Monday, February 27, 2012

M1939 (52-K) 85 mm air defense gun

The 85mm Model 1939 was nothing more than an enlarged version of the existing 76.2mm M1938 system.

Throughout the 1930s, aircraft development was evolving by leaps and bounds across the world. As such, air defense forces of the world needed a similar evolution to keep pace with many of the current ground-based offerings having become outmoded by faster and higher flying aircraft. The Soviet Union was one such military force that had a vast amount airspace to concern itself with should she ever be invaded. As opposed to developing an entirely new system from scratch for the Red Army, Soviet authorities elected to utilize the existing - and successful - 76.2mm (3-inch) Model 1938 air defense gun as the basis for a new, more potent and capable weapon.

Design and development work soon yielded the 85mm (3.346-inch) Model 1939 air defense gun. Similar in scope and operation to her predecessor, the Model 1939 was essentially nothing more than an enlarged and upgunned version of the original 76.2mm system. A key differentiating feature was a multi-baffled muzzle brake fitted to the business end of the barrel, a physical feature that the Model 1938 clearly lacked. An forward facing armored shield could be affixed to the gun mount as an option for added crew protection during the heat of battle but offered little true protection overall. Like the fabled "88" anti-aircraft guns of the German Army, the Red Army also saw double value in their M1939 and attention in design was also given to utilizing it as an anti-tank defense weapon should the need arise.

The 85mm gun mount sat on a four-wheeled traveling carriage for maximum portability. The carriage could be transported into position by any number of towing vehicles then in service with the Red Army, from trucks and jeeps to light tanks. The seven man crew could also pushed the gun into a precise position once at a target area. The gun system itself was fully positional apart from the carriage and could attain an upwards attack angle to target incoming enemy aircraft or a leveled attack angle to counter oncoming enemy vehicles or infantry. Elevation limits were stated at +82 and -2 degrees while traverse was a full 360-degrees. When in transport, the gun was leveled and locked into place with an inverted "vee" type bracket. The weapon weighed in at 9,303lbs when traveling and 6,739lbs when made ready to fire. Overall, the system measured in at over 23 feet when in transit while the barrel itself was over 15 feet long. Along with the standard flak in-air exploding shrapnel rounds, M1939 crews were also issued with a supply of anti-tank projectiles.

By the time the M1939 was entering production, the facilities at Kaliningrad outside of Moscow came under direct threat from the surprise German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. As such, the Soviets took to moving the manufacturing equipment out of the area and relocating them to the safety of the Ural mountains to the East. Within time, the facilities were set in place and production of the new M1939 soon got underway. When the delivery numbers dictated, the M1939 was officially recognized as the standard anti-aircraft defense gun of the Soviet Army.

The M1939 proved an excellent gun platform throughout the war. The system was delivered to the active fronts and utilized in defense of strategic positions. The weapon proved quite valuable in the war for both sides, so much so in fact, that even the Germans considered its capture as something of a war trophy. Enough M1939s and available 85mm ammunition were captured by the advancing German Army that many M1939s were reconstituted back into service for the Wehrmacht under the designation of 8.5cm Flak M.39(r) and used extensively alongside their excellent 88mm guns with powerful results. Additionally, other captured M1939s were delivered back to Germany, rebored to the standard German Army 88mm caliber and setup in defense of the homeland under the new designation of 8.8cm Flak M.39(r).

The M1939 was replaced in its role with the Soviet Army by the more powerful 85mm Model 1944 series (KS-18) before the end of the war. The Model 1944 was more or less the same gun system as the M1939 before it, however, its projectiles were issued with a propellant charge of increased power, making the M1944 a better alternative to the M1939. The 85mm gun was further modified for use in the SU-85 tank destroyer and many M1939/M1944 guns were still in use throughout the air war over Vietnam of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The M1939 can still be found in operational service with a few countries around the globe, mostly former Soviet satellite states and Cold War allies.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Experimental ARX-160 by Beretta

Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle, with buttstock in unfolded, extended position

The Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle is, as of mid-2008, still in prototype / development stage. It is a part of the Italian Army's 'Soldato Futuro' program, and is developed by famous Italian company Beretta in close cooperation with army. The rifle is a part of a massive soldier equipment package, which, among other items, will include an advanced rifle sight witch will combine day and night time (optical, TV and IR) view / sight capabilities and laser pointer (also visible and IR). Another component of the Soldato Futuro system is an advanced 40mm single-shot grenade launcher, which will be either installed on the rifle (using Picatinny rail interface) or used as stand-alone weapon (by adding a detachable pistol grip and telescoped stock to it).

Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle, with buttstock folded and collapsed

The Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle is gas operated weapon that utilizes conventional piston-operated action, with gas piston located above the barrel. Barrel locking is achieved by more or less conventional rotary bolt. Unlike most other assault rifles, the Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle features quick-detachable barrels, which can be changed by operator in the field by depressing the barrel release button (located on right side of receiver, in front of magazine housing), pulling the barrel forward and out of the gun, and then inserting another (or same) barrel back.

Drawing of the Beretta ARX-160 rifle along with GLG-160 grenade launcher and set of opto-electronic equipment which includes TV/IR/Optical sight, laser rangefinder, laser pointer and ballistic computer for grenade launcher

The receiver consists of two parts, upper (which holds barrel and bolt group) and lower (which hosts magazine housing, trigger unit and pistol grip). Both halves are made from impact-resistant polymer and connected using special quick-release locks, so there are no pins to push out (and lose). Another interesting and unusual feature of the Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle is that it has selectable left / right side ejection system with dual ejection ports (on either side of the gun) and user-switchable left / right position of cocking handle. To change the direction of empty case ejection, user has to push the cross-bolt button, located above and slightly to the rear of pistol grip, by the tip of the bullet (or other pointed item). This affects dual extractor-ejector claws, installed on the bolt, forcing them to eject spent cartridge to the desired side without any further disassembly of the gun or parts change.

