4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike - We Are The Mighty
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4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

Much has been made of Russian and Chinese missiles – and they do warrant attention. But the submarine still remains a very deadly assassin. If anything, that danger has taken on new forms, as the crew of the South Korean corvette Cheonan found out in 2010.


So, how will these underwater assassins be prevented from carrying out their nefarious deeds? Here are four systems that were displayed by L3 Ocean Systems at SeaAirSpace 2017.

1. Firefly

The big problem many helicopters deal with is weight. Every pound for sensors is a pound that can’t be fuel or a weapon or a sonobouy.

At less than 400 pounds, the Firefly is a dipping sonar that can be used on much smaller helicopters – allowing someone who needs some coastal ASW to install it on more platforms than if it were a heavier sonar. Or, on the flip side, the helo that trades in a heavier dipping sonar for this lighter one gains more fuel, and thus, more range – or possibly an extra weapon, giving it an extra shot at an enemy sub.

Firefly can operate as deep as 656 feet of water, and can pick up a target almost 20 miles away. That’s not bad for this small package.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
An artist’s impression of a helicopter using L3 Ocean Systems’s Firefly dipping sonar. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

2. HELRAS

The Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar is used by nine separate navies, including Italy, Thailand, Greece, and Turkey. This sonar weighs 716 pounds – but it is also interoperable with the sonars on surface ships and the sonobouys dropped by other helicopters and maritime patrol planes.

It can operate at depths of up to 1,640 feet — meaning running silent and running deep won’t help a sub escape detection from this sonar. And once the sub is located… its captain will have an exciting – and short – time to ponder his situation.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
A helicopter uses the HELRAS dipping sonar. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

3. LFATS

Let’s face it – diesel-electric submarines are getting better and better. They are finding ways to operate without having to snorkel while charging their batteries. The batteries are getting better, and even cell phone battery technology is being leveraged for subs.

The solution is to do what they did in World War II – use active sonar to ping and find the submarine. The Low-Frequency Active Towed Sonar can do that – and can be placed on a vessel as small as 100 tons. It can operate at depths of up to 984 feet. In essence, in shallow water, there is no place for a sub to hide from this sonar. Not when every patrol boat can have one.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The Low Frequency Active Towed Sonar – or LFATS – can be used on boats as small as 100 tons. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

4. TB-23F

You might find it interesting that a towed-array for a submarine is on here, but the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines sometimes have to operate in shallow water where diesel boats can hide a lot more easily.

Able to operate at depths of over 1,000 feet at a speed of up to 12 knots, the TB-23F makes any submarine that tows it more capable when it comes to hunting the submarines of the enemy.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Submarines – even the Kilo depicted in this illustration – can get in the shallow-water ASW game with the TB-23F. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout).

So, while the submarine threat has gotten worse, a lot of works has been done on developing ways to find these underwater assassins before they can do harm to the valuable ships.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new spy drone is disguised as a snowy owl, and its purpose is deadly

Russia has developed a new combat surveillance drone disguised as a bird of prey, in this case an owl, The Moscow Times reported June 25, 2019.

The drone, a Technopolis Era project resembling a snowy owl choking on a mouthful of electronic equipment, appeared at the defense ministry’s annual military expo. The unmanned aerial vehicle is reportedly equipped with a laser that gives it the ability to guide artillery and laser-guided bombs.


Weighing only 5 kilograms, it can be carried and launched by one person, the developers told TASS, a Russian state-owned news agency. The company has also developed a falcon drone. It is said to be able to fly for up to 40 minutes and cover distances up to 20 kilometers, or 12 miles.

Creating drones that look like birds is a concept Russian unmanned aerial systems developers have been looking closely at for a while. The Zhukovsky-Gagarin Air Force Academy, for instance, presented a owl-shaped design last year.

