A drone-killing, directed energy weapon prototype is now in the hands of Marines. The Compact Laser Weapons System — or CLaWS — is the first ground-based laser approved by the Department of Defense for use by warfighters on the ground.
“This was all in response to a need for counter unmanned aerial systems to take down drones,” said Don Kelley, program manager for Ground Based Air Defense at Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “We developed a CLaWS prototype for Marines to use and evaluate.”
In recent years, the Defense department has assessed directed energy weapons — more commonly known as “lasers” — as an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy drones from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground.
CLaWS is not intended to be a standalone system for Marines to use to counter enemy drones. Rather, if the prototype continues to do well in the current research and development phase, it will serve as a component to an overall system used to counter drones.
“We’re providing CLaWS to Marines as a rapid prototype for evaluation,” Kelley said. “Depending on the results, CLaWS could become part of a larger capability set.”
Rapid prototyping, rapid delivery
The GBAD program, managed within the portfolio of PEO Land Systems procured the CLaWS prototype through the Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium — or DOTC — which was commissioned by the then-Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to foster collaboration between government, industry and academia regarding ordnance technology development and prototyping.
“The typical acquisition timeline can be lengthy,” said Lt. Col. Ho Lee, product manager for GBAD Future Weapons Systems at PEO Land Systems. “But this project, from start to finish — from when we awarded the DOTC contract, to getting all the integration complete, all the testing complete, getting the Marines trained, and getting the systems ready to deploy — took about one year.”
From a production standpoint, Lee said that the program office and its partners integrated various commercial items to create CLaWS.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
“We’ve been doing rapid prototyping, rapid delivery,” said Lee. “With this and a lot of the other efforts we are doing, we are using items currently available and integrating them to meet a capability. Little development, if any, went into this.”
Leveraging expertise for increased lethality
Obtaining the green-light to deliver and deploy CLaWS requires a bit more finesse, which is why PM GBAD leveraged DoD interagency partnerships to fulfill the need.
The operational use of new laser weapons, such as CLaWS, requires approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as it involves various factors such as legal reviews, concepts of employment, rules of engagement, tactics, potential collateral damage and human effects, proposed public affairs guidance and other relevant information.
“This program lives and dies with the leveraging of expertise and resources with others,” said Kelley. “It’s about getting these capabilities quickly into the hands of Marines and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Move fast and laser things
As Marines evaluate the CLaWS systems over the next few months, the GBAD program office already has their next target in mind: upgrading it.
Depending on the results, the program office says it could incorporate the CLaWS into other fixed-site and mobile C-UAS defeat capabilities.
“What’s interesting about CLaWS for the Marine Corps is, usually for things like this, we’re on the back end,” said Lee. “With this one, we’re actually in front. Everybody is watching closely to see what’s going to happen.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
A new weapon being tested by the US military could give special operators a more lethal edge by allowing them to shoot underwater, according to Defense One.
The bullets, manufactured by DSG Technologies, are tipped with tungsten and create an gas bubble to allow the bullet to move rapidly through the water. Ordinary bullets don’t have this supercavitating effect, which means they move much more slowly through water.
While ordinary bullets can travel about half a mile per minute, that speed quickly slows to a complete stop when the bullet travels through denser materials like water.
According to DSG Technologies, “Depending on the weapon and the used loading variant, this ammunition is suitable for use in partial or fully submerged weapons, regardless of if the target is in water or on the surface.”
A press officer with US Special Operations Command told Insider that the bullets were being tested by the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO). CTTSO confirmed to Insider that it is testing supercavitating ammunition, but declined to answer questions about whether Special Forces communities have been involved in the testing, or whether DSG Technologies is the company that provides the ammunition for testing.
DSG told Defense News that its ammunition is undergoing several tests with the military, including tests in which the bullets are fired from underwater up to the surface.
