Posted tagged ‘history’

ACHTUNG!!!! FOKKER!!!!

April 20, 2011

Fokker Dr.I

Role     Fighter
Manufacturer     Fokker-Flugzeugwerke
Designed by     Reinhold Platz
First flight     5 July 1917

Primary user     Luftstreitkräfte
Number built     320

The Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker (triplane) was a World War I fighter aircraft built by Fokker-Flugzeugwerke. The Dr.I saw widespread service in the spring of 1918. It became renowned as the aircraft in which Manfred von Richthofen gained his last 20 victories, and in which he was killed on 21 April 1918.

Design and development

V.4 prototype

In February 1917, the Sopwith Triplane began to appear over the Western Front. The Sopwith swiftly proved itself superior to the Albatros fighters then in use by the Luftstreitkräfte. Fokker-Flugzeugwerke responded by converting an unfinished biplane prototype into the V.4, a small, rotary-powered triplane with a steel tube fuselage and thick cantilever wings, first developed during Fokker’s government-mandated collaboration with Hugo Junkers. Initial tests revealed that the V.4 had unacceptably high control forces resulting from the use of unbalanced ailerons and elevators.
Instead of submitting the V.4 for a type test, Fokker produced a revised prototype designated V.5. The most notable changes were the introduction of horn-balanced ailerons and elevators, as well as longer-span wings. The V.5 also featured interplane struts, which were not necessary from a structural standpoint, but which minimized wing flexing. On 14 July 1917, Idflieg issued an order for 20 pre-production aircraft. The V.5 prototype, serial 101/17, was tested to destruction at Adlershof on 11 August 1917.

Operational history


Fokker produced two pre-production triplanes, designated F.I, which could be distinguished from production Dr.I aircraft by a slight curve to the tailplane leading edge. These aircraft, serials 102/17 and 103/17, were the only machines to receive the F.I designation. They were sent to Jastas 10 and 11 for combat evaluation, arriving at Markebeeke, Belgium on 28 August 1917.
Richthofen first flew 102/17 on 1 September 1917 and shot down two enemy aircraft in the next two days. He reported to the Kogenluft (Kommandierender General der Luftstreitkräfte) that the F.I was superior to the Sopwith Triplane. Richthofen recommended that fighter squadrons be reequipped with the new aircraft as soon as possible. The combat evaluation came to an abrupt conclusion when Oberleutnant Kurt Wolff, Staffelführer of Jasta 11, was shot down in 102/17 on 15 September, and Leutnant Werner Voss, Staffelführer of Jasta 10, was killed in 103/17 on 23 September.
The remaining pre-production aircraft, designated Dr.I, were delivered to Jasta 11. Idflieg issued a production order for 100 triplanes in September, followed by an order for 200 in November. Apart from minor modifications, these aircraft were almost identical to the F.I. The primary distinguishing feature was the addition of wingtip skids, which proved necessary because the aircraft was tricky to land and prone to ground looping. In October, Fokker began delivering the Dr.I to squadrons within Richthofen’s Jagdgeschwader I.

Compared to the Albatros and Pfalz fighters, the Dr.I offered exceptional maneuverability. Though the ailerons were not very effective, the rudder and elevator controls were light and powerful. Rapid turns, especially to the right, were facilitated by the triplane’s marked directional instability. Vizefeldwebel Franz Hemer of Jasta 6 said, “The triplane was my favorite fighting machine because it had such wonderful flying qualities. I could let myself stunt — looping and rolling — and could avoid an enemy by diving with perfect safety. The triplane had to be given up because although it was very maneuverable, it was no longer fast enough.”
As Hemer noted, the Dr.I was considerably slower than contemporary Allied fighters in level flight and in a dive. While initial rate of climb was excellent, performance fell off dramatically at higher altitudes due to the low compression of the Oberursel Ur.II, a clone of the Le Rhône 9J rotary engine. As the war continued, chronic shortages of castor oil made rotary operation increasingly difficult. The poor quality of German ersatz lubricant resulted in many engine failures, particularly during the summer of 1918.
The Dr.I suffered other deficiencies. The pilot’s view was poor during takeoff and landing. The cockpit was cramped and furnished with materials of inferior quality. Furthermore, the proximity of the gun butts to the cockpit, combined with inadequate crash padding, left the pilot vulnerable to serious head injury in the event of a crash landing.

 Wing failures

On 29 October 1917, Leutnant der Reserve Heinrich Gontermann, Staffelführer of Jasta 15, was performing aerobatics when his triplane broke up. Gontermann was fatally injured in the ensuing crash landing. Leutnant der Reserve Günther Pastor of Jasta 11 was killed two days later when his triplane broke up in level flight. Inspection of the wrecked aircraft showed that the wings had been poorly constructed. Examination of other high-time Dr.Is confirmed these findings. On 2 November, Idflieg grounded all remaining triplanes pending an inquiry. Idflieg convened a Sturzkommission (crash commission) which concluded that poor construction and lack of waterproofing had allowed moisture to destroy the wing. This caused the wing ribs to disintegrate and the ailerons to break away in flight.
In response to the crash investigation, Fokker improved quality control on the production line, particularly varnishing of the wing spars and ribs, to combat moisture. Fokker also strengthened the rib structures and the attachment of the auxiliary spars to the ribs. Existing triplanes were repaired and modified at Fokker’s expense.[22] After testing a modified wing at Adlershof, Idflieg authorized the triplane’s return to service on 28 November 1917. Production resumed in early December. By January 1918, Jastas 6 and 11 were fully equipped with the triplane. Only 14 squadrons used the Dr.I as their primary equipment. Most of these units were part of Jagdgeschwadern I, II, or III. Frontline inventory peaked in late April 1918, with 171 aircraft in service on the Western Front.
Despite corrective measures, the Dr.I continued to suffer from wing failures. On 3 February 1918, Leutnant Hans Joachim Wolff of Jasta 11 successfully landed after suffering a failure of the upper wing leading edge and ribs. On 18 March 1918, Lothar von Richthofen, Staffelführer of Jasta 11, suffered a failure of the upper wing leading edge during combat with Sopwith Camels of No. 73 Squadron and Bristol F.2Bs of No. 62 Squadron. Richthofen was seriously injured in the ensuing crash landing.
Postwar research revealed that poor workmanship was not the only cause of the triplane’s structural failures. In 1929, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) investigations found that the upper wing carried a higher lift coefficient than the lower wing — at high speeds it could be 2.55 times as much.
The triplane’s chronic structural problems destroyed any prospect of large-scale orders. Production eventually ended in May 1918, by which time only 320 had been manufactured.[28] The Dr.I was withdrawn from frontline service as the Fokker D.VII entered widespread service in June and July. Jasta 19 was the last squadron to be fully equipped with the Dr.I.[29]
Surviving triplanes were distributed to training and home defense units. Several training aircraft were reengined with the 75 kW (100 hp) Goebel Goe.II. At the time of the Armistice, many remaining triplanes were assigned to fighter training schools at Nivelles, Belgium, and Valenciennes, France. Allied pilots tested several of these triplanes and found their handling qualities to be impressive.

Postwar

Very few triplanes survived the Armistice. Serial 528/17 was retained as a testbed by the Deutschen Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (German Aviation Research Institute) at Adlershof. After being used in the filming of two movies, 528/17 is believed to have crashed sometime in the late 1930s.[32] Serial 152/17, in which Manfred von Richthofen obtained three victories, was displayed at the Zeughaus museum in Berlin. The triplane was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid during World War II. Today, only a few original Dr.I artifacts survive in museums.

 Replica aircraft

While no Dr.I airframes survive, large numbers of flying and static replicas have been built. In 1932, Fokker built a Dr.I from the spare parts of various aircraft. The reproduction appeared in the 1939 film D III 88. Bitz Flugzeugbau GmbH built two Dr.I replicas for use in Twentieth Century Fox’s 1966 film The Blue Max. One of these aircraft currently operates in the United States.
Since April 1994, the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has displayed a reproduction Fokker Dr. I. It is painted in the markings of a Jagdstaffel 19 aircraft flown by Leutnant Arthur Rahn in April 1918.
Large numbers of replica aircraft have been built for both individuals and museums. Due to the expense and scarcity of authentic rotary engines, most airworthy replicas are powered by a Warner Scarab or Continental R-670 radial engine. A few, however, feature vintage Le Rhône 9 or reproduction Oberursel Ur.II rotary engines.

Variants

    * V.3 – Initial prototype
    * V.4 – First production prototype
    * V.5 – Prototype with Goebel Goe.III engine
    * V.6 – Enlarged prototype with Mercedes D.II engine
    * V.7 – Prototype with Siemens-Halske Sh.III engine
    * V.10 – Prototype with Oberursel Ur.III engine

Operators

 German Empire

    * Luftstreitkräfte

 Specifications (Dr.I)

General characteristics

    * Crew: One
    * Length: 5.77 m (18 ft 11 in)
    * Wingspan: 7.20 m (23 ft 7 in)
    * Height: 2.95 m (9 ft 8 in)
    * Wing area: 18.70 m² (201 ft²)
    * Empty weight: 406 kg (895 lb)
    * Loaded weight: 586 kg (1,292 lb)
    * Powerplant: 1× Oberursel Ur.II 9-cylinder rotary engine, 82 kW (110 hp)
    * Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0323
    * Drag area: 0.62 m² (6.69 ft²)
    * Aspect ratio: 4.04

Performance

    * Maximum speed: 185 km/h at sea level (115 mph at sea level)
    * Stall speed: 72 km/h (45 mph)
    * Range: 300 km (185 mi)
    * Service ceiling: 6,095 m (20,000 ft)
    * Rate of climb: 5.7 m/s (1,130 ft/min)
    * Lift-to-drag ratio: 8.0

Armament

    * 2 × 7.92 mm (.312 in) “Spandau” lMG 08 machine guns.

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8 Wheelin’ Through ‘Stan

June 13, 2010

The LAV-25 is an eight-wheeled amphibious infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) used by the United States Marine Corps. It was built by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada and is based on the Swiss MOWAG Piranha I 8×8 family of armored fighting vehicles.

 

 Design

Powered by a 6V53T Detroit Diesel turbo-charged engine, they are 4-wheel drive (rear wheels) transferable to 8-wheel drive. These vehicles are also amphibious, meaning they have the ability to “swim”, but are limited to non-surf bodies of water (no oceans). While engaged in amphibious operations, the maximum speed is approximately 12 km/h using equipped propellers. The current SLEP (Service Life Extension Program) modifications will hinder/eliminate amphibious ops.

