, they’d likely have a huge range advantage. With a cast-iron barrel reinforced by wrought iron, they lose a little range but pick up some serious accuracy.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Parrot rifle and carriage.

(U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

And when the attacker’s shells buried into the walls before exploding, they could shred straight through the defenses while staying outside the range of the fort’s smoothbores.

And this was decidedly in the Union’s favor because it had the factories and money to manufacture these technological marvels.

When artillerymen got into duels with the new weapons, it was an interesting if lethal exchange. But for infantrymen sent against these new guns, meant they could have to march under fire for over a mile to get into range of their attackers. It took 15 to 20 minutes for infantry to cross the distance while each gun’s crew was pushing out two rounds per minute.

Between that and breakthroughs in rifle technology (similar story to artillery, improved manufacturing techniques combined with improved range and rate of fire) made an infantry attacker’s job nearly impossible. The worst was Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg where 15,000 Confederates tried to cross .75 miles of open field under artillery and rifle fire. Nearly 6,000 men died, and the rest retreated.

Articles

The crippled USS Yorktown traded its life for victory at Midway

The USS Yorktown (CV-5) was heavily damaged at the Battle of Coral Sea, but it pushed on to join other Navy forces at the Battle of Midway, where the valiant actions of the crew helped ensure a U.S. victory despite the loss of the ship.


The Yorktown was one of America’s eight active carriers when the country formally entered World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was based in the Atlantic at the time of the attack, but was soon equipped with additional anti-aircraft weapons and sent to the Pacific where it became the flagship of Task Force 17.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery
The USS Yorktown sailing in 1937. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

On May 7, 1942, Task Force 17 found itself in a historic battle that would affect the direction of the war. During the Battle of the Coral Sea, a Japanese task force tried to invade the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.

From May 7-8, the American and Japanese fleets clashed in the Pacific in the first naval battle where the two fleets couldn’t see each other. American planes sank the light carrier Shoho along with some smaller ships and damaged two other carriers. But Japanese forces sank the Lexington and heavily damaged the USS Yorktown.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery
Sailors view the damage to the USS Yorktown after a bomb hit suffered during the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 8, 1942. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The ship and air wing losses on each side would be important because Japan was planning an attack at Midway Atoll that could tip the balance of power in the Pacific or accelerate a Japanese victory in the war. Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz knew he needed his carriers ready to go.

And so the Yorktown, suffering from a penetrating bomb strike and eight near-misses, was far from combat ready. Its radar was out, there was a hole in the flight deck, an elevator was damaged, and she was leaking fuel and oil across the surface of the ocean.

An estimate by Rear Adm. Aubrey Fitch stated that it would take 90 days to repair the ship. Nimitz gave the ship three days before it had to ship out to Midway.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery
The USS Yorktown returns to Pearl Harbor on Feb. 6, 1942, after a series of raids. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

About 1,400 repairmen worked around the clock to patch up as much of the ship as possible, and on May 30 the Yorktown steamed towards its rendezvous near Midway.

Thanks to codebreaking efforts, the U.S. was able to ambush the Japanese fleet heading to Midway. And even with the Yorktown present, America was outnumbered in all ship types. The Japanese had brought about 124 ships including six carriers against America’s 40 ships including only three carriers.

Spoiling for a fight

The first hours of the fight went horribly for the U.S., as land and ship-based torpedo planes went in waves against the Japanese carriers only to be cut down by Zeroes. Many of the planes couldn’t even get their torpedoes fired before they were shot down. Of the torpedoes that were launched, all either failed to hit or to explode.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery
Japanese Type 97 B5N bombers attack the USS Yorktown during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

But after six attacks from Wake Island and from the other carriers, two flights of Navy Dauntless dive bombers zeroed in on the Japanese carriers. The first flight came from the USS Enterprise and followed a Japanese destroyer to find the enemy carrier. The second flight came from the Yorktown.

The two flights rained dive bombs onto the Japanese carriers Kaga, Akagi, and Soryu. Recently fueled and re-armed Japanese planes on the decks went up in fireballs next to hoses and weapons strewn about the decks.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery
The deck of the USS Yorktown after it suffers three bomb strikes during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

What followed was probably the most damaging few minutes of the war for the Japanese. Three carriers and much of their air arms were completely destroyed and sent to the bottom of the Pacific, largely thanks to the Yorktown which had limped into combat and still scored a staggering blow.

