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The Royal Navy was still heavily a gun and battleship-centric force in the years just before World War II. So to help spot targets for its battleships, the Royal Navy in 1938 summoned manufacturers General Aircraft and Airspeed to develop two very similar prototype planes — which would become some of the most awkward-looking aircraft of the period.
Curiously, as milblogger Tony Wilkins noticed, the resulting Fleet Shadowers with their perched cockpits resembled the later 1950s-era Westland Wessex helicopter, better recognized in the United States in its modified version, the Sikorsky H-34.
General Aircraft’s G.A.L.38 and Airspeed’s A.S.39 looked similar, and each featured a single wing, mounted high, and four radial engines. The design called for a quiet, night-flying, carrier-launched plane with long endurance and low minimum speeds, allowing the aircraft to loiter and track enemy surface ships for hours at a time.
The aircraft had a crew of three, with the spotter sitting in a lower forward observation deck, with access to a radio operator in the rear — and both located beneath the pilot sitting conveniently above and out of the way.The Airspeed Fleet Shadower. Photo via Wikimedia
Naval expert Norman Polmar described the two Fleet Shadowers in his 2006 carrier aviation history as “among the most bizarre carrier aircraft ever attempted.”
Each variant — there was only one of each ever produced — featured four low-powered engines. General Aircraft’s G.A.L.38 and its 130-horsepower Pobjoy Niagara III engines had the advantage of greater endurance of 11 hours compared to the Airspeed A.S.39’s six, but the latter with its 140-horsepower Niagara V engines had a lower stall speed of 33 miles per hour compared to the G.A.L.38’s 39 miles per hour.
All in all, the greater endurance was probably an advantage for General Aircraft version. The wings set high on the fuselage allowed both planes to maintain lift even at low speeds.
The Fleet Shadower wasn’t a terrible idea, in theory. Just obsolete by the time of the G.A.L.38’s first flight on May 13, 1940, and the A.S.39’s first flight on Oct. 17 the same year.
Had the aircraft come a decade earlier, the Royal Navy might have put them into service. But the realities of the Battle of the Atlantic — where the primary threat to British shipping came from submarines — meant different requirements than a slow-moving scout designed for a clash between surface fleets.
In any case, land-based bombers equipped with newly-invented radar and configured for maritime patrol duties vastly exceeded the Fleet Shadowers’ range and spotting abilities. As a result, the ungainly aircraft turned into a historical footnote.
Britain’s Bizarre ‘Fleet Shadower’ Showed Up at the Wrong Time was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
by NEIL GORDON
In late March 2017, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives called on the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate an aircraft parts supplier suspected of gouging the Pentagon for many years.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Acting Defense Department I.G. Glenn Fine requesting a probe into “potential waste, fraud and abuse” by TransDigm Group, a Cleveland, Ohio-based conglomerate with a massive footprint in the aviation industry.
Through the dozens of U.S. and European manufacturers it has bought up over the years, TransDigm makes parts that are present on nearly every commercial and military aircraft in service today. Most of those parts are proprietary products, for which TransDigm owns the design or is the sole supplier.
Khanna said he’s concerned that TransDigm is using its market dominance to take advantage of its customers, including the Pentagon. Recent stories in the financial press have highlighted the company’s tendency to dramatically raise the price of parts after acquiring the manufacturer.
For example, Business Insider reported that TransDigm raised the price of Harco Laboratories’ cable assembly 352 percent from $1,737 to $7,864 after it bought the company in 2011, and two years later raised the price of Aerosonic Corporation’s vibration panel 300 percent after acquiring that company.
Khanna’s letter contains other examples of similar post-acquisition price hikes. In a statement, TransDigm defended its conduct. “TransDigm has been and remains committed to conducting business within the framework of the applicable laws and regulations across all areas and geographies in which we operate and we strongly disagree with recent allegations to the contrary.”
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to supplying products that support the critical functions of our armed forces as well as commercial airplanes in use around the world.”
TransDigm’s pricing practices have a direct impact on taxpayers. The Defense Department, which accounts for roughly 30 percent of TransDigm’s sales, once paid around $5.3 million more than the fair and reasonable price for some of the company’s parts, according to a 2006 audit.
In addition, Khanna asked the I.G. to look into whether TransDigm “has been operating as a hidden monopolist” by using various methods to conceal from Pentagon contracting officers that it’s a sole-source supplier.
For example, TransDigm will sometimes falsely create the appearance of a competitive bid by selling parts through other companies, known as exclusive distributors. The Defense Department has long known about the perils of buying parts through exclusive distributors.
In a 2008 audit, the Pentagon I.G. advised the government to avoid this type of purchasing arrangement, warning that it “adds a duplicate layer of administration and shipments to the traditional procurement process” and prevents the government from being able to negotiate fair prices and obtain best value.
Khanna also noted that 12 TransDigm subsidiaries failed to disclose the identity of their corporate parent in the System for Award Management contractor registration database. He reminded the IG that posting misleading or inaccurate information in SAM carries serious criminal, civil and administrative penalties.
He further noted that following publication of the inaccurate disclosure, the company amended the SAM data.
Khanna’s letter should resonate with a new president who is not shy about expressing his displeasure with wasteful defense spending. In December, then president-elect Trump took to Twitter to blast the spiraling costs of Boeing’s 747 Air Force One upgrade and Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter, both of which include TransDigm parts.
Over the years, the Project on Government Oversight has repeatedly documented the problems in the military parts system, which mainly boil down to rules and practices that hamstring the government’s ability to negotiate fair and reasonable prices and get the best deals for taxpayers.
Hopefully Khanna’s letter puts pressure on the Pentagon to probe TransDigm’s practices and spurs the Defense Department and Congress to reform the acquisition system.
One Congressman Suspects a Major Airplane Parts-Maker Is Screwing Over the Pentagon was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
by MATTHEW MOSS
In the mid-1980s, Belgian firearms-maker Fabrique Nationale began working on a new personal-defense weapon. In time, it evolved into the iconic P90.
But not before producing several rather bizarre prototypes.