Typical land speeds are approximately 100 km/h (62.5 mph) in either 4 or 8-wheel drive, however fuel economy decreases in 8-wheel drive. The vehicles operate on diesel fuel, and require 3 weights of lubricants to remain in running condition. They are equipped with a M242 Bushmaster 25 mm cannon, two M240 7.62 mm machine guns, and two 4-barrel grenade launchers usually loaded with smoke canisters and located on the forward left and right sides of the turret. The crew is three; Vehicle commander (VC), gunner and driver, and four passengers (scouts) with combat gear.The vehicle has been through many changes through the late 1990s. The new modification or SLEP has changed the LAV-25 to the LAV-25A1 standard and has been completely fielded.

 Variants

 LAV-25
Standard LAV fitted with a turret with 360° traverse, armed with an M242 25 mm chain gun with 420 rounds of 25 mm ammunition, both M791 APDS-T( Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot-Tracer) and M792 HEI-T (High Explosive Incendiary-Tracer), of which half is ready for use. 150 rounds are ready for use from one stowage bin, 60 from another stowage bin, the other 210 rounds are stowed elsewhere in the vehicle. A coaxial M240C machine gun is mounted alongside the M242, and a pintle mounted M240 G/B machine gun, with 1,320 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, is mounted on the turret roof. The Canadian Army uses this chassis for its Coyote Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle.

 LAV-25A1

 The vehicle has been through many changes through the late 1990s. The new modification or SLEP has changed the LAV-25 to the LAV-25A1 standard and has been completely fielded.

 

 

 

 

 

LAV-25A2


Funding has been approved for continued upgrades to the LAV family to bring them up to the LAV-A2 standard. Phase I improvements include increased external and internal ballistic armor upgrades, improved fire suppression equipment, and upgrading the vehicle’s suspension to the Generation II standard. Phase II upgrades include replacing the turret hydraulics with an electric drive system and replacing the thermal sight with an improved model incorporating a laser range finder.

To reflect the improved significant survivability and capability enhancements occurring today, the LAV is being renamed as the LAV-A2. The LAV-A2 project involved developing and installing an internal and external ballistic protection upgrade package for the Light Armored Vehicles, an automatic fire suppression system for the interior of the vehicle and a Generation II suspension upgrade to support the added weight of the new armor. The suspension upgrade includes new struts/steering knuckles, torsion bars, shocks and mounts and drive shaft. The three-kit armor system provides the LAV with additional survivability against improvised explosive devices (IED) and direct-fire kinetic energy weapons.

LAV-A2 includes the AN/PAS-13 Improved Thermal Sight System (ITSS) developed by Raytheon of McKinney, TX, scheduled for fielding by the end of 2007. The ITSS provides the gunner and commander with thermal images, an eye-safe laser range finder, a fire-control solution and far-target location target grid information.

The new armor will provide 14.5 mm armor-piercing all around protection for both the crew and passengers of the vehicle, along with anti-spall lining in the vehicle to further protect the crew. It will consist of the same protection as the US Army’s Stryker.

 Derivatives

LAV-AT (Anti-Tank)


LAV fitted with an Emerson 901A1 TOW-2 ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) launcher, the same turret that was fitted on the M901 ITV (Improved TOW Vehicle). It is also armed with a pintle mounted M240E1 machine gun. It carries a total of 16 TOW missiles, and 1,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition.

LAV-M (Mortar)

LAV fitted with opening doors on the top, inside it is fitted with an 81mm M252 mortar, with 360° traverse, and a pintle mounted M240E1 machine gun. It carries 99 81mm mortar shells, and 1,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition.

 LAV-AD (Air Defense)

LAV fitted with an electric turret mounting a 25 mm GAU-12 Equalizer gatling cannon, and two, four missile pods, which contain FIM-92 Stinger SAM (Surface-To-Air Missiles). It carries 990 rounds of 25 mm ammunition, and 16 FIM-92 Stinger missiles. This variant has been removed from service. A variant using the Mistral missile in place of Stingers was developed for the export market.

LAV-R (Recovery)

LAV fitted with a boom crane, and recovery winch, for use in recovery of vehicles, specifically other LAVs. It is armed with a pintle mounted M240 E1/G machine gun, and carries 1,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition.

LAV-C2 (Command & Control)

LAV with a raised roof to accommodate several VHF, UHF and HF radios. It is armed with a pintle mounted M240 E1/G machine gun, and carries 1,000 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. Generally referred to as the C2 (“C-square” or “C-two”).

LAV-LOG (Logistics)

LAV modified for use in a logistics role (e.g., cargo transport).

LAV-MEWSS (Mobile Electronic Warfare Support System)


LAV modified for use in an electronic warfare role. Specific details of this variant are classified.

LAV-EFSS (Expeditionary Fire Support System)


Proposed replacement for LAV-M, LAV fitted with provisions to use Dragon Fire, a 120mm recoil mortar system.

 

LAV-25

Type IFV 

Place of origin  Switzerland / Canada
Service history In service 1983-present
Specifications 

Weight 12.80 t (14.10 sh tn)
Length 6.39 m (20.96 ft)
Width 2.50 m (8.20 ft)
Height 2.69 m (8.83 ft)
Crew 3+6
Primary armament M242 Bushmaster 25 mm chain gun
Secondary armament Two FN MAG 7.62 mm machine guns, one mounted coaxially and one pintle mounted on the roof
Engine Detroit Diesel 6V53T 275 hp (205 kW)
Power/weight 19.5 hp/sh tn (16.0 kW/t)
Transmission Allison MT653
Suspension 8×8 wheeled
Operational range 660 km (410 mi)
Speed 100 km/h (62 mph)

Development of Aerial Combat in World War II

May 30, 2010

Fighter development slowed between World War I and II, with the most significant change coming late in the period, when the classic World War I type machines started to give way to metal monocoque or semi-monocoque monoplanes, with cantilever wing structures. Given limited defense budgets, air forces tended to be conservative in their aircraft purchases, and biplanes remained popular with pilots because of their agility. Designs such as the Gloster Gladiator, Fiat CR.42, and Polikarpov I-15 were common even in the late 1930s, and many were still in service as late as 1942. Up until the mid-1930s, the vast majority of fighter aircraft remained fabric-covered biplanes. Fighter armament eventually began to be mounted inside the wings, outside the arc of the propeller, though most designs retained two synchronized machine-guns above the engine (which were considered more accurate). Rifle-caliber guns were the norm, with .50 caliber machine guns and 20 mm cannons deemed “overkill.” Considering that many aircraft were constructed similarly to World War I designs (albeit with aluminum frames), it was not considered unreasonable to use World War I-style armament to counter them. There was insufficient aerial combat during most of the period to disprove this notion.

The rotary engine, popular during World War I, quickly disappeared, replaced chiefly by the stationary radial engine. Aircraft engines increased in power several-fold over the period, going from a typical 180 hp in the 1918 Fokker D.VII to 900 hp in the 1938 Curtiss P-36. The debate between the sleek in-line engines versus the more reliable radial models continued, with naval air forces preferring the radial engines, and land-based forces often choosing in-line units. Radial designs did not require a separate (and vulnerable) cooling system, but had increased drag. In-line engines often had a better power-to-weight ratio, but there were radial engines that kept working even after having suffered significant battle damage.

Some air forces experimented with “heavy fighters” (called “destroyers” by the Germans). These were larger, usually a two- engine aircraft, sometimes adaptations of light or medium bomber types. Such designs typically had greater internal fuel capacity (thus longer range) and heavier armament than their single-engine counterparts. In combat, they proved ungainly and vulnerable to more nimble single-engine fighters.

The primary drive for fighter innovation, right up to the period of rapid rearmament in the late thirties, was not military budgets, but civilian aircraft races. Aircraft designed for these races pioneered innovations like streamlining and more powerful engines that would find their way into the fighters of World War II.

At the very end of the inter-war period came the Spanish Civil War. This was just the opportunity the German Luftwaffe, Italian Regia Aeronautica, and the Soviet Union’s Red Air Force needed to test their latest aircraft designs. Each party sent several aircraft to back their side in the conflict. In the dogfights over Spain, the latest Messerschmitt fighters (Bf 109) did well, as did the Soviet Polikarpov I-16. The German design, however, had considerable room for development and the lessons learned in Spain led to greatly improved models in World War II. The Russians, whose side lost in the conflict, nonetheless determined that their planes were sufficient for their immediate needs. I-16s were later slaughtered en masse by these improved German models in World War II, although they remained the most common Soviet front-line fighter until well into 1942. For their part, the Italians were satisfied with the performance of their Fiat CR.42 biplanes, and being short on funds, continued with this design even though it was obsolescent. The Spanish Civil War also provided an opportunity for updating fighter tactics. One of the innovations to result from the aerial warfare experience this conflict provided was the development of the “finger-four” formation by the German pilot Werner Mölders. Each fighter squadron (German: Staffel) was divided into several flights (Schwärme) of four aircraft. Each Schwarm was divided into two Rotten ,which was a pair of aircraft. Each Rotte was composed of a leader and a wingman. This flexible formation allowed the pilots to maintain greater situational awareness, and the two Rotte could split up at any time and attack on their own. The finger-four would become widely adopted as the fundamental tactical formation over the course of World War II.

Aerial combat formed an important part of World War II military doctrine. The ability of aircraft to locate, harass, and interdict ground forces was an instrumental part of the German combined-arms doctrine, and their inability to achieve air superiority over Britain made a German invasion unfeasible. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel noted the effect of airpower: “Anyone who has to fight, even with the most modern weapons, against an enemy in complete command of the air, fights like a savage against modern European troops, under the same handicaps and with the same chances of success.”

During the 1930s, two different streams of thought about air-to-air combat began to emerge, resulting in two different approaches to monoplane fighter development. In Japan and Italy especially, there continued to be a strong belief that lightly armed, highly maneuverable single-seat fighters would still play a primary role in air-to-air combat. Aircraft such as the Nakajima Ki-27, Nakajima Ki-43 and the Mitsubishi A6M Zero in Japan, and the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200 in Italy epitomized a generation of monoplanes designed to this concept.

The other stream of thought, which emerged primarily in Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States was the belief that the high speeds of modern combat aircraft and the g-forces imposed by aerial combat meant that dogfighting in the classic World War I sense would be impossible. Fighters such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Yakovlev Yak-1 and the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk were all designed for high level speeds and a good rate of climb. Good maneuverability was desirable, but it was not the primary objective.

The 1939 Soviet-Japanese Battle of Khalkhyn Gol and the initial German invasion of Poland that same year were too brief to provide much feedback to the participants for further evolution of their respective fighter doctrines. During the Winter War, the greatly outnumbered Finnish Air Force, which had adopted the German finger-four formation, bloodied the noses of Russia’s Red Air Force, which relied on the less effective tactic of a three-aircraft delta formation.

