Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The 2nd Amendment

The Greatest Pilots- Col. Bud Mahurin, USAF

A few weeks ago, Walker "Bud" Mahurin was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Bud Mahurin was considered one of the greatest fighter aces in history, much less in the United States Military. In his career, he shot down two dozen planes in two different wars. He was famous throughout the Air Force and known as a courageous, tenacious, and highly skilled pilot.Mahurin was the only Air Force fighter pilot to successfully down enemy combat aircraft in the both the European and Pacific theater as well as Korea. He went by the call sign Honest John and later wrote a book about his experiences in both WWII and the Korean War.

Walker Mahurin entered the Army Air Forces two months before Pearl Harbor after studying Engineering at Purdue University. He was assigned to a fighter group training in England. The young Mahurin had a bit of bad luck in the beginning. He flew too close to B-24 and hit its propeller, forcing him to ditch his P-47 Thunderbolt. But about a month later, he shot down two Nazi Fw-190s in August 1943. Two months later he had downed five, making him an ace. Like all of the pilots in the war, he flew a massive number of missions, and on one, he shot down three Messerschmidt Bf-110s. By the end of the year, he was the first Double Ace of the Allied forces in the European Theater.

Model of Captain Mahurin's P-47D, the Spirit of Atlantic City

He was shot down three times, once in Korea and twice during WWII. In March of 1944, he bailed out of a heavily damaged P-47 over Occupied France and ended up escaping back to Allied territory with the help of elements of the French Resistance. After his return, the Brass decided his knowledge of the Resistance was too great to risk him falling into enemy hands and he was grounded. He returned to air combat some months later in the Philippines, switching from the old and somewhat outdated P-47 to the much-loved P-51D Mustang. He ended the war with 20 aerial victories.

Lt. Col. Mahurin's F-86E Sabre in Korea

Bud served again in Korea and was downed three (and a half) enemy MiG-15s. Later in the war, he was again shot down. Captured by the communists, he was held in a POW camp for 16 months.

Mahurin went on to retire from the Air Force as a Colonel and work in the Aerospace industry. Amongst his other decorations, he earned the Distinguished Serving Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, The Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters.

"I was brought up in an age when flying was the only thing. We knew the value of being an ace, but you just didn't try to go out and become an ace. Mostly because, in my case, I was scared to death to begin with. I thought if I just get to meet an ace while on active duty, I'd be happy."

Bud Mahurin

Typhoon-class Submarine

Today's subject is the Typhoon-class Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine. The Typhoon was known in Soviet service as the Akula, which is Russian for a shark. We called it the Typhoon because we (being NATO) had a thing for renaming every single bit of Soviet or Warsaw Pact weapons and equipment. It probably gave a job to an entire office building. But I digress.

With a displacement of 33,000 tons, the Typhoon was the largest submarine to ever enter service. It is just huge. Famously, unlike every other cramped boat that ever went under the waves on purpose, it was gigantic, including adequate (for a submarine) crew spaces. It even had a gym with a pool and sauna. (The pool was really small though) As it is a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the job of the Typhoons in the event of war is to hide in the polar ice cap until they receive orders to launch their multiple reentry vehicle nuclear missiles. Why hide under the icecap?
The problem is that there are only a few ways for the Soviet Navy to enter the North Atlantic. The Greenland-Iceland United Kingdom gap (GIUK gap)was watched by subs, planes, satellites, and underwater sensors. Because few Soviet submariners would survive fighting in the North Atlantic. The Allied victory against the Wolfpacks in WWII and the cat and mouse of the Cold War taught the Russians that. With many different types of assets guarding the approaches to the North Atlantic, watching Soviet sub bases and shadowing the fleet, the Soviets needed a way to ensure they could strike the USA.

