Category Archives: Air and Naval Weapons

Before Fighter Planes had MGs, One Had Two Lee-Enfields

The most impractical armament that ever took to the air probably launched with the now-forgotten plane that was the British Royal Flying Corps’s first real scout, the S.E. 2 of the fall of 1914.

All these images show the SE2 after its rebuild. The tight cowl and streamlining helped it go fast.

By 27 October, it had joined No. 3 Squadron in France as a fast scout. Initially, its only armament was a service revolver carried by the pilot. However, when it began escort duties, it was armed with two Lee-Enfield service rifles, their shoulder stocks cut off, fixed to the fuselage sides and aimed outwards at an angle to fire clear of the propeller. Firing such weapons (which were bolt action with a conventional trigger) with gloved hands in an icy slipstream must have proved very difficult and aiming could only have been a matter of luck, so it is of little surprise that no combat victories were achieved.

Only one S.E. 2 was made, but several designers at the state-owned Royal Aircraft Establishment worked to make a fast, armed scout, including Mervyn Gorman, Geoffrey de Havilland, and Henry Folland. The proposal was called the B.S. 1 (for “Bleriot Scout”; the Royal Aircraft Establishment/Factory initially labeled designs with tractor propulsion “Bleriot” after the Channel-crossing tractor designs of Louis Blériot, and its pusher-propelled aircraft “Farman” after the designs of Henry Farman. This is the source of the F.E. and B.E. terminology applied to many early British designs). By the time it was built, the one-off plane was re-coded S.E. 2.

After de Havilland survived a crash with serious injuries, it was rebuilt into the configuration shown in these pictures.

High tech, 1914. In some ways the SE2 was a couple of years ahead of its time.

While nowadays a couple of splayed Lee-Enfields seems like an irrational aircraft armament design, remember, someone had to be first, and until the Fokker Eindecker III appeared in the skies of France in 1915, nobody had really solved the problem of firing a machine gun through a propeller arc. Indeed, prior to World War I there was some debate as to whether it even made sense to arm aircraft:

The aeroplane was only adopted by the military a few years before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, principally for reconnaissance. At the time, aerial fighting was an unknown quantity, although it was clearly being considered as Flight magazine explained in its 14 February 1914 edition:

There are two schools of thought regarding fighting in the air. The one holds that if an aeroplane is to fight, it must carry a passenger, gun and ammunition. It will be so large and heavy that it will be slow, also it will lack any means of intercommunication necessary for combined action and it will be unable to come within range of a fast scout. The latter will come, get its information, and go, unmolested. It would appear that, for a time at all events, the fast scout will have the advantage. It depends largely on the number of fighting machines available. The other view is that fighting in the air must occur if results are to be obtained. Given that one side has sufficient fighting machines, it should be impossible for an unarmed scout to approach the point where it desires to glean information.

The RFC appears to have embraced both views and added to its growing fleet of general purpose aeroplanes a number of fast scouting machines. It was therefore hoped that these aircraft could evade enemy scouts as well as gather information vital to British operations. Also, it was anticipated that the armed aeroplanes would be able to protect unarmed machines as they went about their business.

The S.E. 2 was built for speed, and they actually downgraded its powerplant from 100 to 80 horsepower at one point, because of concerns it was too “hot” for ordinary pilots. The front-line life of the plane was rather short.

Only known photograph of the SE2 at the front. Unfortunately, we know of no picture showing the bizarre armament.

In March 1915, it was considered to be unfit for further active service and was returned to the Aircraft Park, and from there was sent back to England. Although as the first true scout, there was some talk of it being considered for preservation, but this did not happen and it was struck off RFC charge, its eventual fate being unrecorded.

And such was the ignominious end of the ur-father of all of the RFCs and RAF’s legendary fighter planes, the first “armed scout” to bear a British roundel in combat.

Notes

  1. Hare, p. 2-4
  2. Hare p. 6-7.

Source

Hare, Paul R. Britain’s Forgotten Fighters of the First World War. Oxford, England: Fonthill Media, 2014.

