TAC Air/ Missiles and Might- Sunday Evening War Porn

I love these old newsreels from the Cold War era, especially the ones before the Vietnam war.

This one is from before 1962. You can tell because they are still calling the F-4 the “F-110A


This one is more a broad overview of how kickass the services were back then. Cool things to look for include the Bullpup missile:


Going great guns…

Another repost since I’m too lazy to write anything this morning. 


Welcome Reddit readers. Part Two is HERE, and Part Three is HERE.

For an army that has used machine guns for a hundred years or so, we have had remarkably few weapons serve as a standard machine gun. When I talk about machine guns, I mean what the Army calls a machine gun, not Hollywood or the press. A machine gun is a weapon that is primarily designed to provide automatic fire, not just one that can. For instance, the M-16 is an automatic weapon. You can set the selector switch to automatic and pull the trigger. The weapon will fire automatically until the magazine is empty. But it was designed to be used mostly as a semiautomatic weapon, where one pull of the trigger fires one round. Machine guns, which are usually belt fed, almost always fire full auto. Many don’t have any provision for semiautomatic fire.

We aren’t going to go back to the Gatling gun and its counterparts. In many ways, they were considered artillery, and treated as such.

The first really successful machine gun in the US Army was the Browning M1917. This gun fired the same .30-06 rifle cartridge as the standard US rifle, but fired it from a cloth belt holding hundreds of rounds. The big fat thing on the barrel is a water jacket. The water in the jacket cooled the barrel when firing long bursts. How long? Well, when Browning was trying to sell the gun to the Army, he fired two bursts, of 20,000 rounds each.  Right now the Army says that an M-4 carbine is ready for replacement after firing 7,000 rounds over the course of its life.

This ability to place huge amounts of automatic fire on target was very much appreciated by  the infantry during the trench warfare of WWI. And it still had a place long after that. With a range of well over 1000 yards, the M1917 could be used to support our troops during an assault. The M1917 remained in service throughout WWII and the Korean War. The Weapons Company of each infantry battalion had a platoon of them.

The only real problem with the M1917 was that it weighed so much. The gun itself was heavy, then there was the sturdy tripod, water in the jacket and a spare water can, and then enormous amounts of ammunition. It was almost a given that a vehicle would be needed to transport the gun team. As the Army tried to get away from static trench warfare, something lighter was needed that could accompany troops on the move. Since most of the Army moved by foot, this would have to be light enough for a team to carry long distances.

Browning had the answer there as well. By removing the water jacket and placing a perforated cooling jacket around the barrel (to allow cooling air to circulate) Browning considerably lightened the gun. Coupled with a new, lightweight tripod, the new gun was adopted as the M1919. While it could not sustain nearly as high a volume of fire as the heavy, water-cooled guns, it could be quickly and easily moved by a three man team , allowing it to follow troops almost anywhere on the battlefield. The three man team consisted of the gunner, who carried and emplaced the tripod (and then fired the weapon when emplaced), the assistant gunner, who carried the gun (and then assisted with loading the gun when in operation) and the ammunition bearer, who carried additional ammunition, and was armed with a rifle to provide local security while the gun was being emplaced.

While the 1919 couldn’t provide the same volume of fire as the 1917, the gun was still incredibly reliable and capable of laying large volumes of fire upon the enemy. It’s vastly superior portability also meant that it would be up front where the fight was. Normally, each infantry platoon had two machine guns assigned. The M1919 was such a solid design, it remained in service from 1919 up until the early 1960’s. (actually, the initial basis of issue was 2 guns per company, but by the end of WWII, most platoons had two guns-ed.)

During WWII, the Wehrmacht (the German Army) was mostly equipped with bolt action rifles. To make up for this lack of firepower, each squad was centered around the excellent MG42 light machine gun. This provided the bulk of the squad’s firepower. The Americans were greatly impressed with this gun. After the war, the Army looked to find a gun that would be lighter than the M1919 and more portable. They wanted a gun much like the MG42, firing from either a tripod or, usually, a bipod, using a buttstock.

After years of development, the Army adopted the M-60 machine gun as its standard medium machine gun. It had a number of “improvements” over the MG-42. It was chambered in the NATO standard 7.62mm x 51 cartridge. It deliberately had a lower rate of fire, to reduce the ammo needed and diminish the need to constantly change barrels.

While the M60 was issued in the same two guns per platoon manner as the M1919, it was often used in the role of a squad automatic weapon, much like the MG42. The M60 became iconic, seen almost every night on the evening news during the Vietnam war. But the M60 wasn’t without its own problems. It was somewhat fragile. When I was an M60 gunner, one of the real issues with the weapon was the various leaf springs on the gun. Many would fall off, even when properly installed. For instance, it wasn’t unusual to lose the leafspring that held the trigger group onto the gun. Soon thereafter, the trigger group would try to get away. We had to lace the guns together with parachute cord or safetywire. This made it almost impossible to disassemble the gun for clearing jams. The feed tray was made of stamped metal and was vulnerable to being damaged from relatively slight impacts. If that happened, the gun wouldn’t feed at all. And the gas piston could be inserted backwards during assembly after cleaning, leading to a gun that wouldn’t fire on full auto.

After trying several modifications to the weapon, the Army finally adopted a new medium machine gun, the M240. This is the American name for the Belgian MAG58, which, ironically, lost the original competition to the M60. The M240 has been in use as a vehicle mounted weapon in the US for about 30 years, but it was only in the mid-1990’s that the services started using it as a standard infantry weapon.

The 240 is a solid, well designed gun. It weighs just a little more than the M60, but is very resistant to damage and very easy to maintain. It is incredibly reliable. If your gun is jamming, UR DOIN IT RONG!

