Monday, October 31, 2011

XC-120 Packplane

This is the Fairchild XC-120 Packplane, a prototype cargo plane from the post-war era. The only one ever constructed, it was developed and built from a C-119 Flying Boxcar. It differed from the Boxcar by having a detachable cargo pod rather than an internal cargo bay. Below is a composite image of the pod being attached and the Packplane in flight.

The basic idea was to vastly decrease the time that an aircraft would have to spend on the ground loading or waiting to be loaded. Cargo pods would be preloaded by ground crews and taken to the planes and attached as soon as possible. The prototype was constructed by taking the fuselage of C-119B 48-330 and cutting it off just below the level of the flight deck. Then the landing gear were extensively modified. The wing mounted gear was extended towards the tail of the aircraft and two small wheels were added to the front of both to replace the nose landing gear that were now absent. The Packplane's four landing gear could be raised or lowered to facilitate the attachment of the cargo module, which had its own wheels. This was accomplished with a scissor-like frame, rather than hydraulics, as we might today. Below you can see the XC-120 in flight with no pod attached.

The XC-120 first flew on August 11, 1950. It was thoroughly tested and made the round of the airshows, but no orders were made and the project and the aircraft were eventually scrapped. If it had been accepted, production aircraft would have been designated the C-128. Designers planned a variety of wheeled pods for different types and amounts of cargo, some can be seen below and they are a little lacking in the streamlining area. I think it was an interesting concept and could have been useful. I also love twin boomed aircraft, they just look cool to me.

I would like to see the concept re-booted (maybe with a light turbine engine) as a multi-role aircraft. It could be outfitted with different mission pods like the Navy's LCS, albeit on a smaller scale. I could see a role for it as a light cargo lifter, transport, VIP transport, anti-submarine, or border/harbor patrol aircraft just for starters. Something like that could be advantageous, especially for smaller air forces that have many roles to fill with a small number of aircraft. How about a close air support bird with a targeting and weapons module? As nice as 12 or 13 forward firing .50 caliber machineguns sounds, that day is probably past us. But I could see a weapons module with targeting pods and side facing weapons like the gunships of the US Air Force being pretty useful. Perhaps heavy and/or large vehicles could be somehow slung and fitted with an aerodynamic fairing and carried, who knows?

Drunk Chit

For those of you who don't read too closely, this post is not about drunk chicks. I keep all those for myself. Instead, check out the pic below, you will likely need to click on it to read it.

Hee hee, an amusing modern take on the "blood chit" from WWII. I am not certain, but I believe the pilot seen here is in the RAF. The idea actually goes back much further, but that is were it got famous. Allied air crew, especially in the Pacific and Burma theaters would have a piece of cloth sewed into or onto their uniforms or flight jackets that had a message in the local language that they should assist pilots in distress. For those of you interested in the "real" thing, here is a blood chit from the American Volunteer Group, the famous Flying Tigers of WWII.

It reads:

This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort.
Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue, protect, and provide him medical care.
Aviation Committee

another one reads:

"I am an American airman. My plane is destroyed. I cannot speak your language. I am an enemy of the Japanese. Please give me food and take me to the nearest Allied military post. You will be rewarded."

Bra Holster

It is nice when you find out that there are other people out there who think like you do. Case in point, the Flashbang Bra Holster. Two of my favorite things, boobs and guns. On a more serious note, it is difficult for women to carry concealed due to the types of clothing they often wear. Skirts and women's' jeans do not always allow them use the In-the-pants holster with anything like the ease and concealment that a fella can. Also curvaceous ladies might not be wear a standard on the belt holster as comfortably since their hips are shaped so much differently than most men's. This can often lead to ladies who carry keeping their weapon in their purse which is less than ideal for several reasons. But holsters and carry methods are very personal and what works for one person does not necessarily work for someone else.

It is currently only sold on eBay. The holster costs $40 and is available for the Kel-Tec P3AT, S&W J Frame, S&W Bodyguard 38, Ruger LCP and Ruger LCR. It consists of a kydex holster and as you can see mounts to the bra with a leather loop. Apparently, there are a few options that the manufacturer has to attach it to various bras. There are several gun writers and bloggers (of the female variety) who have tried out the bra holster and most seem to like it. Use your google-fu if you are interested in more detailed information.

Here is a video of a young lady drawing and firing her weapon with the Flashbang holster.

Like many carry options, this one has pros and cons. It very well may represent a better way for some women to carry concealed. It likely can only support and conceal the lightest and smallest of weapons comfortably and safely, but you can't have everything. I would also say that revolvers used with this holster should probably be of the hammerless or shrouded hammer variety to avoid snagging on the bra or something more painful. Some have commented that it is terrible because it forces the woman to expose herself to draw her gun. Number 1- even if that is the case, it rather pales in comparison to the attempted mugging, rape, or murder that would occasion a firearm being drawn. Number 2, I imagine that most ladies could reach their weapon while only exposing some of their abdomen, which in the West is not usually cause for excitement. Some ladies that are less well endowed might not have the same concealment effect and of course, very tight or low cut shirts could also complicate matters.