Beretta ARX-160 rifle disassembled into basic components. Note modular bolt group and removable barrel

Charging handle, which is attached to the bolt carrier, also can be installed on either side of the gun. The Beretta ARX-160 assault rifle fires from closed bolt, in single shots and full automatic mode, and has ambidextrous safety / fire mode selector switch conveniently located above pistol grip. Upper receiver is fitted with full-length Picatinny type rail, made of aluminum, which can accommodate a wide variety of sighting equipment, including iron, telescopic, red-dot or electronic sights. Standard open sights are mounted on folding bases using rail interface. Additional lengths of Picatinny rail are installed on the forend on 3-, 6- and 9- o'clock positions. Lower (6-o'clock) position rail is strong enough to host GLX 160 40mm single-shot grenade launcher. Standard buttstock is also made of plastic, and folds to the right side. The buttstock is of telescoped, user-adjustable design.

Caliber: 5.56x45mm NATO
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 820-900 mm with 406 mm barrel and butt in ready position; 700 mm with butt folded
Barrel length: 305 mm / 12" or 406 mm / 16", quick changeable
Weight: ~ 3 kg with 406 mm barrel, w/o mag
Rate of fire: rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Classic British designed Battleship of WW1 and WW2

HMS Prince of Wales

The HMS Prince of Wales was partially responsible for the containment and eventual sinking of the KMS Bismarck.

The HMS Prince of Wales served the British Navy for a few short years in World War 2 taking part in the damaging that would lead to the eventually sinking of the mythical KMS Bismarck. She was a class of five King George V-class ships that included the HMS Duke of York, HMS Howe, HMS King Henry and the HMS Anson. Together with the HMS Hood, she took part in the initial cat and mouse engagement of the mighty German battleship. The HMS Prince of Wales (or "PoW") survived long enough to ferry Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Newfoundland to meet with US President Roosevelt for the Atlantic Charter and suffered her fate at the hands of Japanese torpedo bombers on her way out of Singapore in the Pacific Theater.

By battleship standards in the Second World War, the HMS Prince of Wales was slight in design considering the naval treaty-violating monsters that were the German KMS Bismarck and the Japanese IJN Yamato. She was fielded with 10 x 14" main guns, putting her power behind even the American Iowa-class battleships being laid down but offering up of a higher rate of sustained fire as a result. Whereas the Germans, Japanese and Americans had the luxury of either operating in secrecy to create their new battleships, bending or completely disregarding treaty limitations or designing battleships with the war in full swing, the Prince of Wales was built and adhered to the naval treaties in place that limited battleship construction to around 35,000 tons.

Armament was a mix of offensive and defensive systems starting with the 14" main guns held in two forward and one aft turrets. This was augmented by the addition of no fewer than 16 x 5.25 guns for added effect. Defensive capabilities were accomplished through 32 x 2-pounder "pom-pom" dual-purpose cannons and 16 x 12.7mm (.50 caliber) anti-aircraft heavy machine guns. Power was derived from 4 x Parsons geared turbines fed by 8 x Admiralty three-drum small-tube superheated boilers. Total output was 110,000 shaft horsepower providing an adequate 28 knot surface speed. Two Supermarine Walrus type amphibious aircraft were carried aboard and used for patrol, reconnaissance and search & rescue duty and launched from a double-ended catapult system amidships. Twin masts characterized the type and mounted each superstructure.

The HMS Prince of Wales, just barely out of construction, was called to action almost immediately with her new technology, unbroken systems and untrained gunnery crew. The Prince of Wales was joined by the HMS Hood in a battle of mythical and historical proportions. In the heat of the Bismarck battle, the HMS Hood was placed out of commission by the KMS Prinz Eugen, leaving the Prince of Wales to defend herself against the two German ships. The HMS Prince of Wales caught a disastrous direct hit to her bridge that forced her to retire from the fight to live another day. All was not at a loss however, as the HMS Prince of Wales managed to score hits on the Bismarck that would contaminated its fuel supply, forcing it to head towards Brest for repairs. This seemingly random act would become the undoing for Hitler's pride as the Bismarck would soon be hunted down and sunk miles away from her French destination.

The HMS Prince of Wales was later stationed in the Pacific off Singapore by October of 1941. In December of that year, she was caught with the HMS Repulse by over 80 Japanese bombers and torpedo bombers. A critical hit by an enemy torpedo against her port propeller shaft forced the spinning propeller to cut into the hull. This began uncontrollable flooding and furthermore cut power to her 5.25" gun batteries along with power to her pumps leaving a blind, helpless and shocked Prince of Wales crew on the brink. Without the ability to maneuver, the HMS Prince of Wales was at the mercy of more torpedo attacks, catching four more into her side. The Prince of Wales was officially out of action and would sink in a short hour and twenty minutes time taking with her hundreds of British souls and her Admiral (Phillips) and Captain (Leach).

The HMS Prince of Wales was ordered in 1936 and laid down by the Cammell Laird and Company in 1937. She was launched in 1939 and officially commissioned in March of 1941 surviving till December of that year.

HMS Agincourt

The Agincourt was originally intended for Brazilian use, then sold to Turkey, ultimately being used by the British Navy in World War 1.

The HMS Agincourt of 1913 is perhaps the best known Agincourt of all the ships taking on the name for the Royal Navy.

The HMS Agincourt was laid down in 1911 by Armstrongs of Newcastle upon Tyne. She was launched in 1913 and officially commissioned in 1914. She was decommissioned in 1921 and sold for scrap by 1924.

HMS Hood

The HMS Hood was lost to action against the fabled KMS Bismarck battleship on May 24th, 1941, in the Battle of Denmark Strait.