“What’s interesting is that Russian designers are thinking creatively about UAV applications,” Samuel Bendett, a research analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, told C4ISRNET at the time, explaining, “Biomimicry allows UAVs to operate in areas where a ‘regular’-looking UAV would have been sighted and eliminated.”

“In Russia’s part of Eurasia where hunting birds like owls, falcons and eagles are very common, a UAV that looks like a bird can become an invaluable ISR asset,” he added. “It can basically ‘hide’ in plain sight.” Up close, it is easy to see that the drone is, in fact, a machine, but at a distance, it becomes much harder to tell it apart from a bird in flight.

The stated purpose of the design showcased last year was to track tanks and other vehicles and then direct fire to those positions.

Drones with biomimetic designs, while strange, are not all that new.

A few years ago, a crude drone resembling a bird and believed to be the property of the Somali government crashed in Mogadishu. Robotic birds have been tested in Canada to scare birds away from airports. And China has designed recon drones that fly, move, and look like doves for domestic surveillance operations.

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

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Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.


The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.

Related: 6 ways to use those retired Predator drones

“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Tech. Sgt. William, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing sensor operator, flies a simulated mission June 10, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 432nd WG trains and deploys MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircrews in support of global operations 24/7/365. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen/Released)

The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.

Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.

Also read: Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
U.S. Air Force photo

The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.

The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Good news for knees: Army will test out lighter body armor plates

U.S. Army equipment experts plan to test lighter-weight, individual body armor plates by summer 2019, according to a recently released Defense Department test and evaluation report.

The Army’s multi-component Soldier Protection System body armor features hard-armor plates designed to stop rifle rounds. They’re known as the Vital Torso Protection component of the system.


Commanders can choose from the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, or the X Threat Small Arms Protective Insert, known as XSAPI, in addition to corresponding side armor plates of the same protection level. The XSAPI armor, which weighs slightly more, is for higher threats. All plates fit into the new Modular Scalable Vest, or MSV.

The Army has started fielding the MSV, which weighs about five pounds lighter than the older, Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

Sgt. Michael Graham, an intelligence advisor with the 4th Infantry Division Military Transition Team, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, wears his Improved Outer Tactical Vest during a combined-battlefield circulation with the Iraqi Army.

(Photo by Spc. Aaron Rosencrans)

The Army intends to test new, lighter-weight armor plates in third quarter of fiscal 2019, according to the Fiscal 2018 Annual Report from the Defense Department’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.

The report offers very little detail about the plates the service intends to test, but Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, who commands Program Executive Office Soldier, talked about ways the Army is trying to lighten plates in October 2018 at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting.

The Army has been working with industry to reduce the weight of body armor plates by as much as 30 percent, Potts said.

One way to do this is by adjusting the standard of allowable back-face deformation, or how much of the back face of the armor plate is allowed to move in against the body after a bullet strike.

The Army is changing the allowance to 58mm standard instead of the conservative 44mm standard it has used for years, Potts said, who added that there is “no significant” risk to soldiers.

The change allows companies to adjust the manufacturing process, which could lead to a lighter plate, he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Copy of Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and called it a piece of garbage

Vietnam War troops hated the M16 and dubbed it the “Mattel 16” because it felt more like a toy than a battle rifle.


“We called it the Mattel 16 because it was made of plastic,” said Marine veteran Jim Wodecki in the video below. “At that time it was a piece of garbage.”

It weighed about half as much as the AK-47 Kalashnikov and fired a smaller bullet – the 5.56 mm round. In short, the troops didn’t have faith in the rifle’s stopping power.

Related: This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.

“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”

The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.

“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.

Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the Small Arms Review.

Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.

This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:

LightningWar1941/YouTube
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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer. It must be Fall.


Mourn Summer’s passing with the 13 funniest military memes of this week.