Odd Leonhardsen, DSG’s chief science officer, also told Defense One that DSG is selling the bullets to governments around the world, but did not specify where — although he did mention that those countries were testing the bullets by firing them from a helicopter into water.
According to Defense One, .50 caliber CAV-X bullets can travel 60 meters underwater, and can go through 2 centimeters of steel fired from 17 meters away, indicating that it could be used to penetrate submarines.
How the bullets actually create the gas bubble is unclear, Popular Mechanics reports, but they could somehow harness the gasses created from the gunpowder when the bullet is fired. Popular Mechanics also reports that the bullets are being developed to be compatible with existing weapons, indicating that bullets can be used in and out of the water.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is wrapping up a deployment that saw heavy involvement in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Upon arrival, their efforts were focused on Raqqa for approximately three months. During that time, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs participated in an urban, close air support role. Pilots focused on protecting friendly forces as they maneuvered in the city between very large buildings in which the enemy hid and used as fighting positions.
“It was a difficult location to work in and we faced some situations that we have not dealt with before we arrived here,” said Maj. Matthew Cichowski, 74th EFS assistant director of operations. “Our weapons and tactics planners have done an excellent job preparing us for the variety of tactics and locations that we use and operate in.”
Adapting the squadron to the new location and varied tactical situations fell to the squadron’s weapons tactics planners.
“When we showed up, we got thrown into this fight essentially on day one,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, 74th EFS commander. “The fight itself was within the urban complex of Raqqa and the pilots had to get creative to figure out ways to strike targets at the bottom of these five story buildings. There was a lot of learning as this wasn’t something we traditionally trained to when we arrived. We reached out to different communities to see what we could learn from them.”
“Everyone jumped on board trying to figure out solutions to the problems we faced even though we had long days and a mountain of work to accomplish,” Morash continued. “Our intel shop processed an unbelievable amount of expenditure reports to make sure (U. S. Air Forces Central Command) had an accurate picture of what we were doing. Our life support troops were generating equipment and doing it perfectly every single time.”
The squadron’s intelligence Airmen also provide vital key information to pilots before their missions, enabling those pilots to adapt to threats and challenges on the fly.
“We’re trained on what the capabilities of the aircraft are, which allows us to give threat perspectives to pilots with what’s going on in the area of operations and how that affects the aircraft and pilots,” said Senior Airman Jake Owens, 74th EFS intelligence analyst. “We brief pilots on possible threats they may face while flying missions and we’re also tied into the intelligence reporting, where we report targets struck to higher headquarters. There’s a lot of battle tracking and predictive analysis.”
According to the squadron’s weapons and tactics chief, one of the most difficult aspects of close air support isn’t physically dropping the bomb, it’s making sure the rest of the process has been done correctly. The pilots assigned to the 74th EFS are trained to work through that process correctly, making sure friendly positions are confirmed, any attack restrictions make sense and are adhered to, and they are flying above or are laterally deconflicted with any artillery that may be firing, and avoiding any exposure to threats like anti-aircraft fire or other aircraft.
“Positive identification is extremely important and is something that takes a large team and a long amount of time to get right,” said Capt. Eric Calvey, 74th EFS chief of weapons and tactics. “Long before we show up there are individuals who use Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to get an idea of what targets to strike and make sure that what we drop on is, in fact, a hostile target. We’re the last link in the chain and there’s a large amount of work done ahead of time to prepare these targets for strike before we employ munitions on them. It’s amazing seeing the utmost care that is taken before we employ on these targets.”
Although the squadron’s deployment is coming to a close, Morash said they are still keen on supporting the ground forces, no matter where they are.
“Every single person in this squadron was and still is mission focused. They are looking at the bigger picture, seeing what solutions to problems could be and mitigating risk to ground forces every single day,” Morash said. “The way this team came together, operations and maintenance, to look after each other and to get things done made me proud to be an Airman.”
United States Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Callahan is a combat camera trooper deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq. In May and June of 2017, he documented the fire missions of Marines in Syria operating M777-A2 Howitzers.