Another Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, was sank by other forces.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery
The USS Yorktown burns after three Japanese bomb strikes during the Battle of Midway. (Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class William G. Roy)

But the Japanese fleet survived and managed to exact its revenge on the Yorktown. The Hiryu’s planes found the American ship and hit it with three bombs. The already crippled ship lost its boilers and listed in the water. Navy Capt. Elliott Buckmaster ordered the Yorktown abandoned.

Despite the leaks and the list, the ship continued to float and a salvage crew was sent back to see what could be recovered. It was during that salvage trip that the Japanese submarine I-168 fired a spread of torpedoes that finally doomed the stalwart Yorktown as well as the destroyer USS Hammann.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.

Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.


How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.

March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.

In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.

The response was encouraging.

During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.

There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”

Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.

“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.

Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.

“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”

In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.

“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.

Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.

Individuals can find a list of living recipients here, and pick those they’d like to write.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

A classroom of students showing their cards for the MOH recipients.

On or before March 15, send letters to:

Medal of Honor Mail Call
ATTN: (Your Recipient’s Name)
2400 Boston Street, Ste 102
Baltimore, MD 21224

Stange reminds letter writers to include their mailing address as the recipients may write back.

Janine can be found on her website, at @TheAnthemGirl on Twitter, and at NationalAnthemGirl on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The surprising way the Navy wants to repair H-53 rotors

Fleet Readiness Center East is celebrating an achievement, and likely first, in using 3D printing and polymers as a supply solution to repair components for the H-53E.

Research and Engineering Group engineers used a polymer additive manufacturing process — fused deposition modeling — to produce replacement blade inspection method vents (BIM vents) for the aircraft’s main rotor blades.

“I believe this is the first time a polymer AM process has been used to build a flight critical repair component in (Naval Air Systems Command),” said Douglas Greenwood, AM Lead for the Advanced Technology Integrated Product Team. “We don’t usually, if ever, see ‘polymer AM’ and ‘flight critical’ in the same sentence.”


According to Joshua Peedin, senior engineer for H-53 Rotor Systems, artisans in Blade Shop 94304 identified integral damage in the parts during the repair process in 2016. It was a discovery of cracks in the foam beneath the root fairing that pointed to the damage in the vents.

The BIM vents work as part of the indication system to alert pilots to pressure loss in the blades. The BIM vents are critical application items, which means they have a critical function for a major component; not critical in terms of safety of flight.

Peedin said that unavailable parts led him in the direction of the solution. “I contacted our logisticians and (the OEM) to see if we could buy any replacements,” he said. “Neither had any available, so I checked the technical drawings to see if we could manufacture our own replacements.” He said making composite molded replacements were considered, but the composite material was too rigid to meet the required specifications.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Aircraft Mechanical Parts Repairer Todd Bridgers applies a gel viscosity instant adhesive to a blade inspection method (BIM) vent — produced at Fleet Readiness Center East — before applying it to an H-53 blade.

Peedin said Materials Engineers Rob Thompson and Andrea Boxell, from the Polymers and Composites Branch, pointed out FRC East’s capability of 3D printing the part using a material that is chemically similar to the original material — a high-performance, thermoplastic polyetherimide. He also got the help of FRC East Digital Data Center members Justin Reynolds and Todd Spurgeon, AM subject matter experts, to redesign the BIM vents to ensure design compatibility with FRC East’s 3D printers.

“We had many meetings throughout the process to ensure everyone was in agreement to move forward,” said Peedin.

The prototype repair parts were tested under pressure and heat to ensure the repair could withstand in-service conditions and future blade repairs. The local engineers developed, documented, reviewed, and approved the repair procedure through AIR-4.3 Air Vehicle Engineering. The repair was first successfully demonstrated on a scrap main rotor blade asset. The most recent BIM vent repair was the second performed on a production main rotor blade asset using the AM parts.

Greenwood said the accomplishment is also noteworthy, as it demonstrates the flexibility of AM processes. He said FRC East primarily uses the AM printers to make sheet metal form blocks, prototype parts, visual aids, support equipment and many other kinds of parts to support FRC East production.

