Friday, December 17, 2010

Phantom Ray UCAV

Here are a couple of photos of Boeing's new Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, the Phantom Ray.

The Phantom Ray project, called "Project Reblue" ( a play on Have Blue, the F-117 Nighthawk project designation) is being developed by Boeing Phantom Works, based on the earlier X-45C prototype. It was unveiled on May 10, 2010 and will be undergoing tests for the next several months or years. It is envisioned as the first of a new type or aircraft and may handle missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses, electronic attack, hunter/killer, and autonomous aerial refueling.

These pics show the Phantom Ray being carried on a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft from St. Louis on December 13, 2010 during a test flight. The 747 will carry the Phantom Ray to Dryden Flight Research Center in preparation for its first flight.

General characteristics

  • Crew: None (UCAV)
  • Length: 36 ft (11 m)
  • Wingspan: 50 ft (15 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 36,500 lb (16,556 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × General Electric F404-GE-102D


  • Maximum speed: Mach 0.85
  • Cruise speed: 614 mph (534 kn; 988 km/h) ; Mach 0.8
  • Range: 1,500 mi (1,303 nmi; 2,414 km)
  • Service ceiling: 40,000 ft (12,192 m)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rare Weapons- Webley Fosbery

Here is one you don't see every day. Or in my case, ever. This is the Webley-Fosbery Self-Cocking Automatic Revolver. Now I know that doesn't really make sense. Gimme a minute and I will lay it out for you.

At the turn of the century, designers were trying very hard to come up with ways to increase the rate of fire for small arms, this coupled with the ongoing industrial revolution helped to ensure a wide variety of designs. Some worked and some well... not so much. The Webley-Fosbery actually worked pretty well, but it was eventually simply outclassed by magazine fed semiautomatics.

The first patent for the gun that became known as the Webley-Fosbery was issued in 1895. . The weapon's designer, Lieutenant Colonel George Vincent Fosbery, VC, brought his prototype (which was built on a Colt Single Action Army) to Birmingham and presented it to the firm of P. Webley & Son. As the weapon is pretty clever and was clearly an improvement on the most common handgun of the time, the single action revolver, Webley bought the patent and applied its ideas to their own Webley Break Top Revolver, which at the time was the main sidearm of the British Army and had been pretty successful in the Boer War. Improvements were made for several years and it was finalized for production. By this time, Webley had merged with W.C. Scott & Sons and Richard Ellis & Son in 1897 to form the Webley & Scott Revolver and Arms Co., was became the primary manufacturer of service pistols for the British Army as well as being popular in the civilian market. The refined pistol was introduced in 1900 at the Bisley matches.

The new Webley was chambered in the standard .455 British cartridge, seen above. The cartridge is rather unimpressive by modern standards, firing a heavy 265 grain round nosed soft lead bullet at a rather slow 650 FPS. The original versions were a six shot cylinder, although later versions chambered in .38ACP were eight shot.
The main design feature is recoil operation. The barrel and cylinder are in one section and the lock and hammer in another behind it. These are both mounted in a set of grooves on the frame. Loading the Webley-Fosbery is pretty much the same as other contemporary Webley revolvers or any other break-action for that matter. A lever on the upper receiver is pressed and the barrel and cylinder are released to fall open downwards ("breaks"). At the end of the motion, a star shaped extractor pushes up, simultaneously ejecting the shells from the cylinder chambers.

Once loaded the Webley-Fosbery is cocked by pressing the entire action-cylinder-barrel assembly as far back as it will go. What this does, whether it is done by hand or by the recoil action from firing, is to engage a pivoting lever that cocks the hammer back. At the same time a small stud on the upper portion of the frame rides in the characteristic zig-zag grooves on the cylinder, moving the cylinder into line with the help of an internal spring. Unlike single action or modern SA/DA revolvers, neither cocking the hammer manually or pulling the trigger rotates the gun's cylinder. It must be pulled to the rear to be made ready to fire.

Unlike the weapons that preceded it, the Webley-Fosbery was intended to be carried at full cock, ready to fire. As a result a manual safety catch was added to make the gun safe to carry in this fashion. It is on the left side of the frame at the top of the grip. It can only be set to "safe"when the pistol is cocked, and it is operated by pressing it down from the horizontal position. It functions by disconnecting the hammer from the sear.