The HMS Hood stood as the pride and joy of the British Royal Navy for over two decades. She was constructed towards the end of World War 1, at the height of the global arms race on the world waters, and traveled the world during the inter-war years only to be placed back into action in World War 2. Despite her speed and firepower, she was ill-equipped to handle the latest guns of the German Navy and age had begun to take its toll on her structure. Hood was lost at sea after tangling with the mighty German battleship Bismarck during the Battle of the Denmark Strait on May 24th, 1941. The British public proudly referred to their vessel as the "Mighty Hood", a ship like no other and the most powerful and largest vessel of her time. She fought under the motto of "Ventis Secundis" ("With Favorable Winds") and was fielded under Pennant Number "51".

The HMS Hood VS the Mackensen

The HMS Hood was conceived of as the lead ship in her Admiral-class of warships to number four in all, being specifically devised to combat the upcoming German battlecruiser Mackensen then under construction. Mackensen was also to lead a four-strong class of battlecruisers to include the Graf Spee, Prinz Eitel Friedrich and the Furst Bismarck. However, precedent within the German Navy at the time held that production focus on the dreaded U-Boats instead. As such, the Mackensen and her kind languished through to the end of the war unfinished - none of her class were completed and she became the final battlecruiser to be ordered for Germany. What was left of all four was quickly dismantled following the dismantling of Germany herself per the Versailles Treaty.

The Battle of Jutland Exposes a Weakness

The Battle of Jutland exposed some frailty within the designs of British battlecruisers to the point that three such vessels were lost in the battle. The battle began on May 31st, 1916, and ceased on June 1st. Fighting was concentrated in the North Sea near the Denmark coast and failed to prove a victor between the Royal Navy of the British Empire and the Kaiserliche Marine of the German Empire. By the end of the conflict, the Battle of Jutland was recorded as the single largest naval battle of the First World War - 28 Royal Navy battleships faced off against 16 Kaiserliche Marine battleships along with several battlecruisers, destroyers and lesser ships in attendance. By the end of it all, 6,094 Royal Navy sailors were dead, joining the 2,551 German sailors on the other side. Hundreds were wounded or captured in the fracas. Key to the German side was the loss of three British battlecruisers (lost to subsequent internal cordite explosions at her magazines) and eight destroyers to the loss of just one German battlecruiser.

Righting Past Wrongs

As a result, design of the HMS Hood was revised to incorporated some 5,000 tons of additional armor (making up over a quarter of her end-product displacement) and bracing to help protect her vital spots from more powerful main guns. Her main belt was 12-inches thick while her middle belt was given 7-inches of armor. Her upper belt topped at 5-inches with the exception of 4-inch protection held aft. Plating along the main deck came about very late in the stages of the Hood's construction. Her turret forward facings were given up to 15-inches of armor while their sides sported up to 12-inches. Their tops were limited to just 5-inches of protection. Anti-torpedo protection was addressed through the then-conventional practice of "torpedo bulges" along her lower hull - this involving an empty hull space supported further by steel reinforcement. During testing, it was found that the Hood would have little in the way of proper armor protection for the next series of gun calibers and projectiles in development. Additionally, her armor design would prove highly susceptible to "plunging fire", that is, incoming enemy fire from above as opposed to the sides. Nevertheless, the Hood was allowed to exist for there was no going back on her construction at this point.

Going in the Wrong Direction

While this armor address proved a novel attempt, the end-product proved a rather hasty revision that never fully satisfied all-around protection for the ship - not to mention making her a heavier girl than originally intended. She sported a three-deck layout which assumed the top deck would contain and retard any incoming projectile's explosion. However, by the end of World War 1, delayed-fuse projectiles were becoming the norm, rendering the three deck theory more or less useless. Delayed-fuse projectiles could penetrate upper decks and still explode below deck, closer to the vital components of any ship and, ultimately, sink or cripple her. As such, the Hood sat lower in the water than anticipated and would always sail forth with a good deal of stress placed against her understructure. Despite the flaws, the ship was pushed into the water and evaluated to satisfaction.

Birth of the Hood

HMS Hood was ordered, along with three other sister battlecruisers, as part of the Admiral-class under the "Emergency War Programme" during World War 1. Along with Hood, there was to be the HMS Anson, HMS Howe and the HMS Rodney. However, construction of these three vessels was soon stopped in March of 1917 though work on the Hood was allowed to continue. It was seen that any near-future work by the Germans on their own battlecruisers was severely in doubt with the changing nature of the war. The HMS Hood was ordered on April 7th, 1916, and laid down on September 1st later that year in Clydebank, Scotland by the John Brown & Company shipbuilder. She was launched to sea on August 22nd, 1918, and formally commissioned on May 15th, 1920. She carried the same of Samuel Hood, the First Viscount Hood remembered for his service in the American War of Independence and the French Revolutionary Wars and, himself, serving as a mentor to Horatio Nelson of the Napoleonic Wars fame. The widow of Rear-Admiral Sir Horace Hood - great-grandson to Lord Hood - was the sponsoring party. Captain Wilfred Tomkinson, CB, was awarded the helm as her first commander and the HMS Hood became the flagship to the Atlantic Fleet Battle Cruiser Squadron of the British Empire. Her first voyage saw her journey to Scandinavia in 1920 and then on to Brazil and ultimately the West Indies.

HMS Hood Walk-Around

The HMS Hood was something of a majestic design in terms of warships. She sported two funnels amidships about her superstructure with the bridge stationed ahead. Her bow was clean and relatively uncluttered, streamlines to a maximum efficiency needed for traversing the volatile waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Ahead of her bridge sat a pair of 4 x 2 BL 15-inch (381mm) Mark I /42 caliber cannons (standard among the main ships of the Royal Navy), the aft system elevated over the forward emplacement for an unfettered view. Similarly aft, there lay another pair of 15-inch gun turrets giving the grand ship a total of eight 15-inch guns. Each turret sported angled side armor and flat top-facing armor as well as 120 projectiles to a turret as minimum. This primary armament was backed up by no fewer than twelve single-mounted BL 5.5-inch (140mm) Mk I series cannons. Anti-aircraft defense was handled by 4 x QF 4-inch (102mm) Mark V series cannons. To counter enemy surface vessel threats, the Hood was afforded 6 x 21-inch (533mm) Mark IV torpedo tubes, these systems mounted amidships along her starboard and port sides for maximum effectiveness. By all accounts, the HMS Hood stood as the power of the Royal Navy during her tenure and was one of the most powerful warships of her time not to mention the largest vessel on water and the longest (in terms of length) capital ship then in service. The Hood coupled battleship-like firepower with cruiser-like speed, often leading many to question her classification as a true "Battlecruiser" when she was - according to some - more of a "Fast Battleship".