“All of those parts are built using materials different from the BIM vent parts and none of them are intended for use in flight,” said Greenwood. “Nevertheless, we are using the same printers with a different material to make the BIM vent repair parts.”

Greenwood added, the BIM vent parts mark a new milestone for FRC East. “This is an even bigger achievement for FRC East,” he said. “Using our printers to make polymer AM repair parts on H-53E main rotor blades that will enter the supply system and be used by the fleet.”

The accomplishment offers benefits in the way of cost avoidance, production, and aircraft readiness.

Peedin said the estimated cost to make the type of repair to blades through fused disposition modeling is about ,000 per blade. The pre-existing alternative to the fused deposition modeling repair was to pay the OEM to overhaul the main rotor blade for about 0,000 per blade; a 5,000 savings per blade.

Peedin said, FRC East is now able to keep a steady flow of main rotor blade repair work in the blade shop. “This will lead to a reduction of backordered repairs and ultimately contribute to improvements in the H-53 readiness posture,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Naval Air Systems Command. Follow @NAVAIRNews on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

4 tips for buying your first car as a junior troop

Purchasing your first car is a minefield filled with predatory lenders and scams. Young troops, unfortunately, fall victim to these bloodsuckers every year because they do not know of the special offers and protections available to them. It’s exciting to be on the lot, test driving your potential steed, but knowing the pitfalls that lurk in those lots will save you and your wallet a lot of grief.

It’s your first car and having your finances accounted for will make it easier when the additional expenses of maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration come into play. You wouldn’t go into battle without ammunition and you should equally not venture onto a lot without knowing your credit score, pre-approval amount, and potential financial threats.

Here are 4 tips for identifying and preventing scams targeting you, a junior troop, as you shop for your first car.


How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

The “refusing pre-approved checks” scam

You found it. It’s the perfect car to take you from base to places where knife hands and regulation haircuts do not exist, but there is one problem: the dealer doesn’t want to accept your pre-approved check from your lender (bank). They may try to spin something along the lines of, “I don’t trust those, I’ve been scammed before.” They’re playing the victim; don’t believe them. Their next move will be to convince you to sign a financing agreement with them instead, effectively scamming you into a higher APR loan.

Walk off that lot and never look back. You don’t need that evil put on you, Ricky Bobby.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

The “you have bad credit” scam

As a young troop, you probably don’t have a credit history at all, which is a double-edged sword. The positive is that lenders will give you the benefit of the doubt. Why? Well, because of your service, you’re easy to find and collect from if you become delinquent on payments. So, if a dealer says you have bad credit when you know, for a fact, that you don’t, it’s another scam waiting to happen.

We’re willing to bet that the dealer will tell you your only option for approval is to finance through them at a ridiculously high rate. The solution here is the same as before — walk.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

The “buy here, pay here” financing scam

In this scam, the dealer will promise that you’re going to get a sweet APR if you finance through him, but the application process takes a few weeks. He’s a nice guy, though, so he’ll let you take the car home while everything finalizes. He’s trusting you, but then, once those weeks pass, he calls you with bad news: the loan was denied, and you’re forced to pay a much higher APR or lose that car.

The best defense against this scam is shop around for different lenders, get pre-approved, and don’t accept any unknowns. Do not let dealers talk you into something you’ll regret later. Not all “buy here, pay here” offers are scams, but why take the risk when the alternative is clear as day?

The “price is too good to be true” scam

There are advantages to buying directly from a person instead of a dealer, like a faster turnaround or a better deal. But keep your head on a swivel because you’ll also leave yourself open to other risks and scam artists. As always, if in doubt, bring a friend. With some information and a properly calibrated BS meter, a troop can venture into the unknown unafraid.

The ‘price is too good to be true’ is when a victim sees a car they want to purchase online and it’s priced well below market value. Usually, it’s a classic or an exotic car — something to entice the victim to overlook a few details. The scam artist states that they’re out of the country with the vehicle (for one reason or another), but they’ll ship the car to you — but only after they receive your payment. The scam artist will make it seem like they’re the one at risk.

Once the scammer receives your money, they will cease speaking to you and disappear. Surprise!