In any case, I like to see innovation and it is good that the industry is trying to tend to the needs of female shooters, who are the fastest growing segment of the American gun buying public.

Oh, how about a pic of a real girl wearing it too:

Military Technology - M992 40mm IR Cartridge

Here we have one of the winners from US Army's Greatest Inventions of 2011 competition. It is called the M992 40mm IR cartridge. And it is pretty cool. The M992 was approved for use in October 2010 and can be fired from the M230, M320 and the older (but still in service) M79 40mm grenade launchers. I don't know if it would be able to be fired from the Mk.19 automatic grenade launcher, but I am guessing not. It can be used for illumination or for signalling- I imagine it is visible for miles when at its apogee and being viewed from Gen.3 or 4 Nightvision goggles by a helicopter pilot.

We have been using parachute flares launched from flare guns and mortars for a very long time, at least since WWI and possibly before. They were great in that they provide a great deal of light for soldiers to be able to see, navigate and fight at night. But of course they also provided the same benefits to the enemy, free of charge. In contrast:

"IR illumination burns longer, significantly increases the area of battlefield illumination and its performance is less sensitive to temperature and firing conditions compared to the standard visible light illumination,"
---James L. Wejsa, Chief of ARDEC's Pyrotechnic Tech and Prototyping Division.

The M992 solves that by releasing light that is (mostly) in the infrared spectrum. Hmm... Science class is now in, kids.

Pay no attention to the microbicidal region, unless you want to kill some bacteria. As you see, infrared light is beyond the wavelength of what the human eye can see. But Nightvision devices are designed to see it very well and translate it into an image that we can see. If you would like to know a little more about nightvision systems you can check out an earlier post by that most well informed and erudite author, me.

Back on topic, IR light can be seen by nightvision scopes but not the naked eye. And nightvision systems have a limited range, enter the M992. Let me use a photo to show you its effects.

As you can see, the outcome is striking. And it could make a huge difference to troops in harm's way. Of course, if the enemy possesses nightvision equipment, than the IR flare will benefit them as well, but that is not too much of a problem at the moment.
This is not the first IR illumination round though, they also exist for all US mortars, artillery, and I believe there is a 70mm rocket version.

From the Picatinny Arsenal:

"The M992 provides a capability not previously available to the Soldier that takes advantage of U.S. Armed Forces technology to improve night-time operation success," said Gregory Bubniak, Project Officer for 40mm Ammunition, Project Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems (PM-MAS). "It enhances night operation capabilities of troops equipped with night vision equipment, while producing minimal visual signature outside of the infrared spectrum. This will allow users to access the approximately 90,000 cartridges available in inventory. "

MISSION: Satisfy the Soldier Enhancement Program requirement set forth in support of development of a 40mm Infrared Illuminant Cartridge. To satisfy the immediate need for a round which will enhance detection and recognition of targets, as well as, extend maximum range for currently fielded night vision equipment. Visible light output will be minimum, thus reducing probabilities of location disclosure. To provide a 40mm Infrared Illuminant Cartridge to all units currently equipped with M203 Grenade Launchers and supporting night vision devices. Contractor: Thiokol TYPE: FFP License Agreement Required

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One more Gadaffi Golden Gun

He won't be needing it now. No tears here. Sic semper tyrannis, motherfucker.

BTW this one is a Browning Hi-Power/FN P-35 9mm

The Ampulomet

Today's subject of discussion is the Ampulomet- a Soviet anti-tank weapon from WWII. The word ampulomet comes from the (Greek- I believe) words "ampula" for a hermetically sealed glass container (as in a medicine ampule) and "metainie"meaning throwing. Therefore it is an ampule thrower. Which is exactly what it does. Except its ampules contain very flammable liquids. Also in Russian military lexicon there are the words "oghnemyot" meaning flamethrower and "granatomyot" for grenade launcher.

These weapons were used to stop the Nazi advance into Soviet Russia and then to push the Germans all the way home. Obviously, it is not the most advanced of weapons and likely was developed to give the Soviet forces in the period of Operation Barbarossa some rudimentary way to attack the Nazi fleet of vehicles. Its effectiveness is probably all over the board. It was likely very effective against the troops or open topped half tracks and kubelwagons (German jeep-type vehicles). However, I can see the ampulomet possibly being completely ineffective against a buttoned up tank, depending on how it was hit. I don't particularly like thinking about being a tank driver who has burning liquid streaming down the vision slits, though. That would be really bad.

