Why the Army doesn’t bring back the 106mm RR

Timactual in the comments on the M8 AGS asks a reasonable question:

“The three man crew could bolt on the additional protection in a couple hours with simple hand tools.”

Why, oh why, am I so skeptical.

Why not bring back the 106 mm. reckless rifle? Mount it on an modified and armored Humvee, like the Germans did with the Marder.

I like the M40 106mm Recoilless Rifle (which has proven popular with Syrian rebels). It’s a nifty weapon. My thoughts on why the Army doesn’t bring it back into service are pure speculation, of course, but I think you’ll see the logic has merit.

First, as to his skepticism about mounting the bolt on armor, it really was pretty easy to do.

As to why you’d want a rifled cannon mounted on a vehicle instead of an M40- the M40 was only capable of defeating armor via its HEAT warhead.  It’s low muzzle velocity ruled out using any kinetic penetrator. HEAT warheads offer fantastic penetration for a given size round. The problem is, they can be defeated by a pretty wide variety of simple countermeasures. See the slat armor on US Stryker vehicles deployed in the war zones. Or simply a little vegetation can set off the warhead before it reaches the armor. The 105mm main gun of the M8 can fire existing sabot rounds that are fully capable of defeating tanks up to various T-72 models. And if you’re facing a threat with more advanced armor than that, you’re going to need more than Airborne forces anyway.

As to why the Army doesn’t bring back the M40 to complement the firepower of Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, I suspect it is mostly because, they don’t really need it. IBCTs are fairly generously equipped with the TOW and Javelin missile.

A Javelin is a crapload more expensive per shot than an M40. On the other hand, it is also virtually a one shot/one kill system with greater effective range than an M40. And the Army has so many TOW missiles in the inventory, we can afford to expend them at a pretty brisk rate for years and years to come. Most stocks of US 106mm ammo are expired, and the ammunition in use today overseas is made overseas.

As much as I like the M40, I just don’t think bringing it back would solve any issues that can’t be address by other means. Yeah, you could probably save a little money, but there’s no gain in combat effectiveness, so why bother?

Daily Dose of Splodey

The Mk45 5”/54 gun was, until recently, the standard in production medium caliber gun for US Navy warships, being replaced in production (but not in existing fleet units) by the Mk45Mod4 5”/62 gun, which is mechanically almost identical, but has a longer barrel for greater range. It fires the same ammunition as the earlier 5”/54.

Here’s an older video, dating from the early 1990s showing a demonstration of the lethality of proximity fused rounds against simulated truck type targets.

The “HECVT” projectile stands for High Explosive Common Variable Time. That is, it’s a high explosive shell. Common means it is a general purpose round, as opposed to having an armor piercing body, or prefragmented anti-aircraft body. It is, by far, the most common round- hence, Common. Variable Time oddly doesn’t stand for Variable Time, but instead for Proximity fused. That is, a small radio transmitter in the nose of the fuse senses when the round is within a predetermined distance from an object, and then initiates the bursting of the charge. Variable Time was a cover story from when VT was invented in World War II to keep the Germans or Japanese from discovering how VT worked, and either developing their own, or countermeasures to defeat it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AS5G-NwPlWo]

C-RAM

Although our Army loves mobility, the fact is, in any theater of operations, you simply have to have some fixed bases. Logistics, airfields, maintenance facilities require some sort of base. And in the nature of warfare, fixed installations are tempting targets for indirect fire.  For instance, in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, insurgents have targeted bases with a variety of indirect fire weapons. For the most part, these attacks have been primarily harassing fires.  They’re too small to destroy much of an installation, but they’re enough that work has to stop, people have to take cover, and occasionally the enemy gets lucky and causes casualties or hits an important piece of equipment.

In wars past, the tactic to counter these attacks was counter-battery fire. Special radars detect the incoming fire, and by tracking their trajectory, can locate their origin. That targeting in information is sent to the artillery (or helicopter gunships, or what have you), and fires placed on the attacker. But sometimes, that’s simply not possible. For instance, if the attack comes from a protected space such as a mosque, firing back might have worse consequences that simply riding out the attack. It’s hard to win hearts and minds when you’re shelling the locals village and their church.

With advances in technology, and some adaptation of existing technology, the Army has developed systems to actually intercept incoming fire. Under the term C0unter- Rockets, Artillery & Mortars, the Army is testing or actually fielding a family of weapons that defeat, well, rockets, artillery, and mortar shells in flight.