The lesson here? Always make purchases in person and be wary of wire transfers and money orders. And, as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

If you feel like you have fallen victim or see a scam targeting your brothers-in-arms, you can report the car-buying scam at Fraud.org

MIGHTY HISTORY

After 75 years, members of 101st Airborne share ties to Battle of the Bulge

Seventy-five years ago in Bastogne, Belgium, German soldiers captured American Pfc. Marold Peterson of the 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division. Peterson escaped from the work camp where we was held prisoner, only to be captured again and killed by Hitler Youth.

Sgt. Travis Paice, the great-grandson of Peterson, said it is surreal to be in Bastogne where Peterson lived his last moments.

“Maybe he was standing right where I stood,” Paice, a soldier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, said.


Paice is one soldier with family ties to the World War II Battle of the Bulge who participated in the 75th anniversary commemoration ceremonies and parade. Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, is another.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

US infantrymen crouch in a snow-filled ditch, taking shelter from a German artillery barrage during the Battle of Heartbreak Crossroads in the Krinkelter woods, December 14, 1944.

(Pfc. James F. Clancy, US Army Signal Corps)

Jones’ great-uncle Ed Jones was a Sherman tanker with the 10th Armored Division during World War II. While Jones is unsure of his great-uncle’s rank, he heard stories growing up about his service from his father and uncle. During the Battle of the Bulge, three of Ed Jones’ tanks took extreme damage.

On his last time evacuating a Sherman tank, he took shrapnel from a German stick grenade in his leg and was captured as a prisoner of war. He was missing for about four months until a Canadian HAM radio operator intercepted a message from the Germans including the locations of POWs from both American and Allied forces.

“It’s amazing to feel like I am walking in his footsteps,” said Jones of walking through the streets where his great uncle served. “To see Bastogne and where he was is a sobering feeling.”

On December 14, 2019, American and Belgian soldiers, along with members of the Bastogne community and World War II veterans, marched in a parade through the town center. Guests of honor, including Prime Minister of Belgium Sophie Wilmes, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the US Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz threw walnuts from the balcony of the Bastogne City Center into the crowd.

The nut throwing, or “Jet de Noix,” commemorates Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s famous response of “Nuts” when petitioned by the Germans to surrender.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Anthony C. McAuliffe, left, and then-Col. Harry W.O. Kinnard II at Bastogne.

(US War Department)

Both Jones and Paice said they felt a great sense of pride knowing their unit has lineage to World War II and the Battle of the Bulge.

Paice had the opportunity to fly his great grandfather’s flag at the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne. He plans on gifting the flag to his grandfather, who is also a veteran.

Before arriving in Bastogne, Paice was given documents by the Army which provided an account of his great grandfather’s capture. He brought these documents with him as a reminder of what his family had endured. While Paice said the documents do not go into much detail, it is just enough to be harrowing.

“I never knew him, and my grandfather never knew him, but to get, somewhat, a little bit of closure was a little surreal,” Paice said.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Sgt. Coleton Jones of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101 Airborne Division, center, meets reenactors at a community event at the Bastogne Barracks in Bastogne, Belgium, December 14, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Erica Earl)

Paice said the most emotional part of his great grandfather’s history is knowing that American soldiers liberated the prisoner camp Stalag IX-B, also known as Bad Orb, the day after he was killed in his effort to escape.

According to Army documents, soldiers in that prison were starved, with many men weighing only between 70 and 80 pounds when they were rescued.

As soldiers lined up to prepare for the parade, there was a mixture of snow, rain and harsh winds as temperatures dropped, but participants acknowledged that was nothing compared to what Soldiers who had gone before them endured.

Jones said if he could say something to his great uncle, it would be “thank you.”

“Thank you for paving the way for us and giving everything for our values, our freedoms and our allies’ freedoms,” Jones said in heartfelt appreciation to both is late great uncle and veterans of World War II.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US military sites in Europe rely on Russia for energy

As the Nord Stream II pipeline is beginning construction in the Baltic Sea, President Donald Trump warned that Germany has become “captive to Russia.” Representatives in Congress are also worried about European dependence on Russian energy. To ensure stable operation of critical sites, especially military assets abroad, backup power solutions should be an imperative.

In the first quarter of 2018, Russian pipelines supplied 41% of Europe’s gas. Russian natural gas is cheaper for much of Europe because it does not need to undergo the liquification process. Countries that ship gas long distances have to transform it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) by cooling it to -260 degrees Fahrenheit. This shrinks the gas’ volume, making it easier to store and ship. When LNG reaches its destination, it is changed back to a gas and piped to homes and businesses to generate electricity.