Probably no more than 5000 Webley-Fosbery Self-Cocking Automatic Revolvers were ever made, on a fairly short production run from 1901 to 1915.

Here is the fruit of my You Tube research

There is something about the Webley Fosbery that I really like from a design and aesthetics point of view. It has a very nice steampunk look to it. The Webley-Fosbery has gained some fame though, being used in the amazingly horrible Sean Connery epic-sci-fi awful-fest Zardoz (don't even attempt to watch this movie) and a very similar looking weapon appears in the absolutely amazing Xbox 360 game, Bioshock. (It is wicked good, check it out) It is also mentioned in the seminal noir film and book, The Maltese Falcon. (although Bogie gets it wrong and calls it an eight shot .45 automatic)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Victoria Cross: Sergeant Ian John McKay, The Parachute Regiment

During the night of 11/12 June 1982, 3rd Battalion The Parachute regiment mounted a silent night attack on an enemy battalion position on Mount Longdon, an important objective in the battle for Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Sergeant McKay was platoon sergeant of 4 Platoon, B Company, which after the initial objective had been secured, was ordered to clear the northern side of the long east/west ridge feature, held by the enemy in depth, with strong mutually supporting positions.

By now the enemy were fully alert, and resisting fiercely. As 4 Platoon's advance continued it came under increasingly heavy fire from a number of well-sited enemy machine gun positions on the ridge, and received casualties. Realizing that no further advance was possible, the platoon commander ordered the platoon to move form its exposed position to seek shelter among the rocks of the ridge itself. Here it met up with part of 5 Platoon.

The enemy fire was still both heavy and accurate, and the position of the platoons was becoming increasingly hazardous. Taking Sergeant McKay, a corporal and a few others, and covered by supporting machine gun fire, the platoon commander moved forward to reconnoitre the enemy positions but was hit by a bullet in the leg, and command devolved upon Sergeant McKay.

It was clear that instant action was needed if the advance was not to falter and increasing casualties to ensue. Sergeant McKay decided to convert this reconnaissance into an attack in order to eliminate the enemy positions. He was in no doubt of the strength and deployment of the enemy as he undertook this attack. He issued orders, and taking three men with him, broke cover and charged the enemy position.

The assault was met by a hail of fire. The corporal was seriously wounded, a private killed and another wounded. Despite these losses, Sergeant McKay, with complete disregard for his own safety, continued to charge the enemy position alone. On reaching it he dispatched the enemy with grenades, thereby relieving the position of beleaguered 4 and 5 Platoons, who were now able to redeploy with relative safety. Sergeant McKay, however, was killed at the moment of victory, his body falling on the bunker.

Without doubt Sergeant McKay's action retrieved a most dangerous situation and was instrumental in ensuring the success of the attack. His was a coolly calculated act, the dangers of which must have been only too apparent to him beforehand. Undeterred he performed with outstanding selflessness, perseverance and courage. With a complete disregard for his own safety, he displayed courage and leadership of the highest order, and was an inspiration to all those around him.

an unrelated Falklands War pic

The New Uzi

Let me get this out of the way for all you "correctors" out there. I realize that the changes to the Micro Uzi we are looking at are relatively minor, and do not really represent a "new" weapon. It's just a title, keep your pants on.

This is the Uzi-Pro, a sort of re-issue of the Micro-Uzi, manufactured by IWI (Israel Weapon Industries Ltd, which is a privatized company that was originally the "Magen" 0r Small Arms Division of the state-owned Israel Military Industries). Like the older Micro-Uzi, the Uzi-Pro is a blowback operated, select fire machine pistol chambered in 9x19mm. It is fed through the same magazines of the rest of the Uzi family, although primarily from 25 round magazines these days. Muzzle velocity is listed at 1148 fps, pretty normal for a 9mm, although submachine guns sometimes use high pressure ammunition that imparts higher velocity and lockup times and is often not recommended for use in pistols. It retains the grip safety, which I personally found somewhat uncomfortable to operate on the full size Uzis I have fired.

The Uzi-Pro differs from the older model in that it fires from the closed bolt position, which imparts somewhat greater accuracy (at least for the first shot) and diminishes the amount of dust and dirt that can enter the action. It fires at approximately 1050 rounds per minute, which is pretty fast, but significantly less than the 1148 rpm listed for the Micro-Uzi. It is also less than most other machine pistols, this was likely done to increase the users' ability to control the weapon during full auto fire and perhaps to limit ammunition expenditure.

