Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Military Technology- Vehicle Camouflage

In recent years, especially after the 2006 Lebanon War, military strategists and engineers have been working feverishly to find some way of reducing the effect of Anti-tank guided missiles or ATGMs. Many of these systems use infrared imaging or radar to track the target and as the missiles themselves are very difficult to destroy in flight, hiding the tanks' IR and Radar signature seemed like the way to go .

Saab Barracuda and Fibrotex have both made multi-spectral camouflage systems that seek to hide or disguise the visual/near Infrared, thermal and radar signature of the tanks. They also use heat transfer materials to hide the heat that accumulates on the tank in the day.

Saab's Mobile Camouflage System (MCS) seeks to hide glossy materials and flat surfaces with a three dimensional textiles with appropriate colors and infrared signatures in line with the environment of the area of operations. The 3D nature of the system is also hoped to have an effect on laser targeting and ranging systems of land and air based threats. The most recognizable part of a tank is the turret and main gun and the MCS seeks to camouflage the distinctive outline of these structures with contour disrupters. The radar camouflage hopes to diminish or eliminate the detection by synthetic aperture radar, but I think that is wishful thinking for the most part.

Danish Leopard 2 tanks

The Fibrotex system, seen here on IDF tanks, is similar, but uses a network of tiles rather than a textile cover. They state that it is effective in hot and cold environments, wet or dry conditions.
Israeli Merkava Tanks with Flexible Camouflage System

This is a German Leopard 2 tank in Afghanistan, it is painted in a disruptive, digital pattern designed to camouflage the tank, at least at distance. Once again, I am not sure how effective this would be on a 50 ton vehicle that makes about as much noise as sending a school bus through a chipper shredder. I have heard some rumours and that the paint used has some thermal qualities that are intended to lower its IR signature, but so far no proof of that has surfaced.

History's Greatest Fortifications- Krak de Chevaliers

In 1095, Pope Urban II declared a Crusade for the Holy Land. This was the beginning of 8 major wars and countless smaller ones that consumed the Mediterranean for three hundred years. The First Crusade conquered much of modern day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and parts of Turkey. The land was divided and new countries based on the European feudal system were developed. One consequence of this was the construction of large and advanced castles and fortresses to guard the Holy Land and the pilgrims and trade which gave it life.

The greatest of all Crusader castles was the Krak de Chevaliers, in modern day Syria. It guarded the main mountain pass leading to the Muslim city of Homs. It sits atop a 650-meter-high hill along the only route from Antioch to Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea. Crusaders captured the site in 1110 and handed it over the Knights Hospitallers, an order of militant monks. The Hospitallers upgraded the defenses constantly and it is today the one of the best surviving examples of Crusader architecture.
The Krak de Chevaliers was invested several times and did not fall until 1271, shortly before the collapse of the Crusader States in the Holy Land.

Many of the greatest defensive architectural ideas are seen in the ruins of the Krak. It has what is known as keep-centric construction, where the keep, the last bastion of the castle is in the center and can be reached from all the other defensive areas. This allows the defense to be continued even of the outer wall is breached. Notice the angled walls on the outer towers. This makes them immensely strong, less likely to be seriously damaged by siege engines of the day. It would also give the walls strength to avoid being undermined by enemy engineers or damaged in an earthquake, a common occurrence in the Middle East. The outer wall is close to 100 feet thick on the south side. It has seven guard towers that are more than 30 feet in diameter.

The Krak de Chevaliers was besieged by the two greatest Muslim Generals of the Crusades period, Nur-ad-din and Saladin. Both failed to take it. Its archectural success were copied by Edward the I of England who saw the castle while on the Ninth Crusade in 1272 and copied it in his many castle on England and Wales.

Range report- Winchester Model 74 .22LR

I went out to the range the other day and took along Pap's old Winchester 74 .22. I wasn't there to do any serious shooting, but decided to take some photos of the targets and show them to you, my adoring audience.

The Winchester 74 is a semi automatic rifle, chambered in the .22LR rimfire cartridge. It has a 24"round barrel and is loaded from a gate on the right side of the buttstock. The tubular magazine holds 14 cartridges. They were produced from 1939 to 1955 and more than 400,000 were made.

