LCAC Replacement Comin

ARLINGTIN, Va. — Textron Marine and Land Systems, builder of the next generation of landing craft air cushions (LCACs), expects to begin full-rate production of the new LCAC in 2017, said Jan Baudoin, the company’s director for the Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC)program.The LCAC 100 class will supplement and eventually replace the older LCAC class, also built by Textron, on the Navy’s well-deck amphibious warfare ships.Speaking Jan. 13 to reporters at the Surface Navy Association National Symposium, Baudoin said that the first new SSC, LCAC 100, will be a test and training craft for the program. LCAC 101 will be the first one intended for fleet use.Tom Rivers, of the Navy’s landing craft program office, said that LCAC 100 is 27 percent complete and will be completed in 2017. LCAC 101 is 16 percent complete and will be completed three months after 100. LCACs 102 and 103 are scheduled to begin their construction phase later this year.The Navy is expected to exercise options for four or five more this year as well, Baudoin said.

Source: SEAPOWER Magazine Online

Well, there’s some good news on the shipbuilding front. The SSC is primarily an improvement over the older LCACs because it can carry the weight of an M1A1 tank without having to strain its engines and lift fan.

In other news, the Navy is also getting ready to replace its very, very old fleet of Landing Craft Utility.

The Navy and industry will soon begin work on the Landing Craft Unit replacement program two years ahead of the original schedule, forcing some concurrent design and model testing but delivering a much-needed replacement sooner.

The new LCU 1700 program, to replace the legacy LCU 1610 craft, was supposed to start in Fiscal Year 2018, but Congress included funding in the current FY 2016 budget to accelerate the delivery of the new landing craft.

The LCU fleet is well over 40 years old, and was intended to have a 25 year service life when built. The Navy plan is to have the new LCU with the same general size as the old ones (since they have to fit in the same amphibious shipping, after all) with a modest improvement in load capacity. The goal is to be able to carry about 160 tons, that is, two M1A1 tanks.

The metric of measuring movements by numbers of tanks is useful, but given that the average Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed only has a four tank platoon attached kind of obscures the real majority of what needs to be moved via LCU. Marines ashore need to be supported by a lot of trucks carrying fuel, ammunition and food and water. Moving all those supplies by air or LCAC is difficult and expensive. Sometimes, cheap and slow is just fine.

Grad Rockets

We talked about Russian artillery yesterday.  The Russians are tactical masters at the use of artillery, with a very strong doctrinal base of knowledge in the use of indirect fire for maneuver warfare. But first and foremost, they’re also in the “shoot ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” camp. And not surprisingly, so are their client states.

The BM-21 “Grad” 122mm multiple rocket launcher is a rather crude, but spectacularly effective weapon system, capable of spreading mass destruction over a wide area at low cost, rapidly. Under Russian doctrine, a battalion of launchers (say, 18 trucks) would quickly mass and launch on a target, then drive off to reload.  In Syria, a single launcher might attack a target. As you’ll notice, the BM-21 is hardly a precision weapon.  If the US did something like this, our own political left would be screaming about war crimes for weeks. But the fact is, this is the norm for war.


The myth vs. legend of the Air Force’s purple water fountain

The fountain is said to bring “enlightenment” to those whose lips touch its water, the description continues. It stands outside the Air Force Council room “as testament to war-fighting common sense.”

Source: The myth vs. legend of the Air Force’s purple water fountain

So of course, they put it behind glass.

Artillery Returns to the Battlefield in the War against ISIL

Amid Russian air and cruise missile strikes, civilian casualties, proposed no-fly zones, air-to-air shoot-downs, and new surface-to-air missiles in Syria, relatively few news stories have discussed the introduction of Russian artillery into the theater. Though the introduction of artillery may seem less significant than aerial attacks, remember that Napoleon observed: “With artillery, war is made.” By reintroducing artillery to Syria to support combined arms operations, the Russians may have revealed something about the war they and the Syrians envision. Together with increased air attacks, the Syrians and their Russian advisors seek to revitalize combined arms forces, and artillery is critical to their vision of such forces. Artillery is particularly important for offensive operations, providing a continuous presence that current Russian air deployments cannot sustain. The Syrian ground forces are now taking and holding ground, fighting urban and village battles where they must, but posing a threat of encirclement and maneuver where they can.