The Navy Shoots Little Bitty Guns

Here are some pictures of our web-footed friends in the US Navy popping off with small arms. The good thing about being out at sea on a ship is that there’s a lot less complexity in clearing your range fan, than there is in a terrestrial post that’s been experiencing suburban encroachment.

The USS Zumwalt, with its minimalistic crew and troubled rocket-assisted main gun, can fall back on its 147 officers’ and sailors’ skills with the M9 service pistol, giving the ship the approximate firepower of a weekend in Chicago. Here’s Zumwalt sailors getting some instruction on 5 November 16 inside the futuristic destroyer’s hangar deck.

Chief Petty Officer James Hegedusich, Jr. instructs Sailors during small arms familiarization training in the helicopter hangar of USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). (U.S. Navy photo 161105-N-HV059-003 by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonja Wickard).

And this looks like the same gang, blazing away in the Atlantic, but it was actually a week or two later.

Sailors assigned to USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) participate in a small arms qualification test held on the ship’s flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo 161113-N-HV059-003 by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonja Wickard)

Some of them show good technique, some need more work. But all of them are getting some instruction and coaching. We don’t remember the last time a (non-frog) sailor fired a pistol, but these crew members are preparing for the next time.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Rodney Otwell, shoots a M-9 at a paper target during a small arms gunshoot held on the flight deck of USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). (U.S. Navy photo161023-N-HV059-108 by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonja Wickard).

And now they’re scoring the targets.  And, of course, collecting brass.

Brass on a flat range can be messy. Brass on a pitching, heaving, windswept and spray-soaked helicopter flight deck? You don’t want to think about it.

It’s been a while since sailors stuck a brace of pistols in their belts and stood by to repel boarders, but it’s reassuring to know they’re ready.

It isn’t just Zumwalt sailors who test their skills with the M9. The same evolution took place on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nimitz-class carrier (CVN-71). Of course, on Roosevelt’s broader flight deck, they can have a lot more firing positions. But at every one, one sailor, PO or officer tests his or her mettle with the M9 and the paper target.

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Apprentice Christian I. Sandoval fires an M9 service pistol during a small arms gun shoot aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo 170116-N-AD499-105 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Galbraith).

If a secret squirrel aboard a bird farm ever needs to discharge, in the general direction of national enemies, 15 rounds of 9mm made by the lowest bidder, something has gone seriously wrong with the admirals’ war planning. But given the history of admirals and war planning, perhaps it’s a good idea for Seaman Apprentice Sandoval and his shipmates to make ready!

The Navy doesn’t stop at firing M9s on a nice sunny day, either. Here’s M4 night practice, sans optics or goggles, with TR’s XO behind the gun:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 13, 2017) Capt. Frederic Goldhammer, executive officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) fires the M4 assault rifle during a smalls arms night time gun shoot aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo 170113-N-TV230-912 by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Bill M. Sanders).

(The XO will really never fire this weapon in combat, but having him attend the shoot shows the instructors and students that the command takes it seriously. Hope he shoots well, because they will be talking about his marksmanship, especially if it’s notably good or bad).

Perhaps it’s just coincidental that Navy photographers are posting these kinds of images lately. But it does seem as if the Navy is taking small arms training more seriously than heretofore.

Operation Starvation: Mining in WWII, Again

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed aerial mining in war, and mentioned the Germans sinking a Russian warship in 1917 and a paper by John Chilstrom, Mines Away!, that examined mining in WWII. British and German aircraft laid copious minefields (as did ships), but the real action was in Japanese waters.

Here’s a Navy training film on the practice of aerial mine warfare in WWII, thanks to Zeno’s Warbirds (approx 17 minutes):

Now Ex Brad TC at “Bring the Heat” has taken the Chilstrom paper and riffed on it in a new direction.

One other mission the B-29s undertook is virtually forgotten today, but had an impact far out of proportion to the effort expended.