Available Ammunition

The crew in each gunhouse had access to a variety of projectile types. This included the standard-use 1,920lb Common Pointed Capped (CPC) shell and the equal-weighted Armor-Piercing Capped (APC) shell. Practice rounds were available, although in smaller number, and shrapnel-based projectiles were even lesser in number - and these only supplied to the forward turrets. All guns, including the 5.5-inch systems, held an elevation range of -5 to +30 degrees.

Onboard Aircraft

The Hood fielded a variety of onboard aircraft for patrol duties during her active tenure. Initially, this came in the form of a conventional biplane navalized aircraft (with a fixed wheeled undercarriage) during the 1920s but later replaced by specialized floatplane types in the beginning of the 1930s. The single floatplane was launched via a positional catapult fitted to the quarterdeck. it would then complete its reconnaissance sortie and return to the waters alongside the ship. An onboard crane would then haul the floatplane back onto the ship for reuse. The catapult was later dropped from the design in 1932 due to the low-waterline nature of the Hood when at speed and at sea.

The Hood on Tour

During the inter-war years, the Hood spent most of her time at sea completing standard overseas show-of-strength tours around the world. From late 1923 to late 1924, she was part of the "Cruise of the Special Service Squadron" - a global cruise involving several ships. After the cruise, she was assigned to the Atlantic and Home Fleets in 1925. She underwent refit from May 17th, 1929, to June 16th, 1930, with an upcoming modernization program scheduled for sometime in 1941. In the latter half of September of 1931, her crew took part in the "Invergordon Mutiny" as part of a military strike to fight defense spending cuts to the Royal Navy during the Great Depression. The strike lasted all of two days and involved over 1,000 Royal Navy sailors. The refit added a new 15-inch APC round to her forte but did not receive the needed weapon revisions to fire this round before her end. When tensions broke into an all-out civil war across Spain, Hood was stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to help protect British interests in the region.

Refits Cant Stop the Aging Process

Over the years and as the pride of the Royal Navy, rest alluded the Hood and she was forced to maintain her sea-worthy presence on an almost monthly basis. As such, her structure and internal systems were never fully allowed to be replaced or set in prime original working order. 1931 saw 2 x octuple mountings added for QF 2-pdr Mark VIII 40mm guns. 1933 added 2 x quadruple mountings for 0.50 caliber Vickers Mark III heavy machine guns. When World War 2 arrived in Europe in the latter half of the 1930's, the HMS Hood was set out to station in the Mediterranean Sea without any respite in July of 1936. In 1937, her QF 4-inch Mark V guns were added to by way of 4 x twin-mounted QF 4-inch L/45 Mark XVI guns. Three Mark XIX mountings replaced the remaining 4-inch single guns and a third QF 2-pdr Mark VIII 40mm gun was added, the latter also in 1937. 1937 also added an additional 2 x 0.50 caliber mountings as well as rocket-assisted cables intended to snag low-flying enemy aircraft. She became a part of the Home Fleet Battlecruiser Squadron at Scapa Flow in June of 1939. Full-scale war with Germany soon followed. Another refit in 1940 removed her 5.5-inch guns, two of these ending up as coastal defenses on Ascension Island between Africa and Brazil.

Her initial primary mission was to serve as defense for the vital convoys needed at mainland Europe. This defense would tangle against enemy aircraft, surface vessels and the much-feared German U-Boat submarines prowling the waters. In one action, an aircraft bomb did manage to hit the Hood but resulted in little damage to her structure. Her early patrols placed her near the vicinity of Iceland and attempted to contain the German fleet to the Atlantic.

Surrender or Else

When France fell to the German invasion by June of 1940, Britain maintained a rational fear that France's still-existing naval fleet would soon come under the power of the progressing German and Italian land forces. The French fleet was at harbor at Mers-el-Kebir (Algeria) in July of 1940 and the British Admiralty requested that French sailors destroy their vessels than have them land into enemy hands. The British government understood that it could match the German Kriegsmarine to some extent, but, a German Navy with the French Navy in tow could outdo the island nation - making a British Isle invasion that much more difficult to derail or defend against. Meetings between the French and British commanders took place with little resolved. As time was of the essence, British leader Winston Churchill forced an ultimatum onto the captain of the HMS Hood - Captain C.S. Holland - to end the situation with due diligence before it was too late. When the original deadline for surrender had passed, the HMS Hood, for the first time in her history, opened her guns in anger against the moored (and unsuspecting) French fleet.

Death of the French Fleet

The French responded by attempting to leave the harbor and fire back. However, the guns of the Hood proved very accurate and consistent and hit the French battleship Bretagne. She eventually succumbed to additional shelling and sunk in just 20 seconds according to sources. HMS Hood would fire some fifty-six 15-inch shells during the ordeal, covering just one half hour in whole. By the end of the action, some 1,000 French sailors were killed and the French fleet lay in ruins. The French were only able to land a few close hits at the HMS Hood, injuring just two sailors. The Hood then preceded to chase the battleship Strasbourg attempting to get away. After one and a half hours and night falling, the chase was called off by Holland. HMS Hood left the Mediterranean on July 8th, repelling and surviving an attack by Italian bombers. By the time German land forces arrived at Mers-el-Kebir, the French fleet was no more. What vessels the British Navy failed to sink were, in fact, sabotaged by their French owners, leaving the Germans incensed that their prize was not meant to be.