All targets were at 25 yards, all shots from the standing position

Well to be honest, this is all error on the part of yours truly, I think due to the light weight of the rifle, I was holding a little high at first. I realized my error and tried to correct my stance at the end.

Here I corrected my stance and let a little lead fly, with improved results.

Once I got used to the rifle, I was able to put rounds on target in rapid fire from a standing position. Overall, this is a great little rifle and would be wonderful for rabbit or squirrel hunting. You know, if you are hungry. Hopefully I will have a chance to take it to an outdoor range soon and see what it can really do at 100 yards from a sandbag and bench. I expect great things from it.

I would like to thank the Buffalo Bill Museum and Winchester Club of America in Englewood, CO for some help on the specifics of the '74.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Warhawk Air Museum (again)

A glider fuselage

Early P-51C Mustang before the distinctive bubble canopy and ventral intakes were added

The pilot was an Ace four times over

Wing mounted .50 caliber machine guns

Fairburn-Sykes Commando dagger

1916 "Double Date" Luger

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Guns I Wish I Had - Part 4 - AKS-74U

Some might think that the AK series are ugly, inaccurate rifles that are only fit for Communist conscript armies and terrorists.
Well, I don't have a good argument against those charges, actually.
But I like them. The AK series are rugged, reliable, and accurate enough for field use.

This brings us to the latest gun I would like you nice people out in internetland to buy for me: The AKS-74U. (Avtomat Kalashnikova Ukorochennyj)

The AK-74 is a AKM assault rifle chambered in the 5.45x39mm cartridge. The 5.45mm was developed after the Vietnam War, when it was seen that more of a lighter cartridge with a flatter trajectory was superior to fewer of a heavy cartridge. Whether or not this is the truth is still hotly debated today.

The AKS-74U was intended as a weapon for armored vehicle crews, artillerymen, truck drivers and anyone who would be overly encumbered by a full size rifle. The AKS-74U is mostly the same as its larger brother, it has a simpler sights and a shorter forearm, as well as a folding metal stock. The main difference is the very abbreviated barrel. The barrel is 8.3" long and is fitted with a special muzzle brake with an internal expansion chamber that is intended to increase the reliability of the weapon. The brake also is meant to allow unburnt powder to dissipate inside, before it has a chance to make a large muzzle flash, destroying nightvision and letting enemies zero in on your position. The 8.3 inch barrel was not simply adopted because it was shorter, though. The length allowed the 5.45mm cartridge to achieve the muzzle velocity of the older M43 7.62x39mm AKM, which the designers felt would give it sufficient killing power.

One problem of making a shorter automatic weapon is that the original weapon was developed to cycle the bolt with a certain amount of pressure. Shortening the barrel lowers the amount of gas pressure in the weapon and makes malfunctions much more likely. Also the AKS-74U loses a great deal of velocity from the full size AK-74 from 2,952 fps to 2,411fps. This resulted in a decrease in effective range from 625 to 350 m. Although I would guess that making a offhand shot on a man sized target at 350m with this weapon would be a nice shot.

This is the "Special Forces" variant of the -74U, it is fitted with a sound suppressor and the BS-1 "silent" grenade launcher. The BS-1 was developed specifically for the AKS-74U and fires a high-explosive dual purpose (HEDP) grenade. The grenades for the BS-1 are launched by blank cartridges and the rifle is cycled manually in this mode of operation.

Why do I want this gun? It is not very accurate, extremely loud, fires a weird little bullet, etc. To be honest, I want this gun just because it looks cool. To be sure, it is an assault rifle with the effectiveness of a submachine gun, but it is much more compact than most weapons with its level of power and probably more reliable than almost any similarly sized AR-15 variant.

Update-- ACUPAT

I found some more info on the Army's quest to find a more effective universal camouflage pattern. I discussed the Army's ACUPAT or Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) a few weeks ago. For those of you who were late to class, this is the ACUPAT:

There have been many people who say that the ACUPAT is absolute crap, and some of them are soldiers who have worn the ACU in Iraq and Afghanistan and unlike the rest of us armchair general types, actually know what they are talking about. Congress, never wanting to be left out of something they have a chance of screwing up, have also made their braying voices heard.