That mission was Operation Starvation, the offensive aerial mining campaign against the Japanese home waters.

A simple glance at a map shows that as an island chain, Japan is critically dependent on sea traffic to move supplies, people, and commodities. Further, virtually all of Japan’s strategic industries were almost wholly dependent on commodities that had to be imported from either the islands of the South West Pacific or from the Asian mainland. From almost the first day of the war, the US Navy had instituted an effort to deny the Japanese the use of these sea lane, primarily through its submarine force.

At the urging of ADM King, GEN Hap Arnold agreed to devote a small percentage of 20th Air Force missions to aerial mining.

Beginning on March 27, 1945, B-29s of the 313th Bombardment Wing would eventually fly 1,529 sorties in 46 missions, and lay 12,135 mines. That accounted for just under 6% of 20th AF sorties. In return, postwar survey would reveal that the mines accounted for an astonishing 670 vessels sunk or damaged, with a tonnage of 1.25 million tons. Considering the Japanese merchant fleet was estimated to have only about 2 million tons available when the campaign began, this was a stunning return on investment.

We remember we promised you a writeup on a unique German mining/dambusting effort deep inside Russia, and we’ve been continuing to work on it. This image from the US Air Force Museum is the Mk25 mine. The Mk 25 and Mk 26 were the most significant weapons in the mining of Japanese harbors, channels, and sea lanes. Together with submarine warfare they crippled the shipping-dependent island empire.

There also was some very interesting use/non-use discussions in the Korean and VN wars, and in the Korean war, the damndest job of dambusting you ever heard of. Things we’re writing for the future.

Why They Call it Reaper: MQ-1 Brings the FOOM!

Please enjoy the following video, courtesy of the US Central Command. In which a splodydope-piloted VBIED gets returned to kit form at approximately 58,000 feet per second. You will need a heart of stone not to chortle with glee.

The vehicle in question is a ISIL specialty, an armored-up truck or military vehicle converted to a command-detonated VBIED, with the crew and (usually) the commander who commits the vehicle having a FOOM switch. (The commander, observing, keys the switch if his boys get cold feet. The coward may die a thousand times in Shakespeare, but in ISIL he only gets one shot, no pun intended).

The vehicle is hardened against small arms fire by improvised armor made from steel plate. If you look closely, you can see that the armor on the ISIL vehicle in the video is slanted to increase thickness and deflect more projectiles, in the style of German WWII armored cars and halftracks. The guys who drive these things are suicidal idiots, but the guys who build and dispatch them are not.

File photo of a more lightly armored one from a few years back in Iraq:

Comparing that to the VBIED in the video you can see how much the technology has evolved in the last few years — not that it can prevent a HEAT round like the Hellfire missile from finding the truck’s explosive filling and producing a mighty secondary.

The crew is usually a single splodydope but sometimes the count-the-body-parts method reveals a crew of two or more, presumably as another measure to prevent abandonment of mission by the kamikaze volunteer.

But there’s no reason to let them bring the FOOM to their desired location. With the good guys retaining command of the air, these truck bomber wannabes are perfect for droning.

It’s a win-win all round, a rare commonality of objectives in the Middle East: they want to die for their moon god Baal, aka Allah, and we just want them to die.

An Unwanted First for the Destroyer Okhotnik

Three Okhotnik-class Ships at Anchor, early 1900s.

The ship was patrolling an anchorage in the Baltic Sea on 26 September, 1917. The Germans had been softening up the Russian forces in the area for what both sides expected would be an offensive against the Russian-occupied seacoast. German naval air forces, which had air superiority, conducted aerial bombing from airplanes and Zeppelines. They destroyed the magazine of one shore battery with a lucky hit, a fire, and secondary detonations. German land-based naval aviation attacked Russian ships with torpedoes, and scattered mines. The torpedoes had mechanical problems; the mines, too, had yet to score.

Rendering of Okhotnik. As the photos show, the bow rake of this model is incorrect.