In 1989, NATO issued a specification for two personal-defense weapons — one a pistol and the other a shoulder-fired compact submachine gun. The pistol was to weigh less than one kilogram while the shoulder-fired weapon would weigh less than three kilograms.
Both weapons would fire a cartridge with improved range, accuracy and terminal ballistic performance compared to guns firing the nine-by-19-millimeter round.
NATO planned to equip rear-echelon troops — personnel who couldn’t carry or didn’t need a standard-issue rifle — with these new weapons. NATO believed that, in the event of war, Soviet special forces would attempt to disrupt Western lines of communication and logistics, so it was important to arm support troops with a weapon firing a round that could penetrate Soviet body armor at close range.The shoulder-fired prototype. Source
F.N.’s answer to this problem had been in development since 1986, gradually evolving from several unusual prototypes. The unifying aspects of the designs were the special SS90 cartridge and a high-capacity horizontal magazine.
Designers Jean-Paul Denis and Marc Neuforge had developed the new 5.7-by-28-millimeter SS90 round to replace the nine-by-19-millimeter cartridge that was then, and still is, common in submachine guns. F.N. hoped that a new weapon firing the SS90 round would suffer less recoil while retaining adequate stopping power.
The first F.N. prototype appears to have been a shoulder-fired design, while the second was a handheld, point-and-shoot weapon.The point-and-shoot prototype. Source
F.N. announced the development of the P90 in 1988. In 1989, Rene Predazzer patented a top-mounted horizontal magazine incorporating a spiral feedway that rotated the cartridge before it entered the weapon’s action. This loading system came to define the P90.
In 1992, F.N. refined the P90’s 5.7-by-28-millimeter ammunition, slightly shortening the projectile. A year later, F.N. redesigned the P90 and its magazine to chamber the SS190. The new aluminum-core SS190 round was 2.7 millimeters shorter than the round it replaced, but had slightly more mass.
In January 1995, Predazzer patented an unconventional pistol design incorporating his top-loading longitudinal magazine. This appears to be an evolution of the second handheld prototype and, in theory, fulfilled the pistol element of NATO’s personal-defense weapon specification. Several years later in 1998, F.N. launched development of a 5.7-by-28-millimter pistol, the Five-Seven.
It would be a decade before NATO finally evaluated the P90 submachine gun. In 2002, NATO testers pitted the F.N.’s 5.7-by-28-millimeter round against Heckler & Koch’s rival 4.6-by-30-millimeter round. The alliance found the F.N. round to be superior, but Germany rejected the trials’ recommendations and NATO declined to adopt either round.
The final P90 design uses a blowback action and fires from a closed bolt, which improves the weapon’s accuracy. Feeding from a 50-round magazine, the P90 is fully ambidextrous, with two sets of back-up sites — one on either side of its collimating optical sight — plus charging handles and magazine-release catches on either side and an ambidextrous safety located just below the trigger.
The design makes use of new polymers. The translucent magazine is made from polycarbonate.
Despite its unusual shape, the P90 is an ergonomic weapon and is easy to master. The P90 is an admirably flat-shooting automatic weapon despite its high cyclic rate of 900 rounds per minute.
More than a dozen countries have adopted the P90, primarily for special operations and counterterrorism units. Belgium is the only country to have adopted it for its original purpose — arming rear-echelon troops.
Some Pretty Weird Prototypes Preceded the P90 Submachine Gun was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
by BOB NORRIS
On April 22, 1944, 26 B-24 bombers from the U.S. Army Air Corps’ 453rd Bombardment Group took off from Old Buckenham Airfield in England. Their target — a railway marshaling yard in Hamm, Germany.
The pilot of the lead B-24 was Bill Norris, my father and a future Air Force test pilot. Norris, then in his early 20s, was not happy. The group had decided to surprise the Germans by launching the planes in the daytime — a departure from standard procedure.
It was a tactic the bombardment group would not repeat.
The problem was, departing when the sun was up meant returning when the sun was down. “Another example of masterful mission variation planning and execution,” Norris joked decades later.
“The penetration into Germany and bombing were nearly normal,” Norris explained. The 453rd Bombardment Group’s official history seconds Norris’ account. “Bombing results were excellent,” the history notes.
The problem occurred on the flight back to England. “The return was a real nightmare,” Norris said.
“German night-fighters followed us home until we were told to turn on navigation lights for penetration separation and recovery,” Norris said. “In just a couple minutes, the black night was well-illuminated by flaming B-24s in the sky over southeast England.”
“I directed the squadron to shut off their lights and pick any airfield they could find. I found Old Buck and approached to land. A Ju-88 was firing at us on final approach and the gunners were returning fire ’til we touched down. We sustained several 20-millimeter [cannon] hits in the wings and tail, but no one was injured.”
“Many aircraft had encounters with intruders,” the official history comments unironically.
“Needless to say,” Norris quipped, “we did not do that again.”In the photo at left, Bill Norris stands first row, second from left. At right — 453rd Bombardment Group B-24s. Photo via the author
On a separate mission that same spring, Norris and his crew had to contend with an equally dangerous screw-up — one that required some mid-flight engineering on a malfunctioning plane.