English Reaction

In England, the unwarranted attack on the French fleet was greeted as one of the ugly necessities of war. Churchill spoke before the House and explained the need and reasoning to eliminate the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir - a very hard decision to make he later professed. He was greeted to cheers and support of the British public for doing what had to be done for the betterment of the future. In America, President Franklin Roosevelt stood by his ally. Though not officially at war with any party at the time, America soon delivered much needed supplies to the British mainland and - more importantly - delivered several mothballed US Navy destroyers for British use via Lend-Lease. British actions at Mers-el-Kebir proved the British were capable of doing the ugly business of war and they had gained the respect of the Americans for it. This relationship between the two nations would remain relatively unchanged for the next seventy-plus years. Churchill knew, perhaps better than most, the importance of having their American ally for the duration of the war and he played his cards accordingly.

French Reaction

France did not take the shelling of her fleet so lightly. Resentment and outcry grew across France for the murder of their sailors. In true Nazi fashion, Germany used this hate to channel further dislike of the British people and showcased them as barbaric with only the interest of conquering France themselves. Many in France would never forgive the Royal Navy - or the British government for that matter - for their action at Mers-el-Kebir. Others understood it as a necessity of war. Even Royal Navy sailors recounted their dislike for the order to assail the French fleet in such a defenseless position, and many regretted the action, but understood it what war was - illogical from the start, with orders handed down from men of authority.

Back in Action

HMS Hood was back at Scapa Flow to help defend the British mainland from a German sea invasion. The Battle of Britain was waging above the skies of lower England and the North Sea. Hood was sent to join HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney at Rosyth in Scotland and later went back on patrol to protect convoys. Any major overhauls alluded the Hood once again for she was sent out to locate the whereabouts and, if possible, engage the Admiral Scheer pocket battleship. When this came up empty, she was similarly sent away to find the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, again coming up empty. 1940 closed without action and the Hood entered Rosyth for a much-needed refit.

Final Voyage: Hood VS Bismarck

Hood was once again sent out to sea with Flag Captain Ralph Kerr CBE in command, this time to locate and engage the German battleship KMS Bismarck. The Bismarck proved quite the elusive beast and was building a rather mythical existence for itself. It was deemed that if she were to break out into Atlantic waters, the convoys of the Atlantic would soon fall prey to the mighty vessel. As such, the HMS Hood and the HMS Prince of Wales were teamed up to peruse. The ships HMS Suffolk and HMS Norfolk, tracking the Bismarck, found her with the KMS Prinz Eugen near the Denmark Straight.

However, the vessels were soon lost after midnight. In the resulting action, the British and German fleets had passed one another without notice. It was not until 2:47AM on May 24th, that the Germans were located once more. Vice-Admiral Holland was now back in the helm of the Hood and took to chasing the German fleet. He had already dispatched his destroyers during the search for the Germans and had thusly made himself more vulnerable. Holland tried to maintain an angled course to keep all of his guns in play. Taking a head on course - and thusly reducing the closing range - would have only given him use of his forward turrets while the Germans could have loosed a full broadside on his battered ship. Hood led the charge with Price of Wales in tow.

Darkness has made things worse. It was soon found that the two Royal Navy ships were in fact approaching the Germans with their bow. At 5:45AM, the two sides had made clear identification of the other. Now the Bismarck had been sent out with orders to engage enemy shipping and convoys and avoid engagements with warships if possible. However, the current situation (enemy cruisers nearby as well as the nearing ice edge) that presented itself to Admiral Lutjens of the Bismarck made it clear that this was a battle he would have to have. The crew of the Bismarck, therefore, sprung into action.

The guns of the HMS Hood opened up at 5:52AM and, by mistake, were aimed at the similarly-profiled Prinz Eugen. The initial salvo landed just near the enemy vessel. Holland knew he only maintained a limited window of opportunity, not wanting to expose his weak decks to plunging enemy fire for long periods of time. Hood closed in as fast as possible.

The German gunnery crews, equal experts at their craft, soon ranged the Hood and the Prinz Eugen landed an 8-inch projectile into her. The resulting explosion soon ignited some of the onboard 4-inch ammunition, causing a fire within the Hood. Beyond actually sinking, an onboard uncontrollable fire was the second worse fate to befall any sea-going crew. The billowing smoke, boiling oil and the prospect of igniting more ammunition could completely send a given vessel to the bottom of the ocean within seconds. Bismarck then ordered Prinz Eugen to concentrate on the Prince of Wales. Holland positioned the Hood for a full broadside attack to make use of his aft turrets.

The Hood is Lost

A salvo from the engaged Bismarck struck the Hood while in the turn. The Hood exploded in a violent fireball that was followed by an equally powerful explosion further aft. Presumably, she was splitting in two for her stern section, then her bow section, lifted from the waters and came back down. Her bow section began to sink while her gunnery crews let off one last salvo from their forward turret. In only three minutes, the HMS Hood had taken on water and sunk to her fate - her entire action, from first fire to sinking - lasted just over 10 minutes. Of the 1,418 Royal Navy sailors aboard the Hood that morning, only three survived to tell the tale, rescued by the HMS Electra hours later. The three surviving sailors were William John Dundas, Robert Ernest Tilburn and Ted Briggs. Briggs survived them all, living up until 2008.

Effect on the British

The news of the loss of the HMS Hood has a profound impact on the government and the people of the British Empire. Their pride of the seas was gone at the hands of the hated Germans and the Bismarck lived to fight another day. Further efforts to find and sink the vessel eventually led to fruition after May 27th, 1941, in what is viewed as the sequel to the Battle of Denmark Straight. 2,200 German sailors died while a further 110 were captured. The Allies suffered 49 dead and a destroyer lost in the battle. The souls of the HMS Hood were at last avenged.