The first fielded system was a derivative of the US Navy’s Mk15 Phalanx Close In Weapon System, or CIWS.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2004nrHxa0]

A good start, but the Army is looking at other systems as well. For instance, lasers are maturing enough that a deployable system will soon be a reality.

In addition, the Army is realizing that its monopoly on cheap drones is coming to an end, and enemy forces, either state actors, nor non-state forces will be able to operate drones over our installations. Denying the enemy this intelligence is a critical task, and one that the C-RAM initiative is addressing. One interesting concept we noticed the other day is this mobile 50mm chain gun with guided ammunition.

enhanced-protection-1

While civilian countermeasures to combat malicious drones is moving toward UAV-freezing radio beams, the US Army is taking a more permanent approach. Under development by the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, the Enhanced Area Protection and Survivability (EAPS) system used steerable 50 mm smart rounds to shoot down two drones in recent tests.

The Army says that EAPS is a gun-based alternative to the missile-based Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) system currently favored by the US military. It was originally designed to counter rockets, artillery, and mortars (RAM), but due to the increasing threat from UAVs the system’s mission was expanded to include drones.

Using a 50 mm cannon, EAPS fires guided interceptor projectiles guided by a precision tracking radar interferometer and a fire control computer. The system tracks the projectile and the target and computes an ideal trajectory correction. A radio transceiver then beams an engagement “basket” at the target for the projectile to home in on. Thrusters on the projectile are used for course correction and as it nears the target a forward-fragmenting warhead with a tantalum-tungsten alloy liner detonates to deal with C-RAM targets, while steel body fragments take out unmanned drones.

As an aside, that’s one of the nifty things about the Chain Gun, it’s scaleability. The most common chain gun in use is the M242 25mm. But basic gun mechanism has also been used in 30mm (both the low velocity M230 of the Apache gunship, and the high velocity of the Mk46 intended for the canceled EFV) and even 7.62mm. There’s also a 35mm version. I’ll admit this was the first I’d heard of a 50mm variant. And I wonder if, given the fin stabilization of the guided ammo, is it a smoothbore gun? Heck, it would be fun to see a 60mm mortar version.

And having designed the basic architecture for a guided 50mm round, it should be quite simple to design various different warheads for the rounds, enabling it to be used for other roles beyond just C-RAM. For instance, might we see a variant tailored for ships as defense against cruise missiles or small boat attacks? That would be interesting, seeing the circle completed from the adoption of the sea based CIWS.

“Rebels” adjusting artillery fire with a drone.

Yeah, “rebels” who just happened to be in Russian uniform. What are the  odds. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine in the eastern regions of Ukraine has been characterized by heavy, heavy use of artillery. Any time either side attempts to mass decisive combat power, the other pounds it with artillery. Sadly, the Russians have done a better job. While they lack the sophistication of UAVs like our MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper, these commercial off the shelf drones do provide enough information to make terrain feature recognition and artillery adjustment quite feasible.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26zA_Uq4Yxo]

Strategic Messaging, Done Right

A nine-dash line on Chinese passports.   A second Navy disguised as a Coast Guard.  And the above video.  They get it.  “Strategic Messaging” has heavy doses of propaganda.  We, on the other hand, continue to vigorously deny that basic fact.  And that the most effective propaganda is based in truth.

The video above is not simply for Chinese consumption.  We would do well to understand that.  And build our Navy accordingly.  But alas, our SECNAV is more concerned with putting women in Marine Infantry outfits and his “green fuels” initiative.  And the Commander in Chief is off taking selfies and complaining that capitalism causes glaciers to melt in the summer.

We’re so screwed.

H/T Pukka mate.

The T-231- an odd approach to Air Defense

The other day, friend o’ the blog Craig steered me to this post on Facebook by the Manassas National Battlefield Park:

On Saturday, May 23, a visiting family made a most unusual discovery at Manassas Battlefield. They found what appeared to be an unexploded 20th century shell while out hiking and brought it to the Visitor Center. Park law enforcement staff called in the state police bomb squad and subsequently evacuated the Visitor Center and Henry Hill. The bomb squad later confirmed the shell was inert and harmless.

First and foremost, if you find anything that even remotely resembles unexploded ordnance, do not touch it. Note the location and inform the authorities.

As it turns out, the EOD detachment was able to discern the projectile was a T-231 rocket. Which got me digging, what the heck is a T-231? Well, it was a 2.75 inch diameter (70mm) rocket projectile, sometimes referred to as HEAA.