It is ironic that after the development and use of machine guns for 100 years, the Army is using a gun first designed over 50 years ago, one that initially wasn’t adopted largely because of the “Not Invented Here” syndrome.

Part 2 will cover some of the other Great Guns of the US Army.

Rifles Stolen: Reward Offered in Stolen Rifles From Ft. Irwin – ktla.com

FORT IRWIN, Calif. (KTLA) — Federal investigators are offering a $10,000 reward after 27 rifles were reported stolen from Ft. Irwin earlier this month.

Twenty-six AK-74 rifles and a Dragunov rifle were reported missing on July 15 from a weapon storage area of a supply warehouse on the property, according a statement from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

via Rifles Stolen: Reward Offered in Stolen Rifles From Ft. Irwin – ktla.com.

Not good. The only good news is that 5.45mm ammo is extremely rare.



USS Long Beach (CGN-9)
Image via Wikipedia

Continuing in our series on US missile systems.

The US Navy’s experience against the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II became the impetus for development of long range guided missile systems. The HS293 and Fritz X guided bombs gave Luftwaffe bombers great enough standoff range to avoid most anti-aircraft fire, and sufficient accuracy to be deadly to ships. The need for a weapon with much greater range than the standard 5’/38 gun was clear. The added devastation inflicted by the Kamikazes (especially the Baka bomb) in the last stages of the Pacific War only added urgency to the desire to develop a long range weapon system.

Simply adding bigger guns was not a terribly practical approach. Larger guns would theoretically provide longer range, but the increasing speed of aircraft, especially jets, and the longer range would decrease gun accuracy unacceptably. Coupled with the greater weight and lower rate of fire of a larger gun system, little benefit would be gained. The Navy had been unimpressed with Japanese cruisers using 6” and 8” guns as “dual-purpose” guns (that is, against surface and air threats). Nevertheless, at the very end of the war, a dual purpose 6” gun mount was designed for our Navy. It was not terribly successful, and other approaches to long range anti-aircraft fire were pursued instead.

The “outer layer” of a fleet’s air defense was provided by its fighters, operating radar control from the carrier, picket destroyers, and finally, via Project Cadillac, airborne radar planes.  But the Combat Air Patrol sometimes let “leakers” through, and the carrier’s cruiser escorts needed a way to solve that problem.

Enter Project Bumblebee.1 The navy decided to build a guided missile system. Early solid rocket motors were not powerful enough to provide the range and altitude needed, so the development settled on ramjet propulsion. Ramjets are very simple engines, with essentially no moving parts. But they have to be boosted to high speed before they can work. So an enormous solid booster was needed also just to get the missile off the ship and up to speed.

This ramjet powered missile, later christened Talos, used beam-riding guidance. The launching warship aimed a pencil beam of radar energy at the target aircraft and the missile centered itself on the radar beam and eventually intercepted the target. Since the radar beam was pointed at the target aircraft, there was radar energy reflected back toward the ship- and the missile. As a final guidance mode, the Talos used 4 nose mounted antennae to steer the missile toward the radar reflection, a mode known as Semi-Active Radar Homing or SARH.2

Coupled with the large warhead needed and the bulky electronics of the late 1940s, this resulted in a missile almost as big and heavy as some fighters of the day. The tracking and illumination radars were large and heavy as well. Clearly, this wasn’t a system adaptable to smaller warships such as destroyers. The logical choice was to modify some of the many cruisers left over from World War II, many of which had barely entered service when the war ended. By removing the after main gun turret, revamping the magazine spaces, and rebuilding the topsides (to accommodate the guidance and illumination radars) it was possible to install a Talos missile system onto three Cleveland class light cruisers. Even more radical modifications to Baltimore class heavy cruisers resulted in the three ships of the Albany class with Talos systems for and aft. The only other ship to operate the Talos system was the only nuclear powered cruiser ever built, the USS Long Beach. The Talos system worked, but was far to expensive to be installed on large numbers of ships.

As development of the Talos progressed, the range of the missile increased greatly from its initial goal of 10 nautical miles. By the time the first operational missiles were deployed, the system had a range of 50 miles. Later improvements almost doubled this range. Coupled with the ability to carry a nuclear warhead (to defeat mass attacks), the RIM-8 Talos system was a potent long range system. Three MiG pilots in Vietnam learned the hard way not to stray too close to any Navy task force equipped with it.

After only 20 years of service, the Talos was retired from active duty. Other smaller, lighter, cheaper missile systems were providing similar performance (though usually at somewhat shorter ranges) and could be installed on smaller, more numerous ships. The remaining Talos missiles were used as targets representing supersonic cruise missiles. Descendants of the Talos proved their capabilities by shooting down their predecessor.


One of themissile systems that replaced the Talos was Terrier. Terrier actually began life as a two staged, rocket powered test vehicle to validate the guidance system of Talos. As solid rocket motors improved, it quickly became clear that Terrier itself would be a viable weapon system, and it actually entered into service before Talos. Tartar, a smaller missile, basically a Terrier without the first stage booster, was developed from Terrier and equipped smaller destroyers and frigates. Since all three missiles sprung from the same intellectual well of Project Bumblebee, they are usually referred to as the “3T” missiles. For 20 years, the 3T’s formed the backbone of the Navy’s surface air-defense system, until replaced by the Standard Missile System.

1 Sometimes called “Operation Bumblebee”

2 SARH was for many years the most common radar guidance method, and is still used to this day by many missile systems, including the Aegis/Standard missile system on US Navy cruisers and destroyers.