European theater (Western Front)

The Battle of France, however, gave the Germans ample opportunity to prove they had mastered the lessons learned from their experiences in the Spanish Civil War. The Luftwaffe, with more combat-experience pilots and the battle-tested Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter operating in the flexible finger-four formation, proved superior to its British and French contemporaries relying on the close, three-fighter “vic” (or “V”) and other formations, despite their flying fighters with comparable maneuver performance.

The Battle of Britain was the first major military campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and it offered further lessons for both sides. Foremost was the value of radar for detecting and tracking enemy aircraft formations, which allowed quick concentration of fighters to intercept them farther from their targets. As a defensive measure, this ground-controlled interception (GCI) approach allowed the Royal Air Force (RAF) to carefully marshal its limited fighter force for maximum effectiveness. At times, the RAF’s Fighter Command achieved interception rates greater than 80%.

In the summer of 1940, then Flight Lieutenant Adolph Malan introduced a variation of the German formation that he called the “fours in line astern”, which spread into more general use throughout Fighter Command. In 1941, Squadron Leader Douglas Bader adopted the “finger-four” formation itself, giving it its English-language name.

The Battle of Britain also revealed inadequacies of extant tactical fighters when used for long-range strategic attacks. The twin-engine heavy fighter concept was revealed as a failed concept as the Luftwaffe’s heavily armed but poorly maneuverable Messerschmitt Bf 110s proved highly vulnerable to nimble Hurricanes and Spitfires; the Bf 110s were subsequently relegated to night fighter and fighter-bomber roles for which they proved better-suited. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe’s Bf 109s, operating near the limits of their range, lacked endurance for prolonged dogfighting over Britain. When bomber losses induced Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring to assign most fighters to close-in escort duties, forcing them to fly and maneuver at reduced speeds, German fighter effectiveness fell and losses rose.

The Allies themselves, however, would not learn this latter lesson until they sustained heavy bomber losses of their own during daylight raids against Germany. Despite the early assertions of strategic bombing advocates that “the bomber will always get through”, even heavily armed U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) bombers like the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator suffered such high losses to German fighters (such as the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 “bomber destroyer”) and flak (AAA) that – following the second raid on Schweinfurt in August 1943 – the U.S. Eighth Air Force was forced to suspend unescorted bombing missions into Germany until longer-range fighters became available for escort. These would appear in the form of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs. The use of drop tanks also became common, which further made the heavy twin-engine fighter designs redundant, as single-engine fighters could now cover a similar distance. Extra fuel was carried in lightweight aluminum tanks below the aircraft, and the tanks were discarded when empty. Such innovations allowed American fighters to range over Germany and Japan by 1944.

As the war progressed, the growing numbers of these advanced, long-range fighters flown by pilots with increasing experience eventually overwhelmed their German opposition, despite the Luftwaffe’s introduction of technological innovations like jet- and rocket-powered interceptors. The steady attrition of experienced pilots forced the Germans to more frequently dip into their training pool to make up numbers when casualties surged. While new Allied airmen in Europe were well-trained, new Luftwaffe pilots were seldom able to get effective training – particularly by the summer of 1944, when Allied fighters often loitered around their airfields. Luftwaffe training flights were additionally hampered by the increasingly acute fuel shortages that began in April 1944.

European theater (Eastern Front)

On the Eastern Front, the strategic surprise of Operation Barbarossa demonstrated that Soviet air defense preparations were woefully inadequate, and the Great Purge rendered any lessons learned by the Red Air Force command from previous experience in Spain and Finland virtually useless. During the first few months of the invasion, Axis air forces were able to destroy large numbers of Red Air Force aircraft on the ground and in one-sided dogfights. However, by the winter of 1941–1942, the Red Air Force was able to put together a cohesive air defense of Moscow, successfully interdict attacks on Leningrad, and begin production of new aircraft types in the relocated semi-built factories in the Urals, Siberia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. These facilities produced more advanced monoplane fighters, such as the Yak-1, Yak-3, LaGG-3, and MiG-3, to wrest air superiority from the Luftwaffe. However, Soviet aircrew training was hasty in comparison to that provided to the Luftwaffe, so Soviet pilot losses continued to be disproportionate until a growing number of survivors were matched to more effective machines.

Beginning in 1942, significant numbers of British, and later U.S., fighter aircraft were also supplied to aid the Soviet war effort, with the Bell P-39 Airacobra proving particularly effective in the lower-altitude combat typical of the Eastern Front. Also from that time, the Eastern Front became the largest arena of fighter aircraft use in the world; fighters were used in all of the roles typical of the period, including close air support, interdiction, escort and interception roles. Some aircraft were armed with weapons as large as 45 mm cannon (particularly for attacking enemy armored vehicles), and the Germans began installing additional smaller cannons in under-wing pods to assist with ground-attack missions.

Pacific theatre

In the Pacific Theater, the experienced Japanese used their latest Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” to clear the skies of all opposition. Allied air forces – often flying obsolete aircraft, as the Japanese were not deemed as dangerous as the Germans – were caught off-guard and driven back until the Japanese became overextended. While the Japanese entered the war with a cadre of superbly trained airmen, they were never able to adequately replace their losses with pilots of the same quality, resulting in zero leave for experienced pilots and sending pilots with minimal skill into battle, while the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and U.S. schools produced thousands of competent airmen, compared to hundred the Japanese graduated a year before the war. Japanese fighter planes were also optimized for agility and range, and in time Allied airmen developed tactics that made better use of the superior armament and protection in their Grumman F4F Wildcats and Curtiss P-40s. From mid-1942, newer Allied fighter models were faster (Wildcat was 13 mph slower than the Zero, but the Warhawk was 29 mph faster) and better-armed than the Japanese fighters. Improved tactics such as the Thach weave helped counter the more agile Zeros and Nakajima Ki-43 ‘Oscars’. Japanese industry was not up to the task of mass-producing fighter designs equal to the latest Western models, and Japanese fighters had been largely driven from the skies by mid-1944.

Technological innovations

Piston-engine power increased considerably during the war. The Curtiss P-36 Hawk had a 900 hp (670 kW) radial engine but was soon redesigned as the P-40 Warhawk with a 1100 hp (820 kW) in-line engine. By 1943, the latest P-40N had a 1300 hp (970 kW) Allison engine. At war’s end, the German Focke-Wulf Ta 152 interceptor could achieve 2050 hp (1530 kW) with an MW-50 (methanol-water injection) supercharger and the American P-51H Mustang fitted with the Packard V-1650-9 could achieve 2218 hp (1650 kW) under war emergency power. The Spitfire Mk I of 1939 was powered by a 1030 hp (770 kW) Merlin II; its 1945 successor, the Spitfire F.Mk 21, was equipped with the 2035 hp (1520 kW) Griffon 61. Likewise, the radial engines favored for many fighters also grew from 1,100 hp (820 kW) to as much as 2090 hp (770 kW) during the same timeframe.

The first turbojet-powered fighter designs became operational in 1944, and clearly outperformed their piston-engined counterparts. New designs such as the Messerschmitt Me 262 and Gloster Meteor demonstrated the effectiveness of the new propulsion system. (Rocket-powered interceptors – most notable the Messerschmitt Me 163 – appeared at the same time, but proved less effective.) Many of these fighters could do over 660 km/h in level flight, and were fast enough in a dive that they started encountering the transonic buffeting experienced near the speed of sound; such turbulence occasionally resulted in a jet breaking up in flight due to the heavy load placed on an aircraft near the so-called “sound barrier”. Dive brakes were added to jet fighters late in World War II to minimize these problems and restore control to pilots.

More powerful armament became a priority early in the war, once it became apparent that newer stressed-skin monoplane fighters could not be easily shot down with rifle-caliber machine guns. The Germans’ experiences in the Spanish Civil War led them to put 20 mm cannons on their fighters. The British soon followed suit, putting cannons in the wings of their Hurricanes and Spitfires. The Americans, lacking a native cannon design, instead chose to place multiple .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns on their fighters. Armaments continued to increase over the course of the war, with the German Me 262 jet having four 30 mm cannons in the nose. Cannons fired explosive shells, and could blast a hole in an enemy aircraft rather than relying on kinetic energy from a solid bullet striking a critical subsystem (fuel line, hydraulics, control cable, pilot, etc.). A debate existed over the merits of high rate-of-fire machine guns versus slower-firing, but more devastating, cannon.

With the increasing need for close air support on the battlefield, fighters were increasingly fitted with bomb racks and used as fighter-bombers. Some designs, such as the German Fw 190, proved extremely capable in this role – though the designer Kurt Tank had designed it as a pure interceptor. While carrying air-to-surface ordnance such as bombs or rockets beneath the aircraft’s wing, its maneuverability is decreased because of lessened lift and increased drag, but once the ordnance is delivered (or jettisoned), the aircraft is again a fully capable fighter aircraft. By their flexible nature, fighter-bombers offer the command staff the freedom to assign a particular air group to air superiority or ground-attack missions, as need requires.

Rapid technology advances in radar, which had been invented shortly prior to World War II, would permit their being fitted to some fighters, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 110, Bristol Beaufighter, de Havilland Mosquito, Grumman F6F Hellcat and Northrop P-61 Black Widow, to enable them to locate targets at night. The Germans developed several night-fighter types as they were under constant night bombardment by RAF Bomber Command. The British, who developed the first radar-equipped night fighters in 1940–1941, lost their technical lead to the Luftwaffe. Since the radar of the era was fairly primitive and difficult to use, larger two- or three-seat aircraft with dedicated radar operators were commonly adapted to this role.

My Memorial Day

May 29, 2010

It was pitch black outside and all I could hear was the crashing of the waves on Gold Beach. I closed my eyes, trying to hear the chatter of the machine guns as the spit out fire towards the growing waves of human flesh clawing their way forward.Opening my eyes again, I tried to imagine rows of landing craft rushing towards me. Yet all I could see was the lights of a French fishing trawler, lazily bouncing through the water.  It was 1987, and I was 13 years old. I had come to Europe that fall on my family’s version of the National Lampoon European Vacation (yes we did get caught in a traffic circle in Paris going 6 times around before exiting). Six countries in 14 days and roughly 2000 miles worth of driving. Although I have many “firsts” accomplished during this trip, the only thing I wanted to see was this span of beach.