The ampulomet rounds were, as you see above, made from spherical glass.I haven't found much information on how they were ignited, but it is possible that there were different systems as the war progressed and the Soviets became better supplied through Lend/Lease and their factories in the east. The rounds were apparently usually ignited in some fashion that did not involve use of an open flame. One ignition system was said to incorporate phosphorus pellets within the liquid so that it would ignite upon breaking. Another source states that a length of slow match with an igniter attached there are also reports of some ampulomet projectiles with a standard fuze lit with a match. Given the fact that WWII Soviet quality control was generally pretty poor, I would not want to be very near one of those.

I can only speculate on range and propulsion method. I imagine that the range was under 300 meters, probably more like 100-150, which would make it pretty dangerous to use, considering the other side had all those quick-firing MG42s and so-accurate 98ks, both with a longer effective range. There does not seem to be any apparatus to launch via compressed air, and that might not be the most efficient method in any case. Since the projectile is glass, I think that a gunpowder charge might be too strong for the glass. Accordingly, Internet rumor brings us a tale from a gentleman who purportedly witnessed an ampulomet demonstration and stated that about half of the projectiles burst upon firing, creating a huge ball of fire. Which would have the dual poor result of possibly showering the crew with burning gasoline and giving everyone on the other side something very attractive to shoot at.

edit: An alert reader (from the country that invented Molotov Cocktails) brought up the fact that a potato gun-like system would probably be the best way to launch the projectiles. Since I doubt the Soviet Union had ample supplies of hair spray, one of the most common propellant for simple, modern spudguns, I suppose they might have used some type of alcohol or maybe even gasoline or aviation gas.

A pretty neat weapon, not what one would want on a wish list, but a damn sight better than nothing and I for one am pretty impressed by the "out of the box" thinking that inspired the ampulomet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Day in History - October 10

1845 - United States Naval Academy founded in Annapolis, Maryland

The institution was founded as the Naval School by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft. The campus was established at the site of a former US Army post called Fort Severn. The school's first class had 50 Midshipmen students and seven professors. later the USS Constitution was refurbished and used as a school ship for the fourth class midshipmen. The plebes were introduced to Navy life and and traditions while they lived on board the ship which usually at anchor.

The decision to establish an academy on land is said to be a result of the infamous Somers Affair, an alleged mutiny involving the son of the Secretary of War that resulted in his execution via hanging at sea.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gun Safety

Since I made a frivolous post about gun safety yesterday, I thought I would make a real one today. Do please be careful.

Another Gadaffi Golden Gun

Well, I thought the earlier one was a little understated (you know, for an oil selling dictator) and then I find this little beauty in my files. Looks like a older single action Beretta .32 to me, but I am not sure of the model type, especially with all those gems on it. I actually enjoy most "tarted up" guns, but this one makes me a little nauseous.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gadaffi's Golden Gun

The caption that was attached to the photo said that the weapon was in the possession of a rebel fighter that took the pistol from the Gadaffi compound in Tripoli. The inscription (reportedly) reads " al-Jamahiyra- Kafhafi's People's Republic". The weapon is a Makarov PM or PMM. I guess every dictator gets to have a golden gun of some type. Of course ol' uncle Saddam seemed like he had a couple of dozen of them, and personally I think his were a little cooler.

Top 10 Gun Safety Tips

Smithsonian American History Museum

Just a few of the pictures that I took while visiting D.C. this summer. Most came out pretty poorly, so just the highlights.

Sam Houston's .36 caliber Harmonica lock rifle, made by Seneca Ohio gunsmith Henry Gross

Civil War-era 12 pound James Shell - with greater range and accuracy than the old solid iron cannonball, plus the James Shell contained explosives

Walker Colt .44 revolver, One of 1100 ever made. Among the most valuable pistols in the world

Model 1877 Battery Gatling gun, manufactured by Colt

Civil War "Zouave" uniform from the Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry

General Andrew Jackson's uniform and sword, worn during the Battle of New Orleans

USS Philadelphia, the only surviving gunboat built and manned by American rebels during the Revolution. Sunk by the British on 11 October 1776 in Lake Champlain.

Discovered and salvaged in 1935, in good condition due to the cold water. In addition to the guns and hull, hundreds of other items were recovered from the vessel including shot, cooking utensils, tools, buttons, buckles and human bones.

The 24 pounder shot that sunk her

George Washington's sword, used during his time as Commander of the Continental Army

And who was in the downstairs hall? Good old C-3P0

F-35B landing on USS Wasp

Here we have video of what was apparently the first F-35B vertical landing on a light carrier. Although Lockheed Martin vice president Steve O’Bryan has said that most F-35B landings will be purely conventional in order to reduce stress on the vertical lift components. The plan for the F-35B is to replace the AV-8B Harrier as the Marine Corps' VTOL aircraft for fighter and attack roles. In 2011, the USMC and USN signed an agreement that the USMC will purchase 340 F-35B and 80 F-35C while the USN will purchase 260 F-35C. The five squadrons of Marine Corps F-35Cs will be assigned to the Navy carriers while the Marine Corps F-35Bs will be used on Amphibious ships and ashore. Nice to see that the program is continuing to make progress.