The Typhoon class was one of the best designs to come out of Soviet Russia during the Cold War era. It made significant leaps in being was quieter than previous Soviet missile boats and was well armed. Attention to crew comfort could make a very real translation to a more motivated and sharp crew. At least to a degree. The Typhoon class also features six torpedo tubes, with four of those having the ability to launch the standard Type 53 torpedo or the SS-N-15 (RPK-2) anti ship missiles. The other tubes, which might have been located in the rear (just a guess) could lay mines in addition to using the Type 65 torpedo and the RPK-7 missile.

The Typhoon has multiple pressure hulls to increase survivability. This is part of what gives the subs their massive size. They have a very wide beam, much greater than the U.S. Ohio-class (the black and red sub in the pic below). Like most nuclear powered subs, the Typhoon can stay underwater nearly indefinitely, it is said to be able to stay under at least 180days, and I imagine that could be continued further, right up until they ran out of borscht and potatoes. The primary armament of the Typhoon is 20 R-39 missiles ( SS-N-20 in NATO designation) with up to 10 MIRV nuclear warheads on each. They are using the last of the Typhoons as a test bed for the new SLBM and it was likely a Typhoon that launched the missile that malfunctioned a few months ago.

Of all the Typhoons built (6), only three still exist, with one in service (the Dmitriy Donskoy) and the other two. Arkhangelsk (TK-17) and Severstal (TK-20) are likely currently in an un-seaworthy condition. All the R-39 missiles have been retired. However, with Russia's resurgence, they may one day be refitted to carry cruise missiles and modernized to be a SSGM for future service, or perhaps even sold to another nation. The Typhoons are slated to be replaced by the Borei class starting in 2010-11.

Typhoon Submarine, being guarded by the best of the Russian Navy

Monday, May 17, 2010

Guns I Wish I Had: Ruger LCR .38 Special

Here is one of the newest additions to the long list of firearms I wish I owned. The Ruger LCR ( Lightweight Compact Revolver). It is a Double Action Only, 5 shot revolver, chambered in .38 Special. A quick glance my lead one to think that the LCR is similar to hundreds of thousands of .38 snubnose revolvers. You would be incorrect. Ruger has completely reinvented the snubnose. It starts with materials. Most revolvers have steel, frames, cylinders, and barrel sleeves. A few years ago, titanium and scandium alloys began to appear in lightweight revolvers. However, they have not taken over the market due to the fact that they wear at a much higher rate than a steel gun. The LCR uses stainless steel in the most stressed and important areas, the barrel, the cylinder, the trigger, and most of the internal pins and springs and such. The frame, which is smaller than on conventional small revolvers, is made from aluminum to reduce weight. Lastly, the fire control housing is made from polymer and the weapon is given a recoil reducing Hogue grip. It is also available with a Crimson Trace laser grip sight, which are pretty neat, even if they are $250 or so.

The upper piece is the aluminum frame and the lower is the polymer fire control housing
They aren't really these colors. Thank god.

The designers at Ruger also addressed the most glaring problem of the snubnose revolver. Not the short range or small ammunition capacity, but the accuracy destroying, terrible, long, heavy, trigger. They have included changes to the geometry of how the trigger, hammer, and sear interact and a friction reducing cam to make the absolute best trigger pull you have ever felt on a carry revolver. Because that is what the LCR was made for. Concealed carry. The rise of the number of Americans who are inclined to and legally able to carry a firearm in self defense has grown appreciably over the last 15 years and the manufacturers are beginning to respond, many with new or updated .38 Special and .380 ACP guns designed especially for carry.

Note the extreme fluting to the stainless steel cylinder. This makes it very light , but still quite strong.