The Marines were part of the Coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria and were conduction 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF is a combined Kurdish and Arab militia supported by the United States.
The SDF began their assault on the ISIS capital of Raqqa in June 2017 and currently have more than 1,000 fighters on the east and west ends of the city. They are also advancing from the south and are able to recapture positions taken by ISIS counterattacks.
Not only is Sgt. Callahan’s footage beautifully shot and edited, he also made sure to include the voices of his fellow Marines as they loaded and fired their howitzers. One of the most amazing aspects of this video is Callahan’s use of drone footage to capture the work of American Marines in action in a never-before-seen way.
Navy weapons developers are seeking a high-tech, longer range, and more lethal submarine-launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, submarines, and small boats, service officials said.
The service has issued a new solicitation to industry, asking for proposals and information related to pursuing new and upgraded Mk 48 torpedo control systems, guidance, sonar and navigational technology.
“The Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) torpedo is a heavyweight acoustic-homing torpedo with sophisticated sonar, all-digital guidance and control systems, digital fusing systems and propulsion improvements,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman, told Warrior Maven.
Naturally, having a functional and more high-tech lethal torpedo affords the Navy an opportunity to hit enemies more effectively and at further standoff ranges and therefore better compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.
The Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo is used by all classes of U.S. Navy submarines as their anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare weapon, including the Virginia class and the future Columbia class, Couch added.
A Mk 48 torpedo is 21 inches in diameter and weighs 3,520 pounds; it can destroy targets at ranges out to five miles and travels at speeds greater than 28 knots. The weapon can operate at depths greater than 1,200 feet and fires a 650-pound high-explosive warhead, available Navy and Lockheed data states.
Navy efforts to pursue new torpedo technologies are happening alongside a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal.
For several years now, the Navy has been strengthening its developmental emphasis upon the Mk 48 as a way to address its aging arsenal. The service restarted production of the Mk 48 torpedo mod 7 in 2016.
An earlier version, the Mk 48 Mod 6, has been operational since 1997 – and the more recent Mod 7 has been in service since 2006.
Lockheed Martin has been working on upgrades to the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7 – which consist of adjustments to the guidance control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver and amplifier components.
“The latest version of the Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) is the mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System. The Mk 48 ADCAP mod 7 CBASS torpedo is the result of a Joint Development Program with the Royal Australian Navy and achieved initial operational capability in 2006,” Couch said.
With Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS – electronics to go into the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance section, Lockheed and Navy developers explained.
CBASS technology provides streamlined targeting, quieter propulsion technologies and an ability to operate with improved effectiveness in both shallow and deep water. Also, the Mod 7 decreases vulnerability to enemy countermeasures and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider frequency band, Lockheed and Navy developers say.
The new technology also involves adjustments to the electronic circuitry in order to make the acoustic signals that are received from the system that allow the torpedo to better operate in its undersea environment.
Modifications to the weapon have improved the acoustic receiver, replaced the guidance-and-control hardware with updated technology, increased memory, and improved processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to Navy data on the weapon.
Improved propulsion, quieting technology, targeting systems, and range enhancements naturally bring a substantial tactical advantage to Navy undersea combat operations. Attack submarines are often able to operate closer to enemy targets and coastline undetected, reaching areas typically inaccessible to deeper draft surface ships. Such an improvement would also, quite possibly, enable attack submarines to better support littoral surface platforms such as the flat-bottomed Littoral Combat Ships. Working in tandem with LCS anti-submarine and surface warfare systems, attack submarines with a more capable torpedo could better identify and attack enemy targets near coastal areas and shallow water enemy locations.
A Military Analysis Network report from the Federation of American Scientists further specifies that the torpedo uses a conventional, high-explosive warhead.
“The MK 48 is propelled by a piston engine with twin, contra-rotating propellers in a pump jet or shrouded configuration. The engine uses a liquid monopropellant fuel,” the FAS analysis states.