“We were alerted for a mission and the usual procedure was for the crew to pre-flight the B‑24 and munitions-load prior to mission preparation and briefing,” Norris recalled. “As squadron lead, our navigator and bombardier prepared the route and target folders while I worked with operations on the departure, formation and in‑flight procedures.”Our group of 26 B-24s — each loaded with four 2,000-pound bombs — was to join hundreds of other bombers and fighters from the 8th Air Force on the mission. Our aircraft’s load included a couple of 100-pound smoke bombs because, as lead, our formation dropped on our release and the smoke bombs acted as a marker.All was well until our crew chief found an engine problem that couldn’t be fixed in time for take‑off. Therefore, we had to use a backup aircraft. Time was moving rapidly toward mission take‑off time and we had a new bird to pre-flight. We immediately encountered a problem in that the spare’s bomb load wasn’t correct and had to be downloaded and replaced in the dark and rain well before sunrise.Adding even more to the degree of difficulty was the fact that the spare B‑24 had several major differences from our H-model, including the cockpit layout, flight controls. defensive weaponry and the bomb sight. But there was one particular difference between it and our normal aircraft that was about to bite us in the keester. The two birds had different locations for the pitot-static system which provide the pilots with airspeed, altitude and rate of climb/descent.453rd Bombardment Group B-24s. Flickr photoThe download/upload of bombs took darn near every bit of the time remaining and we were pressed to man-up, crank up the four engines and get to the runway to lead the takeoff sequence.As usual, the weather was lousy. A ragged 600 foot ceiling, moderate rain and solid clouds from 1,800 to 20,000 feet. We had specified climb corridors and routes since there were several nearby bomber and fighter groups executing similar departures.The plan was for each of the 25 B-24s following us from Old Buck to penetrate the clouds individually and — once on top — rendezvous with us via the Buncher 6 radio beacon. We would then join with other groups to form the Division as we departed the English coast for Germany.By that time it would be daylight and we knew German flak would begin right away — prior to crossing the coast inland — from flak barges and would continue in varying intensity and accuracy until we re-crossed the Channel on the way home.For example, one battery at Abbeville always scored hits, while others could not seem to hit anything. When not in the midst of flak, we’d be under attack by Luftwaffe fighters. The boys out of Abbeville earned a reputation for being especially deadly.At left — A B-24 of the 453rd Bombardment Group drops supplies to Allied troops. At right — B-24s of the 453rd Bombardment Group. 8th Air Force Historical Society of Pennsylvania photoWe took the runway with the deputy-lead on the right wing. I applied power and we rolled slowly down the runway, heavy with full fuel and the bomb load. I eased the B‑24 off the ground and called for the gear retraction. Checking the instruments, I found — with some trepidation — that we had no airspeed, erratic rate of climb and questionable altitude. There was no choice but to proceed and soon we were mired in thick cloud and rain.Fortunately, the aircraft was flying well and we were climbing at a positive — if unknown — rate. Without the gauges we rely upon in zero visibility, I had no choice but to fly the aircraft by attitude, power and the seat of my pants. We needed to unscrew this ASAP, so I called for Chris, our flight engineer, to make his way up to the cockpit and explained the situation.Given that our pitot-static system was totally defunct, we ran through the possibilities and quickly diagnosed the problem. In our hasty departure, the protective covers had to have been left on the tubes shutting off both the ram and static air sources needed by our gauges.Problem was — even though we understood what went wrong — we still had to solve it because we needed both airspeed and altitude for bombing, to say nothing about normal flying and recovery, assuming we got home in one piece.Running out of the proverbial airspeed, altitude and ideas, our solution was a bit drastic, but none other came to mind. As I kept us climbing wings level, Chris got his tool box, went up to the bombardier’s compartment and chiseled out a sizable hole in the side of the fuselage just ahead of where he knew the left-hand pitot tube to be.He then reached out and pulled the cover off the pitot tube and — like magic — we had airspeed, altitude and rate of climb for the rest of the mission.The hole was easily explained as battle damage since we had collected multiple holes from heavy flack and German fighters. But, to my knowledge, this specific bit of mission information never made it into the debriefing folder.An unintentional oversight, I’m sure.
In 1944, a Malfunctioning B-24 Bomber Required Mid-Air Surgery was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
by ROBERT BECKHUSEN
Around 80 percent of the more than five million German military deaths in World War II occurred on the Eastern Front. This terrible conflict with the Red Army consumed great quantities of men and material until the Soviets decisively ended the war by capturing Berlin in May 1945.
During that time, the Red Army underwent a radical transformation, having been decimated by Joseph Stalin’s purges before Hitler’s armies invaded on June 22, 1941, inflicting horrendous losses.
But as the war progressed, the two sides effectively traded places, with the Red Army honing a mechanized “deep battle” doctrine that more closely resembled earlier German tactics — just as the German army fell into disarray as war-time casualties took their toll.
All the while, the Western Allies provided enormous quantities of supplies and other aid under the Lend-Lease policy. The United States and the United Kingdom supplied more than 21 million tons of aid to the Soviet Union during the war, including thousands of tanks and warplanes.
But the question of how much this aid affected the outcome of the war would become important not only for historians, but as a matter of national pride, as the Soviet Union went on to diminish Lend-Lease’s role in helping turn the tide of battle. Western historians would, perhaps for similar reasons, overstate the role of the aid in Soviet success.
The reality was a bit more complicated — and perhaps inconclusive. Most likely, the Soviets would have won regardless, as the Eastern Front for the Germans was unwinnable after the Battle of Stalingrad, before most of the aid to the USSR arrived. But Lend-Lease also certainly helped shorten the war and saved lives.British Matilda tanks heading to Russia. Photo via WikimediaArmor
The Allies supplied more than 12,000 tanks to the Soviet Union. More than 5,000 came from the United Kingdom and Canada and included Valentine, Churchill and Matilda tanks. The United States, for its part, supplied nearly 1,400 M3 Lee tanks and more than 4,000 M4 Shermans.
While a substantial amount, these numbers were small in comparison to the tens of thousands of T-34s — the Red Army’s mainstay — produced during the conflict. The T-34 boasted superior armor, maneuverability and firepower.
The British tanks, having been supplied earlier in the war, were particularly handy in 1941 and 1942, the most decisive period in the war. But Soviet tankers were not fond of the British machines, especially the early-generation Valentines and Matildas, which had small turrets and underpowered cannons.
To be sure, the tanks were better than nothing, but outmatched in direct tank-on-tank combat with the latest German Panzers then rolling out of the Third Reich’s factories. David Glantz, a historian and author of When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler, noted that Soviet tankers preferred the American tanks to the British ones, but preferred Soviet ones most of all.
“[The Sherman’s] narrow treads made it much less mobile on mud than its German and Soviet counterparts, and it consumed great quantities of fuel,” Glantz wrote. “In fact, U.S. Army Ordnance planners had standardized this width early in the war to ensure that Shermans would fit onto ocean transports and across existing U.S. bridging equipment, two considerations that meant nothing to the Soviets.”
