Space photo of the day

Roamy here. As the Juno spacecraft was making its way towards Jupiter, it looked back and took a photo of the Earth and the Moon.

All systems nominal so far. Not a bad picture for being 6 million miles away – that’s how far Juno has traveled since its launch on August 5. Six million down, 1,740 million miles to go…

SU-35 at MAKS

The SU-35, a big Russian fighter, is pretty damn maneuverable.



Of course, this is still the most impressive airshow demonstration I’ve seen.




A little bit of history

Roamy here. Here’s another story my dad likes to tell. During WWII, traveling wasn’t easy and frequently frowned upon. (“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”) Gas and tires were rationed, so my grandparents and father traveled from Tampa to Georgia by train. It had been two or three years since my grandfather had seen his brother, and it was time for a visit.

My great-uncle lived in Dublin, GA at the time, where there was a military hospital for convalescing soldiers and also a prisoner-of-war camp. The Dublin POW camp was probably administered out of Camp Wheeler in Macon. Nearly 700 POW camps in the US housed over 425,000 prisoners, mostly Germans, during the war. Many of these camps were located in the South, where the prisoners could be used as farm labor, filling in for the Americans fighting overseas. They were paid for their labor, according to the Geneva Convention.

My dad was shocked upon arrival at his uncle’s house to find a Luftwaffe Oberst cutting the grass. “Daddy! There’s a German!” The gentleman was in uniform with “POW” in big yellow letters on his back. My grandmother shushed my dad, but the Oberst didn’t say a word, just straightened his back and kept working. My great-uncle had hired him not only for yardwork but also other oddjobs. He was probably paid 80 cents a day.

There were POW camps in 46 states, though the whole network was kept pretty quiet. After the war ended, the prisoners were returned to their home countries with the money they earned and at least some fluency in English. About 860 German POWs remain buried in American military cemeteries, including over 100 in the National Cemetery in Chattanooga. There is a POW Museum in Algona, Iowa.

As a side note, the Dublin military hospital was later named for Congressman Carl Vinson of Georgia.

Any old stretch of highway will do…

Craig here.  Ran across this while looking for some good ‘splodie videos today:


Not just for Warthogs either.  Here’s a clip of an F-4 on what looks like the same pattern.


The old F-104 could turn that trick too.


Check out the close tandem landing pattern for these C-160s:


Here’s a compilation of several jets taking off.


Use of sections of the Autobahn as airstrips date back to World War II.  During the Cold War NATO practiced this frequently.  I know certain sections of highway in Korea were likewise set aside for contingencies.   But I’ve seen very few references to American plans to use parts of our interstate system for emergency airfields.  Then again, the United States has the highest number of airfields per capita in the world… and likewise the highest number of potholes per mile of any developed nation.




We’re on vacation, so we’re still taking a break from our Falklands series, but CDR Salamander has an article on Britain’s disastrous Nimrod MRA4 program. The plan to modernize Britain’s maritime patrol planes was so poorly run, it lead to the end of all dedicated maritime patrol planes in Britain’s fleet. The Argentinians suffered badly in the Falklands from a lack of dedicated MP aircraft. Will Britain learn that lesson the hard way as well?

Also, we haven’t discussed yet the troubles the British had because of a lack of dedicated Airborne Early Warning (radar search) airplanes. We should touch on that shortly. Again, via a link from CDR Sal, an interesting article on the results of poor program management, the planned conversion of Nimrods to an AEW platform.

It’s easy to shake ones head in wonderment at how poorly the Brits have run so many programs. But we should take care not to throw rocks in glass houses. If our MP aircraft program and AEW  aircraft are in decent shape

Ivan Could Swim!

A Craig tank posting again.  Here’s another video from the American Wartime Museum open house:


Many will jump to compare the PT-76 to the M551 Sheridan.    But the Russian tank had been around some 15 years before the American tank even did test laps. While the American tank used a highly advanced (perhaps too advanced) hybrid gun-missile armament, the PT-76 used a tried-and-true 76mm main gun.  The gun fires both high velocity armor piercing (HVAP) and high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) rounds.  A 7.62 caliber coaxial machine gun complements the main gun.

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PT-76 on Display

The Russians kept the PT-76 in production through the late 1960s.  All told over 5000 rolled out of the factories.  Production variants introduced better NBC and night vision systems.  A few PT-85s were produced with an 85mm main gun.  And experimental versions featured 90mm or anti-tank missile armament.

The PT-76’s design put emphasis on amphibious capabilities.  In fact, the PT-76 came with water jets to allow speeds of 6 mph when swimming.

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Water Jet Exhaust

In addition to great amphibious capabilities, the PT-76 had a roomy interior and good cross country mobility.  But the tank’s armor was only good against rifle-caliber fire.  And the main gun lacked any stabilization.  You wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe with enemy tanks.  However, the PT-76 was designed to operate and exploit the fringes of a defense line where enemy tanks were not supposed to be.

In Soviet service the PT-76s armed reconnaissance companies in line divisions and tank companies in the marine divisions.  Russia retains a significant number of the PT-76s.  Here’s an old documentary forwarded by the political officer (can anyone translate what he’s saying?):


With over 2000 exported, many nations around the world continue to operate the amphibious tanks.  Examples manned by the North Vietnamese participated in some of the few tank-vs-tank battles in the Vietnam War.  In fact, PT-76s were the first to fall victim to TOW missiles.

While technically the tank COULD be airdropped or air-transported, the Russians opted to use the ASU-57 and ASU-85 self-propelled guns in airborne formations (and later BMD series recon/carriers).

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Rear Deck of PT-76

Speaking of the ASU-85, that weapon used the chassis of the PT-76, with of course an 85 mm gun fixed in a superstructure.  Other systems using the PT-76 chassis include the BTR-50 amphibious carrier, the ZSU-23-4 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, missile carriers, and various support vehicles.  The Chinese improved the basic design into their own Type 63 tank.

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Same Tank from Last Year's Open House

Certainly there are some features of the PT-76 that make me wish the US Army or Marine Corps had procured something similar.  On the other hand, the American habit of misusing light armor would make any “Yankee” version a death trap.