T-231 1

t-231 2

Forgive us for not having a lot of concrete information on this, but it appears that not more than a relative handful were constructed. We infer that HEAA stands for High Explosive Anti-Aircraft. That is, in spite of the notation in the Facebook post that it was an air to air weapon, it was in  fact intended as the ammunition for a ground based anti-aircraft gun system.  What’s that, you say? How does a rocket work in an anti-aircraft gun? Well…

You may recall we’ve occasionally addressed anti-aircraft artillery and fire control here.

 

One of the challenges in anti-aircraft gun fire control is the lengthy time of flight for the shells to reach the target area. The longer the time of flight, the greater the chance the target will maneuver away from the aimpoint selected as much as an entire minute before. Remember, while a projectile fired from a cannon might have great velocity as it leaves the muzzle, it immediately begins to decelerate due to both gravity and air resistance. Thus, the closer to maximum effective range, the slower and slower the shell is moving.

If there were a way to have the velocity of the projectile remain constant over the course of its time of flight, or even just significant portion, that would simplify the fire control problem.  A rocket, of course, accelerates as long as its motor continues to burn, until it reaches its maximum possible aerodynamic speed.  Rockets of those days were, however, somewhat inaccurate weapons.

And so it appears the Army tried an intriguing approach to combining both a gun and a rocket into one weapon. The T-231 was packed inside a recoilless rifle shell casing. That is, it had an open end and was fired from a recoilless rifle. The firing charge imparted a relatively modest muzzle velocity of about 1000 feet per second to the round. The initial charge also served to ignite the round’s rocket motor, which then boosted it to a velocity of about 3000 feet per second, roughly on par with the muzzle velocity of existing anti-aircraft guns. But the small size of the projectile meant there was a correspondingly small rocket motor (and less size for a warhead as well) and that limited the burn time for the motor.

in flight

Launcher

T-231 3

The program never really went beyond a handful of test firings, mostly to gather data. The performance wasn’t significantly better than existing anti-aircraft artillery, and the first generation of guided missiles was just reaching operational status at the time, rendering the project obsolete.

Craig did point out one mystery yet to be solved. The test firings apparently took place at Wallops Island. So how did the projectile find its way to Manassas? We may never know. 

2B9 Vasilek 82mm Automatic Mortar in action

The Soviet Union loved mortars. I mean, they really, really loved mortars. The had an astonishing number of mortars in various calibers and at virtually every echelon of service. And one of the more interesting mortars they designed was a clip fed automatic 82mm mortar called the Vasilek, or Cornflower.

2B9_Vasilek

Vasilek continues in service with Russia, most former Warsaw Pact nations, and is seeing use in Ukraine today, by both sides.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXEf6PkgSgY]

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwyFCWmpiUk]

Yet Another Guided Projectile Program

We’ve talked numerous times about the Guided MLRS, the Excalibur 155mm artillery round, guided mortar rounds and recently the HVP. Having cracked the code on how to design a guidance system for artillery ammunition, we’re going to see a growing range of projectiles with precision capability for an expanding set of guns.

Oprah

Here’s BAE System’s self funded project, the Multi-Service Standard Guided Projectile, or MS SGP. It’s an adaptation of the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) designed for the 155mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) for the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyers.

BAES_031047_492x277

LRLAP

The MS SGP is being designed specifically for the US Navy’s current standard 5” gun, the Mk45 Mod 4. BAE systems, noting that 155mm is larger than 5” (127mm) has proposed using the MS SGP in a saboted configuration from Marine and Army 155mm guns.

To date, there’s been a successful guided shot, but no production contracts.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwETlaijOW8]

The Army and Amphibious Warfare- Repost

Here’s a repost of one of the earlier works on the blog, but that might seem fresh to newer readers.

When you mention the words “amphibious warfare” most people think immediately of the US Marines, and rightly so. But during WWII, the Army invested huge resources into the ability to land on a hostile shore and conduct operations.

There are two general types of amphibious operations: ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore. Ship to shore operations are those in which the landing force is transported to the objective in large, ocean going vessels, then landed via small craft onto the shore. Shore to shore operations take place over relatively short distances, and generally the troops are carried in smaller craft, rather than large transports. Obviously, the anticipated objectives will dictate which approach is taken.

In the late 1930s, with war clouds clearly on the horizon, both the Army and the Marines came to the conclusion that they would need to develop a serious amphibious capability, but they reached different conclusions because of very different assumptions about what type  of war they would be fighting.