Source: Artillery Returns to the Battlefield in the War against ISIL

James Quinlivan’s piece is long, but quite interesting regarding the devolution of the Syrian Arab Army from its past Soviet style formation, and trying to reintegrate combined arms today.

Artillery is obviously useful for killing the enemy. Let’s talk a bit about the Russian historical use of artillery.  Artillery properly used (and the Russians are past masters at the  art) imposes a heavy penalty on the enemy  whenever he masses his forces. Whenever a force concentrates, it becomes an attractive target. When it disperses, it is harder to kill with artillery.

But dispersal means that force cannot bring the totality of its combat power to bear on an objective. That means that artillery can provide your own maneuver forces the opportunity to mass at a time and place of your choosing to be decisive at the objective.

Whether Russian artillery support for the Syrian Arab Army can achieve this in Syria remains to be seen. But they’ve certainly made some  progress already.

The CP-107 Argus

Canada has long had a robust aerospace industry, building not just small utility planes like DeHavilland of Canada is famous for, but also medium sized transport aircraft, and military aircraft.  One such military aircraft was the CP-107 Argus maritime patrol plane.  In the early 1950s, The Royal Canadian Air Force operated three squadrons of the US built Lockheed P2V Neptune. The Neptune was a fine aircraft, but with the vast coastlines and expanses of waters off Canada, the RCAF wanted something more, and with greater endurance and more space for sensors and weapons.

Starting a design from scratch was beyond Canada’s capability and budget, but building a derivative of an existing design was a real possibility. At the same time, the RCAF was also interested in long range transport aircraft. And if you watched yesterday’s video about British aviation, you know one of the aircraft of the time was the turboprop powered Bristol Britannia.  The nice roomy fuselage and excellent range were very appealing to the RCAF. And so Canadair acquired a license to build the Britannia.

But the Britannia was built to fly high, and relatively fast. A sub hunting maritime patrol plane needed to spend a great deal of time flying very low, and quite slow. The Bristol Proteous turboprop engines of the Britannia were efficent at altitude, but quite thirsty near sea level.  Further, since low and slow was the order of the day, the pressurized fuselage wasn’t needed. What was needed was a pair of bomb bays.

Canadair redesigned the fuselage as unpressurized and with the two large bays. As for the powerplants, they took what might be seen as a technological step backward.  They switched from turboprops to piston engines.

The Wright R-3350 was initially something of a nightmare when first flown in the early 1940s, with a bad habit of bursting into flames. But by the early 1950s, it was much improved, with great reliability, and through the magic of Turbo-Compound, was quite efficient at low altitude.

Equipped with either the US APS-20 surface search radar, or the British made ASV-21, and with a Magnetic Anomaly Detector tail boom, the Argus also used sonobouys, radio direction finding and other measures to hunt for Soviet submarines.

The Argus entered RCAF service in 1957 and was retired in 1981, replaced by the CP-140 Aurora, a Canadian variant of the US P-3 Orion. As a child, I can recall seeing the occasional Argus visiting NAS Whidbey either for training or for airshows.

Given that the Argus is about the size of a B-29 Superfortress, building one was quite the industrial achievement, and the Canadians were quite proud of their accomplishment, so much so they produced a 30 minute film showing how it was done.


Two U.S. Marine CH-53 helicopters collide off Hawaii

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard says two Marine helicopters carrying a total of 12 crew members have collided off the Hawaiian island of Oahu.”The aircraft are from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from Marine Corps Base Hawaii,” a Marine Corps statement said.

Source: Two U.S. Marine CH-53 helicopters collide off Hawaii

Prayers up, but it’s not looking good.