Which is something of an irony. The Sherman’s standardized tread width, which the Soviets didn’t like, helped get the tanks from the United States to the Soviet Union in the first place.A P-63 fighter supplied to the Soviet Union under Lend-Lease. Photo via WikimediaAircraft
The Soviet Union and the Western Allies took different approaches to air power during the Second World War. In the West, advocates of strategic bombing and interceptors won out, and resulted in air arms which were well-equipped at striking deep into Germany.
The Soviet Union had different priorities, and preferred aircraft suited toward striking targets on the battlefield. The armored Ilyushin Il-2 ground-attack plane embodied this different concept — and the Soviets produced more than 36,000 during the war, more than any other military aircraft in history.
The Soviets were thus disappointed in the 4,700 U.S. P-39 Aircobras — although they were effective — and 3,000 British Hawker Hurricanes supplied under Lend-Lease. Far more consequential were the thousands of Western transport aircraft which bolstered the Red Army’s logistical backbone, and A-20 Havoc light bombers which contributed to Soviet offensive maneuvers.British military personnel handling U.S. machine guns en route to the Soviet Union. Photo via WikimediaEverything else
The most significant chunk of Lend-Lease was less obvious. Trucks by the hundreds of thousands enabled the Red Army to mechanize itself, thereby allowing it to deepen and capitalize on armored breakthroughs through German lines, worsening Axis losses and speeding up the pace of the war.
This was the “deep battle” doctrine’s circulatory system and was key to the eventual Soviet victory. Without trucks, thousands if not millions more Soviet soldiers could have lost their lives in attacks on prepared German positions, as the Germans would have had more time to fall back and prepare.
With the trucks, the Soviets could continue pressing the Axis armies, keeping them off balance, all the way back to the Berlin.
The Allies also supplied vast quantities of fuel, clothing, machine guns, ammunition, metals, radios and industrial equipment — all of which softened the war’s blow to the USSR’s agricultural and industrial base.
“Without Lend-Lease … the Soviet economy would have been even more heavily burdened by the war effort,” Glantz noted.
But it’s unlikely the aid turned the war entirely in the Soviet Union’s favor, as the German military was overstretched even during the 1941 invasion. That vulnerability was exposed terribly during the Red Army’s 1941–1942 Moscow counter-offensive — and it’s unlikely Germany would have won the war even if it had captured Moscow. And that was when Lend-Lease was just beginning.
But Lend-Lease certainly helped in many ways. “If the Western Allies had not provided equipment and invaded northwest Europe [our emphasis], Stalin and his commanders might have taken twelve to eighteen months longer to finish off the Wehrmacht,” Glantz noted.
“The result would probably have been the same, except that Soviet soldiers would have waded at France’s Atlantic beaches rather than meeting the Allies at the Elbe.”
Lend-Lease Saved Countless Lives — But Probably Didn’t Win the Eastern Front was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
by MATTHEW MOSS
Frenchman Léon Barthe established Manufacture d’Armes de Bayonne in 1920. While named in the style of France’s great national arsenals — MAS, MAT and MAC — MAB was actually a private enterprise.
Apparently, profit motivated Barthe to keep right on producing pistols even after his country fell to the Nazis.
MAB brought a series of pocket pistols to market during the 1920s, including the .25 ACP Models A and B and the .32 ACP Models C and D. Barthe based the latter on John Browning’s FN Model 1910, albeit with some ergonomic changes. The Model D was slightly larger than the 1910 was and also came chambered in .380 with an eight-round magazine.
In 1939, with war imminent, the French military placed an order for 16,000 Model Ds. Many of these were issued to the French navy, as the French army had just adopted the Modèle 1935A and Modèle 1935S.
MAB continued producing Model Ds after the fall of France in 1940, first under the Vichy puppet government and, later, the German occupation force. The Heereswaffenamt assigned MAB the inspection mark WaA251.
MAB produced as many as 54,000 Model Ds for the Germans and French Vichy government.
After the war, French police forces at home and in France’s colonies in Algeria and Indochina continued using the Model D. MAB manufactured approximately 300,000 Model Ds.
Originally published at Historical Firearms.
France’s Fall Didn’t Make Any Difference to Gun-Maker MAB was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
by GONZALO RENGEL
Argentina was almost the first country to develop a small, supersonic cruise missile. Way back in 1960.
On May 30 of that year, Dr. Reimar Horten — a former warplane designer for Nazi Germany — met with officials at the Aerotechnical Institute of Argentina’s Military Aircraft Factory, or FMA, to propose what he described as “supersonic flying bomb.”
Horten had emigrated to Argentina after World War II, leaving behind his brother, an equally accomplished aeronautical engineer.
Although Horten cast his flying bomb as a logical evolution of Germany’s wartime V-1 buzz bomb, in concept it had more in common with today’s supersonic cruise missiles.
Horten’s missile never got past the concept stage — fortunately, perhaps, for British forces that would battle the Argentine military 22 years later.
Horten’s proposed missile was 15 feet, nine inches long, had a delta-wing configuration and was powered by a Rolls Royce Soar turbine that was fed by a supersonic axisymmetric air intake located around the missile body in a rather unconventional backward position.
A fixed air intake of this type is optimized for supersonic cruising in air vehicles where the priority is stability. When the priority is maneuverability, the air intake has movable elements inside it to modify the geometry of the air intake, according to the speed of flight and possible maneuvers.
The nose of Horten’s missile contained a radar and navigation equipment. The delta wing held the kerosene fuel. This wing had a symmetrical profile with a sharp leading edge, giving the flying bomb a top speed of Mach 2.5.
Argentina had actually begun testing supersonic wings as early as 1953 at the FMA’s new wind tunnel, hoping to fit them to the I.A. 37 and I.A. 48 fighters that Horten also helped to design. Testers determined that the ideal wing profile for the I.A. 37 was one with 10-percent thickness at 40 percent of the chord.