Many policymakers find European dependence on Russian gas concerning. In fact, a letter was recently sent to Secretary of Defense James Mattis from Senator Pat Toomey and other representatives highlighting the importance of lessening the dependence on Russian energy for the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe. Some consider American LNG to be more reliable and promote U.S. energy exports as a replacement for Nord Stream 2.

Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany is a large and strategic American defense transport facility with 56,000 American troops. The base serves as headquarters for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Air Command. According to the Defense Logistics Agency, nearly 40% of oil used at military sites in Germany is from Russia.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by TSGT David D. Underwood, Jr.)

Thus, American defense installations in Europe are dependent on Russian energy to operate. If Russia were to hold its energy supply hostage, as it already has done to Ukraine in 2006 and 2008, not only would Germany’s power grid struggle to provide electricity to its citizens, but American installations and operations would also be compromised.

The Nord Stream II pipeline, in essence, boosts Moscow’s geopolitical strength and doubles the European Union’s reliance on Russian energy. Funds from selling gas also provide Russia with more resources to accomplish hostile goals, such as the recent annexation of Crimea and the cyber campaign on the U.S. electric grid. Increased energy dependence on Russia could also be used as leverage to extort the European Union and drive a wedge between NATO allies.

U.S. lawmakers in particular worry that Europe’s reliance on Russian energy could give Moscow more leverage. Congress attempted to pursue a safer energy supply in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The law directed the secretary of defense to provide measures for modern energy acquisition policy for overseas installations, reduce the military’s dependence on Russian energy and ensure the ability to sustain operations in the event of a supply disruption.

In the recent Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA passed in the House, Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska advanced a bipartisan amendment to direct an energy security policy for a new id=”listicle-2591231597″ billion Army medical complex and significantly reduce the need for natural gas.

To reduces reliance on Russian energy, microgrids could be deployed at American military assets. Microgrids are capable of operating on or off the main grid and ensure electricity is available to locations if an outage occurs. These power systems would serve as a great backup to avoid an external country from controlling the energy supply to military sites.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska.

Some American utilities have built microgrids to ensure electricity is available to critical locations, such as power generating stations and airports. For instance, the SPIDERS Phase III microgrid project is deployed at Camp H.M. Smith, a U.S. Marine Corps installation in Hawaii, and includes battery storage, demand response, renewables and diesel generation.

Nuclear power can also be used to fuel microgrids with onsite fuel for long periods of time. Companies such as BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) have the unique capability to support the design, testing and manufacturing of Gen IV advanced reactors that can be used for this purpose.

In addition, reliable bulk energy storage could provide backup power in the event the energy supply is compromised. Batteries in electric vehicles on military bases could also be used to supply power during an outage, especially considering these cars are popular in Europe. For instance, Nissan unveiled a system that allows the Leaf electric car to connect with a home and provide electricity for about two days.

As Russia provides more gas to Europe with the development of the new pipeline, it is critical for backup power to be available at American military sites abroad. Congress should consider equipping military sites with microgrids, storage, and even electric vehicles to ensure power is available in the event the energy supply is ever compromised.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

This is how to fire a Civil War cannon, step-by-step

With ATACMS, MLRS, HIMARs, the M109A6, and the M777, American artillery can and does deliver a huge punch at a distance. Compared to them, Civil War cannons look downright puny.


Don’t take that to the bank, though. These old cannon were pretty powerful in their day. The Smithsonian Channel decided to take a look at how to fire a Civil War cannon from start to finish using the Model 1841 12-pound howitzer.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery
Model 1841 12-pound howitzer. (Photo by Ron Cogswell)

According to Antietam on the Web, the howitzer of the time had a 4.62-inch bore (117 millimeters) and a 53-inch long barrel. It had a range of 1,072 yards – or about the same distance an M40 sniper rifle chambered in 7.62mm NATO can reach out and touch someone.

It had three types of ammo: canister, which was essentially a giant shotgun shell; spherical case shot, which became known as a shrapnel shell; and a common shell, which was your basic impact-fused or time-fused explosive shell.

Without further ado, here’s the video from the Smithsonian Channel showing how to fire this cannon, using an authentic replica.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.

Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.