Final Cause

Following the Hood's loss, a Board of Enquiry was established to officially set the record on what caused the loss of the British vessel. It was deemed that a 15-inch shell lobbed from the Bismarck exploded the Hood's 15- or 4-inch magazines and cause a cumulative explosion that eventually shocked and took the ship down. Vice-Admiral Holland was cleared of any wrong doing in the loss of the Hood. As can be expected, modern theories as to the exact cause of the explosion and subsequent loss abound.

The Hood is Found and Her Memory Lives On

The wreck of the HMS Hood was located in July of 2001 in 10,000ft of water. The following year, the British government labeled it a war grave and the site came under the care of the Protection of Military Remains Act established in 1986. The act was passed by the British Parliament to cover both lost aircraft and vessels of the British Empire, though those not necessarily lost in combat or wartime. The Hood is survived in history, memory and as two fixed emplacements still stationed on Ascension Island. The fixed emplacements were her former 5.5-inch guns removed during her 1935 refit. They served to protect the remote island from German approach and even fired in anger at a surfaced U-Boat. While not scoring a hit, the submarine dove out of harm's way and the emplacements survived up to today.

Many memorials were erected throughout Britain to commemorate the valor and loss of the crew of the Mighty Hood.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Aichi E16A

A E16A1 of the Yokosuka Kokutai (Naval Air Group), as can be seen by its tail markings.

The E16A Zuiun (translated into "Auspicious Cloud" and codenamed "Paul" by the Allies) was a dedicated reconnaissance floatplane and part-time dive-bomber for the Empire of Japan in World War Two. The system was an excellent floatplane type by all accounts, yet appeared at a time when Allied aircraft maintained much of the Pacific skies, relegating the E16A to limited use and even more limited production figures.

The Aichi E16A series was a great all-around floatplane, appearing too late in the war to achieve much use.

The E16A was typical of the Japanese assortment of floatplanes in its arsenal. The system was devised as a direct successor to the E13A "Jake" series of floatplane, both of which were produced by the Aichi aircraft firm. The E16A has crew accommodations for two personnel, a pilot and a rear-cockpit gunner. Pontoons were fitted underside in place of traditional landing gears. Standard armament was 2 x 20mm forward-fixed cannons in the wings and a single 7.7mm machine gun for the rear gunner. An underfuselage position was utilized for strike runs, though the primary use of the aircraft was of carrier-based reconnaissance.

The Aichi E16A was powered by a single Mitsubishi three-blade MK8D Kinsei 54 14-cylinder radial piston engine and could achieve a service ceiling of nearly 33,000 feet while reaching speeds of over 270 miles per hour. Range, like its predecessor, was an impressive 1,491 miles - crucial when operating in the vast open areas of the Pacific Ocean. 256 total examples of the E16A were ever produced and of only made up of the single E16A-1 model designation.

Specifications for the Aichi E16A Zuiun (Paul)

Length: 35.53ft (10.83m)
Width: 42.03ft (12.81m)
Height: 15.72ft (4.79m)

Maximum Speed: 273mph (439kmh; 237kts)
Maximum Range: 1,491miles (2,400km)
Rate-of-Climb: 0ft/min (0m/min)
Service Ceiling: 32,808ft (10,000m; 6.2miles)

Armament Suite:
2 x 20mm cannon (forward-firing fixed in wings)
1 x 7.7mm machine gun in rear cockpit position

Underfuselage provision for external stores.
Accommodation: 2
Hardpoints: 1
Empty Weight:0lbs (0kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight:10,053lbs (4,560kg)

Engine(s): 1 x Mitsubishi Mk*D Kinsel 54 14-cylinder radial engine.

Monday, February 13, 2012

British Aircraft Corporation TSR-2

The TSR-2 is a proper study of aircraft that might have been.

Much in the vain of the North American XB-70 Valkyrie system for the United States, the TSR-2 was to be England's super Cold War bomber. The system was to provide the United Kingdom with a supersonic low-level bomber capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons with the utmost precision. At the outset, the TSR-2 was on pace to prove just that, had it not been for ballooning costs and bureaucratic changes at home.

The prototype BAC TSR-2 at Warton airfield in 1966. This was the only example to fly.

The TSR-2 was a product of the English Electric and Vickers-Armstrong groups with the aim of replacing the English Electric Canberra as Britain's principle long-range, low-level supersonic bomber. The system utilized heavily the advances of swept wing technology, The TSR-2 was fielded with twin powerful Bristol-Siddeley Olympus powerplants which were fed midships through side intakes and jettisoned at rear under the single swept rudder. Wings were also swept and of the high monoplane variety. A crew of two personnel sat in tandem and were provided for with advanced controls including heads up displays, weapons systems, communications, forward and side-looking radars and integrated terrain following capabilities.

Duxford Imperial War Museum, England

The TSR-2 proved itself enough to be ordered in production. However, before the system could reach its full gallop, rising costs in production and a change of heart in the British government's governing Labour Party forced the system and project to be mothballed as soon as 1965 - just six years after the entire project was green-lighted. At its end, the TSR-2 flew a mere 13 hours in just two dozen controlled flights and this coming from just one of the four totally complete and working versions of the TSR-2.

Nose view of TSR-2 prototype, XR222, in the Imperial War Museum at RAF Duxford.

BAC TSR2 at RAF Museum Cosford

Specifications for the BAC TSR-2

Length: 89.04ft (27.14m)
Width: 214.24ft (65.30m)
Height: 0.00ft (0.00m)

Maximum Speed: 835mph (1,344kmh; 726kts)
Maximum Range: 1,151miles (1,853km)
Rate-of-Climb: 0ft/min (0m/min)
Service Ceiling: 57,001ft (17,374m; 10.8miles)

Armament Suite:
Mission-specific ordnance up to 10,000lbs of internal stores.
Accommodation: 2
Hardpoints: 0
Empty Weight:54,750lbs (24,834kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight:102,200lbs (46,357kg)

Engine(s): 2 x Bristol-Siddeley Olympus B.01.22R turbojets with afterburner generating 30,600lbs of thrust each.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Little David: An American 36 inch (914 mm) caliber mortar used for test firing aerial bombs

The Little David Heavy Siege Mortar was developed to combat the expected fortifications on the Japanese mainland.