As luck would have it, the ill-fated Okhotnik and her ill-fated skipper, Lieutenant Second Rank V.A. Fok, went down in history as their ship went down in the Baltic, first naval vessel sunk by an air-deployed mine. And Fok went down with his ship, a testament to the collapsed discipline of the revolutionary Russian armed forces (this was the Provisional Government period).

As the Russian torpedoboat destroyer Okhotnik carried out picket duty in the manoeuvre basin near buoy number 4 on 26 September, she struck a German mine. This mine had been laid by a German aircraft and Okhotnik carried the dubious distinction of being the first warship sunk by an aerial mine. Neither the commander nor officers wished to abandon ship. Harald Graf described the situation as follows:

Soon all the boats were overflowing with sailors and nobody thought to offer the officers a place. They considered it improper to ask for a place and remained aboard the torpedoboat, silently observing the leaving of the boats. The torpedoboat sank, and soon water flooded over the deck on which the officers stood….

With Okhotnik two more officers were lost, the commander Senior Leitenant V A Fok, and Leitenant V K Panferov.1

We’re still looking for information on German air-delivered mines of WWI. But this US patent was granted in 1917.

This first effective use of aerial mines was far from the last; air-laid mines would sink hundreds of ships in the Second World War. But given the Baltic’s situation as a forgotten theater of World War One, this far-ranging and effective German air-sea campaign is practically unknown today. In a master’s thesis for the Air University in 1992, USAF Major John Chilstrom, an FB-111 and B-52 strategic bomber commander, did a deep dive into aerial mining history, but while he credited the Germans for kicking the technology off, he missed his target by one war:

In World War II, the Luftwaffe was first to lay mines from the air and first to field many of the weapon’s innovations.2

The first recorded aerial minelaylng in combat occurred on November 20. 1939, when nine Heinkel 59 floatplanes flew to the Thames Estuary. Although five turned back due to navigation difficulties, four aircraft laid seven mines that night and thirty-four more in the following two days.

However, two of the mines dropped on the third attempt fell in shallow water, enabling the British to recover examples of Germanyís “secret” weapon–the magnetic mine. “Britain had captured her biggest prize since the war began.” 3

While that could be read as giving the Germans credit only for being first in World War II,  nowhere else in the manuscript does he credit WWI with aerial mines. This is not to discredit Chilstrom’s work overall; it’s an engaging history of a little-studied aspect of World War II, and has direct applications to the future.

Notes

  1. Staff, p. ? (using an electronic copy lacking page numbers).
  2. Chilstrom, p. v.
  3. Chilstrom, p. 7.

Sources

Chilstrom, John S. (Major, USAF). Mines Away! The Significance of US Army Air Forces Minelaying in World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Air University, 1992. Retrieved from: https://permanent.access.gpo.gov/websites/dodandmilitaryejournals/www.maxwell.af.mil/au/aul/aupress/SAAS_Theses/SAASS_Out/Chilstrom/chilstrom.pdf

Staff, Gary. Battle for the Baltic Islands: Triumph of the German Navy.  Barneley, S. Yorks: Pen and Sword Maritime, 2008.

Guard Aircrew & Civilians Team Up for Rescue

Plenty of prior practice training together paid off Thursday, as civilian mountain rescuers and a South Carolina Army National Guard Black Hawk crew teamed up to pluck an injured hiker from a narrow ledge at Table Rock State Park. The hiker suffered a terrifying 70-foot fall Wednesday, and the ground rescuers couldn’t get to him.

They could get to another ledge about 70 or 80 feet away. They could talk to him, and determined that he was not injured seriously; but he couldn’t climb up or down the sheer rock face. It wasn’t going to be an ordinary mountain rescue — it was a job for a helicopter.

The SC-HART mission team, afterward. Splotchy suits: SC ARNG. Black suits: Civilian rescue team.