Argentina canceled both of Horten’s fighters in 1960.The I.A. 37. Photo via Wikipedia
Although Horten’s missile never got tested in the wind tunnel, it’s likely that some of the profiles tested for the I.A. 37 and I.A. 48 influenced the missile’s own profile.
In order to control the missile in flight, two small triangular drifts — equipped with small rudders for directional control — were located in both winglets. The wings were to be equipped with elevators.
Horten wanted to produce a supersonic missile with a reasonable war load and range. That explained the comparatively small size of his proposed design. He expected to obtain supersonic speed with the thrust of an existing powerplant, meaning the missile had to fall within certain weight, geometry and aerodynamic parameters.
Horten’s flying bomb launched from a solid-rocket-boosted trolley that ascended a 40-foot-long ramp. It could travel as far as 270 miles in its standard configuration, and Horten proposed to add range by reducing the weight of the warhead. Cutting the explosive load from 1,100 pounds to 660 pounds boosted the range to 540 miles.
Horten also proposed an air-launched version of the missile that could travel the maximum 540-mile range with the full, 1,100-pound warhead. By 1960, the only aircraft in Argentine air force service that could carry Horten’s flying bomb were World War II-vintage Lancaster and Lincoln bombers — albeit with extensive modifications to the bombers.
By the early 1960s, the Lancaster and Lincoln bombers already considered obsolete. By 1967, Argentine retired both models. In late 1970, the country acquired British-made Canberra jet bombers that could have carried Horten’s missile, had the missile ever become more than a mere concept.@aleklicho art
Once launched, the missile was guided at first by radio — for direction — and gyroscopes to control altitude and roll. At cruising height, the gyroscopes and aneroid capsules combined with chronometers to fix the trajectory. In close proximity to the target, the on-board radar equipment took over guidance.
Horten’s 1960 report doesn’t specify what type of radar equipment the missile would carry or who would supply it. At the time, Argentina lacked the industrial base to produce its own miniature radars. Equally problematic, foreign supplies may very well have faced embargo by their own governments.
Some of the same problems affected the flying bomb’s powerplant. Horten proposed to fit the missile with the Rolls Royce Soar, a small disposable, axial-flow turbojet developed in the United Kingdom in the 1950s.
The Soar motor was relatively simple and could be stored for long periods with little maintenance. It was good for only 10 hours of flight. The British military intended to fit the Soar to the Vickers Red Rapier missile, but London canceled the Red Rapier in 1953.
It’s not clear the Argentina would have succeeded in importing Soar engines. The United Kingdom canceled the Soar project in 1965.
Undoubtedly, Horten’s missile was revolutionary. It also promised to be very, very expensive. At the time, the FMA was developing of the I.A. 37 and I.A. 48 and manufacturing the I.A. 35 and other planes. Leaving aside the import restrictions, completing a flying bomb would likely have proved beyond the FMA’s means.
Previously, the FMA had tried to develop the PAT 1 air-to-surface missile and PAT 2 surface-to-surface missile, both of which were continuations of Nazi German projects — and both of which Argentina canceled for technical, budgetary and safety reasons.
So it’s not surprising that Argentina opted not to develop Horten’s cruise missile.
But if it had, and if it managed to acquire appropriate radars and motors, with the Horten flying bomb Argentina could have been a world leader. There were no other missiles in this category at this time. America’s Martin Mace and Matador were subsonic. The Northrop Snark and North American Navaho were strategic cruise missiles.
The closest things in America to Horten’s project were the submarine-launched Rigel, Triton and Regulus missiles. But these were much larger weapons. The same was true of Soviet turbojet missiles such as the KS-1, K-10S and K-20.
This story originally appeared at Zona Militar.
From Nazi Germany to Argentina — A Proposal for the World’s First Small, Supersonic Cruise Missile was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
by JUSTIN AMES
With the sound of small-arms fire popping away at a range in the background, an instructor from Italy’s military police force — the Carabinieri — expertly flips over a rifle to demonstrate a swift and efficient reload to the students in front of him.
The students are members of the Kurdish Zeravani, which are likewise a military police force. They fumble with their rifles in an effort to replicate his smooth motions.
The Carabinieri instructors that are present are nevertheless pleased with what they see. The students are only a few days into their training, which lasts for weeks or even up to a year, but they appear engaged and eager to learn.
They’d better be. The Italians estimated it could take more than 30,000 skilled policemen to maintain order in Mosul alone, once Islamic State surrenders the strategic city.
Although today’s session is on the proper use of their weapons, the overall focus of this class for the Zeravani is on police work. The classes in this program, taught in English and translated into Kurdish, are specifically intended to develop capabilities such as crime scene investigation, conducting vehicle and body searches, setting up checkpoints and the like.
The training, taking place at a sprawling site on the outskirts of Erbil known as the Zeravani Tiger Training Center, is a joint effort on the part of the Western governments operating against Islamic State including the Americans, Italians, British and Germans, but also the Dutch, Norwegians, Finns and Hungarians, who don’t receive as much attention for their involvement.
In order to unify the military assistance being offered by these many nations, they agreed to operate under an umbrella known as the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center. The Italians, second only to the Americans in the number of troops they have on the ground in Iraq, are offering something unique though.
Italy is the only country offering police training in all of Iraq, including Kurdistan.
The idea of police work in a region ravaged by full-scale warfare may, at first glance, seem of secondary importance. However, it should be emphasized that the Zeravani, just like their Carabinieri instructors, are a military police force.
During times of peace, Italy’s Carabinieri serve a police function. Should Italy find itself at war, however, the Carabinieri would be moved into regular combat roles. In other words, they wear two hats.
The Kurdish Zeravani operate in the same manner. They are under the control of the Kurdish Ministry of the Interior, but are also a part of the Peshmerga — the military forces of Kurdistan — thus providing support to civilian police and to the military.
“This dual role seems to be a good fit for the complexities of the landscape of Kurdistan,” one Italian cop said. The individual Carabinieri instructors asked to maintain their anonymity. “One minute they might need to be policemen doing police work and the next minute they might need to be soldiers.”