In 1944, the United States War Department was planning for the invasion of the Japanese mainland and expecting to encounter very strong fortifications. As such, the Army would need a heavy weapon to combat such structures. Specifications were drawn up and the Army figured on a weapon larger weapon than the 16-inch (410mm) guns as found on the Iowa-class battleships shooting a 2,700 lb (1,200kg) shell as these massive weapons had proven ineffective against Japanese bunkers at Iwo Jima.

The new weapon was called "Little David", an American 36-inch (914 mm) caliber mortar, becoming the largest gun ever built (beating both the German "Dora" and "Karl" mega-guns). First used for test firing bombs during World War II, Little David was modified to serve as a siege mortar and it was planned to turn the instrument into an effective "bunker buster". When Japan surrendered, the mainland invasion became unnecessary and Little David was therefore never actually used in combat.

Its potential effectiveness was questionable, however, because of the gun's limited range and accuracy. This mobile mortar was capable of hurling a 3,650-pound projectile a distance of six miles via the giant 22-foot, muzzle-loading rifled mortar tube. Complete with its firing mechanism and other associated parts making up the tube assembly, Little David weighed in at 80,000 pounds. The mortar's metal base half-moon assembly underneath the tube (or barrel) was constructed in a squared huge box that weighed 93,000 pounds. The box would have to be buried underground by its own bulldozer for stability before firing.

Little David would have been transported by two artillery M26A1 tank tractors consisting of a Truck, 12-ton, 6 x 6, Tractor, M26 (Pacific) and a Semi-trailer, 40-ton, M15 (Fruehauf) - the latter also called the 'Dragon Wagon'. The tractors were designated TR-1 by their manufacturers and were powered by the Hall-Scott Type 440 series 240bhp, 6-cylinder gasoline engine. Hall-Scott designed the 440 engine exclusively for the M26A1 and built around 2,100 examples of them. While traveling, the mortar's tube and base assemblies each made up separate tractor loads, while a third tractor would haul the 3,600lb projectiles. A complete Little David unit also included a bulldozer with crane and bucket shovel to dig the emplacement. The huge mortar could be assembled and ready to fire in 12 hours. Comparatively, the largest (820MM) known German artillery weapons were hauled on no fewer than 25 railway cars and required three weeks to be erected into firing position using some 200 crewmen. In that respect, this made Little David more mobile than a railway gun.

One of the last survivors of the Little David gun is on display at the proving grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland, USA.

Here is a video of the mortar.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

106mm Self-propelled Rifle M50A1 Ontos

106mm Self-propelled Rifle M50A1 Ontos

The impressive-looking M50 Ontos (in the Greek meaning "The Thing") was built to a United States Marine Corps tank destroyer specification. With five prototypes built, and each fitted with differing calibers of recoilless rifles, the T156 design was born. No fewer than 24 of the type were ordered for further trials, each armed with six of the powerful 106mm recoilless rifle type. From the T156 trials emerged the T156E2 which gave rise to the production M50 - each slightly modified from the predecessor. A switch to a Chrysler-based petrol engine produced 294 models of the M50A1 series, which in itself included evermore modifications to the system.

At it's core, the M56 was fitted with a common turret mounting six of the M40A1C recoilless rifles. Additionally, the top four 106mm mounts were fitted with 4 x 12.7mm (.50 caliber) heavy machine guns to act as spotters when aligning the main guns. The use of the spotting machine guns was directly after optical sighting was completed. The spotter machine guns were then fired to accurize contact. Shortly thereafter, the recoilless rifles could be fired with some degree of accuracy.

Photo of an Ontos at the National Museum of the Marine Corps taken in August 2007.

All weapon systems on the M50 were limited in ammunition-carrying capacities. The 106mm recoilless rifles were limited to just 18 projectiles spread across the six guns. The 12.7mm spotting machine guns were limited to just 80 rounds of ammunition. Not to be left high and dry against advancing enemy infantrymen, an additional 7.62mm machine gun was mounted to the top of the turret for self-defense.

Besides the limited ammunition situation, crew quarters once inside the machine were cramped at best. Additionally the weapon systems could only be reloaded from outside the vehicle, exposing the crew to dangerous enemy fire. The system saw action in South Vietnam and in the hands of the United States Marines. No longer in service with the Marine Corps, no replacement vehicle was selected to succeed the M50 Ontos on the modern battlefield, the assumption being that other weapon systems are more likely up to the task of tank destroyer than a similar self-propelled recoilless rifle design like the Ontos.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Panzerhaubitze 2000

Panzerhaubitze 2000 in profile.

The Panzerhaubitze 2000 ("Armoured howitzer 2000"), abbreviated PzH 2000, is a German 155 mm self-propelled howitzer developed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) and Rheinmetall for the German Army. The PzH 2000 is one of the most powerful conventional artillery systems currently deployed. It is particularly notable for a very high rate of fire; in burst mode it can fire three rounds in 9 seconds, ten rounds in 56 seconds, and can fire between 10 and 13 rounds per minute continuously, depending on barrel heating. The PzH 2000 has automatic support for Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) for up to 5 rounds. The replenishment of shells is automated. Two operators can load 60 shells and propelling charges in less than 12 minutes. PzH 2000 has also been selected by the armies of Italy, Netherlands and Greece, and more orders are probable as many NATO forces replace their M109 howitzers.

In 1986 Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany, agreed to terminate their existing development of the PzH 155-1 (SP70) program, which had run into reliability problems and had design defects, notably being mounted on a modified tank chassis. A new Joint Ballistics Memorandum of Understanding (JBMOU) for a 52 calibre barrel (based on a UK proposal) to replace 39 calibre was nearing agreement. German industry was asked for proposals to build a new design with gun conforming to the JBMOU. Of the proposed designs, Wegmann's was selected.

