EXCLUSIVE: AWOL Soldier Arrested Over Concerns of Second Alleged Plot to Attack Fort Hood – FoxNews.com

At least one U.S. military serviceman has been arrested after raising concerns over another alleged plot to attack Fort Hood, Fox News has learned exclusively.

Pvt. Nasser Jason Abdo, an AWOL soldier from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was arrested by the Killeen Police Department near Fort Hood and remains in custody there. Authorities, however, will not say if Abdo is the one who raised security concerns.

Abdo was found with weapons and explosives at the time of his arrest, a senior Army source confirms to Fox News. He was arrested at around 2 p.m. Wednesday after someone called authorities to report a suspicious individual.

via EXCLUSIVE: AWOL Soldier Arrested Over Concerns of Second Alleged Plot to Attack Fort Hood – FoxNews.com.

Abdo is a Norwegian name, right?

By the way, this ins’t Abdo’s first run in with the authorities.

Skipper

I hadn’t really intended to start a series on various missiles, but I enjoy watching the youtube videos, so I might as well share with you.

Back in the early 1980s, the Navy faced the challenge of small missile armed fast attack craft in close waters such as the Mediterranean Sea or the Persian Gulf. Widely used, ships such as the Osa II or La Combatantte III were capable of dashing out from port, firing a salvo of anti-ship missiles, and scurrying back to port. While the Navy had the R/U/AGM-84 family of Harpoon missiles to attack surface targets, the Navy also wanted more than one weapon available. Further, the Harpoon had a relatively small warhead, and something a little bit heavier was wanted. But even during the Reagan buildup, money for new weapons was tight.

Someone at the Naval Weapons Center China Lake  (the same bright folks that brought us the AIM-9 Sidewinder) had the nifty idea of using a laser guided bomb as the basis for a new missile. By strapping two surplus rocket motors from the obsolete AGM-45 Shrike missile to the back of a 1000 pound GBU-16 LGB, they could achieve a standoff range of about 15 kilometers, more than enough to keep the launching aircraft out of anti-aircraft missile range of most small attack aircraft. And its heavy warhead was almost certain to knock any small warship out of the fight. The resulting AGM-123 Skipper II served for several years, and saw some combat action. It was a simple, quick, cheap solution to a nagging problem, and the development costs were very low. No wonder the Air Force never adopted it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBqlBAj0Vw0&w=448&h=252&hd=1]

There never was a Skipper I, by the way. The “II” refers to the fact that the Skipper was built using the Paveway II guidance package.

B

Navy OKs plan to sink ships in Gulf of Alaska – Navy News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq – Navy Times

The Navy has obtained authority to blast and sink as many as two real ships a year in the Gulf of Alaska over the next five years to give pilots and gunners authentic targets for their sights.

But ocean campaigners say that even decommissioned, stripped-out ships, like the ones the Navy will use as targets, contain residual hazardous materials that can poison the Gulf’s rich habitat for years. They’re trying to stop the target practice before it begins.

via Navy OKs plan to sink ships in Gulf of Alaska – Navy News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq – Navy Times.

The levels of contamination are so miniscule compared to other pollutants in the ocean as to be insignificant. But that is beside the point. The environmental groups have a reflexive opposition to anything of the sort, regardless of the opportunity costs associated with it.

Korea

Today marks the anniversary of the cease-fire in Korea in 1953. Often dubbed The Forgotten War, the Korean conflict was a brutal, bruising war that involved retreats, stunning offenses, and a return to trench warfare eerily reminiscent of World War I.

Pfc. Roman Prauty, a gunner with 31st RCT (crouching foreground), with the assistance of his gun crew, fires a 75mm recoilless rifle, near Oetlook-tong, Korea, in support of infantry units directly across the valley. June 9, 1951.

The Army commemorates the Korean War with a slideshow of soldiers in the Korean War.

Heavy Howitzers: Around Full Circle

Craig here.  XBrad opened the door (and threatened to push me through it) with regard to heavy howitzers noting the Republic of China use of what is basically the US M-1 240mm howitzer of World War II vintage.  There’s a bit of irony finding those howitzers defending the shores of Taiwan.  To appreciate such, let me discuss the background of those big old howitzers.

By the close of the American Civil War, heavy howitzers faded from the seacoast batteries of most nations.  The United States retained a rather effective seacoast defense weapon known as the Columbiad which combined the ballistics of guns and howitzers.  But most nations turned to higher velocity, direct fire rifled breechloading guns.  Almost alone among major powers, the Americans produced several large-caliber mortars for coast defense.