If you are my age, or older, you’ll remember that our introductions to World War II, were through films made in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Tora, Tora, Tora…Sands of Iwo Jima…the Longest Day, were all done in black and white. Nothing was computer generated and the special effects were primitive.  The only thing I requested from my parents during this trip was to be taken to the Normandy Beaches.  I wanted to see what those thousands of soldiers saw on that fateful day of June 6th 1944. I started out at Gold beach and the next day I went to Omaha and Utah beaches. Standing on Omaha beach, I could only imagine the enormity of the task that those grunts went through.  The German pillboxes are empty but they still bore the signs of the intense fighting that took place. Shell markings and bullet holes still remain, along with a beached burnt out landing craft still there. I went to the National Cemetary nearby and although I didn’t see an old guy collapse crying near Capt. Miller’s grave (movie Saving Private Ryan), I will never forget the hundreds of rows of crosses and the eerily quiet sound I experienced.  I went to Arnhem and tried to figure out what they meant by a Bridge too Far.  Funny how, years later,I can understand the German being spoken in those movies without having to utilize the subtitles.

When I was 8 years old, I went to Pearl Harbor. There is a rule that states that persons younger than 6 could not go to the Arizona Memorial. I actually witnessed two groups of elderly gentlemen, one American, the other Japanese get into a heated argument and tussel while I stood there trying to imagine that there were over 1000 men entombed below me. I’ve been to the Bridge of the river Kwai (it’s a mile and half away from the original) and have even seen the British fortress in Singapore.  I’ve stood on the walls of Fort Macon thinking how absurd it was that they felt secure not thinking they could be flanked from the “land” side.  I stood on the earthen walls of Fort Fisher trying to imagine how it took the US Marines 4 tries to finally defeat the fort. I’ve even stood inside the Baltimore Harbor looking towards Fort McHenry and knowing that the British felt like fools for not being able to take it.

History. Most of you absolutely hated the subject in high school, and avoided it in college. A subject taught so watered down, you couldn’t tell me who was the US president after Abe Lincoln was assissinated BUT you could tell me how many seasons American Idol has been on and who won the 3rd one. History is often fueled by people’s passion and interpreted incorrectly the same way. For me history is simply the event. We all know that the twin towers in New York City were brought down. That is the event, it cannot be disputed. What cannot be agreed upon is, who did it.  Anyway, I feel I was just about to go on a tangent so let me get back to the subject.

Here are the cold hard facts. I was born in the United States.  I was born in Texas and raised in North Carolina. By default, making me a Southerner. I enlisted into the US Marine Corps at age 18.  Watching movies, reading books, and traveling to different historical landmarks has made me wholely appreciate the sacrifices of many generations of Americans that lived before me. You cannot step on places like Gettysburg and not feel the enormous sadness  of entire bloodlines being wiped out with one volley of 58 calibre musket fire. While at the same time knowing that as Americans, they fought and stood up for what they believed in. For me, that was enough. I felt that for a country to give “me” such liberties and freedoms, I should feel obligated to repay them, even if it meant my life.

I guess I had always wanted to be a Marine since I saw my uncle in his Dress Blues at age 4.  I said that would be me one day.  In high school, I latched onto the visiting Marine recruiters making sure that I wanted in real bad. I was a two sport athlete and ready for any challenges that lay ahead. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait in my senior year and it was on…This was my chance, go fight for my country and repay my blood debt.  It of course was not meant to be…It was over in 100 hours and I still had 4 months till graduation. My uncle was killed in an accident at Quantico, two days after I turned 18. I never looked back.  My mother cried on the telephone when she found out, my father was just pissed because he wanted me to go to college.  I bent a little and and did both. I made it through literally by the skin of my toenails and earned the coveted title Marine.

For me, 8 1/2 years was literally boring.  I was a Marine during the Clinton era. Not much going on and the only excitement was getting orders to Somalia.  I did however fulfill another promise.  My unit was based out of Raleigh North Carolina. A 330 man supply unit with nothing (really) to do during training weekends.  I got into a little trouble due to the monotony of it all and decided to be a better Marine by joining the color guard.  So every month, my little detail would go down to the capital(NC) area and participate in the POW/MIA ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial.  This ceremony is simply where participants would read off all the dead and missing Carolina natives from the Vietnam War. After years of being the port rifleman, I actually was promoted to the NCOIC of this ceremony. Other times we’d participate in parades throughout the region, including strangely enough a Cinco de Mayo parade. Marine Corps Balls were always my favorite and even events that had camera crews filming inches from your face.  Funerals were often taxing due to having to be stone faced yet compassionate towards the grieving families. For me though, it was an honor, being bestowed by strangers to allow me to help lay to rest, a warrior that went before me.  I remember every single funeral I did in those 8 1/2 years. I don’t remember every name or even one name. To me though, that was history.

I remember is high school how the school newspaper found out that I was pro Helms(Helms vs. Gantt race), pro war, and joining the Marine Corps after graduation.  I had countless people approaching me after the “sound byte” and berating me and chastising me for my opinions.  I never backed down and interestingly enough, 3 of my friends actually joined the Navy after graduation. Your are damn right I point that out everytime it comes up too. I am absolutely appalled at most Americans for their views on practically everyting.  During Desert Shield/Desert Storm we had “everyone” flying the American flag from their car antennae trying to “bury” the ghosts of Vietnam. As quickly as it appeared, the faux patriotism quickly disappeared with me constantly getting fussed out by parents ,when calling an applicant’s home  while on recruiting duty, because there was no way their son was going into the military. The one thing that annoys me to this day is someone finding out you were in the service and saying,” Well I was gonna join but (fill in the blank)….” It doesn’t make me respect you nor does it make me connect with you. If you are one of those types…just don’t do it. I was honorably discharged in 2000. Obviously the events of 9/11 happened. Afghanistan and Iraq now have US forces in them. There yet again was the reemergence of faux patriotism…instead of flags on cars, we had magnetic yellow ribbons. That sooned disappeared when it was popular to hate Bush and to hear people say,”I support the Troops, but don’t support the War.” Newsflash: Soldiers and Marines don’t like to hear this statement b/c in reality, you don’t support them at all. There are countless anti war protests with former soldiers and Marines (some in wearing their former uniform) taking place even today. Although these same individuals served their country, they’ve lost sight of what it meant to serve their country, choosing instead to say that their country “lied to them”.  This is not honoring your brother that has sacrificed and gone before you. You cannot mix politics and military service while in uniform.

I have friends that suffer from PTSD and are alcoholics due to what they’ve seen and been through. The thing is, they know the risks. Suicide rate is up high, there is no money to treat every case to PTSD at the VA. Barracks are in shambles. I knew Marines that were on food stamps and working at pizza delivery places after work, just to have some extra money. Yet peoples’ political passions are strong and their support for the military man, weak.

My whole point in this is, it’s another Memorial Day. When they play the National Anthem at whatever ballpark you are going to this weekend, take your hat off, shut up, and stand still for those 2 1/2 minutes. If you run into a veteran and are truly thankful for his service, give him a strong handshake and say thanks. Say a prayer to whatever God you worship and thank him for giving you ancestors that stood up and fought for that 93% lean beef patty your grilling out on the Weber. If you don’t know much about your own family, research it. You might find that your great great granddad made a stand at Little Round Top or shot down a Japanese fighter defending the USS Nevada during the attack on Pearl Harbor. I believe in God, County, the Corps. I believe in defending the Constituition of the United States. I believe in fighting for and upholding the rights of all “American” citizens, even when I don’t share their views. I made a difference. Those are who I will always remember on Memorial Day. All Gave Some, Some Gave All.
Semper Fi!

M1 Abrams: Tip of the Spear

May 9, 2010

 

The M1 Abrams is a third-generation main battle tank produced in the United States. The M1 is named after General Creighton Abrams, former Army Chief of Staff and Commander of US military forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. It is a well armed, heavily armored, and highly mobile tank designed for modern armored ground warfare. Notable features of the M1 Abrams include the use of a powerful gas turbine engine, the adoption of sophisticated composite armor, and separate ammunition storage in a blow-out compartment for crew safety. It is one of the heaviest tanks in service, weighing in at close to 68 short tons (almost 62 metric tons).The M1 Abrams entered U.S. service in 1980, replacing the 105 mm gun, full tracked M60 Patton. It did, however, serve for over a decade alongside the improved M60A3, which had entered service in 1978. Three main versions of the M1 Abrams have been deployed, the M1, M1A1, and M1A2, incorporating improved armament, protection and electronics. These improvements, as well as periodic upgrades to older tanks have allowed this long-serving vehicle to remain in front-line service. The M1A3 is currently under development. It is the principal main battle tank of the United States Army and Marine Corps, and the armies of Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and in 2010 Iraq. The M1 Abrams is anticipated to be in U.S. service until the 2050s, approximately 70 years after entering U.S. service.

  History

 Development

 

The first attempt to replace the aging M60 tank was the MBT-70, developed in partnership with West Germany in the 1960s. The MBT-70 was very ambitious, and had various ideas that ultimately proved unsuccessful. As a result of the imminent failure of this project, the U.S. Army introduced the XM803. This succeeded only in producing an expensive system with capabilities similar to the M60.Congress canceled the MBT-70 in November and XM803 December 1971, and redistributed the funds to the new XM815 later renamed the XM1 Abrams after General Creighton Abrams. Prototypes were delivered in 1976 by Chrysler Defense and General Motors armed with the license-built version of the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun along with a Leopard 2 for comparison. The Chrysler Defense design was selected for development as the M1. In 1979, General Dynamics Land Systems Division purchased Chrysler Defense.3273 M1 Abrams were produced 1979-85 and first entered US Army service in 1980. It was armed with the license-built version of the 105 mm Royal Ordnance L7 gun. An improved model called the M1IP was produced briefly in 1984 and contained small upgrades. The M1IP models were used in the Canadian Army Trophy NATO tank gunnery competition in 1985 and 1987.About 6000 M1A1 Abrams were produced from 1986–92 and featured the M256 120 mm smoothbore cannon developed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany for the Leopard 2, improved armor, and a CBRN protection system. 

 Gulf War

 

As the Abrams entered service in the 1980s, they would operate alongside M60A3 within the United States military, and with other NATO tanks in numerous Cold War exercises. These exercises usually took place in Western Europe, especially West Germany, but also in some other countries like South Korea. During such training, Abrams crews honed their skills for use against the men and equipment of the Soviet Union. However, by 1991 the USSR had collapsed and the Abrams would have its trial by fire in the Middle East.The Abrams remained untested in combat until the Gulf War in 1991. A total of 1,848 M1A1s were deployed to Saudi Arabia. The M1A1 was superior to Iraq’s Soviet-era T-55 and T-62 tanks, as well as Iraqi-assembled Russian T-72s, and locally-produced copies (Asad Babil tank). The T-72s, like most Soviet export designs, lacked night vision systems and then-modern rangefinders, though they did have some night fighting tanks with older active infrared systems or floodlights—just not the latest starlight scopes and passive infrared scopes as on the Abrams. Only 23 M1A1s were taken out of service in the Gulf. Some others took minor combat damage, with little effect on their operational readiness. Very few Abrams tanks were hit by enemy fire, and there was only one fatality, along with a handful of woundings as a result.