Submarine operators are able to initially guide the torpedo toward its target as it leaves the launch tube, using a thin wire designed to establish and electronic link between the submarine and torpedo, the information says.
“This helps the torpedo avoid decoys and jamming devices that might be deployed by the target. The wire is severed and the torpedo’s high-powered active/passive sonar guides the torpedo during the final attack,” FAS writes.
Early 2018, Lockheed Martin Sippican was awarded a new deal to work on guidance and control technology on front end of the torpedo, and SAIC was awarded the contract for the afterbody and propulsion section, Couch explained.
The Mk 48, which is a heavy weapon launched under the surface, is quite different than surface launched, lightweight Mk 54 torpedoes fired from helicopters, aircraft and surface ships.
The Navy’s Mk 48 torpedo is also in service with Australia, Canada, Brazil and The Netherlands.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
These unprecedented times are contributing to a higher level of anxiety, particularly among our Veteran population. The constant flow of often discouraging news, along with a reduced ability to mingle with others to keep spirits up, makes it difficult for some to maintain their morale. TogetherWeServed, a military heritage community website and home to over 1.9 million U.S. Military Veterans, wants to help.
A secure virtual base for Veterans
During a Veteran’s military service, their base, ship or shore station is place to call home – a safe haven to share in the company of some of the finest men and women with a mission in common. Together We Served (TWS) aims to replicate that same spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood in its own “Virtual Base” website.
With its membership containing only active serving and Veterans, TWS provides a secure platform for all Veterans to engage with other Veterans on a level that is simply not possible in most social networking environments.
Together We Served’s forums encourage informal discussion, reminiscent of barrack-room banter on a wide range of interests – from local community discussion, uplifting military humor and interesting hobbies, to lively debate on current political issues.
With a number of members suffering from combat-related and other health issues, TWS’s Support Forums provide a safe environment where Veterans can discuss the situations they face each day.
Create your own military service page on the Together We Served site.
The joy of locating a long-lost buddy cannot be underestimated and TWS has proven to be an accomplished Veteran locator. You can easily find other Veterans you served with, without having to enter names, by way of TWS’s ability to automatically match the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the pages of all other TWS members. The list of matching members is particularly useful as names are often forgotten.
More free time can provide an additional opportunity. TWS’s Military Service Page is designed to honor the military service of each and every Veteran. Each Veteran’s Page displays: their photo in uniform, rank insignia, medals and awards (displayed exactly as worn), all badges and unit patches; and names, dates and locations of their boot camp, training schools, unit assignments, as well as any combat or non-combat operations participated in. Unlimited photographs from military service can be scanned and added to the TWS Photo Album. A step by step self-interview called “Service Reflections” captures the memories of key people and events that made an important impact on a Veterans life. The result is a rich, visual presentation of a Veteran’s entire military service which, once shared, becomes a lasting legacy for their children and grandchildren.
In support of the Veteran community at this difficult time, Veterans are invited to join Together We Served, via the link below, to receive a FREE 12-months Premium Membership.
The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.
Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.
It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.
In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”
Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.
The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”
But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.
While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.
Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.
“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”
The autonomous drone would quietly travel to “great depths,” move faster than a submarine or boat, “have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit,” and “carry massive nuclear ordnance,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin translation of his remarks (PDF).
“It is really fantastic. […] There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them,” he said, claiming Russia tested a nuclear-powered engine for the drones in December 2017. “Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.
“Putin did not refer to the device by name in his speech, but it appears to be the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system” — also known as Kanyon or “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
Nuclear physicists say such a weapon could cause a large local tsunami, though they question its purpose and effectiveness, given the far-more-terrible destruction that nukes can inflict when detonated above-ground.
Why Putin’s ‘doomsday machine’ could be terrifying
A nuclear weapon detonated below the ocean’s surface can cause great devastation.