Could the Guard help? Fortunately, the Guard trains with first responders in aquatic rescue, forming the ad hoc South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (SC-HART). The mountain rescue guys kept up the encouragement through the long, cold night, and then the next morning the Guard scrambled an experienced aircrew, and picked up a team of SC-HART rescue men that they had worked with before.

The South Carolina Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew deployed from McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover. They picked up a team of rescuers from Pickens County at the South Carolina National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility 2 in Greenville, prior to moving to Table Rock to conduct the rescue.

“It was key to use a helicopter to rescue the hiker. Due to difficult conditions, the rescuers on the ground couldn’t reach him,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tripp Hutto, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot. “We could see from the air, it looked like the closest they could get to him was about 80 feet.”

The crew ran a rescuer down to the injured hiker using the Black Hawk’s winch, and then winched them both back up.

The hiker was airlifted from the mountain at around 9:25 a.m. after reportedly being stranded for several hours after suffering a fall of approximately 70 feet.

via South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team rescues hiker in Pickens County | Article | The United States Army.

Fortunately, the hiker survived the tumble without major injuries, and his most serious condition was hypothermia. With the patient aboard the helicopter, the question was, how best to get him to the hospital? A Black Hawk is a big, heavy helicopter, and most medevac helicopters are much smaller and lighter — and hospital pads are built to suit. Landing the Black Hawk at the hospital would be risky. Given the non-life-threatening injuries, the sensible thing was to land in an open area, and transfer the hapless hiker to a terrestrial ambulance.

Lots of people hike for the adventure, but sometimes they get some extra adventure. Welcome to the club of rescued-by-Black-Hawk, kid.

Something the Navy is Doing Right

We’ve been very hard on our squidly brethren for the hash they have made of shipbuilding and procurement, with the jury out on the futuristic but seven-billion-dollar Zumwalt DDGs, the ongoing avalanche of disaster that’s the defenseless, offenseless and half-billion-dollar-apiece LCS imbroglio, and we haven’t even gotten into some of the problems with building a carrier around scheduled inventions. Now, the guys in the cute sailor suits haven’t done this all alone; they’e had an enormous assist from a meddling (and grifting) Congress, and the soi-disant defense industrial base. (That’s the guys who pay the bagmen lobbyists who pay off the Congressmen). Hell, even Fleet Week in San Diego is bankrupt. But since we often step into these pages to flog the Navy like Jack Tar of 1812, we owe it to point out where volcanic action or something analogous raises islands of competence above Mean Bozo Level. And the Navy has one program, at least, that seems to be going right: the Arleigh Burke DDG production “restart.”

USS Rafael Peralta in the Yard

Even though the program is split between two shipyards to minimize efficiency and maximize Congressional peculation, that’s still not as bad as the LCS-doggle where the yards are building completely different ships, with little interchangeable but some nuts and bolts and the Navy Jack. (Well, and the absence of effective armament. Both classes of LCS have that in common). And the first ships seem to be coming in on time. Bath Iron Works just got the thumbs-up from the Navy after acceptance trials of the first ship of what the Navy calls the Flight IIA Aegis Burkes, USS Rafael Peralta, DDG-115. The ship be transferred to Navy authority next month, then will reposition to the Pacific for commissioning next summer. In this video, Peralta gets underway for sea trials on November with a tug in attendance “just in case” (but no propulsion casualties were had). (Warning… excessive fuzz guitar soundtrack!)

Even better, Peralta represents the survival of the noble old Naval tradition of naming ships after sea-service heroes. Sergeant Rafael Peralta was a Marine NCO who earned a posthumous Navy Cross in Iraq, diving on a grenade when mortally wounded and saving his squad to punch the tickets of the men who killed him and threw the ‘nade. He’d enlisted in the Marines on the day he got his green card as a legal permanent resident. “Be proud of me, bro… and be proud of your country,” he wrote to his kid brother shortly before his death. (Ricardo Peralta also served his country as a Marine). Appropriately, DDG-115’s motto is Fortus ad Finem. It’s a hell of a legacy to live up to.