So if you are still not convinced? How about this, they are only about $375-400. That is less than most quality guns that might replace it, and much less than the classic snub it so totally outclasses, the Smith and Wesson J-frame. I haven't had a chance to rent one at the range yet, but I got to hold and examine it and it really is something. A lot of people talk about their .45s and high capacity .40s and whatnot, but a little, reliable, powerful gun like the LCR is what a perfect carry gun is. It is concealable, you can ride in the car without gouging a hole in your kidney, and loaded with quality (read: expensive) defensive ammo, it could save your life or the life of someone you care for.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man

I don't normally put links on here, but this guy worked out a rough estimate to build an Iron Man suit. All I can say is I hope the kids like the textbooks they have now, 'cuz they are not getting any new ones.

click on the title for the link

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Medal of Honor - PFC Charles N. DeGlopper, US Army

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, Co. C, 325th Glider Infantry, 82d Airborne Division.

Place and date: Merderet River at la Fiere, France, 9 June 1944.

Entered service at: Grand Island, N.Y.

Birth: Grand Island, N.Y. G.O. No.: 22, 28 February 1946.

Citation: He was a member of Company C, 325th Glider Infantry, on 9 June 1944 advancing with the forward platoon to secure a bridgehead across the Merderet River at La Fiere, France. At dawn the platoon had penetrated an outer line of machineguns and riflemen, but in so doing had become cut off from the rest of the company. Vastly superior forces began a decimation of the stricken unit and put in motion a flanking maneuver which would have completely exposed the American platoon in a shallow roadside ditch where it had taken cover. Detecting this danger, Pfc. DeGlopper volunteered to support his comrades by fire from his automatic rifle while they attempted a withdrawal through a break in a hedgerow 40 yards to the rear. Scorning a concentration of enemy automatic weapons and rifle fire, he walked from the ditch onto the road in full view of the Germans, and sprayed the hostile positions with assault fire. He was wounded, but he continued firing. Struck again, he started to fall; and yet his grim determination and valiant fighting spirit could not be broken. Kneeling in the roadway, weakened by his grievous wounds, he leveled his heavy weapon against the enemy and fired burst after burst until killed outright. He was successful in drawing the enemy action away from his fellow soldiers, who continued the fight from a more advantageous position and established the first bridgehead over the Merderet. In the area where he made his intrepid stand his comrades later found the ground strewn with dead Germans and many machineguns and automatic weapons which he had knocked out of action. Pfc. DeGlopper's gallant sacrifice and unflinching heroism while facing unsurmountable odds were in great measure responsible for a highly important tactical victory in the Normandy Campaign.

"We were greatly outmanned, had walked into a trap and were taking very heavy casualties. Some of our company was surrendering, when Charlie DeGlopper stood up with his BAR blazing away, hollering to us, "Get out, get out, pull back!" Charlie stood in that road, putting clip after clip into his BAR."
Raymond Burchell
325th Glider Infantry Regiment

I learned about PFC DeGlopper at the Museum of Avaition, they had set up a memorial to him in the WWII hanger. Charles DeGlopper was the only soldier of the 82nd Airborne Division to earn the Medal of Honor during the Normandy Campaign.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guns don't make you a killer

OK, relax people, it is supposed to be mildly funny.


It is always nice to have a laugh at horrible burning death.

We nice people have used fire in combat for pretty much ever, and the granddaddy of the flamethrower was a little invention called Greek Fire. Dating back as far as the first century of the common era, Greek Fire was sprayed from a large tube or hose pressurized by a simple hand pump. The Byzantine Empire used it as a potent naval weapon. The exact recipe was lost, but it is stated in histories that the Greek Fire could not be extinguished with water, making any ship hit with it a total loss. Very bad in an era when most sailors couldn't swim. The Chinese invented a piston pumped flamethrower in the 9th Century, and used it for many years, especially defending walled cities from the Mongol hordes.

German soldiers in WWI with flammenwerfer

Anyways, the modern flamethrower was first used in combat by the Imperial German Army back in 1915 during WWI. The design dates back to 1901. The basic plan for a flamethrower, as typified by the US Army's M2A1-7 flamethrower from WWII, involves a gun attached to three back-mounted tanks via a flexible hose. One tank holds inert pressurized gas like nitrogen to provide the pressure, and the other two tanks hold the flammable materiel, often gasoline, sometimes with a thickening agent to make it stickier. The gun has two triggers, the front one for the igniter, which can be a simple electrically heated coil of wire, or it may be a pilot flame fed by the tanks. The rear trigger controls the valve to let the pressurized fuel spray down the gun, past the igniter and onto some extremely unlucky person or object.