These underwater fireballs were roughly as energetic as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945. In the tests, they burst through the surface, ejecting pillars of seawater more than a mile high while rippling out powerful shockwaves.
Some warships staged near the explosions were vaporized. Others were tossed like toys in a bathtub and sank, or sustained cracked hulls, crippled engines, and other damage. Notably, the explosions roughly doubled the height of waves to nearby islands, flooding inland areas.
“A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 MT to 50 MT near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami, and perhaps much more,” Rex Richardson, a physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher, told Business Insider. The 2011 event he’s referring to is the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan.
“Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible,” Richardson said.
Richardson and other experts have also pointed out that a near-shore blast from this type of weapon could suck up tons of ocean sediment, irradiate it, and rain it upon nearby areas — generating catastrophic radioactive fallout.
“Los Angeles or San Diego would be particularly vulnerable to fallout due to the prevailing on-shore winds,” Richardson wrote, adding that he lives in San Diego.
The problem with blowing up nukes underwater
Greg Spriggs, a nuclear-weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, acknowledges that a 50-megaton weapon “could possibly induce a tsunami” and hit a shoreline with the energy equivalent to a 650-kiloton blast.
But he thinks “it would be a stupid waste of a perfectly good nuclear weapon.”
That’s because Sprigg believes it’s unlikely that even the most powerful nuclear bombs could unleash a significant tsunami after being detonated underwater.
“The energy in a large nuclear weapon is but a drop in the bucket compared to the energy of a [naturally] occurring tsunami,” Spriggs previously told Business Insider. “So, any tsunami created by a nuclear weapon couldn’t be very large.”
For example, the 2011 tsunami in Japan released about 9,320,000 megatons (MT) of TNT energy. That’s hundreds of millions of times more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and roughly 163,000 times greater than the Soviet Union’s test of Tsar Bomba on October 30, 1961.
Plus, Spriggs added, the energy of a blast wouldn’t all be directed toward shore — it’d radiate outward in all directions, so most of it “would be wasted going back out to sea.”
A detonation several miles from a coastline would deposit only about 1% of its energy as waves hitting the shore. That scenario may be more likely than an attack closer to the shore, assuming a US weapons-detection systems could detect an incoming Status-6 torpedo.
But even on the doorstep of a coastal city or base, Spriggs questions the purpose.
“This would produce a fraction of the damage the same 50 MT weapon could do if it were detonated above a large city,” Spriggs said. “If there is some country out there that is angry enough at the United States to use a nuclear weapon against us, why would they opt to reduce the amount of damage they impose in an attack?”
Is the Doomsday weapon real?
Putin fell short of confirming that Status-6 exists, though he did say the December 2017 tests of its power unit “enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon” to carry a huge nuclear bomb.
In a 2015 article in Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis — a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies — dubbed the weapon “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
He wrote that in part because of speculation that the underwater weapon might be “salted,” or surrounded with metals like cobalt. That would dramatically extend fatal radiation levels from fallout (possibly for years or even decades), since the burst of neutrons emitted in a nuclear blast could transform those metals into long-lived, highly radioactive chemicals that sprinkle all around.
The Afghan Army prioritized transporting captured ISIS fighters to Kabul over re-supplying one of its bases in the northern Faryab province that the Taliban had been besieging for weeks, according to a New York Times report.
The Taliban overran the base on Aug. 13, 2018.
Despite peace talks planned for September 2018 with the US State Department, the Taliban has racked up a string of victories in August 2018 against ISIS and the Afghan military.
But there was no help for the approximately 100 Afghan soldiers and border officers at a remote base in the northern Faryab province called Chinese Camp, which about 1,000 Taliban fighters had been attacking for three weeks before mounting heavier attacks in concert with the other assaults it launched across the country, the Times previously reported.
“Since 20 days we are asking for help and no one is listening,” one Afghan officer at Chinese Camp, Capt. Sayid Azam, told the Times over the phone. “Every night fighting, every night the enemy are attacking us from three sides with rockets. We don’t know what to do.”