1. Some of you are going back to school… don’t be that guy wearing half his old uniforms to class.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

2. You Might get some funny looks. But you’re probably used to that. (h/t: Air Force Nation)

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

3. Football is back! And the rivalry shots are already fired.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

4. September is a special month, not just the end of summer. (h/t: Operation Encore: A Veteran Music Project)

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

5. Longer days may mess with your sleep cycle, no matter which shift you work.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

6. You know you have to perform, no matter what you did the night before. (h/t: Air Force Memes Humor)

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

7. Medical won’t have much sympathy for you.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

8. Neither will leadership. (h/t U.S Army W.T.F! moments)

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

9. It could always be worse.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

10. Just show up and do the job.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

11. If you make it past lunch, you can stomach the whole day (h/t: The Salty Soldier)

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

12. Just remember these rough days when it’s time to reenlist. (h/t: U.S Army W.T.F! moments )

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

13. And silently remember how face-wreckingly awesome you are.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

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The future of warfare is coming, and it’s bringing lasers

This week, both the British Ministry of Defense and the US Navy have made strides towards directed energy weapons that could change the face of warfare as we know it.


The British, for their part, are eyeing a laser system that could compliment the Phalanx close-in anti-missile system, which detects, tracks, and can destroy approaching threats at closer ranges than other missile defense platforms.

Currently, the Phalanx is a computer-guided system that relies on a 20 mm Gatling gun. The British are looking to do away with the gun and substitute a laser.

“It’s better to spend money on the laser than on the mount,” Andy Rhodes, a business development executive at Raytheon UK told Defensenews.com.

Lasers offer a number of advantages over traditional guns. As they rely only on electricity, lasers can be fired for less than $1 a shot. Also, no round will ever travel anywhere near as fast as a laser, which obviously travels at the speed of light.

As military powers around the world race to create hypersonic weapons that can foil missile defenses through speed alone, the need for laser-aided missile defense becomes clear.

“The potential of laser-based weapons systems has been identified as an opportunity and offers significant advantages in terms of running costs as well as providing a more appropriate response to the threats currently faced by UK armed forces,” the British MoD stated.

Additionally, lasers on lower power settings can be used to overwhelm enemy sensors and instruments.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The Phalanx Close-In Weapons system.

The US Navy for their part has also taken a step towards directed energy weapons. On Monday, Raytheon delivered pulse power containers for the Navy to test out on a new railgun design.

Unlike lasers, railguns fire actual projectiles, however, they use directed energy to do it.

Raytheon says the pulse power containers, when incorporated into a completed railgun design, will be able to launch projectiles at speeds in excess of Mach 6, or about 4,600 mph. At those speeds, there is little need for an explosive round with a chemical charge.

“Directed energy has the potential to redefine military technology beyond missiles and our pulse power modules and containers will provide the tremendous amount of energy required to power applications like the Navy Railgun,” said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The USS Zumwalt. | Raytheon

The Navy’s railgun could find itself aboard the Futuristic USS Zumwalt as soon as 2018,Reuters reports.

“The Navy is determined to increase the offensive punch of the surface warships,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute. “To do that with a limited budget, it needs to look at everything from smart munitions to railguns to lasers.”

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Two HC-130J Combat King IIs sit on the flightline in preparation for cargo unload at Diyarbakir Air Base, Turkey, Sept. 28, 2015. The aircraft deployed to Diyarbakir AB in an effort to enhance coalition capabilities and support personnel recovery operations in Syria and Iraq.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush/USAF

Ellsworth Honor Guardsmen practice live-firing party movements at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 9, 2015. The firing party ceremonial tradition dates back to the Civil War, and consists of firing three rounds to symbolize the removal of fallen soldiers from the battlefield.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Senior Airman Zachary Hada/USAF

ARMY:

Soldiers, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, conduct gunnery with an M1A2 Abrams battle tank during Exercise#CombinedResolve V at 7th Army JMTC in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Oct. 8, 2015.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach/US Army

A Soldier, assigned to 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, loads ammunition into a Stryker armored vehicle during a live-fire range at Bakony Combat Training Centre, Veszprem, Hungary, Oct. 5, 2015.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn/US Army