For 20 years, the Navy had forseen war with Japan in the Pacific. And the cornerstone of the Navy’s strategy to defeat Japan was to defeat the Japanese fleet in a battle, likely somewhere near the Philipines. Since it would be impractical for the fleet to steam all the way from San Diego or Pearl Harbor and fight in those waters, the need for advanced bases was clear. And the Marines understood that as a consequence of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, any islands that could serve as an advance base would almost certainly be held by the Japanese. That meant the Marines had to be ready to travel the huge distances of the Pacific, land on remote islands, and seize relatively small objectives. For the Marines, this was a raison de etre.

The Army faced a different challenge. The Army had no desire to get into the amphibious warfare business. But watching the rise of Nazi German power, the Army leadership was convinced that sooner or later, they’d have to go fight in Western Europe again. And, unlike 1918, they weren’t at all sure the French ports would be available to land the huge armies planned. After the fall of France in June of 1940, the cold realization came that just to get  the Army to the fight would mean sooner or later, landing somewhere in Western Europe, under the guns of the enemy. And not only would the Army have to land there, they would have to build up their forces and simultaneously supply them over the beaches until a suitable port could be seized. Fortunately for the Army, England was still available as an advance base.

The Army didn’t completely ignore the ship to shore model of amphibious warfare, mostly because they couldn’t. When it became apparent that no cross-Channel operation to invade Europe would be possible in 1942 (mostly because of a lack of landing craft) President Roosevelt made the decision that a front in the Atlantic theater would be opened in North Africa. A combined British and American force would be landed in the French occupied territories of North Africa, then drive east to engage the German forces in  Tunisia. Due to the distances involved, this could only be a ship to shore movement. Many forces sailed from England, but a significant portion sailed all the way from ports on the East Coast of the US. Even against only fitful French and German resistance, the invasion fleet lost five large transports. One of the lessons the Army learned was that transports waiting to discharge their troops and cargoes were extremely vulnerable. In response, the Army wanted to make sure as many ships as possible had the ability to beach themselves to unload, minimizing the reliance on small craft such as the Higgins boat, LCVP, and the LCM.

LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)
LCM(3) (Landing Craft Mechanized Model 3)
Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)
Higgins Boat (Landing Craft Personnel Light)
LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)
LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel)

These craft were carried near the objective by transports, and lowered over the side by booms or davits. That took time, time during which the transports, only 5-10 miles offshore, were vulnerable to submarines, airplanes and even coastal artillery.  While they were fairly good for getting the first units of lightly armed troops ashore, they were less efficient at getting ashore the huge numbers of follow-on troops needed, and importantly, the massive numbers of vehicles the troops would need to break out from any beachhead. Further, they just weren’t capable of bringing ashore the cargoes of supplies, fuel and ammunition the troops would need.  Something bigger was needed. And the first of these bigger craft was known as the LCT, or Landing Craft Tank. An LCM3 could carry one tank, barely. An LCT was a much bigger craft and could carry from 3 to 5 tanks. Five was an optimum number, as that was the number of tanks in a platoon, and keeping tactical units together on a landing greatly assisted in the assualt. As you can see from the picture, the LCT was essentially a self-propelled barge with a bow-ramp.

2lctmk5pageThe LCT could easily sail from England to France, or from Mediterranean ports in North Africa to Sicily and Italy. And while it could carry real numbers of tanks, something even better was in the works- the Landing Ship Tank, or LST. Early in the war, espcially as the Allies were first gearing up  for the invasion of North Africa, the Army (and especially the British) realized they had no way of shipping tanks overseas and landing them across beaches in any numbers. The LCT couldn’t handle the voyage, and loading LCMs over the side of a transport was problematic in anything but a flat calm. Worse, tanks kept getting heavier and heavier, faster than the booms on transport ships could grow to handle them. The idea arose of converting vessels originally built to carry rail cars from Florida to Panama as tank carriers. But while they could drive the tanks on at the embarkation point, the problem of discharging them remained. To unload them, the Army would need to seize a port. Indeed, this limitation was precisley why Casablanca was a target of the invasion. Enter the British. They had built a series of very shallow draft tankers to serve the waters around Venezuala. The reasoned that the design could quickly be adapted to build a large vessel that could safely beach itself, unload tanks held in what had formerly been the holds via a ramp in the bow, and then retract itself from the beach. Unlike an LCT, the LST might be ungainly and slow, but it was a real seagoing vessel.