The M1A1 was capable of making kills at ranges in excess of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). This range was crucial in combat against tanks of Soviet design in Desert Storm, as the effective range of the main gun in the Soviet/Iraqi tanks was less than 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) . This meant Abrams tanks could hit Iraqi tanks before the enemy got in range—a decisive advantage in this kind of combat. In friendly fire incidents, the front armor and fore side turret armor survived direct APFSDS hits from other M1A1s. This was not the case for the side armor of the hull and the rear armor of the turret, as both areas were penetrated at least in two occasions by friendly DU ammunition during the Battle of Norfolk.

 

 Interwar upgrades

 

The M1A2 was a further improvement of the M1A1 with a commander’s independent thermal viewer and weapon station, position navigation equipment, digital data bus and a radio interface unit. The M1A2 SEP (System Enhancement Package) added digital maps, FBCB2 (Force XXI Battlefield Command Brigade and Below) capabilities, and an improved cooling system to maintain crew compartment temperature with the addition of multiple computer systems to the M1A2 tank.Further upgrades included depleted uranium armor for all variants, a system overhaul that returns all A1s to like-new condition (M1A1 AIM), a digital enhancement package for the A1 (M1A1D), a commonality program to standardize parts between the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps (M1A1HC) and an electronic upgrade for the A2 (M1A2 SEP).During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and for Bosnia, some M1A1s were modified with armor upgrades. The M1 can be equipped with mine plow and mine roller attachments if needed. The M1 chassis also serves as a basis for the Grizzly combat engineering vehicle and the M104 Wolverine heavy assault bridge.Over 8,800 M1 and M1A1 tanks have been produced at a cost of US$2.35–$4.30 million per unit, depending on the variant. 

 Iraq War

 Further combat was seen during 2003 when US forces invaded Iraq and deposed the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. As of March 2005, approximately 80 Abrams tanks were forced out of action by enemy attacks. Nevertheless, the campaign saw very similar performance from the tank with no Abrams crew member being lost to hostile fire during the invasion of Iraq, although several tank crew members were later killed by roadside bombs during the occupation that followed.The most lopsided achievement of the M1A2s was the destruction of seven T-72 Lion of Babylon tanks in a point-blank skirmish (less than 50 yards ) near Mahmoudiyah, about 18 miles south of Baghdad, with no losses for the American side. In addition to the Abrams’ already heavy armament, some crews were also issued M136 AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons under the assumption that they might have to engage heavy armor in tight urban areas where the main gun could not be brought to bear.

 

Following lessons learned in Desert Storm, the Abrams and many other US combat vehicles used in the conflict were fitted with Combat Identification Panels to reduce friendly fire incidents. These were fitted on the sides and rear of the turret, with flat panels equipped with a four-cornered ‘box’ image on either side of the turret front . Some Abrams were also fitted with a secondary storage bin on the back of the existing bustle rack on the rear of the turret referred to as a bustle rack extension to enable the crew to carry more supplies and personal belongings.

 

Many Abrams (irrecoverable due to loss of mobility or other circumstances) were destroyed by friendly forces to prevent their capture, usually by other Abrams, who often found them very difficult to destroy despite their firepower.A majority of Abrams damaged post-invasion were by Improvised explosive devices.Some Abrams were disabled by Iraqi infantrymen in ambushes during the invasion. Some troops employed short-range anti-tank rockets and fired at the tracks, rear and top. Other tanks were put out of action when struck in critical places by heavy machine gun rounds.Due to the vulnerability of tanks in urban combat, the Tank Urban Survival Kit, or TUSK, is being issued to some M1 Abrams. It is intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments. 

 Future

The M1A3 Abrams is in the early design period with the U.S. Army. The Army aims to build prototypes by 2014 and to begin to field the first combat-ready M1A3s by 2017.

 

 Camouflage

 

Unlike earlier US military vehicles from World War II through Vietnam, which used a scheme of dark brownish green known as “olive drab” with large white stars, prototypes and early production M1 (105 mm gun) & M1-IP models used the flat medium green paint; and the large white insignia stars have transitioned to much smaller black markings. Some units painted their M1s with the older MERDC 4-color paint scheme but the turn-in requirements for these tanks required repainting them to solid green. Therefore, even though a large number of the base model M1s were camouflaged in the field, few or none exist today.M1A1s (120 mm gun) came from the factory with the NATO 3 color camouflage Black/Med-Green/Dark-Brown CARC paint jobs. Today M1A1s are given the NATO three color paint job during rebuilds. M1s and M1A1s deployed to Desert Storm were hastily painted desert tan. Some, but not all, of these tanks were re-painted to their “authorized” paint scheme. M1A2s built for Middle Eastern countries were painted in desert tan.Some M1 series tanks are being painted desert tan for service in Iraq and some are not. Replacement parts (roadwheels, armor skirt panels, drive sprockets, etc.) are painted overall green, which can sometimes lead to vehicles with a patchwork of green and desert tan parts.

 

 Concealment

 

The turret is fitted with two six-barreled smoke grenade launchers (USMC M1A1s use an eight-barreled version). These can create a thick smoke that blocks both vision and thermal imaging, and can also be armed with chaff. The engine is also equipped with a smoke generator that is triggered by the driver. When activated, fuel is sprayed on the engine manifold, creating the thick smoke. However, due to change from diesel as a primary fuel to the use of JP-8, this system is disabled on most Abrams today, because JP-8 causes the tanks to catch fire when sprayed on the manifold.

 

 Active protection system

In addition to the advanced armor, some Abrams are equipped with a Missile Countermeasure Device that can impede the function of guidance systems of semi-active control line-of-sight (SACLOS) wire and radio guided anti-tank missiles (Russian AT-3, AT-4, AT-5, AT-6 and the like) and thermally and infrared guided missiles (ATGM).[19] This device is mounted on the turret roof in front of the loader’s hatch, and can lead some people to mistake Abrams fitted with these devices for the M1A2 version, since the Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer on the latter is mounted in the same place, though the MCD is box-shaped and fixed in place as opposed to cylindrical and rotating like the CITV.

 

 Armor

 

The Abrams is protected by armor based on the British-designed Chobham armor, a further development of the British ‘Burlington’ armor. Chobham is a composite armor formed by spacing multiple layers of various alloys of steel, ceramics, plastic composites, and kevlar, giving an estimated maximum (frontal turret) 1,320–1,620 millimetres (52–64 in) of RHAe versus HEAT (and other chemical energy rounds) and 940–960 mm (37–38 in) versus kinetic energy penetrators. It may also be fitted with reactive armor over the track skirts if needed (as in the Urban Survival Kit) and Slat armor over the rear of the tank and rear fuel cells to protect against ATGMs. Protection against spalling is provided by a Kevlar liner. Beginning in 1987, M1A1 tanks received improved armor packages that incorporated depleted uranium  mesh in their armor at the front of the turret and the front of the hull. Armor reinforced in this manner offers significantly increased resistance towards all types of anti-tank weaponry, but at the expense of adding considerable weight to the tank, as depleted uranium is 1.7 times more dense than lead.

 

The first M1A1 tanks to receive this upgrade were tanks stationed in Germany, since they were the first line of defense against the Soviet Union. US-based tank battalions participating in Operation Desert Storm received an emergency program to upgrade their tanks with depleted uranium armor immediately before the onset of the campaign. M1A2 tanks uniformly incorporate depleted uranium armor, and all M1A1 tanks in active service have been upgraded to this standard as well, the added protection from the depleted uranium armor is believed to be equivalent to 24 inches  of RHA. The strength of the armor is estimated to be about the same as similar western, contemporary main battle tanks such as the Leopard 2. In the Persian Gulf War, Abrams tanks survived multiple hits at relatively close ranges from Iraqi Lion of Babylon tanks and ATGMs. M829A1 “Silver Bullet” APFSDS rounds from other M1A1 Abrams were unable to penetrate the front and side armor (even at close ranges) in friendly fire incidents as well as an incident in which another Abrams tried to destroy an Abrams that got stuck in mud and had to be abandoned.

 

 Damage control

In the chance that the Abrams does suffer damage resulting in a fire in the crew compartment, the tank is equipped with a halon fire-suppression system that automatically engages and extinguishes fires in seconds.Fuel and ammunition are in armored compartments with blowout panels to protect the crew from the risk of the tank’s own ammunition cooking off if the tank is damaged.

 

 Armament

 Primary armament

M68A1 rifled gun

The main armament of the original model M1 was the M68A1 105 mm rifled tank gun firing a variety of high explosive anti-tank, high explosive, white phosphorus and an anti-personnel (multiple flechette) round. This gun is a license-built version of the British Royal Ordnance L7 gun. While being a reliable weapon and widely used by many NATO nations, a cannon with lethality beyond the 3-kilometer (1.9 mi) range was needed to combat newer armor technologies. To attain that lethality, projectile diameter needed to be increased. The M68A1’s performance in terms of accuracy and armor-piercing penetration is on par with the M256A1 up to 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) out, but beyond that range the 105 mm projectile lacks the kinetic energy to defeat modern armor packages.

M256 smoothbore gun

The main armament of the M1A1 and M1A2 is the M256A1 120 mm smoothbore gun, designed by Rheinmetall AG of Germany, manufactured under license in the United States by Watervliet Arsenal, New York. The M256A1 is a variant of the Rheinmetall 120 mm L/44 gun carried on the German Leopard 2 on all variants up to the Leopard 2A5. Leopard 2A6 replaced the L/44 barrel with a longer L/55.The M256A1 fires a variety of rounds. The M829A2 was developed specifically to address the threats posed by a Soviet T-90 or T-80U tank equipped with Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armor. It also fires HEAT shaped charge rounds such as the M830, the latest version of which (M830A1) incorporates a sophisticated multi-mode electronic sensing fuse and more fragmentation which allows it to be used effectively against armored vehicles, personnel, and low-flying aircraft. The Abrams uses a manual loader, due to the belief that having a crewman reload the gun is faster and more reliable.[citation needed] and because autoloaders do not allow for separate ammunition storage in the turret.[citation needed] The fourth tank crewman on the Abrams also provides additional support for maintenance, observation post/listening post (LP/OP) operations, and other tasks.

The new M1028 120 mm anti-personnel canister cartridge was brought into service early for use in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contains 1,098 3⁄8-inch (9.5 mm) tungsten balls which spread from the muzzle to produce a shotgun effect lethal out to 600 meters (2,000 ft). The tungsten balls can be used to clear enemy dismounts, break up hasty ambush sites in urban areas, clear defiles, stop infantry attacks and counter-attacks and support friendly infantry assaults by providing covering fire. The canister round is also a highly effective breaching round and can level cinder block walls and knock man-sized holes in reinforced concrete walls for infantry raids at distances up to 75 meters (246 ft).