Flamethrowers have a large number of advantages as a weapon. First off, they would be absolutely terrifying to face. They have also shown an ability to kill or injure troops that are in positions that give them high amounts of protection from bullets and bombs like trenches and bunkers. For example, in the Pacific Theater, US Marines reported that Japanese troops hiding in deep cave complexes were suffocated when the flamethrowers consumed all the available oxygen. Range of most flamethrowers is really pretty good, about 70 feet for an effective range, with maximum reach of about 130 feet. This is good, but well within the "easy shot" range of any rifle.

So as we can see there are significant disadvantages to using a flamethrower. First off, the weight. The full system weighs almost 70 pounds and that is only enough to have a few seconds of flame. Also, being the only guy in sight who is controlling a 100 foot long flame tends to get one noticed. And shot at. The Soviets attempted to camouflage their flamethrowers to lessen to risk of the operators being singled out and killed. Despite what we see in the movies, they weren't quite as likely to blow up if damaged or shot, but if given a choice I would certainly be happy for some other guy to carry it.
And he can stand way over there.
WWII US Army M2A1-7 Flamethrower
Model: M2 Flamethrower

Feed System: nitrogen(Propellant) and gasoline (fuel)

Type: Flamethrower

Weight Unloaded: 48 lbs (68 lbs filled)

Cartridge Capacity: 2 (2 gallon gas tanks) 1 nitrogen tank

Manufacturer: US Army Chemical Warfare Service

Year Produced: 1940-41

Military Use: Flamethrowers would project a stream of flammable liquid, rather than flame, which allows bouncing the stream off walls and ceilings to project the fire into blind and unseen spaces, such as inside bunkers, pill boxes and other protected fortifications during WWII. The flamethrower had great psychological impact on a German emplacement.

The Department of Defense decided to discontinue all use of flamethrowers in the arsenal in 1978. The overall effectiveness of the system was called into question, especially in light of the immense weight of the system and the public relations problems associated with using it. Don't be too sad, though, a new rocket powered incendiary weapon was ready to go-the M202 FLASH.

French soldiers with a flamethrower

B-58 Escape Capsule

Here is a dead end (for now) of aviation evolution. This is an ejection capsule from the B-58 Hustler bomber, designed by Stanley Aviation Company, it was also used on the XB-70 Valkyrie. The idea was that pilots needed specialized equipment if they were going to survive ejection at high altitudes and speeds, to say nothing of the fact, that if you are ejecting, your plane is probably in a pretty bad way and it is likely there are people who want to make your day even worse than it has turned out to be so far. So basically, when your bomber gets hit with a surface to air missile or a bunch of high explosive cannon rounds, or simply decides that it is done flying before you land it, you are in a lot of trouble.

The B-58 was the first production aircraft to be fitted with an escape capsules for the crew. It was added to the design when engineers began to think about the effects of ejecting at 1400 miles per hour. The force of the wind can tear the helmet off the pilots head. Arms have been broken due to the uncontrolled failing that is pretty much assured when you rocket out of a jet flying at Mach 2. Also, when you are above 14,500 feet, there is not enough oxygen to support consciousness. And it is wicked cold. Like 55 below zero Fahrenheit. To increase crew safety and comfort, the capsules were pressurized, contained a survival packet with food and other supplies and gave the pilot protection from the airstream. When the trigger handles were squeezed, the canopy was jettisoned and then the rockets fired, sending the capsule up and away from the airframe. A drogue parachute immediately deployed to keep the capsule properly oriented. The main parachute deployed automatically at the appropriate altitude on descent. The system was designed to land with the crewman on their back, protected from impact by a manually operated airbag.