However, police work is increasingly relevant in Kurdistan as the threat from Islamic State has evolved with the numerous setbacks the extremist group has experienced since its peak in the summer of 2014. Islamic State has now been completely pushed out of the territory claimed by Kurdistan and is seemingly close to being pushed out of Iraq as well.
Therefore, the concern for Kurdistan at this time is on addressing an insurgency rather than engaging in large-scale, mechanized warfare.
Many in Kurdistan express the belief that an Islamic State operating as an insurgency will actually be more dangerous for Kurdistan than they are in their present form. “ISIS will be more dangerous after they are completely defeated than they are now. Now they are contained within the territory they hold, but after defeat they will be everywhere,” one Carabinieri reasoned.
The methods for contending with an insurgency are quite distinct from that of a conventional war. An insurgency requires police work. A specific example one Carabinieri instructor cited is that of an insurgent bomb-maker. Improvised Explosive Devices are among the most potent weapons in the insurgents’ arsenal.
They are quite deadly, but also, in experienced hands, are simple to prepare and to place. “It may take soldiers to clear a city held by an occupying enemy, but it takes the work of a police detective to carefully pick apart an IED, preserve potential evidence and then follow up on fingerprints or traces of DNA to track down a bomb maker hidden in the general population,” the Carabinieri instructor explained.
The training by the Italians takes place at three sites in Kurdistan — Sulaymaniyah, Atrush and Erbil — with Erbil hosting the largest training center. In Iraq as a whole, there is also a contingent of Carabinieri running a training program in Baghdad for the Iraqi government.
During our visit, the Italians gave the impression that they enjoyed their work and often lightheartedly joked around with Capt. Darsem Mawlud, the Kurdish coordination officer at the training center. However, they say that things are not always this easygoing. Sometimes in the beginning of a class they can face resistance from the students.
The Carabinieri are quite aware of the fact that they are offering advice to Kurdish men and women who have sometimes been fighting for decades. However, these same individuals, while not lacking in bravery or experience, are all too often almost completely untrained. Addressing this incongruity can require a fair degree of diplomacy.
The instructors explained they take a soft touch on their work with the Kurds. Rather than simply telling the Kurds the “right” way to perform a task, the Italians will have the Zeravani show them how they do something, such as handcuffing a suspect. After the Kurds demonstrate their methods, the Italians will then show the Zeravani how the Italian Carabinieri do the same thing.
The methods the Italians demonstrate typically allow for safer handling of suspects or more accurate pistol fire or some other form of improvement on whatever the subject under discussion might be. The Kurdish students can observe this and consequently their resistance to try out and adopt the methods utilized by the Carabinieri dissipates.
Thus, the exercise avoids bruising delicate egos and becomes an exchange of experiences rather than a hierarchical student-teacher relationship.
Although with the military and police training they are conducting, the Italians have trained many thousands of Iraqis and Kurds, one Carabinieri said that 35,000 policemen will be needed to secure Mosul after Islamic State has been pushed out.
With numbers like that, he speculated that the Italians and other Western powers that make up the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center would be needed in this part of the world for many years to come.
by DARIEN CAVANAUGH
The myth of women serving only in auxiliary capacities or holding down the home front during times of conflict has always been highly questionable. History has shown time and again that women have actively participated in combat, to varying degrees in different cultures, for thousands of years.
The last century saw women fighting for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, in the Russian Army during World War I and World War II, with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army in the Vietnam War, among Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s band of rebels in the Cuban Revolution and in numerous other conflicts.
If those conflicts undermine the traditional narrative of women in warfare, then the Nicaraguan Revolution completely turned gender stereotypes on their head.
Women joined the ranks of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in far greater numbers than they had in any other rebel movement, arguably more so than in any other conflict in modern history until that point, and they served in all capacities.
Yet their role in the revolution is still often overlooked, even though they helped change the cultural landscape of Nicaragua, giving rise to a feminist movement that ultimately shaped gender politics throughout Central America — while even influencing the Contras, the Sandinistas’ enemy.
Like many developing nations, Nicaragua has suffered a violent history full of colonial conquest, genocide, slavery, uprisings and dictatorships. As Katherine Isbester notes in Still Fighting: The Nicaraguan Women’s Movement, 1977–2000, Nicaragua endured a coup d’etat, two U.S. invasions, two guerrilla insurgencies, a brutal dynastic dictatorship, a successful revolution and a failed counter-revolution in the 2oth century alone.
Amidst this backdrop of war and repression, patriarchal traditions often left women with little opportunity for social mobility. Isbester uses the story of Leonor Arguella de Huper, who was born into an oligarchical family in Managua in 1922 and lived through the regimes of Anastasio Somoza García and his two sons, as an illustration of what life was like for Nicaragua’s women before the revolution.
“Since we were not supposed to think, we were not granted the privilege of knowing anything,” Arguella de Huper recalled.“A woman was supposed to stay at home and be the kept woman of her husband (because they were never companions of friends, a lover maybe, but that was it). Women were objects … [They] didn’t even know about how their husbands earned money, much less about politics. And as long as the husband was not a drunkard … the women would put up with it. Marriage was forever.”
For women in lower economic classes, particularly the peasant farmers who lived in rural villages, life was even more difficult and offered fewer opportunities. Illiteracy was rampant among Nicaraguans of all classes, but particularly among the poor in general and women in particular, who were discouraged from seeking an education.
In 1961, Carlos Fonseca Amador, Silvio Mayorga and Tomás Borge Martínez formed the the National Liberation Front, the predecessor to the Sandinista National Liberation Front, known by its Spanish acronym FSLN. The FSLN was named after Augusto Sandino, who launched a revolution with some 200 guerrillas against the U.S.-backed government of conservative president Adolfo Díaz in 1927.Sandinista fighters during the burial of Abel Guadalupe Moreno in June 1979. Photo via Dora Maria Tellez / Flickr
Sandino and his rebels set up base in the Segovia Mountains and quickly gained support among the peasant population, leading to several victories against government forces.