 

In addition to this, the new XM1111 (Mid-Range-Munition Kinetic Energy) is also in development. Essentially a cannon-fired guided round, it has a range of roughly 12 km and uses a KE warhead which is rocket assisted in its final phase of flight. This is intended to be the best penetrator yet, an improvement over the US 3rd generation DU penetrator (estimated penetration 790 mm (31 in)).

 

 Secondary armament

 

The Abrams tank has three machine guns:

 

A .50 cal. (12.7 mm) M2HB machine gun is in front of the commander’s hatch. On the M1, M1IP and M1A1, this gun is on a powered mount and can be fired using a 3× magnification sight, known as the Commander’s Weapon Station (CWS for short), while the vehicle is “buttoned up” with all its hatches closed to protect the crew. On the M1A2 & M1A2SEP, this gun is on a flex mount (seen at right), the Commander having to expose himself to fire the weapon manually. With the forthcoming TUSK addon kit, an M2HB or a Mk 19 grenade launcher can be mounted on the CROWS remote weapons platform (similar to the Protector M151 remote weapon station used on the Stryker family of vehicles). The upgrade variant called M1A1 Abrams Integrated Management (AIM) equips the .50 caliber gun with a thermal sight for accurate night and other low-visibility shooting.

A 7.62 mm M240 machine gun is in front of the loader’s hatch on a skate mount. Some of these have been fitted with gun shields during the ongoing conflict in Iraq as seen in the image at right, as well as night-vision scopes for low-visibility engagements.

A second 7.62 mm M240 machine gun is in a coaxial mount to the right of the main gun. The coaxial MG is aimed and fired with the same computer fire control system used for the main gun.

(Optional) A second coaxial 12.7 mm M2HB machine gun can be mounted directly above the main gun in a remote weapons platform as part of the TUSK upgrade kit.

For the US Army in previous years, the Abrams usually maintained the provision for storing an M16 rifle or M4 carbine inside the turret in case the crew is required to leave the tank under potentially hostile conditions; while the crewmen were supplied with the M9 Beretta pistol as a personal sidearm. Considering the current (often dismounted) role of American armored crewmen and contemporary operating environments, though, current US Army crews maintain a rifle or carbine for each crewman. During Iraqi Freedom some crews were also issued M136 AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons under the assumption that they might have to engage heavy armor in tight urban areas where the main gun could not be brought to bear.

 

 Aiming

 

The Abrams is equipped with a ballistic fire-control computer that uses user and system-supplied data from a variety of sources, to compute, display, and incorporate the three components of a ballistic solution – lead angle, ammunition type, and range to the target, to accurately fire the tank. These three components are determined using a YAG rod laser rangefinder, crosswind sensor, a pendulum static cant sensor, data concerning performance and flight characteristics of each specific type of round, tank-specific boresight alignment data, ammunition temperature, air temperature, barometric pressure, a muzzle reference system (MRS) that determines and compensates for barrel droop at the muzzle due to gravitational pull and barrel heating due to firing or sunlight, and target speed determined by tracking rate tachometers in the Gunner’s or Commander’s Controls Handles. All of these factors are computed into a ballistic solution and updated 30 times per second. The updated solution is displayed in the Gunner’s or Tank Commander’s field of view in the form of a reticle in both day and Thermal modes. The ballistic computer manipulates the turret and a complex arrangement of mirrors so that all one has to do is keep the reticle on the target and fire to achieve a hit. Proper lead and gun tube elevation are applied to the turret by the computer, greatly simplifying the job of the Gunner.The fire-control system uses these data to compute a firing solution for the gunner. The ballistic solution generated ensures a hit percentage greater than 95 percent at nominal ranges. Either the commander or gunner can fire the main gun. Additionally, the Commander’s Independent Thermal Viewer (CITV) on the M1A2 can be used to locate targets and pass them on for the gunner to engage while the commander scans for new targets. In the event of a malfunction or damage to the primary sight system, the main and coaxial weapons can be manually aimed using a telescopic scope boresighted to the main gun known as the Gunner’s Auxiliary Sight (GAS). The GAS has two interchangeable reticles; one for HEAT and MPAT (MultiPurpose AntiTank) rounds and one for APFSDS and STAFF (Smart Target-Activated Fire and Forget) ammunition. Turret traverse and main gun elevation can be accomplished with manual handles and cranks in the event of a Fire Control System or Hydraulic System failure. The commander’s M2 .50 caliber machine gun on the M1 and M1A1 is aimed by a 3x magnification sight incorporated into the Commander’s Weapon Station (CWS), while the M1A2 uses either the machine gun’s own iron sights, or a remote aiming system such as the CROWS system when used as part of the TUSK (Tank Urban Survival Kit). The loader’s M240 machine gun is aimed either with the built-in iron sights or with a thermal scope mounted on the machine gun.

 

 Mobility 

The M1 Abrams is powered by a 1,500 shaft horsepower (1,100 kW) Honeywell AGT 1500 (originally made by Lycoming) gas turbine, and a six speed (four forward, two reverse) Allison X-1100-3B Hydro-Kinetic automatic transmission, giving it a governed top speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) on paved roads, and 30 mph (48 km/h) cross-country. With the engine governor removed, speeds of around 60 mph (97 km/h) are possible on an improved surface; however, damage to the drive train (especially to the tracks) and an increased risk of injuries to the crew can occur at speeds above 45 mph (72 km/h). The tank for all intents and purposes was built around this engine.[26] The tank can be fueled with diesel fuel, kerosene, any grade of motor gasoline, JP-4 jet fuel, or JP-8 jet fuel; the US Army uses JP-8 jet fuel in order to simplify logistics. The Royal Australian Armoured Corps’ M1A1 AIM SA uses diesel fuel; it is cheaper and makes practical sense for Australian military logistics.

 

 

Driving controls the gas turbine propulsion system has proven quite reliable in practice and combat, but its high fuel consumption is a serious logistic issue (starting up the turbine alone consumes nearly 10 US gallons (38 l) of fuel).[27] The engine burns more than 1 US gallon (3.8 l) per mile and 12 US gallons (45 l) per hour when idle.[28] The high speed, high temperature jet blast emitted from the rear of M1 Abrams tanks makes it difficult for the infantry to proceed shadowing the tank in urban combat. The turbine is very quiet when compared to diesel engines of similar power output and produces a significantly different sound from a contemporary diesel tank engine, reducing the audible distance of the sound, thus earning the Abrams the nickname “whispering death” during its first REFORGER exercise.

 Honeywell was developing another gas turbine engine with General Electric for the XM2001 Crusader program that was also to be a replacement for the AGT-1500 engine already in the Abrams tank. The new LV100-5 engine is lighter and smaller (43% fewer parts) with rapid acceleration, quieter running and no visible exhaust. It also features a 33% reduction in fuel consumption (50% less when idle) and near drop-in replacement. The Abrams-Crusader Common Engine Program was shelved when the Crusader program was canceled, however Phase 2 of Army’s PROSE (Partnership for Reduced O&S Costs, Engine) program calls for further development of the LV100-5 and replacement of the current AGT-1500 engine. Future US tanks may return to reciprocating engines for propulsion, as 4-stroke diesel engines have proven quite successful in other modern heavy tanks, e.g. the Leopard 2, Challenger 2 and Merkava.Using a high power density 330 cc (20 cu in) Wankel rotary engine modified to use diesel and military grade jet fuel, TARDEC developed a 220-pound (100 kg) Auxiliary Power Unit designed to fit into the M1 Abrams, replacing an existing battery pack that weighs about 500 pounds (230 kg). The new APU will also be more fuel efficient. The installation of the first APUs is expected to start in 2009.

 

A provision exists that the Abrams be able to transport passengers in tank desant with the turret stabilization device off. One Infantry squad carrying only their battle gear may ride the rear of the turret. The soldiers have the option of using ropes and equipment straps as a field-expedient Infantry rail to provide handholds and snap links to secure themselves to the turret. The Squad leader, team leaders, grenadiers sit on the left and right sides of the turret, while the riflemen, and automatic riflemen sit at the rear. If and when enemy contact is made, the tank conceals itself allowing the infantry to dismount.

 

 Strategic mobility

 

Strategic mobility is the ability of the tanks of an armed force to arrive in a timely, cost effective, and synchronized fashion. The Abrams can be carried by a C-5 Galaxy or a C-17 Globemaster III. The limited capacity (two combat-ready in a C-5, one combat-ready tank in a C-17) caused serious logistical problems when deploying the tanks for the First Gulf War, though there was enough time for 1,848 tanks to be transported by ship.The Abrams is also transportable by truck, namely the M1070 Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET). The HET can operate on highways, secondary roads, and cross-country. The HET accommodates the 4 tank crewmen.

 

The government-owned Lima Army Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio, currently manufactures the Abrams, the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Warren, Michigan manufactured it from 1982 to 1996. It costs upwards of US$5 million a tank

 

 Tank Urban Survival Kit

 The Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK), is a series of improvements to the M1 Abrams intended to improve fighting ability in urban environments. Historically, urban and other close battlefields have been the worst place for tanks to fight—a tank’s front armor is much stronger than that on the sides, top, or rear, and in an urban environment, attacks can come from any direction, and attackers can get close enough to reliably hit weak points in the tank’s armor, or get sufficient elevation to hit the top armor square on.Armor upgrades include reactive armor on the sides of the tank and slat armor (similar to that on the Stryker) on the rear to protect against rocket-propelled grenades and other shaped charge warheads.A Transparent Armor Gun Shield and a thermal sight system are added to the loader’s top-mounted M240B 7.62 mm machine gun, and a Kongsberg Gruppen Remote Weapon Turret carrying a .50 caliber machine gun (again similar to that used on the Stryker) is in place of the tank commander’s original .50 caliber machine gun mount, wherein the commander had to expose himself to fire the weapon manually. An exterior telephone allows supporting infantry to communicate with the tank commander.The TUSK system is a field-installable kit that allows tanks to be upgraded without needing to be recalled to a maintenance depot.While the reactive armor may not be needed in most situations in maneuver warfare, items like the rear slat armor, loader’s gun shield, infantry phone (which saw use on Marine Corps M1A1s as early as 2003), and Kongsberg Remote Weapons Station for the .50 caliber machine gun will be added to the entire M1A2 fleet over time.

 

On August 29, 2006, General Dynamics Land Systems received a US Army order for 505 Tank Urban Survivability Kits (TUSK) for Abrams main battle tanks supporting operations in Iraq, under a US$45 million contract. The add-on kit will be provided for M1A1 and M1A2-series tanks to enhance crew survivability in urban environments. The kit ordered by the Army consists of a Loader’s Armor Gun Shield (LAGS), a Tank Infantry Phone (TIP), Abrams Reactive Armor Tiles (ARAT), a Remote Thermal Sight (RTS) and a Power Distribution Box (PDB). Deliveries are expected to be complete by April 2009.