NAVY:

SAN DIEGO (Oct 3, 2015) U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a high-speed diamond break-away maneuver at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 68 demonstrations at 35 locations across the U.S. in 2015.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nolan Kahn/USN

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 6, 2015) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 prepares for take-off aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The F-35C Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force is conducting follow-on sea trials.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anderson W. Branch/USN

MARINE CORPS:

Two FA-18 Jets are displayed in front of the Wall of Fire during the Marine Corps Community Services sponsored 2015 Air Show aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, Oct. 3, 2015.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Cpl. Trever A. Statz/USMC

Security Force Marines conduct a live-fire table five range in Southwest Asia, September, 29, 2015. The range tested the Marines ability to move, shoot and communicate ensuring the units mission readiness. The SPMAGTF-CR-CC provides the Commander, U.S. Central Command with a wide array of crisis response and contingency options across the 20 countries in the Area of Operations.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Cpl. Jonathan Boynes/USMC

COAST GUARD:

Is this an indication of a great weekend? A double rainbow was captured over the United States Coast Guard Barque EAGLE at the USCG Yard in Baltimore this morning.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by John Bragaw/USCG

Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles crew conducts cliff rescue operation training near Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verde, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. This training is conducted in an effort to keep crews proficient in cliff-side rescue operations.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson/USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-22 engines can be repaired with six tools found in any hardware store

If you’re about to join the Air Force any time soon, there’s a good chance your work is going to involve maintaining aircraft. If you’re lucky, you’ll get assigned to the F-22 Raptor. Even with the rise of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, there is no better air dominance fighter in the world. Unlike the F-35, however, if one of the F-22’s Pratt & Whitney engines fail and you don’t have the tools to fix it, you can just head out to Home Depot and get what you need.


4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

Air Superiority: You can do it, we can help.

The F-35 steals headlines in terms of the latest whiz-bang technology when it comes to stealth, visibility, and even the giant helmets worn by F-35 pilots. But the F-35 cannot substitute what the Raptor brings to the fight. The F-35 has an aerodynamic performance similar to flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It can’t fly as high or as fast. What it brings is firepower – and a lot of it. It was designed to be an air-to-ground fighter.

Meanwhile, the F-22 Raptor is the quiet professional in the world of air superiority fighters. It has a smaller radar cross-section than the F-35 (the size of a marble versus the size of a golf ball) and is probably the most lethal air combat aircraft in the world, even considering the fifth-generation fighters produced by great power adversaries like China and Russia. But the area where it’s even more superior isn’t in the air, it’s on the ground.

We’re talking about maintenance and repairs.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

The F-22 gets repaired like a normal plane while the F-35 is happy it doesn’t catch fire before take off. Small victories.

The F-22 Raptor is one of the Air Force’s most reliable planes. Roughly half the time a Raptor spends being repaired is just to fix Low Observable (LO) stealth coatings that get damaged when ground crews open her up for things like routine maintenance. Lockheed-Martin is currently working on a way to reduce the damage to the stealth coating for this. What is really impressive about the F-22 is how easy it is for a trained ground crew to repair her engines.

Lockheed-Martin designed the F-22 with two F-119 Pratt Whitney engines. These sturdy but powerful thrust monsters were designed to be maintained on the flightline using only six common tools available at any commercial hardware store – Not something you’d expect from one of the world’s most advanced air superiority fighters, but it came from what used to be a common principle in the military: simplicity.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

And yet, I still wouldn’t trust the Army with this.

The Pratt Whitney engines used in the F-22 Raptor deliver 22 percent more thrust while using almost half of the parts used in the previous Pratt Whitney designs while making the F-22 the most maneuverable fighter ever flown by any military anywhere and allowing for supercruise speeds of almost two times the speed of sound. Everything about this engine has been expertly engineered, from the titanium alloys to the ceramic coating used on certain parts to absorb radar signals.