During the “First War of the Twentieth Century,” the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, the Japanese laid siege to Port Aurthur (now in Manchuria, mainland China).  Firing on the Russian far east stronghold were batteries of relatively new breech-loading rifled artillery, to include some of these big boys:

Japanese 28cm Howitzers at Port Arthur

These large siege guns not only caused great damage to the Russian defenses, but also worked over ships in the port.  The 28cm (11-inch) howitzers were products of the great German armaments manufacturer, Krupp.  Designed for use in the defenses of Tokyo, the Japanese reallocated the howitzers when the Russian fleet ceased to be a threat after the battle of Tsushima.  And these big howitzers did a job on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur.

Remains of Russian Fleet at Port Arthur

European observers watched this development with great interest.  In the years before World War I, all the great powers produced their own heavy siege howitzers.  Although these could pull double duty as seacoast weapons, most of the continental powers looked for something to reduce the reinforced concrete fortifications on land.   Of this “generation” of heavy guns Schneider, the French armaments manufacturer, produced a 280mm howitzer marketed for the Russians who were then re-arming.   A few of these weapons ended up in French service during World War I.

When the US entered World War I, planners saw the need for a heavy howitzer to work over the German defenses on the western front.  Furthermore, the Ordnance Department saw a need, beyond the wartime requirement, for a new heavy howitzer for mobile coast defense batteries.  After some negotiation, the Army struck a deal with Schneider for license production of a 240mm version of their howitzer.  Schneider built one example in France and shipped it to the US.  And the French also sent engineers to the US to help start the production.  Yet the project never picked up momentum.  Only the original French gun was on hand at the time of the Armistice.

But with the mobile coast defense requirement in mind, the M1918 9.5-inch (240mm) howitzer project continued after the end of hostilities.  Eventually a few rolled out of the factory.  And only with a wink and a nod, we might call this “mobile.”

And I’ll start the unsubstantiated rumor the entire outfit was cleared for air-drop….

Only took six hours for the crew to set up this beast.  And in action she looked intimidating.

The M1918 could throw a 346 pound shell over 17,000 yards.  State of the art for that day.  Only one problem… when the first M1918 went to the range for proofing, the cannon blew up!  And follow-up corrections failed to resolve many of the gun’s problems.  Only after a long gestation were 330 examples produced.  Some of these guns went to Hawaii where concrete pads allowed wide traverse and coverage of potential enemy approaches.

M1918 on Coast Defense Mount

But for the most part, the Army shunted these howitzers to the storage yards.  I’m not certain, but don’t think any were even offered up as Lend-Lease in 1940.

With America’s entry into the next world war, clearly the M1918 was a dated design.  So back to the drawing boards went the Ordnance Department.  The main drawback to the M1918 was (duh!) mobility.  In the inter-war period, experiments to match the M1918 to high-speed towed carriages and  even self-propelled platforms failed.  But lessons learned projected into a new design, as XBrad highlighted – the M1 240mm howitzer.

T33 Prime Mover pulling a M1 240mm Howitzer

Regardless of what you downsize, big cannons are just… well big.  The Army tried several different carriages, but finally settled on a two load arrangement.  In the picture above the barrel, with recoil system, is on a six wheel trailer.  A similar trailer transported the carriage.   The concurrently developed M1 8-inch gun used the same carriage and transport.  The M1 240mm howitzer weighed 64,700 pounds in action and fired a 360 pound shell to over 25,000 yards.  The M1 8-inch gun weighed 69,300 pounds and pushed a 240 pound shell to 35,600 yards (with a 90 pound super charge).

M1 8-inch gun
M1 8-inch Gun at Aberdeen

These battery mates saw heavy action in the Anzio beachhead in 1944, firing counter-battery against the German railway guns.

240mm howitzer of Battery `B', 697th Field Artillery Battalion, just before firing into German held territory. Mignano area, Italy. January 30, 1944

These big guns followed the allied advance through Europe and also served in the Pacific.

240mm Howitzer in the Philippines

But the “system” was not mobile enough for the desires of US planners.  Once again, someone figured to put the big cannons on tracked carriers.  Based on the M26 Pershing Medium (originally Heavy) tank chassis, the T92 240mm Howitzer Motor Carriage and the T93 8inch Gun Motor Carriage made an appearance in 1945.  Despite orders for several hundred, and designation of “limited standard,” only a handful rolled out before the end of the war.

Even in the face of air power lessons-learned during World War II, the Army still figured super-heavy artillery had some place in 1946.  In particular, the Ordnance Department considered the newest technology in regard to counter-battery, interdiction, and coast defense.  After all, everyone was giddy about the “atom” in those days.  So out came the T1 240mm Gun.