As Sandino and other rebel forces grew more powerful, the government funneled more money into Nicaraguan National Guard, a combination military and police force, tasked with fighting the rebels. Once the National Guard seemed capable of handling the job, a U.S. Marine force that had been in Nicaragua to support the government withdrew in 1932 and left the National Guard to suppress the insurgency on its own.
President Juan Bautista Sacasa later instructed Gen. Anastasio Garcia Somoza to negotiate a peace deal with Sandino and the rebels. After a meeting with the rebel leadership in 1934, Somoza had Sandino and the officers who attended the meeting with him summarily executed.
Two years later, in 1936, Somoza forced Sacasa to resign and won an “election” in December of that year under highly suspicious circumstances in which Somoza supposedly earned more than 100,o00 votes while his rival earned less than 200. The Somoza family would rule the country for the next three and a half decades until the Sandinistas gained power in 1979.
To be sure, things were already beginning to change for women prior to the Sandinista revolution. Nicaraguan women were finally given the franchise in 1955, and increased industrialization under the Somoza regime led to higher literacy rates and employment in professional positions for women.
However, this was occurring under an oppressive regime that systematically employed torture, mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, executions and disappearances against political rivals and anyone merely suspected of dissent, including women.
The move towards women’s liberation accelerated as the Sandinistas rose to power, but even the rebels were slow to change at first. By 1967, there was still only one woman, Gladys Baez, among the ranks of Sandinista fighters. Women were supporting the revolution in other ways of course, but Baez was the only female combatant at the time.
Somoza’s forces captured and tortured Baez that year, which might have ended up saving her life. After her release, she went into hiding to nurse her wounds when almost the entire military wing of the FSLN, including Silvio Mayorga, were routed and killed at the battle of Pancasán.Sandinista fighters during the 1979 Leon offensive. Photos via Dora Maria Tellez / Flickr
The defeat set the Sandinista movement back several years and caused its leaders to reconsider their strategy. They shifted their focus to gaining broader popular support before launching major military offenses again. They also began to more actively recruit women and encourage them to assume military and leadership positions.
Things were still far from ideal for women among the Sandinistas, and the leadership was criticized by feminist authors at the time for harboring sexist sentiments, but the leadership was making moves towards equality.
“We are aware of compañeros that are revolutionaries in the street, in the workplace, in all parts, but are feudal lords of the gallows and the knife in the home,” Sandinista commander Tomás Borge wrote.
“Economic development on its own is not enough to achieve the liberation of women, and neither is the mere fact that women are organizing. There must be a struggle against the habits, traditions, and prejudices of men and women. We must launch a difficult and prolonged ideological struggle, a struggle equally undertaken by men and women.”
Ana Julia Guida joined the Sandinistas in 1973, when she was only 14 years old. In Sandino’s Daughters: Testimonies of Nicaraguan Women in the Struggle, she recalled that when she arrived at a Sandinista training school in the mountains, there was only one other woman, Monica Baltodano, present.
After training, Guida and eight or nine other recruits decided to form a guerrilla unit based in the mountains while the others they had trained with moved to organize supporters in villages, neighborhoods and universities.
“I was in the mountains for two and half years,” Guida wrote.“At first, I was the only woman. Later on, several more came. But it was never difficult being a woman there, not at all. The things that people gossip about when they think of women and men together in the guerrilla just aren’t true. There was never any lack of respect on the part of our male comrades. On the contrary, there was an incredible solidarity.”
Organizations such as the Luisa Amanda Espinosa Nicaraguan Women’s Association, or AMNLAE — named for the first woman to die fighting for the Sandinistas — bolstered efforts to recruit women into the rebel army. The group was established in 1977, initially as the Association of Women Concerned About National Crisis, and worked to advocate feminist causes within the Sandinista movement and Nicaraguan society.Sandinista fighters in 1979. Photo via the Institute of Nicaraguan and Central American History
The efforts of the Sandinista leadership and AMNLAE to bring women into the movement may have took a while to get going, but they did eventually see results. According to Norma Stoltz Chinchilla, author of Our Utopias: Guatemalan Women of the 20th Century, women had become an exceptionally prominent force in the Sandinista movement by the time it took control of Nicaragua.
“Women participated massively in the Nicaraguan revolution in roles that many observes have argued were more varied and significant than in any other twentieth century revolution” Chinchilla wrote in a 1983 report on Nicaragua for USAID. “They were fully incorporated into the actual fighting forces of the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN), not only in transportation, communication and logistics but in combat and positions of command, something unprecedented in Latin American history.”
Chinchilla acknowledged women’s involvement in revolutions that occurred in Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba and Uruguay prior to the Sandinista movement, but she argued there had never been such large numbers of women “in such high responsibility, with men as well as women within their command” as there were in Nicaragua.
She concludes that by the time the Sandinistas came to power, and during the subsequent campaigns to fight off the Contras, up to 30 percent of Sandinista combatants were women.
In a North American Congress on Latin America report, Patricia Flynn echoes Chincilla’s 30 percent estimate and adds that in the battle for Leon, the Sandinista’s final offensive before Anastasio Somoza Debayle resigned and fled the capital of Managua, four of the seven officers leading the Sandinista assault were women.
There is some debate over the exact numbers. Karen Kampwirth argues in her essay “Women in the Armed Struggles in Nicaragua” that women accounted for only 6.6 percent of Sandinista combat deaths, suggesting there was indeed some measures taken to keep women out of combat situations.
Kampwirth isn’t clear, however, on whether or not those numbers reflect cumulative death counts, including those killed in battles prior to women entering the fighting force in significant numbers. In the early years of the revolution, only men were fighting — and dying. That would skew the overall totals for the war. A more accurate assessment would require a statistical breakdown by years.
Regardless of the exact numbers, it is obvious that women were more integral to the Nicaraguan Revolution than perhaps any conflict in recent history. Even contemporary U.S. media reports felt compelled to acknowledge, with some hint of surprise, the women among guerrilla ranks.