Now new airmen can be sent to Home Depot to pick up the tools to fix this marvel of engineering – along with the usual buckets of prop wash.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch F-22 pilot fly 10 incredible maneuvers in just 2 minutes

If you thought the ” Top Gun: Maverick” trailer was full of death-defying stunts, it’s got nothing on this hyperlapse video, taken from the cockpit of an F-22 Raptor during a performance at the Fort Lauderdale Air Show in May 2019.

In just two and a half minutes, the pilot performs ten astounding maneuvers, including a Power Loop, a Cobra, and a Tail Slide, where the pilot skims the clear turquoise water of the Atlantic, then launches suddenly into the sky before drifting back down toward the waves.


The barrel rolls, loops, and turns are astounding enough when viewed from the ground, but watching them from inside the cockpit is almost stomach-churning.

While the Raptor demonstration team doesn’t fly in combat, airshows like the one in May show civilians what the F-22 aircraft are capable of — whether cruising over Fort Lauderdale, or over enemy territory.

The F-22 Raptors demonstration team debuted in 2007 and is based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. The team has flown in over 250 demonstrations since 2007, including one in August 2019 with the Royal Air Force Red Arrows in New York City.

The F-22 Raptor performs both air-to air missions and air-to-ground missions in combat, and combines features like stealth and supercruising to be one of the world’s foremost air superiority fighters.

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

Articles

The Navy’s investigation of the USS Iowa turret explosion was seriously bungled

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Iowa’s turret two on fire immediately following the explosion. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, had a dream in the early 1980s: A 600-ship fleet. And while growing that fleet, Lehman wanted to bring back some of the elegance and esprit that had been lost during the Vietnam War era. And in his mind, nothing said “elegance” like the Iowa class battleships that were originally built to fight World War II.

The USS Iowa (BB 61) was originally commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1958 following service in World War II and the Korean War. After sitting in mothballs pierside at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for 26 years, Iowa was overhauled, modernized, and recommissioned. But in order to meet SECNAV’s expectation, many necessary repairs were either skipped or rushed, and as a result Iowa failed the first major inspection in 1984. The inspecting officer recommended that the battleship be taken out of service immediately, but Secretary Lehman personally rejected that input and instead ordered the Atlantic Fleet leadership to fix the problems and get Iowa sailing as soon as possible.

In late May of 1988, the Iowa’s brand-new commander officer, Capt. Fred Moosally canceled a $1 million repair to the gun turrets, deciding to use the funds to upgrade the ship’s power plant instead. According to an article written a few years later by Greg Vistica of the San Diego Union-Tribune, between September 1988 and January 1989, sailors aboard Iowa reportedly conducted little training with her main guns, in part because of ongoing, serious maintenance issues with the main gun turrets. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship’s Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly.

On April 19, 1989 the Iowa was scheduled to conduct a live-fire exercise in the waters off of Puerto Rico. The Second Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Jerome Johnson, was aboard, and Captain Moosally was eager to impress. The night before, fire-control officer, Lieutenant Leo Walsh, conducted a briefing to discuss the next day’s main battery exercise. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. During the briefing, Skelley announced that Turret Two would participate in an experiment of his design in which D-846 powder would be used to fire 2700 lb (1224.7 kg) shells.

The powder lots of D-846 were among the oldest on board Iowa, dating back to 1943–1945, and were designed to fire 1900-pound shells. In fact, printed on each D-846 powder canister were the words, “WARNING: Do Not Use with 2,700-pound projectiles.” D-846 powder burned faster than normal powder, which meant that it exerted greater pressure on the shell when fired. Skelley explained that the experiment’s purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns.

Skelley’s plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,700-pound practice (no explosives) projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles away.

