putting cruise missiles on WWII battleships

Photos of USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin firing 16″ rounds at Iraqi targets in 1991 are well-known as the last instances of battleships in combat. Less widely known is their operations with Tomahawks during that war, and even less, about how cruise missiles ended up on WWII battleships in the 1980s to begin with.

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(USS Wisconsin during WWII.)

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(USS Wisconsin firing a BGM-109 Tomahawk during operation “Desert Storm”, four and a half decades later.)

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the V-2 in the USSR after WWII

The US Army’s tests of captured V-2 missiles after WWII in New Mexico is fairly well-known. Much less famous is the Soviet Union’s involvement with the world’s first ballistic missile after WWII.

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(Left: A German V-2 missile being readied for launch during WWII. Right: It’s postwar Soviet copy, the SS-1 “Scunner”.)

The USA had no intention of using the V-2 as an actual weapon, no intention of directly copying it, no intention of producing it themselves, and only saw it as a useful research aid. The Soviets on the other hand, put no such restrictions on themselves.

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Mk13 torpedo during the Falklands War

Argentina used a variety of WWII items during the 1982 Falklands War, ranging in complexity from a Brooklyn class cruiser to M1 helmets. The most surprising, and least known, was an effort to resurrect the Mk13 anti-ship torpedo that nearly made it to use.

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(US Navy Mk13 air-dropped unguided torpedo of WWII.)

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(Argentine IA-58 Pucara attack plane with a Mk13 in 1982.)

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the forgotten MiG-13

During WWII some long-standing military disciplines (biplane fighters, battleship duels) went extinct. Others (submarines, radar, jet engines) were in a basic state in 1939, then highly developed during WWII and important afterwards. Still others (ballistic missiles, nuclear weapons) were entirely developed during WWII and important thereafter. Many, many other technologies were experimented with during WWII, failed for whatever reason, and were abandoned.

There is a final category that might be considered. This is a very tiny number of technologies which were developed entirely during WWII, actually worked, but were already overtaken by the time WWII ended.

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MiG’s unique late-war fighter project would fall into this final small category. This plane was originally called project “N”, then I-250, and finally MiG-13.

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Unraveling the USS Killen story

The post-WWII career of USS Killen (DD-593) is an interesting example of how the USA’s Cold War atomic tests, along with sloppy record-keeping and the unavoidable passage of time, resulted in a public relations mess at the turn of the millennium.

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(USS Killen at sea in the Pacific during WWII)

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(Wreckage of USS Killen on the Caribbean seafloor in the 21st century)

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Syrian Civil War: WWII weapons used

 

The ongoing Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, is of course dominated by Cold War-era (and even 21st century) weapons, however, there is an astonishing mix of WWII gear – both Axis and Allied – in use. Some of these weapons had previously not seen combat for decades.

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(Syrian rebel with a WWII German StG-44 assault rifle.)

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(Yugoslav-made M18/43F, a copy of the WWII German leFH 18M howitzer, in action with Jaish al-Fatah rebels.)

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(A Syrian rebel with a WWII Mosin-Nagant 91/30 – retrofitted with a modern scope – takes aim in 2014.)

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(Rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) distribute WWII French MAS-36 rifles.)

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(Syrian government soldier with a WWII Soviet 61-K anti-aircraft gun in October 2015.)

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1980s drug war: WWII gear used

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(The WWII-veteran USCGC Cherokee on a 1980s narcotics patrol.)

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(A demilitarized WWII-veteran C-46 Commando which crashed while in use as a smuggling plane during the 1980s.)

The US Coast Guard was formed (as the Revenue Cutter Service) on 4 August 1790. The Posse Comitatus law of 1878 restricts use of the American military in law enforcement. However the US Coast Guard is specifically exempted from any restrictions, and in fact law enforcement is one of it’s core missions.

During the Cold War the US Coast Guard’s funding came from the Department Of Transportation, not the Pentagon, and money just to buy fuel was at a premium, let alone new construction. The fleet during President Carter’s term was in a bottleneck; as all Prohibition-era cutters were gone, but new modern hulls were not being launched fast enough to replace them. Some aged WWII ships were pressed into service as cutters.

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