9 July 2011 662
240mm T1 Gun

And not quite so happy with that caliber, the Army turned to the T71 280mm which eventually became the M65 280mm Atomic Cannon.

Nuclear Test using 280mm M65

Or for those who like the ‘splodie fast forward to the 9 minute mark:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6gy_krPau8]

While the new carriages (based off some German heavy gun and railway carriages) were more mobile than the World War II types, the mushroom cloud effect sort of made that irrelevant.   A few dozen of these entered service, but soon the Army turned to rockets and missiles that offered a little better range (well with the exception of that Davy Crockett thing).  So by the 1960s the “big guns” of the field artillery were 8-inch howitzers and 175mm guns.

But consider the turn about here.  The Armies and the cannons change, but from one century to another there are still those big howitzers placed to defend a Chinese coastline.

The F-35B: Keep It or Kill It?

This is a image of F-35 B Joint Strike Fighter
Image via Wikipedia

The coming austerity in defense budgets has left several high profile programs vulnerable to being cancelled. The poster child for at risk programs that are over budget and behind schedule is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. There is a growing suspicion in defense circles that rather than seeing the whole program cancelled, the DoD might be willing to cancel the troubled F-35B Short Take Off/Vertical Landing version intended as a replacement for the Marine Corps aging fleet of AV-8B Harriers.

Neptunus Lex’s occasional co-author, Whisper, argues that instead, the opposite should happen- cancel the Air Force “A” model, and if needed, the Navy’s “C” model as well, and instead produce only the STOVL “B” model. I’ve already made my thoughts on Marine Aviation known here, but let’s see what Whisper has to say.

As Senators McCain and Levin begin to inquire about the costs of terminating the entire program, some have begun to suggest offering-up the F-35B as a sacrificial limb who’s amputation is necessary to save the patient.  To them I say: you’ve got it all wrong.  You’re 180-out.

Also:

Cancel the A-model first, and produce the C-model for all of the CTOL customers.  The USAF can deal with the extra range and improved slow-speed handling of the C-model. (Though they will rightfully miss the built-in cannon.)  If that’s not enough, go ahead and cancel the C-model as well.  This will set big-deck Naval Aviation back at least ten years in its quest to field a fifth generation fighter, but Boeing is waiting in the wings– and it might be worth the wait to get a real air dominance fighter for fleet defense.  The USAF can buy some more Raptors (act now, and we’ll get you stoned for no extra cost!), and Gucci high-lot F-16s for our FMS friends are still rolling-off the line in Fort Worth.  The sky is not falling.

Sorry, Whisper. It is nice to see some original thinking but your conclusions are wrong. Putting all the JSF eggs into the STOVL basket is the least attractive option for a couple of different reasons.

First, it is the model that still has the highest level of technical risk in its development cycle. The added complexity of its STOVL capability has proven to be a real challenge for the contractor, Lockheed Martin, and there is no guarantee they’ve discovered all the major hurdles even at this late date.

Second, Whisper rightly notes that the inclusion of a STOVL variant forced compromises across the entire program. But his proposed solution leaves only the least capable variant in production. All the weight and space needed to add the STOVL capability is used in the other variants for fuel and munitions capacity on the other models. The F-35B has the shortest range of all three variants. Just as the Navy is finally on the cusp of buying a jet that has a decent unrefueled radius of action, Whisper is advocating killing that variant.

Whisper also notes that per unit costs would skyrocket.

Condensing F-35 production into the STOVL model will of course drive the per-unit acquisition cost up from insane to ludicrous, but it might be palatable if you can explain to the tax-payer what they are getting.  Beyond the bread and butter of maneuver warfare and amphibious assault that the F-35B will easily support when embarked with an ARG, the US tax-payer will be getting a forward-deployed national asset.  Stop calling it a “game-changer” and tell them exactly what it is you’re supplanting.

I am not at all confident that this argument makes any real sense. If F-35 production is limited to the B model, then the Air Force and the Navy are forced with the choice of either replacing their current fleets with B models, or buying legacy aircraft such as the           F/A-18E/F. But the B model’s shorter range and increased complexity (and thus, higher unit cost) make it extremely unattractive for the Air Force, and the B-model cannot operate from conventional big deck carriers unless they are extensively modified, thus making it a non-starter for the Navy.

The other option, just buying legacy fighters for the Air Force and Navy, and giving B models to the Marines, is insane. If the decision is made to buy legacy aircraft is made, how can we justify spending untold billions of dollars developing and fielding a tiny number of jets for close air support? If old style aircraft are good enough for the Air Force and Navy, why not for the Marine Corps?  I’m already unable to discern why the Marines need supersonic stealthy fighters to provide CAS. Doing it at the expense of busting the aircraft acquisition budget doesn’t help the argument in it favor. Instead, it would be far more likely that the entire program would be cancelled.