The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at “bringing peace to Afghanistan.” That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.

As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a “fight-and-talk” strategy.

WATCH: Some 900 Taliban members were freed from Afghanistan’s largest prison outside Kabul as part of a prisoner swap under a cease-fire deal on May 26.

The Government

The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.

The LWJ’s “living map,” based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.

Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.

Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.

Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.

The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.

But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.

President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 — or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.

“The internationally recognized and elected government doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country,” says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.

The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, “has eroded much of the government’s control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government,” Schroden says.

The result, he says, is a “strategic stalemate.”

Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.

The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government’s military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.

The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal — their second after consecutive elections — on May 17.

“The government faced serious challenges for months,” says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. “The government didn’t have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election’s outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks.”

Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.

The Taliban

The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.

The fundamentalist militant group’s leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.

The Taliban has been following what security experts call an “outside-in” strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.

From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.

The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country’s fifth-most populous.

“The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country’s major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads,” Schroden says.

“The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government’s supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years.”

The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.

Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.

Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. “Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella,” he says. “They can’t operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban — operationally, ideologically, or economically.”

Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.

According to the U.S. State Department, the “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda.”

Under that deal, the Taliban committed to “preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

A January report from the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection.”

Islamic State

Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group’s regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.

This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.

In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.

According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.

The U.S. military said the IS group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was “dismantled” in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.

The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.

The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.

The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.

Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are “unreliable.”

“The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan,” Ali says. “The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground.”

But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS “sleeper cells” in the country.

Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.

“There are a smaller number of Afghans, Central Asians, and even fewer from other regional countries,” Ali adds.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Germans are reusing these invincible Nazi towers

During World War II, Hitler personally ordered the construction of massive, steel-plated towers that bristled with anti-aircraft guns, tearing planes from the sky like King Kong on angel dust. For modern Germans, these nearly indestructible towers provide a unique problem: They don’t want to waste well-engineered buildings and materials, but they’re not super into maintaining relics of Nazi triumph.

So the Germans have found interesting ways to re-purpose the old fortresses.


How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

​A German flak tower under construction in 1942 as part of Germany’s defenses against Allied bombing raids. Some of the expensive towers have been re-purposed in the decades since the end of the war.

(German Military Archives)

The strategy of constructing the towers was questionable to begin with. It required massive amounts of concrete and steel for the walls that, in some cases, are over two feet thick. Construction in Berlin was completed in six months and additional towers were built in Vienna and Hamburg before Germany was defeated. Construction took so much material that rail shipments had to be rearranged around them, slowing the flow of needed materiel and troops to battlefields and factories.

Just the Zoo Tower in Berlin required 78,000 tons of gravel, 35,000 tons of cement, and 9,200 tons of steel. The towers were built in pairs. For each primary tower devoted to anti-aircraft operations there was a second tower that had some anti-aircraft weapons, but also sported communications and other support equipment.

But the towers, once completed, were nearly impregnable. They relied on no single support pillar, and nearly every structural support was so strong that they were almost impossible to destroy from outside. When Germany was conquered, Soviet forces who took Berlin had to lay siege out of range and negotiate a surrender of the towers.

But there was one major shortfall to the towers. They were designed to stop air raids on Berlin, and it was dangerous to attack the city within range of the towers. So, planes simply flew outside of their range or approached them en mass, fielding so many planes that the Germans simply couldn’t get all of them at once.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

German soldiers man a flak gun on a tower in World War II. The massive towers were a significant obstruction to air raids on three German cities, but were part of a questionable military strategy.

(German Military Archives)

Plus, Germany lacked proximity fuses during the war, meaning their flak weapons were less effective than those used by the Allies — at least, when the Allies were willing to use the fuses and risk their capture.

After the towers finally surrendered, engineers worked to destroy them, but quickly found that massive amounts of explosives were needed and, even then, many would still stand. The Zoo Tower, mentioned above, survived two attempts at destruction. The first attempt used 25 tons of explosives and the building shrugged it off.

The third attempt, powered by 35 tons of dynamite, finally did the job.

Outside of Berlin, some of the towers survived destruction attempts while a few were simply left in place. Instead of destroying them, locals decided to re-purpose them over the years.