 

Under a separate order, the US Army awarded General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GDATP) US$30 million to produce reactive armor kits to equip M1A2. The total contract value could reach $59 million if all contract options are exercised. The reactive tiles for the M1 will be locally produced at GDATP’s Burlington Technology Center. Tiles will be produced at the company’s reactive armor facility in Stone County Operations, McHenry, Miss. On December 8, 2006 the U.S. Army added Counter Improvised Explosive Device enhancements to the M1A1 and M1A2 TUSK, awarding GDLS U.S. $11.3 million, part of the $59 million package mentioned above. In December GDLS also received an order amounting about 40% of a US$48 million order for loader’s thermal weapon sights being part of the TUSK system improvements for the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams Tanks.

 

 Operators

 Australia – 59 M1A1SA (hybrids, mix equipment used by US.Army tanks and U.S.M.C. tanks, without DU layers in armor) tanks were bought from the United States in 2006, to replace the Leopard AS1 in 2007.

 Egypt – 1005 M1A1 (downgraded, without DU layers in armor) tanks co-produced by the USA and Egypt for the Egyptian army.

 Iraq – 140 M1A1M’s (downgraded, without DU layers in armor) on order, to be delivered by 2011. Currently 22 US.Army M1A1’s are leased for training.

 Kuwait – 218 M1A2s (downgraded, without DU layers in armor)

 Saudi Arabia – 373 eventually to be upgraded to M1A2S (without DU layers in armor)

 United States – Approximately 6,000 M1A1 and M1A2 variants including both Army and Marine Corps inventory + 3268 M1 and M1IP variants, not used in storage, waiting for upgrade to M1A2SEP variant (most of them) or rebuild to specialised vehicles.

1,174 M1A2 and M1A2SEP variants (Army inventory)

4,393 M1A1 variants (Army inventory). Under upgrade process to M1A1SA variant.

403 M1A1HC’s variants (Marine Corps inventory). Under upgrade process to M1A1FEP.

Type Main battle tank

Place of origin  United States

Service history

In service 1980–present
 
 
Production history

Designer Chrysler Defense
Manufacturer Lima Army Tank Plant (1980-present)
Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant (1982-1996)
Unit cost US$6.21 million (M1A2 / FY99)
Number built 9,000+
 
Specifications
 
Weight 67.6 short tons 
Length Gun forward: 32.04 ft
Hull length: 26.02 ft 
Width 12 ft 
Height 8 ft 
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, driver)
 
Armor Chobham, RH armor, steel encased depleted uranium mesh plating
Primary armament 105 mm M68 rifled cannon (M1) 120 mm M256 smoothbore cannon (M1A1, M1A2, M1A2SEP))
Secondary armament 1 x .50-caliber  M2HB heavy machine gun
2 x 7.62 mm  M240 machine guns (1 pintle-mounted, 1 coaxial)
Engine Honeywell AGT1500C multi-fuel turbine engine
1,500 shp (1,120 kW)
Power/weight 24.5 hp/metric ton
Transmission Allison DDA X-1100-3B
Suspension Torsion bar
Ground clearance 1 ft 7 in (M1, M1A1) 1 ft 5 in (M1A2)
Fuel capacity 500 US gallons 
Operational range 289 mi With NBC system: 279 mi 
Speed Road: 42 mph Off-road: 30 mph

Soaring Above Europe: The Memphis Belle

May 7, 2010

Memphis Belle was the nickname of a B-17F Flying Fortress during the Second World War that inspired the making of two motion pictures: a 1944 documentary film, Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, and a 1990 Hollywood feature film, Memphis Belle. It was the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 combat missions. The plane and crew then returned to the United States to sell war bonds. The original airplane is undergoing extensive restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Combat history

The Memphis Belle, a Boeing-built B-17F-10-BO, serial 41-24485, was added to the USAAF inventory on July 15, 1942, and delivered in September 1942 to the 91st Bomb Group at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine. It deployed to Prestwick, Scotland, on September 30, 1942, to a temporary base at RAF Kimbolton on October 1, and then to its permanent base at Bassingbourn, England, on October 14. Each side of its fuselage bore the unit identification markings of the 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy)

Captain Robert Morgan’s crew flew 29 combat missions with the 324th Bomb Squadron, all but four in the Memphis Belle. The aircraft’s 25 missions were:

* November 7, 1942 – Brest, France
* November 9, 1942 – St. Nazaire, France
* November 17, 1942 – St. Nazaire
* December 6, 1942 – Lille, France
* December 20, 1942* – Romilly-sur-Seine, France
* December 30, 1942 – Lorient (flown by Lt. James A. Verinis)
* January 3, 1943 – St. Nazaire
* January 13, 1943 – Lille
* January 23, 1943 – Lorient, France
* February 14, 1943 – Hamm, Germany
* February 16, 1943 – St. Nazaire
* February 27, 1943* – Brest
* March 6, 1943 – Lorient
* March 12, 1943 – Rouen, France
* March 13, 1943 – Abbeville, France
* March 22, 1943 – Wilhemshaven
* March 28, 1943 – Rouen
* March 31, 1943 – Rotterdam, Netherlands
* April 16, 1943 – Lorient
* April 17, 1943 – Bremen, Germany
* May 1, 1943 – St. Nazaire
* May 13, 1943 – Meaulte, France (flown by Lt. C.L. Anderson)
* May 14, 1943 – Kiel, Germany (flown by Lt. John H. Miller)
* May 15, 1943 – Wilhelmshaven
* May 17, 1943 – Lorient
* May 19, 1943* – Kiel (flown by Lt. Anderson)

* Sources disagree on which two of these three missions the Memphis Belle received mission credits for.

Morgan’s crew completed the following missions in B-17s other than the Memphis Belle:

* February 4, 1943 – Emden, Germany (in B-17 DF-H 41-24515 Jersey Bounce)
* February 26, 1943 – Wilhelmshaven (in B-17 41-24515)
* April 5, 1943 – Antwerp, Belgium (in B-17 41-24480 Bad Penny)
* May 4, 1943 – Antwerp (in B-17 41-24527, The Great Speckled Bird)

The aircraft was then flown back to the United States on June 8, 1943, by a composite crew chosen by Eighth Air Force from those who had flown combat in it, led by Capt. Morgan, for a 31-city war bond tour. Morgan’s original co-pilot was Capt. James A. Verinis, who himself piloted the Memphis Belle for one mission. Verinis was promoted to aircraft commander of another B-17 for his final sixteen missions and finished his tour on May 13. He rejoined Morgan’s crew as co-pilot for the flight back to the United States.

Namesake

The plane was named for pilot Robert K. Morgan’s sweetheart, Margaret Polk, a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. Morgan originally intended to call the plane Little One, after his pet name for her, but after Morgan and his copilot, Jim Verinis, saw the movie Lady for a Night, in which the leading character owns a riverboat named the Memphis Belle, he proposed that name to his crew. Morgan then contacted George Petty at the offices of Esquire magazine and asked him for a pinup drawing to go with the name, which Petty supplied from the magazine’s April 1941 issue.

The 91st’s group artist Corporal Tony Starcer reproduced the famous Petty girl nose art on both sides of the forward fuselage, depicting her suit in blue on the aircraft’s port side and in red on its starboard. The nose art later included 25 bomb shapes, one for each mission credit, and 8 swastika designs, one for each German plane claimed shot down by the crew of the Memphis Belle. Station and crew names were stencilled below station windows on the aircraft after its tour of missions was completed.

Postwar history

In his memoirs, Morgan claimed that during his publicity tour, he flew the plane between the Buncombe County Courthouse and the City Hall of Asheville, North Carolina, his home town. Morgan wrote that after leaving the Asheville Regional Airport he decided to buzz the town, telling his copilot, Captain Verinis, “I think we’ll just drive up over the city and give them a little goodbye salute.” Morgan flew north and turned the bomber east down Patton Avenue, a main thoroughfare, toward downtown Asheville. When he observed the courthouse and the city hall (two tall buildings that are only about 50 feet (20 m) apart) dead ahead, he lowered his left wing in a sixty degree bank and flew between the structures. He wrote that the city hall housed an AAF weather detachment whose commanding officer allegedly complained immediately to the Pentagon, but was advised by a duty officer that “Major Morgan…has been given permission to buzz by Lieutenant General Henry Arnold.”

After the war the Flying Fortress was saved from reclamation at Altus Air Force Base, where it had been consigned since August 1, 1945, by the efforts of the mayor of Memphis, Walter Chandler, and the city bought the plane for $350. It was flown to Memphis in July 1946 and stored until the summer of 1949 when it was placed on display at the National Guard armory. It sat out-of-doors into the 1980s, slowly deteriorating due to weather and occasional vandalism.

In the early 1970s, another mayor had donated the historic plane back to the Air Force, but they allowed it to remain in Memphis contingent on it being maintained. Efforts by the locally-organized Memphis Belle Memorial Association, Inc. (MBMA) saw the aircraft moved to Mud Island in the Mississippi River in 1987 for display in a new pavilion with large tarp cover. It was still open to the elements, however, and prone to weathering. Pigeons would also nest inside the tarp and droppings were constantly needing removal from the plane. Dissatisfaction with the site led to efforts to create a new museum facility in Shelby County. In the summer of 2003 the Belle was disassembled and moved to a restoration facility in Millington, Tennessee for work. In September 2004, however, the National Museum of the United States Air Force, apparently tiring of the ups and downs of the city’s attempts to preserve the aircraft, indicated that they wanted it back for restoration and eventual display at the museum near Dayton, Ohio. The Memphis Belle- The Final Chapter in Memphis, a documentary film by Ken Axmaker, Jr., focuses on the history of the Belle in Memphis and emphasizes the final days and the volunteers who tried to keep one of the most famous aircraft in the world and another Memphis icon from disappearing.

On August 30, 2005, the MBMA announced that a consultant that they hired determined that the MBMA would not be able to raise enough money to restore the Belle and otherwise fulfill the Air Force’s requirements to keep possession of the aircraft. They announced plans to return the aircraft to the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio after a final exhibition in Millington, Tennessee on September 30 – October 2, 2005. The Belle arrived safely at the museum in mid-October 2005 and was placed in one of the Museum’s restoration hangars.

While the aircraft was in Memphis, it sat outside unattended; vandals and souvenir hunters removed almost all of the interior components. No instruments were found in the cockpit, and virtually every removable piece of the aircraft’s interior had been scavenged, often severing the aircraft’s wiring and control cables in the process.