Cancelling the B model would pose challenges for the Marines. The AV-8B has been in service for a quarter century, and is due for replacement. Without it, or the F-35B, the Marines lose the ability to integrate a fixed wing close air support platform into the Ace Combat Element deployed on board Navy LHA/LHD class ships.

But that is actually a capability they’ve managed to do without for almost the entirety of Marine Aviation’s existence.  That capability is of limited utility. The Marines would be faced with the challenge of either operating from normal airfields ashore, or operating in concert with a Navy big-deck carrier to provide air support. But that is exactly what they normally do. Any landing big enough to require more than one LHA on scene would almost certainly justify surging a CVN in support. Any landing that only requires on LHA (with no more than about 20 F-35Bs on board) would be such a localized contingency that establishing a secure airfield to operate from would likely be very feasible.

At the end of his piece, Whisper argues that the new America class LHAs are the wave of the future:

The new America class of amphibious assault ships represent a fork in the road for Naval Aviation.  The USMC needs to embrace the concept and run with it. Stop lamenting the missing well deck. While big-deck CVNs will continue to be the centerpiece of American overseas crisis response for the foreseeable future, the dynamics of the Arab Spring have shown us that we do not have enough assets to cover all of our interests simultaneously.  The F-35B+LHA combination could be one of the most cost effective and efficient solutions for engagement in the changing landscape of crisis response.

In fact, they are not. That’s a back door argument in favor of building light carriers. But time and again has shown that for the money, the big deck carrier is always the better option (and likely the subject of another post!)

If it is absolutely critical that the Marines have a STOVL capability deployed on LHA/LHD class ships, let’s build a new batch of AV-8Bs, and keep the F-35A and C models in production to rebuild the Air Force and Navy tactical aircraft fleets.

Bearcats and Blues

Grumman F8F-2P Bearcat G-RUMM N700HL of the Fi...
Image via Wikipedia

This is  a repost of one of my favorite entries.

Neptunus Lex found a great little video of the legendary Blue Angels teaming up with some Grumman F8F Bearcats for a little formation time.

[vodpod id=Video.5095162&w=425&h=350&fv=]

My dad flew the Bearcat briefly during his youth. It was, by any measure, a pilot’s airplane. Shortly before he died, I took him to a local airshow. He was moved to tears just seeing a beautiful Bearcat on display. And when the Bearcat flew its demonstration, I’m pretty sure his misty eyes kept him from seeing much. But I know the sound of that great radial engine resonated in his heart.

A little history.  As the War in the Pacific was getting ever closer to the Japanese home islands, two things were happening. First, the Japanese began to use Kamikaze suicide attacks against the US fleet with devastating results. Secondly, the carrier composition of the fleet was evolving. There were the large, fast fleet carriers, and then there were a large number of smaller, slower escort carriers. The large fleet carriers carried Hellcats and Corsairs as their fighters, along with Helldivers and Avengers as their strike aircraft. The escort carriers used the smaller, slower F4F or FM-2 Wildcat as their fighter, and carried Avengers as their strike aircraft. The fleet carriers were focused on offensive strikes against Japanese airfields, installations, and shipping. The escort carriers generally provided Combat Air Patrols over the fleet, and close air support to troops making amphibious assaults. The problem was, the Wildcat was getting pretty long in the tooth. It was too slow and not maneuverable enough to face swarms of Japanese Kamikazes. The Navy tasked Grumman to come up with a fighter that could take on high performance Japanese aircraft, and still be small enough to safely operate from the small escort carriers. Grumman took the excellent Pratt&Whitney R-2800 engine (2800 cubic inch displacement, roughly 2000hp) and built the smallest possible airframe around it.

The Bearcat’s light weight gave it excellent speed and a phenomenal rate of climb. Just the thing for intercepting Kamikazes. Unfortunately, it went into production just as the war ended, and never saw combat. And while it was the pinnacle of piston engine fighter design, it was soon overtaken by jet fighters. They were faster and higher flying. And it was too small to really be an effective ground attack airplane, a role the Corsair would continue to fill throughout the Korean War. Only a handful of squadrons were equipped with the Bearcat, and soon it was shuffled off to the Reserves. By 1949, it was effectively obsolete in a military sense, but in post war years, it found new life as a racing plane, and its excellent speed, power, climb and maneuverability make it a favorite on the Warbird airshow circuit.