At first, Germans simply stripped the towers of valuable materials and left the steel-reinforced buildings in place. But, over the years, the brilliant German engineers found ways to make use of buildings with excellent thermal insulation and structural integrity.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

A storehouse for art in Vienna, Germany.

(Photo by Bwag)

In Vienna, one of the six towers is now an aquarium maintained by the Aqua Terra Zoo. Visitors can see over 10,000 fish and other aquatic organisms in the tower. On the outside of the tower, visitors can use the climbing wall that has been added.

Another Vienna tower has been turned into an antenna for cellular phones, and one is used to store art in controlled conditions.

In Hamburg, two towers have been re-purposed. One holds nightclubs and businesses and the other provides energy storage for part of the city.

Solar collectors cover the tower and work with butane and wood burners to heat large water tanks inside the tower. The thick concrete walls provide insulation and the water is pumped to nearby buildings, heating them during the cold months. The tower is also used to generate electricity for 1,000 homes.

While most of the towers in Berlin were destroyed to one degree or another, in one case, the rubble was simply covered over with dirt, forming two hills in a public park for visitors to sit on.

Check out the YouTube video below from Real Engineering to learn more.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

Those $200 lightsabers at Disneyland might actually be worth it

The Disneyland iteration of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is finally open. Early reviews — from those who were able to navigate a less-than-stellar ticket reservation system — are positive. An especially bright spot: the souvenir lightsabers available exclusively at the park.

As we’ve reported before, the lightsabers are customizable — guests choose their components and assemble their saber themselves — and pricey. The total price with tax comes to $215.49, exactly $215.49 more than a souvenir coaster from Olga’s Cantina. Still, the sabers themselves and the experience of designing your own are getting rave reviews from the lucky fans who’ve already had the chance to get theirs.


The Los Angeles Times has a good rundown of what the experience is like, and it seems that, in true Disney fashion, narrative is front and center. The story created around Savi’s Workshop, the exclusive home of the customizable lightsaber, is that it has to masquerade as a simple scrap metal shop.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Light-up blades come in red, blue, green, and Mace Windu purple.

(Disney Parks)

The employees who work there play along, reminding visitors who say the l-word that they don’t want any trouble from the First Order.

They will help you pick out the pieces of “salvaged” scrap metal you’ll need to build your lightsaber, with drawers full of hilts of four different themes. Pick your hilt and you’ll get a corresponding pin when you set up an appointment to build your saber as part of a group with 13 other “Builders.”

After some practice assembling lightsabers outside — which may be interrupted if Stormtroopers happen to walk by — you’re ushered inside to a room dominated by a large table. You’ll hear a spiel about Jedi history and the power of the Force before guiding you through the process of choosing the remaining parts and assembling your lightsaber.

Once assembled, everyone inserts their assembled blade into a pod for a final ceremony that ends with everyone igniting their lightsabers.

Whether or not that experience and the saber itself are worth the steep cost depends on your budget and how much time you’re willing to spend at Savi’s (line are, predictably, quite long). But if your trip won’t feel complete without bringing a lightsaber home, it looks like Disney has created an attraction that goes beyond a simple gift shop to create an immersive, narrative experience.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happened to the USS Constitution’s original guns

If you visit the USS Constitution in Boston these days, the cannons you’ll see on her gun deck aren’t the originals launched with the ship. The guns aboard the ship are replicas, and only two of them are capable of firing salute charges. Even when the sailors aboard Constitution fire salutes, it’s a far cry from the way cannons were loaded and fired when Old Ironsides was first laid.

In fact, they’re inaccurate replicas, with 18 of them even bearing the Royal Cipher of King George II.


How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

The creator thought the ship’s original guns were confiscated from the British. He was wrong.

(USS Constitution Museum Collection)

USS Constitution was first launched in 1797 and saw action against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812. She took down five British warships, victories that stunned not only the Royal Navy, but the rest of the world. Her most famous victory was against the HMS Guerriere, the victory that earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides” when the Guerriere’s 526-pound broadsides bounced off Constitution’s hull as if it were made of iron. But the 30 24-pounder long guns and 20 32-pounder carronades it launched with weren’t captured from the British during the Revolution.

The guns aboard Constitution were never designed to stay solely aboard the ship, as weapons at that time were moved as needed. Shortly before the Civil War, she took an illegal American slaver as a prize off the coast of Angola and was decommissioned. The ship was turned into a training ship for Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eventually, she was turned into housing for sailors until the turn of the 20th Century.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

The Constitution being refitted as training ship for Midshipmen.