“Sandinista fighters, both men and women, jubilantly waved their pistols and carbines,” stated a contemporary Chicago Tribute account of the Sandinistas taking Leon.
Chinchilla and others have noted that the prevalence of women among Sandinista combat units set a new standard for revolutionary movements in the region, with later rebel forces in El Salvador and Guatemala — as well as the Zapatista movement in Mexico and the conservative Contras in Nicaragua and El Salvador — enlisting greater numbers of women than those seen in regional conflicts prior to the Nicaragua Revolution.
The Nicaraguan Revolution was one of the most successful — in practical if not philosophical terms — of the numerous uprisings that swept across Latin American in the second half the 20th century.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew a U.S.-supported dictator, beat back a U.S.-funded counter-revolution, implemented political and economic reforms and maintained power through democratic elections for many of the years since the revolution.
However, the government of Sandinista president Daniel Ortega has been marred by corruption, and Nicaragua’s recent history has been shaped by Ortega’s family members and confidantes exerting a deepening control over the country’s institutions, media and major industries.
But if the numbers and testimonials are any indicator, the Sandinistas might not have been able to achieve power at all if they hadn’t let women serve as equals — or at least something close to it — on the front lines.
Women With Guns Helped Win the Nicaraguan Revolution was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
por ROBERT BECKHUSEN
El Estado Islámico, o ISIS, ha logrado un éxito creciente en el reclutamiento de adolescentes y preadolescentes en Occidente a través de los cuales planear y llevar a cabo sus ataques, según CTC Sentinel, el boletín informativo mensual del Combating Terrorism Center at West Point [Centro de Lucha contra el Terrorismo de West Point].
Pero lo más curioso es que muy pocos de estos ataques los planean “lobos solitarios” o terroristas autoradicalizados sin ningún tipo de contacto con un grupo o red más grande. De hecho, en la mayoría de los casos los adolescentes no se “autoradicalizan” sino que son captados directamente por miembros de la organización terrorista.
De 34 ataques perpetrados por adolescentes por orden o inspiración del ISIS en países occidentales desde septiembre de 2014, sólo el 20 por ciento lo fueron realmente en solitario, según el informe. En más del 17 por ciento de los ataques estuvo implicada alguna célula terrorista nacional sin relación con el Estado islámico, mientras que en la mitad de los casos existió algún tipo de contacto electrónico y en el 11'8 por ciento de los casos existió contacto directo en persona.
“Por lo tanto, no se puede afirmar que la principal amenaza terrorista proceda de adolescentes solitarios”, señaló Robin Simcox, investigador en contraterrorismo de la Heritage Foundation y autor del informe. “La difusión de su propaganda en Internet forma parte de las razones por las que el Estado Islámico ha logrado alcanzar un éxito sin precedentes con este grupo demográfico”, comentó Simcox.
Puede parecer obvio, pero tiene su importancia en la lucha contra el terrorismo. Si bien se le presta mucha atención a las causas sociales, psicológicas, ideológicas e incluso económicas por las que algunas personas se convierten en terroristas, además de aquellos casos de personas fácilmente influenciables aspirantes a yihadistas, resulta evidente que no se habrían radicalizado si sencillamente no hubieran sido captados por alguien más.
Acaba con los reclutadores y puede que haya menos reclutados.Rachid Kassim, reclutador del Estado Islámico, posiblemente fallecido en un ataque aéreo estadounidense en febrero de 2017. Foto de un vídeo de propaganda del ISIS
“El aumento de las redes sociales, su popularidad entre la generación del milenio y la habilidad tecnológica de esa misma generación a la hora de utilizarlas han contribuido a los esfuerzos del Estado Islámico”, refleja el informe.
Un buen ejemplo de ello son Abdelmalik Petitjean y Adel Kermiche, que a los 19 años (la identidad de la mayoría de los jóvenes reclutados por el ISIS se mantiene en secreto debido a su minoría de edad) asesinaron al sacerdote de 86 años de edad Jacques Hamel en el pueblo normando de Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Según parece ambos jóvenes habían estado en contacto con Rachid Kassim, nacional francés, exrapero y destacado reclutador del Estado Islámico, posiblemente fallecido en un ataque aéreo estadounidense cerca de Mosul en febrero de 2017. No está claro si la muerte de Kassim reducirá la capacidad del grupo terrorista a la hora de captar jóvenes para su causa.
Sin embargo, la muerte de reclutadores en ataques aéreos, la pérdida de territorio y la reducción de su propaganda, dado que el Estado Islámico permanece en silencio ante la presión de la inteligencia de señales [SIGINT] de Occidente, puede que no ayuden al grupo terrorista. Seguramente el Estado Islámico preferiría emitir más propaganda y contar con más reclutadores trabajando día y noche.
Simcox destaca que el ritmo de los ataques en Occidente ha aumentado considerablemente. Las mayores dificultades para viajar a Siria e Irak probablemente estén contribuyendo a los ataques en Occidente y a que los reclutados busquen blancos más cerca de casa.
“La amenaza que presentan los adolescentes y preadolescentes radicalizados, de ambos sexos, ha aumentado desde que el Estado Islámico proclamó su califato”, indica el artículo de CTC Sentinel.
“Esta realidad ya ha dejado dos muertos y más de dos docenas de heridos en Occidente y supone una razón convincente para que los esfuerzos contraterroristas se centren precisamente sobre aquellos integrantes del Estado Islámico que instigan y ordenan este tipo de ataques”.
Afortunadamente se lograron evitar varios ataques gracias a que los padres alertaron a las autoridades sobre la radicalización de sus hijos. Los padres, y no la Policía, suelen ser los que detectan primero signos de radicalización en los jóvenes. Una de las primeras prioridades de una estrategia contraterrorista ha de ser ayudar a los padres, sin criminalizar a ninguna clase de personas ni asustarles y que entonces guarden silencio.
Traducido por Jorge Tierno Rey, autor de El Blog de Tiro Táctico.
Pocos de los adolescentes radicalizados por el ISIS actúan realmente en solitario was originally published in War Is Boring on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.