Ziegler was especially concerned about his center gun crew. The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. Johnson Jr., and the gun captain, Richard Errick Lawrence. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London, to the center gun’s crew for the firing exercise. Because of the late hour, Ziegler did not inform Hartwig of his assignment until the morning of 19 April, shortly before the firing exercise was scheduled to begin.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Moosally presenting Hartwig with a duty award during the summer of 1988. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

At 08:31 on 19 April, the main turret crewmembers were ordered to their stations in Turrets One, Two, and Three. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Iowa was 260 nautical miles northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots.

Turret One fired first, beginning at 09:33. Turret One’s left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise.

Forty-four seconds after Moosally’s order, Lieutenant Buch reported that Turret Two’s right gun was loaded and ready to fire. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two’s center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret’s phone circuit that, “We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here.”

Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret’s phone circuit, “Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We’ll straighten that out.”

Mortensen, monitoring Turret Two’s phone circuit from his position in Turret One, heard Buch confirm that the left and right guns were loaded. Lawrence then called out, “I’m not ready yet! I’m not ready yet!”

Next, Ernie Hanyecz, Turret Two’s leading petty officer suddenly called out, “Mort! Mort! Mort!” Ziegler shouted, “Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!” About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, “Oh, my God! There’s a flash!”

At 09:53, Turret Two’s center gun exploded. A fireball blew out from the center gun’s open breech. The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer’s booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret.

The resulting fire released toxic gases that filled the turret. Shortly after the initial explosion, the heat and fire ignited 2,000 pounds of powder bags in the powder-handling area of the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred.

When it was all over 47 members of Iowa’s crew were dead.

Several hours after the explosion, Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), issued a moratorium on the firing of all 16-inch guns. Vice Admiral Joseph S. Donnell, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic, appointed Commodore Richard Milligan to conduct an informal one-officer investigation into the explosion. An informal investigation meant that testimony was not required to be taken under oath, witnesses were not advised of their rights, defense attorneys were not present, and no one, including the deceased, could be charged with a crime no matter what the evidence revealed.

Milligan boarded Iowa on 20 April and toured Turret Two. He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. Accompanying Milligan to assist him in the investigation was his personal staff, including his chief of staff, Captain Edward F. Messina. Milligan and his staff began their investigation by interviewing members of Iowas crew.

During Meyer’s interview by Milligan and his staff, Meyer described Skelley’s gunnery experiments. Meyer stated that Moosally and Kissinger had allowed Skelley to conduct his experiments without interference or supervision. At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, “You little shit, you can’t say that! The admiral doesn’t want to hear another word about experiments!”

The investigation went downhill from there, shifting from any attempt to find command-wide leadership issues or maintenance malpractice to blaming the entire mishap on Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig. Navy investigators extrapolated the fact that Hartwig had taken an insurance policy out with a shipmate, Kendall Truitt, as the beneficiary into a homosexual relationship gone wrong between the two men that caused Hartwig to commit suicide by sparking the turret explosion with an incendiary device.

The Naval Investigative Service (NIS, now known as Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS) agents were ham-fisted and ruthless in their pursuit of what they already believed to be true or the direction in which they’d been ordered — tacitly or otherwise — to focus. NIS agents interviewed Truitt and repeatedly pressed him to admit to a sexual relationship with Hartwig. Other agents interviewed Truitt’s wife Carole, also pressing her about the sexual orientation of Hartwig and Truitt, asking questions about how often she and her husband had sex, what sorts of sexual acts they engaged in, and whether she had ever had sex with any of Truitt’s crewmates.

At the same time the Navy’s public affairs command at the Pentagon leaked NIS findings to a host of media outlets, and reports started appearing in newspapers and on TV that said that Hartwig had intentionally caused the explosion after his relationship with Truitt had gone sour.