Azam was killed on Aug. 12, 2018, the Times reported.
Before his death, Azam was apparently irate over the Afghan Army’s decision to use three helicopters to transport the ISIS captives from Jawzjan province to Kabul instead of re-supplying his base, the Times reported.
Azam said that one Army helicopter brought Chinese Camp “three sacks of rice” on Aug. 3, 2018, one day after the ISIS captives were taken to Kabul.
“Can you imagine? For 100 men?” he added.
Afghan politicians had also been taking military helicopters for their own use instead of re-supplying Chinese Camp, which angered Azam as well, the Times reported.
The Times reported that it was difficult to glean if the ISIS captives were being treated as “Prisoners or Honored Guests of the Afghan Government.”
“We lost everything to Daesh, and now the government sends helicopters for them from Kabul and brings them here and gives them rice and meat and mineral water, and provides them with security, and we are not even able to find food,” a resident of Jawzjan province, Abdul Hamid, told the Times in early August 2018.
Chinese Camp finally folded to the Taliban on Aug. 13, 2018, after dozens of Afghan soldiers and border officers were killed and several more surrendered to the Taliban.
The Afghan Defense Ministry, Resolute Support and Pentagon didn’t immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Prior to WW2, knowing that they couldn’t compete with the numbers of the US navy, the Imperial Japanese Navy quietly authorized the construction of the two largest battleships by weight ever seen in warfare — the Musashi and her sister ship, the Yamato.
The origins of these two behemoths can be traced back to Japan’s 1934 withdrawal from the League of Nations. Amongst other things, doing this allowed Japan to ignore rules set by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930, both of which aimed to limit the size of battleships as well as the right of participating nations to construct them.
Almost immediately following Japan’s withdrawal, a team working for the Japanese Navy Technical Department helmed by an engineer called Keiji Fukuda began submitting designs for a class of battleships superior in size and firepower to anything ever seen before.
While initially planning to build five of these battleships, ultimately only two were completed, with a third being converted to an aircraft carrier mid-way through construction.
The two completed ships, the Musashi and the Yamato, were quite literally in a class of their own, designed to displace some 73,000 long tons when fully equipped. For reference here, the United States’ Iowa class battleships created around the same time, while of similar length, weighed about 40% less.
Japanese battleship Yamato under construction at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, Sept. 20, 1941.
As one Japanese officer, Naoyoshi Ishida, described, “How huge it is! When you walk inside, there are arrows telling you which direction is the front and which is the back—otherwise you can’t tell. For a couple of days I didn’t even know how to get back to my own quarters. Everyone was like that…. I knew it was a very capable battleship. The guns were enormous.”
On that note, not just big, these ships also featured nine of the largest guns ever put on a battleship, featuring 460 mm barrels and weighing an astounding 3,000 tons each, with all nine combined weighing approximately as much as the United States’ Wyoming, New York, and Nevada class battleships.
These weapons were capable of firing shells that weighed up to 3200 pounds (1450 kg)- or, in other words, in the ballpark of what a typical full sized sedan car weighs. While you might think the range when shooting such an object must have been poor, in fact, these guns could hit a target over 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. They could also be fired at a rate of about once every 40 seconds.
The shockwave produced by one of these guns firing was noted as being powerful enough to tear the skin off of a human if an unlucky individual stood within 15 metres of it without proper shielding. This shockwave also resulted in nearby anti-aircraft guns having to be specially armored to protect them from this.
Speaking of anti-aircraft guns, ultimately these ships were equipped with approximately 150 25 mm guns. In between these and the massive 460 mm cannons previously described, the ships also featured six 155 mm and 24 127 mm guns.