DDG-116, too, will be named for a Naval hero: Lieutenant Thomas Hudner MOH, who bellied in his Corsair behind enemy lines in Korea to try to save the life of another Corsair pilot trapped in a wrecked plane. (He did not succeed, and was himself rescued by helicopter, but the nerve it took to try boggles the mind. We met Hudner, and he was a great and humble guy). Meanwhile, the other shipyard has two Naval heroes coming up, DDG-113 John Finn (Navy Aviation Ordnance Chief who improvised AA guns at Pearl Harbor) and DDG-114 Ralph Johnson (another Marine who had a rendezvous with a ‘nade).

Unfortunately, after that the ships succumb to Ray Mabus names: mostly grifting Congressmen and Senators. (How about a Congressional ban on this naming-for-dollars, before we wind up with USS Geico Enterprise and SSN-6969 Bank of America Topeka?) Several of the class are yet to be named, and if he runs close to form the lame duck SecNav is probably penciling in USS Trigglypuff, USS Trayvon Martin, and USS Bowe Bergdahl.

The Flight IIA Aegis relaunch hasn’t been flawless — Peralta’s schedule slipped six months to let Bath focus on the Zumwalts, and the follow-on ships are even later — but compared to the LCS disaster or the Zumwalt cost overruns, it looks like the sort of thing the Navy used to do. Indeed, the program’s probably as successful as it is because Mabus’s energies were diverted elsewhere, and he wasn’t able to bring his own manic strain of Social Justice Micromanagement to bear.

For More Information:

Ave atque Vale, F-4 Phantom

The hulking, smoking jet that pilots compared to a combat rhinoceros first flew in the 1950s, and served the Navy first, then the Air Force from 1963-2016. On 22 December 16, a small formation of Phantoms — one decorated in the style of the jet’s peak years of Vietnam — lifted off from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, for the mighty jet’s last flight bearing the stars and bars of the US national insignia and flying an Air Force mission.

Here’s a video from the Alamogordo, NM, News:

The News had reporters on the scene.

To give you an idea on how old the Phantom is: when it first flew, most cars had yet to grow tailfins. Eisenhower was President. The company that designed and built it (McDonnell, which specialized in Naval fighters) is gone, merged with another old aviation firm (Douglas Aircraft, the Southern California giant), which is also gone, bought by Boeing in the Clinton-era forced mergers. In the end, just 14 of the jets were airworthy at an aerial target squadron, and retiring them in favor of the F-16s coming in lets them get rid of all the F-4 specific parts and tools, and move on. The fate of the remaining jets is uncertain: some are likely to go to AMARC to be spares for the handful of remaining foreign operators, others may wind up as ground targets on a range somewhere.

The one privately-operated Phantom, the Collings Foundation’s, is rumored to be dependent on military maintenance and retired from the airshow circuit some time ago.

The Phantom was a jet of the video age, so naturally there’s a bunch of videos of this final flight. Here’s one, mostly air-to-air video with a suitable soundtrack — the chorale from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony — that’s under three minutes long. A hit single.

And here’s a longer (much longer) all-shot-from-the-ground film of nearly thirty minutes (think of it as one side of an album, if you’re old enough to remember those, as most former Phantom pilots do).

Finally, here are a couple of Phantom greatest hits. First, found video of a Phantom-vs-MiG air-to-air kill. Moshe Shargal and his buddies went diving at Ras Mohammed every Yom Kippur, and he brought his video camera… and has authentic if shaky video of an Israeli Phantom flaming a MiG at very low altitude. Hebrew voice-over, by Shargal, with English subtitles.

For those of a more historical turn of mind, the indispensable Jeff Quitney has a 1967 too-hip-for-the-Navy USAF pilot training film. In it, filmmakers quiz an F-4 instructor pilot about the characteristics of the jet, as they put a film together. (Hey, anything to keep fighter jocks awake in training).