Each capsule was controlled by the crewman in it. They were activated by trigger handles and automatically restrained and repositioned the airman. Shoulder straps tightened and pulled the crewmen back while a bar underneath the legs raised the knees and then pulled heels back. Any other position than this would not allow the doors to close. There was a large window in the pilot's capsule along with the control stick, the stick mounted trim buttons and other controls gave the pilot some control over the plane while the capsule while it was closed. The other two capsules
had much smaller windows and did not have any way to access their controls. A closed capsule could be opened during flight, although with difficulty. The doors could be unlatched with levers located near the pilots' feet, but it was hard to reach the latches.

When they tested the "Stanley Capsule" in 1962, a black bear became the first living creature to survive a supersonic ejection. I think the bear really deserved 5 minutes in a sealed racquetball court with the design team after that, but that is just me.

Now for the bad news. The escape capsule did not really work as well can be wished. While the capsule was fairly large and comfortable, Those with size 12 or larger boots were at risk of losing their toes on capsule closure. I'm sure you are beginning to see some of the problems here. During the collision between a F-104 and one of the XB-70s on June 8, 1962, the capsule for Major Cross did not retract enough to close due to the high g forces of the plane as it went down. As a result, he was unable to eject and died in the crash. Major Al White's seat did retract, but closed on his elbow, severely injuring it. He descended by parachute as planned, but was unable to manually trigger the airbag and was subjected to 33 to 44 Gs. He was seriously injured, but made a recovery.

And for the curious, this is the B-58 Hustler, the Air Force's first supersonic bomber.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

In keeping with the mood of doom and panic that we all seem to wallow in so much these days (thanks for nothing, cable news), I wanted to share some pics of the Svalbard Global Seed vault. The vault is located above the Arctic Circle, on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago in Norway. The idea behind the vault is the preservation of thousands of different types of seeds, millions or billions of individual seeds, for possible future use after some type of catastrophe. The vault holds spare copies of seeds from seed banks and genebanks around the world. The island is about 810 miles south of the North Pole. One of the reasons to locate the vault there is that it is an extremely remote area, very unlikely to become embroiled in any kind of large scale conflict or environmental disaster. The other reason is that it is pretty much completely frozen there. All the time. Low temperature and humidity are essential for preserving the seeds should the power fail in the vault.

The vault was really pretty inexpensive to build, at around 9 million dollars and it was paid for by the Government of Norway, and storage of seeds is free of charge, which is nice. There are no permanent employees at the facility, which would probably lead to the place being the site of some kind of bitchin' raves were it not on a frozen island in the middle of nowhere.

The seed bank itself is located almost 400 feet inside the mountain, and protected by a series of airlocks. The seeds themselves are held in 4 layer plastic packets and they are given a heat activated sealant to keep out moisture. The seed vault is kept at about 0 degrees Fahrenheit in order to provide an environment conducive to extreme long term survival of the seeds. The island of Spitsbergen was chosen due its almost total lack of medium and large scale tectonic activity. The permafrost layer serves as a backup to the refrigeration units. Even if the power or equipment fails, the vault was designed so that it would take several weeks for the internal temperature to reach the level of the surrounding bedrock. (a toasty 27 degrees) The site is also situated more than 400 feet above sea level to eliminate any danger of flooding, even in the event of a Stephen Spielberg or Kevin Costner-esqe icecap melting disaster. So it is nice to see that they were thinking ahead.

And, even if the whole "save the world from starvation" thing doesn't work, it would still make an awesome lair for a Bond villain.

A good idea - USB Swiss Army knife

Here is a new take on an old favorite. A Swiss Army knife from Victorinox with a detachable USB flash drive (1, 2, or 4 GB capacity), LED light and ballpoint pen. That is seriously one of the most useful things you could think of. The drive is USB powered, it comes with a 1 meter USB cable and the light takes a CR1025 battery (one included) It also has scissors, file with screwdriver, and a keyring. If this was mounted on a larger, more capable locking knife with one hand opening, it would already be in my pocket. Price is somewhere around $60.00.