Further, if not needing the 460 mm cannons for hitting ships far away, these battleships were equipped with so-called “beehive rounds” to fire from those cannons. In a nutshell, these rounds were filled with nearly a thousand incendiary tubes and hundreds of shards of steel. The round also included a fuse and explosive that would cause the shell to explode out, with the incendiary tubes igniting shortly thereafter, producing a wall of flame and molten steel meant to absolutely obliterate enemy aircraft. Essentially, the idea here was to convert these guns into comically large shotguns, able to pick any enemy birds out of the air.
Japanese Battleship Musashi taken from the bow.
Armor-wise, each ship possessed on its outer shell a protective layer some 16 inches thick.
While you might think this all combined must have made these ships slow as molasses, it turns out, they had a top speed of about 27 knots (31 mph). While not the fastest battleship in the world, this compared favorably to, for instance, the aforementioned Iowa class battleships that weighed about 40% less, but could only go about 6 knots faster.
Despite their awe-inspiring power and the full confidence of Japanese military brass that each ship was “unmatchable and unsinkable”, neither saw much combat. In fact, the Yamato spent so much time protecting Japanese ports that it was nicknamed the “Hotel Yamato”.
The reluctance of the Japanese navy to commit either ship to combat was motivated by both the scarcity of fuel in Japan during the war, with these battleships taking copious amounts of such to go anywhere, and the fact that military brass believed losing either ship would be a massive blow to the morale of the rest of the Japanese military.
Of course, in the closing months of WW2 with their forces almost completely obliterated, Japan reluctantly began committing both battleships to naval engagements. Unfortunately at this point these super battleships were so absurdly outnumbered in the limited engagements they’d ultimately take part in that they mostly just functioned as sitting ducks.
Most notably, they proved especially vulnerable to aircraft attacks. Even the aforementioned beehive rounds, which the Japanese believed would decimate aircraft, proved to be little more than a visual deterrent, with some American pilots simply flying straight through the flaming shrapnel they produced.
And while the near couple hundred anti-aircraft guns made it so it took a brave pilot to dive bomb the ships, the sheer number of aircraft that the Americans could throw at these battleships at the same time and how chaotic the battles got, ultimately saw these guns prove just as worthless in practice.
It didn’t help that at this point in the war Japan’s own aircraft were ridiculously outnumbered and outclassed, providing little to no air cover to try to protect the massive battleships. (See our article, How Were Kamikaze Pilots Chosen?)
Ultimately the Musashi was lost during the battle of Leyte Gulf in October of 1944, taking 19 torpedo and 17 bomb strikes to sink it.
As for the Yamato, it took part in her final engagement in April of 1945 in operation Ten-Go, which was an intentional suicide mission.
Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret.
The Yamato was to be the tip of the spear of this final, last-ditch effort to repel the American advance. Its crew was ordered to beach the ship near Okinawa and use its main battery to destroy as much of the invading force as possible. Essentially, the ship would function as a base on the island, and members of the near 3,000 strong crew not needed to operate weaponry aboard the ship were to wage a land battle with any enemy forces encountered.
The mission plan was flawed from the outset, however, and performed under protest of some of the Japanese Navy brass involved, who noted there would be no chance of even reaching the target island in the first place given the stated plan, including no air support whatsoever, and time of day they were to execute the plan (broad daylight).
This turned out to be correct- en route on April 7, 1945, the Yamato and handful of accompanying ships were completely, and quickly, overwhelmed by a combined assault from 6 cruisers, 21 destroyers, 7 battleships, and a few hundred aircraft.