Best thing about the video? The slams that “Doug,” the pilot, delivers to “the swing-wing.” This is a mildly subversive line-level counterstrike against the McNamara-specified “switchblade Edsel,” the F-111, that was undergoing extreme teething problems at that time.

And finally, a fine collection of Phantom buzz jobs, flat out on the deck in Nevada. Not the fastest jet in this milieu (that would have been the F-105) but fast enough to be thrilling to watch.

Ave atque Vale, F-4 Phantom, the survivors of the 5,500 or so of you have earned your place in the hearts and minds of your countrymen (and the allied jet drivers who flew you, as well).

Hat tip, Russ Niles at AvWeb.

Before the USS Albacore, there was the V80

Long before the United States experimented with a tuna-shaped submarine, the Germans did. The V80 was an experimental, unarmed research sub (and therefore a perfect analog of Albacore) that was intended to test new technology in propulsion and hydrodynamics. First underway in 1939, it was never commissioned into the Deutsche Kriegsmarine, formally, but it was intended to show the way forward in submarine technology.

Indeed it did — but not in time to benefit the Germans.

The two revolutionary technologies in the V80 were air-independent propulsion and improved hydrodynamics, from using a streamlined, tuna-like shape. In addition to the attempt to lower the form drag on the vessel, great attention was paid to eliminating all the usual parasitic producers of turbulence on then-current boats: handrails, drain holes, rivets and plates and bulges. In addition to the main benefit, speed, the V80 demonstrated that a cleanup of the sub’s shape and skin could greatly reduce its sonar signature.

Its name came from Versuchs (test) and its displacement, 80 tons.  It had bunkerage for 21 tons of concentrated (“High Test”) H2O2 which gave it a range of only 50 nautical miles at its ultimate top speed of 28 knots. It carried a crew of 4 and no arms at all.

The AIP installation used in the V80 was a hydrogen peroxide catalytic turbine. The engine, and the sub, were designed by rocket-engine and H2O2 expert Dr. Ing. Hellmuth Walter, whose fertile mind and sharp pencil also provided the rockets that drove the Me163 fighter jet and that were used as JATO boosters by German aircraft.

In the engine, the peroxide was exposed to a catalyst and produced an exothermic reaction that drove the turbine with the output gases: oxygen and steam (water vapor). With the efficient  (for the day) engine and the sub’s special shape, the V80 set speed records — 23 knots in 1939.

Admiral Karl Dönitz immediately grasped the potential of this technology, and Walter went to work designing larger boats. There was, first, a double class of weaponized research vessels, the Type XVIIA and XVIIB boats. Then there was the Type XVIII. None of these was made in quantity, or in time, to have a combat impact.

After the war, these technologies were pursued for a while, but they had safety implications that ultimately sidelined them, especially after the advent of nuclear power. The Russians use peroxide propulsion for some torpedoes (which caused the loss of the submarine Kursk and its crew), and in recent years, air-independent propulsion has made a comeback.

Sources:

Uboat.net. U-boat Types: The Walter Boats: The Walter U-boat Types. Retrieved from: http://uboat.net/types/walter.htm

Uboat.net. U-boat Types: The Walter Boats: V80. Retrieved from: http://uboat.net/types/v80.htm

 

Each LCS is Worth More as Scrap

Earlier today, we wrote, “Now if they could just stop paying a half a billion for the million dollars’ worth of scrap aluminum that is a Littoral Combat Ship, we’d be getting somewhere.” However, it’s been pointed out to us that there is not a million dollars worth of scrap in an LCS. 

Value of the Littoral Combat Ship
Combat Value = 0
Scrap Value = $702,635.20
DWT (metric) = 797
Deadweight pounds (MT x 2204) = 1756588
Assuming it’s all Aluminum, Al scrap/pound (average) = $0.40

Conclusion: Scrap Value > Combat Value.

Ergo, the best way to recover value from these ships is to go straight from the building yards to the wrecking yards. However, it would destroy less value not to build them in the first place.