The Museum has placed restoration of Memphis Belle near the top of its priorities. In the magazine Friends Journal of the museum’s foundation, Major General Charles D. Metcalf (USAF-Ret.), the director of the museum, stated that it might take 8–10 years to fully restore the aircraft.
Memphis Belle during refurbishment in 2003.By the Spring of 2009, considerable preparatory work had been accomplished, but the fuselage and wings were still disassembled.After stripping the paint from the aft fuselage of the aircraft, hundreds of names and personal messages were found scratched in the aluminum skin. During the plane’s war bond tour, people were allowed to leave their mark on this war-time hero.

Film portrayal

Two B17’s were used in the filming. A former firebomber B-17G-85-DL, serial 44-83546, registered N3703G, was converted into a B-17F configuration by installing a Sperry top turret, early-style tail gunner’s compartment and waist gunner’s positions, and omitting the chin turret. It subsequently appeared in the 1990 fictionalized version of the Memphis Belle story and continues to make air show appearances in that guise. Originally painted with the Warner Bros. movie version of the nose art and markings, the B-17 (owned by David Tallichet) now carries the historic markings found on the actual Memphis Belle. It currently operates out of Geneseo, New York.

The Sally B was also used in filming as the Memphis Belle. She is the last airworthy B17 in the UK and is based at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. She is part of the USAAF WWII Memorial Flight and makes dozens of appearances across the UK and North Europe. She is maintained and run by volunteers, relying solely upon donations.

Other planes named Memphis Belle

* A Republic F-105D Thunderchief (60-0504) from 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Takhli Royal Thai Air Base during the Vietnam War was named Memphis Belle II in honor of the original B-17F. The aircraft claimed two MiG-17 kills in addition to numerous bombing missions, and was the last F-105 to fly. It is currently preserved at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. It was donated in April 1990. Picture of Memphis Belle II
* A Rockwell B-1B (86-0133) was named Memphis Belle. In 1996, Colonel Robert K. Morgan, pilot of the original Memphis Belle, received the opportunity to fly in this aircraft, while it served with the 116th Bomb Wing at Robins AFB, GA.
* A General Dynamics FB-111 (68-0267) was also nicknamed Memphis Belle II for a period during the 1980s. It is currently located at the Strategic Air and Space Museum. Picture of Memphis Belle II
* Two Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses have carried the name Memphis Belle B-52G (59-2594) was named Memphis Belle III and took part in the 1991 Gulf War It was sent to the AMARC in October, 1992, and the first B-52H (60-0001) was named Memphis Belle IV It is currently based at Barksdale Air Force Base, flying for the 2nd Bomb Wing and has seen action in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
* A Lockheed C-141 Starlifter (67-0024) became the Memphis Belle V. It has recently been transferred to the AMARC inventory.
* A Lockheed C-5 Galaxy (69-0025) is named the Memphis Belle X.

Note: all the photographs were taken by me at the Airpower over Wayne Airshow in 2007.  The first photograph was taken and edited by me in Photoshop

Here Comes the General

May 6, 2010

The M3 Stuart, formally Light Tank M3, was an American light tank of World War II. It was used by British and Commonwealth forces prior to the entry of the USA into the war, and thereafter by US and Allied forces until the end of the war. The name General Stuart or Stuart given by the British comes from the American Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart and was used for both the M3 and the derivative M5 Light Tank; in British service it also had the unofficial nickname of Honey (named when a tank driver remarked “She’s a honey”). To the United States Army the tanks were officially known only as “Light Tank M3” and “Light Tank M5”.

Development

Observing events in Europe, American tank designers realized that the Light Tank M2 was becoming obsolete and set about improving it. The upgraded design, with thicker armor, modified suspension and new gun recoil system was called “Light Tank M3”. Production of the vehicle started in March 1941 and continued until October 1943. Like its direct predecessor, the M2A4, the M3 was armed with a 37 mm M5 gun and five .30-06 Browning M1919A4 machine guns: coaxial with the gun, on top of the turret in an M20 AA mount, in a ball mount in right bow, in the right and left hull sponsons.

To relieve the demand for the radial aero-engines used in the M3, a new version was developed using twin Cadillac V-8 automobile engines. The new model (initially called M4 but redesignated M5 to avoid confusion with the M4 Sherman) also featured a redesigned hull with sloped glacis plate and driver’s hatches moved to the top. Although the main criticism from the units using it was that the Stuarts lacked firepower, the improved M5 series kept the same 37 mm gun. The M5 gradually replaced the M3 in production from 1942 and was in turn succeeded by the Light Tank M24 in 1944.


Combat history

The British Army was the first to use the Light Tank M3 as the “General Stuart” in combat. In November 1941, some 170 Stuarts took part in Operation Crusader during the North Africa Campaign, with poor results. Although the high losses suffered by Stuart-equipped units during the operation had more to do with better tactics and training of the Afrika Korps than the apparent superiority of German armoured fighting vehicles used in the North African, the operation revealed that the M3 had several technical faults. Mentioned in the British complaints were the 37 mm M5 gun and poor internal layout. The two-man turret crew was a significant weakness, and some British units tried to fight with three-man turret crews. The Stuart also had a limited range, which was a severe problem in the highly mobile desert warfare as units often outpaced their supplies and were stranded when they ran out of fuel. On the positive side, crews liked its high speed and mechanical reliability. The high speed[citation needed] and high reliability distinguished the Stuart from cruiser tanks of the period, in particular the Crusader, which composed a large portion of the British tank force in Africa up until 1942.From the summer of 1942, when enough US medium tanks had been received, the British usually kept Stuarts out of tank-to-tank combat, using them primarily for reconnaissance. The turret was removed from some examples to save weight and improve speed and range. These became known as “Stuart Recce”. Some others were converted to armored personnel carriers and were known as “Stuart Kangaroo”, and some were converted command vehicles and known as “Stuart Command”. M3s, M3A3s, and M5s continued in British service until the end of the war, but British units had a smaller proportion of these light tanks than US units.The other major Lend-Lease recipient of the M3, the Soviet Union, was even less happy with the tank, considering it undergunned, underarmored, likely to catch fire, and too sensitive to fuel quality. The narrow tracks were highly unsuited to operation in winter conditions, as they resulted in high ground pressures under which the tank sank into the snow. Further, the M3’s radial aircraft engine required high-octane fuel, which complicated Soviet logistics as most of their tanks used diesel. However, the M3 was superior to early-war Soviet light tanks such as the T-60, which were often underpowered and possessed even lighter armament than the Stuart. In 1943, the Red Army tried out the M5 and decided that the upgraded design was not much better than the M3. Being less desperate than in 1941, the Soviets turned down an American offer to supply the M5. M3s continued in Red Army service at least until 1944.

In US Army service, the M3 first saw combat in the Philippines. Two battalions, comprising the Provisional Tank Group fought in the Bataan peninsula campaign. When the American army joined the North African Campaign in late 1942, Stuart units still formed a large part of its armor strength. After the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass the US quickly followed the British in disbanding most of their light tank battalions and subordinating the Stuarts to medium tank battalions performing the traditional cavalry missions of scouting and screening. For the rest of the war, most US tank battalions had three companies of M4 Shermans and one company of M3s or M5/M5A1s.

In Europe, Allied light tanks had to be given cavalry and infantry fire support roles since their main cannon armament could not compete with heavier enemy AFVs. However, the Stuart was still effective in combat in the Pacific Theater, as Japanese tanks were both relatively rare and were generally much weaker than even Allied light tanks. Japanese infantrymen were poorly equipped with anti-tank weapons and tended to attack tanks using close-assault tactics. In this environment, the Stuart was only moderately more vulnerable than medium tanks. In addition, the poor terrain and roads common to the theatre were unsuitable for the much heavier M4 medium tanks, and so initially, only light armor could be deployed. Heavier M4s were eventually brought to overcome heavily entrenched positions, though the Stuart continued to serve in a combat capacity until the end of the war.

Though the Stuart was to be completely replaced by the newer M24 Chaffee, the number of M3s/M5s produced was so great (over 25,000 including the 75 mm HMC M8) that the tank remained in service until the end of the war and well after. In addition to the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union, who were the primary users, it was also used by France, China (M3A3s and, immediately post-war, M5A1s) and Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia (M3A3s and few M3A1).

After the war, some countries chose to equip their armies with cheap and reliable Stuarts. The Republic of China Army, having suffered great attrition as a result of the ensuing civil war, rebuilt their armored forces by acquiring surplus vehicles left behind in the area by the US forces, including 22 M5A1s to equip two tank companies. They would have their finest hours during the Battle of Kuningtou, for which the tank came to be known as the “Bear of Kinmen”. The M5 played a significant role in the First Kashmir War (1947) between India and Pakistan, including the battle of Zoji-la pass fought at an altitude of nearly 12,000 ft. The vehicle remained in service in several South American countries at least until 1996.During the 60s and 70s, the Portuguese Army also used some in the war in Angola, where its all terrain capability (compared to wheeled vehicles) was greatly appreciated. An unspecified number of M5A1 Light Tanks served with the 1927th Cavalry Battalion stationed at Nambuangongo, being employed mostly for convoy escort duties and limited counterinsurgency operations. Period photographs show some modifications in the basic design, namely the omission of the bow machine gun, re-installed on a pintle mount in the roof of the turret and a small searchlight fitted in front of the commander’s copula .


In the media

A heavily modified M5A1 Stuart was featured in the movie Tank Girl as the eponymous heroine’s tank.

Modified Stuarts were used in the movie Attack! as German tanks.

“The Haunted Tank” was a DC Comics feature that appeared in GI Combat starring an M3 Stuart scout tank commanded by Lieutenant Jeb Stuart, a direct descendant and namesake of the Civil War cavalry general J.E.B. Stuart. The tank was haunted by the Confederate officer, who would appear to warn his kinsman of impending danger or offer usually cryptic advice on how to handle a combat action. The original series ran from 1961 to 1987.


Light Tank M3A3 (Stuart V)

Type     Light tank

Place of origin      United States

Produced     1941–1945
Specifications

Weight      32,400 lb
Length      14.8 ft
Width      8.1 ft
Height      7.5 ft
Crew      4 (Commander, gunner, driver, co-driver)
Armor      13–51 mm
Primary
armament 37 mm M6 in M44 mount 174 rounds

Secondary
armament 3 × .30-06 Browning M1919A4 MG 7,500 rounds

Engine     Continental W-670-9A, 7 Cylinder air-cooled radial 250 hp

Power/weight     17.82 hp/tonne

Suspension     Vertical volute spring

Operational
range     74 mi
Speed     36 mph (road) 18 mph (off-road)

Note:  All of the photographs were taken on my visit to the Tank Museum in Danville, Va. in April 2006