The lower receiver of the weapon has been redesigned to meet the needs of modern forces and is constructed of high impact polymers to save weight. Also added to the lower receiver is a foregrip, recognizing that two handed control is always the way to go if you want to hit the target. The trigger guard has been changed to the full hand-encompassing variety that IWI used on the Tavor series of rifles. No self respecting, high-speed/ low-drag, tier 1, OMGD3LTA! gun can be without Picatinny rails these days, and the Uzi-Pro has three, one one either side of the barrel for lights and lasers and one for sights on the top, above the ejection port. To facilitate this, they moved the cocking handle to the left side of the receiver. The Uzi-Pro is 486 mm long, reduced to 282 mm with the stock folded and its barrel length is 134 mm. The Uzi-Pro is listed as weighing 2.3 kilos as opposed to the Micro-Uzi at 1.5kg. This probably makes it a little easier to control during full auto fire as well.

I certainly wouldn't call these changes merely cosmetic, as they almost certainly result in a weapon that would perform better than the original. But they are certainly an attempt to make an older gun that has fallen out of favor in the world's military and police forces get a new lease on life. Whether or not it will enjoy good sales, we will have to wait and see.

Don't Worry

This Day in History- December 2

I have to say that I am sorry about the low output recently, I'm back in school and am doing that
during the time of day when I used to bored enough to blog. Well, I am going to try and do a little more, starting with an easy one.

December 2, 1804

A Corsican-born General in the Revolutionary Army of France named Napoleon Bonaparte becomes Emperor Napoleon I. It is said that at his ascension ceremony in Notre Dame, he took the crown from the hands of Pope Pius VII and placed it on his own head. It is said he did this to show that he was the author of his destiny and rose to his position solely on his merit. If so, this would also seem in violation of custom in place from Charlemagne's time of the Emperors being crowned by the Pope.

Of course Napoleon is held to be one of the most gifted and driven military commanders and strategists in history. He also is mostly responsible for the creation of a new system of laws and courts known today as the Napoleonic Code. He also was a gifted military theorist and he made vast changes to the way that armies fought and were organized both in France and around the world. It took losing hundreds of thousands of troops in Russia and a crushing defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and a long term arsenic poisoning to keep him down. It is strange that his reputation in modern American culture is just that of a short, petty Frenchman. While he was certainly a "great" man, he was responsible for some social progress, had some nice buildings built and so on, he was also a voracious and cruel conqueror and is personally responsible for hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths at the very least. The very least. There are many who view Napoleon as belonging in the same class as people like Hitler and Stalin. While that may be taking it too far, as Napoleon is not generally thought of to be genocidal and bloodthirsty, just incredibly greedy, apathetic and cruel. But he most certainly deserves at least partial blame for the 17 YEARS of war that Europe experienced during his time and the estimated 6 million deaths those wars caused.

and on December 2, 1777

During the occupation of Philadelphia by forces under British General William Howe, the British command had commandeered a large room across from his headquarters to serve as a meeting room. Unknown to them, the home's owner, Lydia Darragh, an Irish immigrant, would discreetly listen to these meetings and pass the information to American revolutionary leaders. She did this by sewing notes into her coat and crossing the lines to meet American officers in secret.

America's first Bond girl villain?

On the night in question, she learned of a surprise attack on Washington's army in Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania. She devised a cover story that she needed to buy flour from a mill just beyond the British lines, she was able to get the vital plans to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Craig. When the British marched on Whitemarsh on December 4 they found an army ready and waiting for them. Three days of skirmishing followed, and General Howe returned to Philadelphia, having failed to destroy or dislodge Washington's force. Timely knowledge of the impending attack, much less any information on troop strength, route and cannon, would have been absolutely essential to the survival of Washington and his army. That being the case, Mrs. Darragh's actions, which were quite audacious and daring in my opinion, and were extremely dangerous to her well being if she were caught, were one of the most important forgotten events of the Revolution.

I see her as kinda like Princess Leia myself.

It is said (on Wikipedia) that the CIA remember Lydia Darrah as one of the first American spies.