The result of 4 or more years of talk on this has produced the following: a new set of modified camouflage patterns intended to at least partially replace the ACUPAT.The UCP-D is regarded as the best of these new options, and has been tested by Natick Labs and of course, roundly disparaged by the military and the Internet crowd. To me it looks like it might be a step in the right direction, at least as far as what is needed in Afghanistan, which is much more wooded in many areas than most of Iraq. It is also worth noting that, in general, the only new equipment that is liked by soldiers is equipment that has not yet been issued to them. I don't have any pics of these newer patterns out in the real world, but hey, who needs real world testing right?

UCP Delta

The main difference between the current ACUPAT and UCP Delta is the addition of a lot of a color known as coyote brown, which is the main color of new gear being issued in the USMC. Coyote brown is very useful because it blends in a very wide variety of terrains, from jungle mud, to sand, to rocks, or tree trunks. For that reason the Marines have begun to issue their plate carriers (armor), pouches, and other gear in coyote brown. The idea is that they can use those items with either their woodland or desert uniforms.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Some years ago, in Colorado, if memory serves, this guy, Marvin Heemeyer, was pissed at his whole town over some zoning issue or such, and built this monstrosity. It is a Komatsu bulldozer with steel and concrete armor, multiple cameras protected by 3 inch thick bullet resistant plastic attached to two monitors, and firing ports. He had mounted a Barret M82 .50 caliber rifle in the rear, and had 5.56 rifles, a Ruger Mini-14 on the right and a FN FNC in the front.

Well, as crazy fuckers tend to do, this dude went on a rampage, tearing the whole town apart, especially the businesses of his hated enemies from the town council. Eventually, he got the killdozer (as it came to be known) stuck in the foundation of a building he had demolished and while the police waited for the Colorado National Guard to get there with anti-tank weapons, he shot himself in the head with his .357 magnum.

The Other Guns of Russia -MSP

This is the MSP( Malogabaritnyj Spetsialnyj Pistolet), from our friends the USSR. The MSP is a break action, double barrel pistol, similar in some respects to a derringer. This gun was adopted by the KGB and Soviet Army in 1972. It is only intended for close range, and would likely not be accurate beyond 5 meters. It is a fairly unique weapon, firing internally silenced 7.62x38mm bullets. The ammunition is known as the SP-3.

Internally silenced ammunition?

Well, the idea is that almost all of the sound that a firearm makes is caused by hot gases escaping from the barrel. A conventional suppressor traps these gases long enough for them to cool and slow down. The MSP uses ammo with a special strengthened case and a gas-sealing piston that pushes the bullet and then locks the powder gasses within the case. This has its drawbacks, and the Sp-3 cartridge only generates velocities of about 600 feet per second, which would severely limit its range and penetration. The gun has a single action trigger and is cocked with a rather strange front cocking mechanism, which sets the internal hammers. Once the pistol is loaded and the breach is closed, the shooter pulls down the lever to cock the pistol and then releases it.

The MSP has no projections or controls to snag when drawing from within a coat or holster. Absent from the design are any form of extractors or ejectors, and spent cartridges are removed by pulling out the small clip that binds them together.

The MSP has little military value as it is only useful at conversational distances, and it is mostly regarded as an assassins' tool. It was replaced by the much more conventional and effective PSS pistol.

Warhawk Air Museum (more)

North American T-28 Trojan, 1950's training aircraft

They had a great collection of propaganda posters from WWII, I think they are really one of the most interesting things about the war. Even people born years after the war have their attitudes influenced by these very insidious weapons.

I love aircraft nose art of WWII, and I am beginning to believe there is a conspiracy to hide the awesome (read: naked girls) ones from us.

Also great art from a bomber crewman's leather jacket.

F86 Saber- Korean War era jet fighter

WWII era Seebee bulldozer (Navy Construction Battalion)

Once again I would like to thank the staff, volunteers, and contributors of the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho for all their dedication.