On July 15, 1989 the officer in charge of the investigation submitted his completed report on the explosion to his chain of command. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act “most probably” committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The report concluded that the powder bags had been over-rammed into the center gun under Hartwig’s direction in order to trigger the explosive timer that he had placed between two of the powder bags.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Navy brass briefing press on the release of the first investigation. (Photo: DoD)

When the official report hit the streets there was a great public outcry by the families of the victims, and many of them began feeding members of the media with insider information that, in turn, led to a host of reports that pointed out the myriad ways the Navy’s investigation was deeply flawed. Those reports led to an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee.

In early March 1990, the HASC released its report, titled USS Iowa Tragedy: An Investigative Failure. The report criticized the Navy for failing to investigate every natural possible cause before concluding that the explosion was an intentional act. The report also criticized the Navy for allowing the turret and projectile to become contaminated; for permitting evidence to be thrown overboard; and for endorsing the investigator’s report prior to completing the technical investigation. The NIS’s actions in the investigation were described as “flawed” and the NIS agents assigned to the case were criticized for unprofessional interviewing techniques and for leaking sensitive documents and inaccurate information. Finally, the report concluded that officer put in charge of the investigation was unfit to oversee it.

A subsequent investigation conducted by a group of engineers and scientists concluded that the explosion had been caused by the over-ram of powder into the breech after they were able to replicate the condition several times under test conditions. In spite of this, the second Navy investigation doubled down on the original finding that the explosion had been intentionally set by Hartwig.

Finally, on 17 October 1991, 17 months after the Navy reopened the investigation, Adm. Frank Kelso, the Chief of Naval Operations, conducted a press conference at the Pentagon to announce the results of the Navy’s reinvestigation. Kelso noted that the Navy had spent a total of $25 million on the investigation. He stated that the Navy had uncovered no evidence to suggest that the gun had been operated improperly, nor had it established a plausible accidental cause for the explosion.

Kelso stated, “The initial investigation was an honest attempt to weigh impartially all the evidence as it existed at the time. And indeed, despite the Sandia theory and almost two years of subsequent testing, a substantial body of scientific and expert evidence continue to support the initial investigation finding that no plausible accidental cause can be established.” Kelso added that the Navy had also found no evidence that the explosion was caused intentionally. He further announced that he had directed the Navy to never again use an informal board composed of a single officer to investigate such an incident.

Kelso concluded by offering “sincere regrets” to the family of Clayton Hartwig and apologies to the families of those who died, “that such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts no certain answer regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.

Iowa decommissioned in Norfolk on October 26, 1990. In May of 2012, the battleship was towed to the Port of Los Angeles and is now a floating museum.

From August 1990 to February 1991, the Iowa-class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri were deployed to the Persian Gulf. The two battleships fired 1,182 16-inch shells in support of Desert Storm combat operations without mishap.

Articles

These artists create awesome vintage-style military posters

Like many Air Force pilots, Nick Anderson is enamored with the planes he flew. He is an ROTC graduate from Oregon State University but his lifelong passion started in the creative arts. Unlike most Air Force pilots, his first love became his full-time career. What started as a way to decorate his office now decorates homes and offices all over the world.


“When we started, my Mom would literally copy and paste shipping addresses into a poster printing site,” Anderson recalls. “She did this manually for every single order for the first year and a half, I think it was somewhere around 5,000 orders.”

Now he and his team average a new poster design every day. It’s strange now to see how hard Anderson tried to suppress his creative background, trying to get into Air Force ROTC.

“I remember interviewing with a Lt. Col. for the ROTC scholarship and I had spent a lot of time crafting my resume,” he recalls. “One thing that I kind of buried at the bottom was all of my artistic accolades… He made me pull out my portfolio and I sat there for 10 awkward minutes while he silently flipped through it all. I remember being embarrassed thinking ‘oh man, he’s onto me, an artist is not the type of person the Air Force looks for… I’m going to need to find a new way to pay for college.’  He shut my portfolio and slid it across the table back to me. I started to backpedal and save the interview: ‘I was on student council, did sports, I don’t plan on doing artwork anymore…’ He stopped me mid-sentence and said “Nick, you’re exactly what the AF needs, we need people that think different.”