One surviving member of the Yamato crew, junior officer Yoshida Mitsuru, had this to say of the battle that they all had known was a suicide mission from the start,
How many times, in target practice, have we conducted such tracking? I am possessed by the illusion that we have already experienced searches under the same conditions, with the same battle positions, even with the same mood. What is going on before my very eyes, indisputably, is actual combat — but how can I possibly convince myself of that fact? The blips are not an imagined enemy but an enemy poised for the kill. The location: not our training waters, but hostile waters. More than one hundred enemy planes attacking!” Is it the navigation officer who calls this out? … The battle begins…. As my whole body tingles with excitement, I observe my own exhilaration; as I grit my teeth, I break into a grin. A sailor near me is felled by shrapnel. In the midst of the overwhelming noise, I distinguish the sound of his skull striking the bulkhead; amid the smell of gunpowder all around, I smell blood…. The tracks of the torpedoes are a beautiful white against the water, as if someone were drawing a needle through the water; they come pressing in, aimed at Yamato from a dozen different directions and intersecting silently. Estimating by sight their distance and angle on the plotting board, we shift course to run parallel to the torpedoes and barely succeed in dodging them. We deal first with the closest, most urgent one; when we get to a point far enough away from it that we can be sure we have dodged it, we turn to the next. Dealing with them calls for vigilance, calculation, and decision…. That these pilots repeated their attacks with accuracy and coolness was a sheer display of the unfathomable undreamed-of strength of our foes.
In the end, it took only 2 hours for American forces to destroy the single most powerful ship constructed during WW2, along with most of the tiny fleet it set out with. When the smoke cleared, around 4,000 were dead on the Japanese side vs. just around a dozen dead on the American side and a few more wounded.
Early in WW2 the Imperial Japanese Navy had plans to construct even bigger ships than the Yamato and Musashi as part of an even more powerful class of ships they called the Super Yamatos. These ships, if constructed, would have possessed 510 mm guns, displaced upwards of 82,000 tons and could have moved at speeds approaching 30 knots. Lack of resources stopped Japan from ever building the ships however.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Marine One is an icon of the presidency and for the most part, one helicopter has carried that load for almost 60 years: The VH-3, which first carried President Eisenhower in 1961. The current D model of the VH-3 entered service in 1978 and was later backed up with the introduction of the VH-60N in 1987. But, the fact remains that both of these helicopters are getting older by the day.
The first effort to replace them was the VXX program. This program got started in the wake of the 9/11 attacks when some possible shortcomings in the current Marine One airframes were identified. The program was marred by frequent delays, cost overruns, constantly changing requirements, and unresponsiveness on the side of the U.S. government. In 2009, the program was called off.
The need for a new Marine One remained.
The VH-3D Sea King has been used as Marine One since 1978.
(White House photo by Paul Morse)
So, the Corps started work on a new Marine One program in 2010, culminating with a requests for proposals in 2012. Sikorsky, now a division of Lockheed, won the second round of the competition in 2013. This time around, the Marines are going about getting their new Marine One very differently. The Marine One replacement’s acquisition strategy is centered on two main principles: First, well-defined and achievable requirements, and second, a low-risk, technical approach.
The latter is epitomized by the use of the S-92 helicopter (in essence, a souped-up UH-60) that has seen service with a number of civilian, government, and military operators ranging from China Southern Airlines to the Canadian Navy (as the CH-148 Cyclone). Plans call for 23 VH-92s, as it is designated, to replace both the VH-3 and VH-60 by 2023. These choppers can be hauled anywhere in the world on a C-17 Globemaster III or C-5 Galaxy cargo plane.
The other Marine One, the VH-60N, has been used since 1987.
(White House photo by Eric Draper)
Now, you may wonder why so the US government wants so many of these helicopters? Well, the current composition of HMX-1’s Marine Ones is a total of 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns. That’s because, these days, Marine One never flies alone. Often, as many as five “Marine Ones” will be in the air, creating, in essence, a five-card monte game for a terrorist. While Marine One hasn’t been attacked in real life, it was shot down by a narco-terrorist in the 1990 novel Under Siege written by Navy veteran Stephen Coonts. Of course, the new Marine One is equipped with multiple countermeasure systems to protect against such an attack should the worst happen.
The VH-92 will be expected to handle the important duty of Presidential transport for a long time. It certainly will have big shoes to fill coming after the distinguished service provided by the VH-3 and VH-60.