Why make it harder?

A New Record

Here is something that has been in the news the last few days.
A British Army soldier by the name of Corporal Craig Harrison, of the Household Cavalry, set a new record for the longest shot in combat. Twice.
Cpl. Harrison fired two shots at Taliban machine gunners in Afghanistan. They were confirmed via GPS to be 8,120 feet from Cpl Harrison's position. That is 1.54 miles.
More than a mile and a half.
To make it even more astounding, the range was almost 3,000 feet beyond what is considered the best effective range of the weapon. At that range the bullet takes around 3 seconds to reach the target.

The previous record was set in 2002 for a sniper kill at 7,972ft. That shot was made by Canadian Corporal Rob Furlong, of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, who was using a .50BMG McMillan TAC-50 rifle.

Cpl. Harrison accomplished this feat with the above pictured weapon, a L115A3 rifle. The weapon is manufactured by Accuracy International in Britain and is chambered in the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge. This is significant because the previous two shots that held the world record were with weapons chambered for the .50BMG. The .338 is a cartridge designed for accuracy and power beyond the range of the older 7.62mm rifles. It has a much flatter trajectory, which makes the complex trigonometry problem of finding the right arc to lob the bullet onto the target easier. It is one of several other "lighter" rifle rounds like the .300 Win Mag , .416 Barrett, and .408 CheyTac that have been designed with extreme long range shooting in mind. Of especial importance are factors such as the velocity past 1000 meters, the shape of the bullet's overall trajectory and how long the bullet will stay supersonic.

The Accuracy International Arctic Warfare .338 is a bolt action, detachable magazine-fed, precision rifle. The rifle is about 15 pounds, unloaded and without optics. It can mount a variety of telescopic sights, laser designators, and nightvision or thermal sights. In British service, it usually mounts a S&B 5-25x56mm day scope. The extra large objective lens size of 56mm gathers a lot of light, making shots possible in the dawn, dusk, or into the shadows. The L115A3 can also mount a suppressor, helping to reduce the report flash and dust from the powerful rifle. The barrel is free floated for increased accuracy and is fluted for strength and cooling without excessive weight.

You don't get all that performance cheap though. Many of the news reports about Cpl. Harrison's shot put the rifle at around $25,000. That sounds a bit high, I think a price of USD $7,500-12,000 might be more likely. But if you are including the entire sniper's kit, with nightvision or thermal optics, rangefinders, ballistic computer, etc. I might believe it. But if you put a rifle like this it in the right hands and it can hit a man sized target from 4500 feet all day. The bullet, which is heavy and very fast due to its extremely aerodynamic shape cuts through the air more efficiently than almost any other. More importantly, even at extreme range, the bullet retains its power, hitting with more force than a .44 Magnum at 25 feet.

I've had the luck to fire this weapon once (at an indoor range, unfortunately) and let me tell you, the shock wave it produces is just ridiculous. You can feel it pull air out of your mouth. However, due to its well-designed muzzle brake, recoil was quite manageable, similar to a Mosin Nagant carbine or 12 gauge shotgun. You wouldn't want to shoot it all day, but it is really not too bad.

“It was just unlucky for the Taliban that conditions were so good and we could see them so clearly. We saw two insurgents running through its courtyard, one in a black dishdasha, one in green.They came forward carrying a PKM machine gun, set it up and opened fire on the commander’s wagon. The first round hit a machine gunner in the stomach and killed him outright. He went straight down and didn’t move. The second insurgent grabbed the weapon and turned as my second shot hit him in the side. He went down, too. They were both dead."
----Corporal Craig Harrison

Cpl. Harrison had a memorable tour of duty, making the two impossible shots and having a bullet deflect off his helmet and surviving an IED blast that broke both of his arms. He is reportedly healing well, and has returned to duty.

Corporal Harrison