It was around 1906 that Congress decided to restore Constitution to her former glory. After public outcry against the ship being used for target practice by the Navy halted its planned sinking, 0,000 was appropriated to restore the ship as a museum. This included new casts of cannon for her decks. Some 54 guns were going to be cast for the restoration. But the Naval Constructor in charge of the armaments, believing there was no documentation about the original guns, used a French design instead. So rather than long guns and carronades, the designer saved money by using the same gun on every deck.

In 1925, the Navy rectified this and went all-out in restoring Constitution. The new restoration scrapped all of the 1906 guns for being historically inaccurate. After four years in drydock, the guns the Navy used to replace the 1906 guns were also inaccurate. These were the aforementioned British-style weapons – but at least they represent the kinds of weapons found on the gun decks and spar decks. Two of them even fire salutes.

The two saluting guns aboard Constitution were retrofitted to fire 40mm shells of black powder just in time for the United States Centennial in 1976. On Nov. 11, 1976, the commanding officer of the ship decided to fire the salute guns in the morning and in the evening from the ship’s mooring in Boston Harbor – a tradition it has carried on ever since.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nevada officials ‘outraged’ after federal government shipped in plutonium

Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada railed against the Department of Energy for what he described as “unacceptable deception,” after the agency transported a half-ton of weapons-grade plutonium to Nevada, allegedly without the state’s consent.

“I am beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception from [The Department of Energy],” Sisolak said in a statement. “The Department led the State of Nevada to believe that they were engaging in good-faith negotiations with us regarding a potential shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, only to reveal that those negotiations were a sham all along.”


“They lied to the State of Nevada, misled a federal court, and jeopardized the safety of Nevada’s families and environment,” Sisolak said.

During a press conference on Jan. 30, 2019, Sisolak said he did not know how the plutonium was transported or the route the Energy Department took to get to Nevada. “They provided us with no information in that regard,” he said.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada.

Sisolak said he would look into several options for the plutonium, which had been taken to the Nevada National Security Site.

“To put the health and the well-being of millions of people at risk … without giving us the opportunity to prepare in case there would have been a mishap along the way, was irresponsible and reckless on behalf of the department,” Sisolak said.

In a court filing, the Energy Department reportedly revealed it had completed the shipment of plutonium, but declined to provide specifics due to security reasons. It noted that the transfer was completed before November 2018, prior to an injunction the state had filed during negotiations.

The plutonium was shipped from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina in order to comply with a federal court order in the state, according to a National Nuclear Security Administration official cited in a Las Vegas Review-Journal report.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, the federal agency responsible for nuclear applications in the US military, claimed the plutonium would only be temporarily stored in Nevada before being moved to another facility in New Mexico or elsewhere, The Review-Journal reported.

Lawmakers from Nevada sought an injunction and raised questions about the safety of transporting the nuclear material, including the impact it could have on the environment. The state also claimed the Energy Department failed to conduct a federally mandated study to assess the risks in transportation, and neglected to study alternative sites for depositing the plutonium, according to The Review-Journal.

How the Civil War revolutionized artillery

United States Department of Energy headquarters.

Sisolak said the state filed a temporary restraining order on Wednesday to prevent future shipments, and that he was seeking retribution from the Energy Department.

Throughout 2018, state and the federal officials were in preliminary negotiations for the transportation of plutonium, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford said in the press conference.

In previous group emails, Nevada officials questioned the procedure and said their analysis indicated it was “insufficient … to commence this transaction,” according to Ford.

On Oct. 30, 2018, Nevada officials met with Energy Department officials in Washington, DC, to “express the concerns regarding this proposal,” Ford said. In November 2018, the state also sent a request to the Energy Department for specific commitments and timelines.

“Now, this is all the while … they had already shipped some plutonium,” Ford said. “We’re having good-faith discussions and negotiations … but they had already shipped this plutonium.”

The Energy Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Jan. 30, 2019.

The transportation of nuclear waste is traditionally kept under close guard due to safety concerns. The Office of Secure Transportation within the Energy Department reportedly contracts hundreds of couriers to transport radioactive material using truck convoys.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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