With that Anderson was on his way to the Air Force, via a Business degree from Oregon State.

Once in pilot training, he found himself looking for decent art with which to decorate his new office. Like most in the Air Force with a fresh new office, he came up predictably short.

“I was looking for something to hang in my office with each of the aircraft I’ve flown so far,” he says. “All I could find was the white background side profile photos of aircraft which were extremely boring and not what I envisioned in my man cave.”

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
Pictured: Vanilla

“I remembered those awesome WWII propaganda posters and wondered what happened. The world’s most iconic posters are those art deco and vintage-travel-posters. That entire genre has been lost to modern cheesy photoshopping of photos.” So Anderson made a poster for himself, designing a T-6 Texan flying over rolling hills, with the text “Vance AFB,” his duty station.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

“I loved it,” Anderson says. “This is what I could see hanging in my future office, when I showed it to my wife she also thought it was really cool. I made a few more to cover the planes and bases I’d been to so far and I left it at that for over a year.” And so, Squadron Posters was in its infancy. Anderson would soon enter graduate school for a business degree. As part of one of his classes, he had to actually start and register a business.

“I remember racking my brain in my office on what I could do only to look up and see the posters,” Anderson says. “I immediately registered the website squadronposters.com and uploaded a handful of the designs. The entire thing was very crude and barely functional, but it got the point across.” Anderson linked the page to Reddit, where Redditors voted it to the front page. The site received some 10,000 views in the first week.

“Some of my friends started requesting more posters once they saw it,” he continues. “I just started making posters for them — I did an F-15E over Afghanistan print for my buddy Lloyd and he bought it. He was our first customer. This is what makes us different, our art represents not just aircraft, it represents adventure and travel.”

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

“Since Day 1, we’ve really had some simple goals,” Anderson says. “Our military members do some really incredible things and we want to turn those things into really cool posters, they deserve that. We want our posters to be what Tony Stark would hang in his office. We’ve created almost 1,000 original designs for hundreds of units and you can see everything: helicopters and fighter aircraft, Submarines in Hawaii, GPS satellites, the SR-71 blackbird, Army Rangers, the Coast Guard’s active sailboat, fighter combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq… the list is so massive you just have to go to the site and spend a few hours browsing, it’s really incredible.”

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

“Immediately after launching we had a very good problem,” he says. “We had so many requests there was no way I could do this alone. That’s where my buddy said to me one day; ‘sounds like you need more artists.’ So we went out and found new artists; Max, Sam, Sergio, Steve and almost a dozen other artists have joined the team. These are world class artists and we attracted them by offering royalties for life and guaranteed payout for new art pieces. They also get creative freedom to make anything they think that might be cool and we guarantee to pay them for those as well. This is how we stay relevant and keep refreshing the site.”

“We’ve done all this without ever charging design fees to our customers because who likes fees? If you have an idea for a new poster, our team of artists will make it happen. The response from the community has been amazing, I can’t even begin to describe the amount of times people have relied on us for retirement ceremonies, going aways, deployment welcome homes, spring office remodeling projects, birthdays, Christmas etc. It’s very humbling and inspiring to think that thousands of walls around the world now have our artwork hanging there.”

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

“If you go to our site it looks very polished like what you’d see from a big company, but if you call our phone my dad answers, we’re still a small family business.”

NOW: The Incredible Story of the SR-71 Blackbird in 3 Minutes

OR: 9 Reasons You Should Have Joined The Air Force Instead

Articles

This is what made the M1919 Browning machine gun so deadly

John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.


4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
GIs from the 77th Infantry Division man a machine gun nest on the island of Shima, May 3, 1945. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.

It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.

Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.

While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.

In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.

Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.

4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike
The M1919 Browning machine gun was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles. (Photo: Terra Piccirilli, Recoilweb)

As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.

Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.

Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.

As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.

There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.

If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.

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