LST (Landing Ship Tank)
LST (Landing Ship Tank)

While the LST was very valuable in bringing tanks, up to 20 at a time, it turns out the real value was in trucks. The Army in WWII was by far the most mechanized and motorized army in the world. And that meant trucks. Lots of trucks- to move people, supplies, tow guns, you name it. And the LST could carry a lot of trucks, already loaded, both on its tank deck, and on the topsides. And unlike the hassle of unloading a regular transport, all they had to do was drive down a ramp. After making an initial assault, as soon as an LST had discharged its tanks, it would turn around, go back to England (or where ever) and load up on trucks to build up the forces on the beachhead. To say the LST was a success would be a bit of an understatement. The US built roughly 1100 of them during the war for our Navy and the British.

While the LST was great for carrying tanks and trucks, it didn’t do so well at carrying people. One thing the Army really wanted was a small ship that could carry a rifle company from England and land them on the shores of France, non-stop and as a unit. The trick was getting the size just right. It had to be small enough to be built in large numbers, but big enough to cross the Atlantic on its own. It wouldn’t be expected to carry troops across the Atlantic. Those would come across on troopships. But any vessel large enough to do the job would be too large to carry aboard a transport. Pretty soon, the Navy designed and built the Landing Craft Infantry, or LCI. This was a vessel designed almost entirely with the invasion of Normandy in mind. It carried about 200 troops, roughly a reinforced rifle company, for up to 48 hours, which is about the time it took to load and transport them from ports in the Southwest of England and discharge them over the beaches of Normandy.

LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)
LCI (Landing Craft Infantry)

The Army had one other great tool for bringing supplies across the beach. In the days before the LST was available, the only method of getting trucks ashore across the beach was to winch them over the side of  a transport into an LCM. Someone at GM had the bright idea of doing away with the LCM part, and making the truck amphibious. That way, the truck could swim ashore, then drive inland to the supply dumps.  The result was basically a boat hull grafted onto a 2-1/2 ton truck, known as the DUKW, and commonly called a “duck.” Thousands of DUKWs, almost all manned by African American soldiers, brought wave after wave of critical supplies ashore across the beaches of Normandy and at other beaches the Army invaded. Unlike most landing craft, these were bought by, and operated by the Army, not the Navy.

DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck
DUKW Amphibious 2-1/2 ton truck

Finally, in the Pacific, when you speak of amphibious warfare, again, you rightly think of the Marines. But in fact, the Army had a huge presence there as well. Indeed, it was always a larger prescence than the Marines. The Army made over 100 amphibious assualts in the Pacific theater, many in the Southwest Pacific in and around New Guinea. In conjunction with the US Seventh Fleet, MacArthur’s forces in the Southwest Pacific became masters at the art of amphibious warfare, striking where the Japanese least expected them, and routinely conducting sweeping flanking movements that left Japanese garrisons cut off and useless. Dan Barbey, the Commander of 7th Fleet became known as “Uncle Dan The Amphibious Man.” All this with a fleet mostly composed of tiny LCTs, a few LSTs and LCIs.

The Army also fought alongside the Marine Corps in some of their most storied battles, such as the invasions of Saipan and Okinawa. Indeed, if the atomic bomb attacks had not lead to the early surrender of Japan, the invasion of the home islands would have been mostly  an Army affair. Largely as a result of the Army’s preocupation with the European theater, these magnificent efforts have received little attention from the public at large.

After WWII, the Army’s focus again turned to Europe and the Cold War. For several reasons, including the vulnerability of shipping to nuclear weapons, amphibious operations fell out of favor with the Army. The Marines of course, continued to maintain that unique capabilty. Currently, the Army has no capability to conduct a landing against opposition. Current doctrine does still provide for limited ability to sustain forces by what is known as LOTS or “Logistics Over The Shore” and for the rapid deployment of troop units to hot spots via Afloat Prepositioning Squadrons. Basically, sets of unit equipment are mainained aboard large ships just days sailing from their possible objectives. If needed, they can sail to a friendly port or harbor, and unload their cargoes to meet up with troops flown in by either commercial aircraft or military transport planes. Alternatively, they can serve as a follow-on force to reinforce a beach seized by Marine amphibious assault.

Reconnaissance, Selection and Occupation of the Position

It’s interesting that so much doctrine, in spite of any changes in terminology and technology, remains relatively constant. I’m mostly sharing this for the benefit of URR, and any other arty types interested. The tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the Infantry or Armor are significantly different. Then again, there are a lot of similarities.

For you non-artillery types, do please note that almost right from the bat, they designate Baltimore as Hostile. If you’re worried about Jade Helm 2015 designating Texas as Hostile, please note that the Army has been doing this sort of thing for a long, long time. It’s not that Baltimore, or Texas, is truly considered hostile. It’s just that for training, you almost by definition need to invent an enemy force or objective.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0Yv7I4Pku0]