Rheinmetall designed the 155 mm 52-calibre JBMOU compliant gun, which is chromium-lined for its entire 8 metre length and includes a muzzle brake on the end. The gun uses a new modular charge system with six charges (five identical), which can be combined to provide the optimal total charge for the range to the target, as well as the conventional bagged charge systems. Primer is loaded separately via a conveyor belt, and the entire loading, laying and clearing is completely automated. The maximum range of the gun is 30 km with the standard L15A2 round (a UK design for FH-70 and stockpiled by Germany for M109G and FH70), about 35 km with base bleed rounds, and at least 40 km with assisted projectiles. In April 2006 a PzH 2000 shot assisted shells (Denel V-Lap) over a distance of 56 km with a probable maximum range of over 60 km. This gun has a Multiple Rounds Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) capability, with five round simultaneous strikes.

Greece and Germany use the Panzerhaubitze in combination with the SMArt 155 artillery round.

Wegmann supplied both the chassis, sharing some components with the Leopard 1, and the turret for the gun. The system has superb cross-country performance because of its use of continuous tracks and considerable protection in the case of counter-fire. The turret includes a phased array radar on the front glacis for measuring the muzzle velocity of each round fired. Laying data can be automatically provided via encrypted radio from the battery fire direction centre. A crew of three was needed for full operation, commander, layer and driver.

Wegman eventually won a contract in 1996 for 185 to be delivered to Germany's rapid reaction force, followed by another 410 for the main force. Wegmann and Krauss-Maffei, the two main German military tracked vehicle designers, merged in 1998.

A Howitzer 2000 tank from the Netherlands is fastened to the floor of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Sept. 6, 2006. The C-17, from the Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., is transporting the 60-ton tank to Afghanistan.

A number of armies have tested the system and its ability to provide accurate fire at 40 km has been a major selling point.

The PzH 2000 was considered for the US Army's Crusader concept system, but several requirements of the Crusader made it unsuitable. In particular the Crusader placed the crew and gun in separate compartments.

A lighter, more air-portable version, using the gun in a module fitted to a lighter chassis, has been developed by Krauss-Maffei. It is called the Artillery Gun Module.

The PzH 2000 was used for the first time in combat by the Dutch Army in August 2006 against Taliban targets in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Medusa. Since then it has been used regularly in support of coalition troops in Uruzgan province, also in Afghanistan. The PzH 2000 was also used extensively during the Battle of Chora. It is known as "the long arm of ISAF". The gun has been criticised by the Dutch in Uruzgan province as the NBC system designed for use in Europe cannot cope with the high level of dust in Afghanistan. The guns have been modified with additional armor being fitted to the roof to protect against mortar rounds. There have been other reports of problems including the need to keep it in the shade unless actually firing, the damage it does to poorly built roads and a significant 'cold gun' effect necessitating the use of 'warmers'.

Since the beginning of June 2010, German ISAF troops at PRT Konduz have three PzH2000 at their disposal. They were first used on 10 July 2010 to provide cover for the recovery of a damaged vehicle. This was the first time in its history the Bundeswehr has used heavy artillery in combat.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Japanese battleship IJN Yamato of WW2

Yamato running machinery trials off Bungo Strait (outside Sukumo Bay) on 20 October 1941

The IJN Yamato was undoubtedly the most powerful battleship in the world during her short reign of the Pacific in World War 2.

As the KMS Bismarck was to the Atlantic Theater so too was the IJN Yamato to the Pacific Theater. Undoubtedly the most powerful battleship ever built, the Yamato was a mammoth ship design bristling with cannon and machine gun power backed up by armor that reached close to 20 inches in spots. The Yamato was to own the Pacific Theater and might have done so had the aircraft carrier not solidified its presence in the conflict as the new king of the seas.

Japanese battleship Yamato under construction at the Kure Naval Base, Japan, September 20, 1941. The aircraft carrier Hosho is at the extreme right. The supply ship Mamiya is in the center distance.

With international treaties limited new warship construction to a reasonable 35,000 tons, the Imperial Japanese Navy set about to construct the massive 65,000+ ton Yamato and her sister ship, the IJN Musashi, under a cloak of secrecy so as to avoid disclosure. Such was the development of the type that the Japanese public was shielded from its construction and the Yamato was only revealed to a few Japanese high ranking officials. Great care was also taken to ensure the secrecy of the shipyard itself, which was partially covered to avoid detection.

Twin Yamato class battleships Yamato and Musashi in anchorage off Truk Islands

Design of the Yamato was a special one - not only was she to be the most heavily armored battleship ever made, her main gun mountings exceeding 18" would be the largest caliber types to ever be fitted the type. These elements required a large foundation to operate from and an equally large superstructure to support the floating arsenal. Though to some this may seem a extreme, there was a method to the direction for the Imperial Navy knew that any US battleship constructed to take the Yamato on directly would originate from the east coast of the United States. To make it to the Pacific in due time, the new American vessel would have to pass through the Panama Canal to access the Pacific Ocean. If the Americans attempted to build a matching battleship to the Yamato, the sheer size of the new battleship would deem the Panama Canal route impassable to the extreme.

Drawing of IJN Superbattleship Yamato in her final configuration on April the 7th 1945.

Outwardly, the Yamato followed traditional design elements found in warships prior to the Second World War. The 18.1" main guns were housed in three heavily-armored turrets with two located forward of the bridge and a third aft with three guns to a turret. Amazingly, the Yamato was fitted with 12 x 6.1" and 12 x 5" guns to supplement the main guns for a very potent firepower capability. Anti-aircraft defense was given priority as well and was left to the 24 x 25mm cannon systems and 4 x 13.2mm machine guns. Inwardly, she made heavy use of arc welding to ensure a strong seal and featured a plethora of damage control sections under the waterline. From bow to stern she measured over 800 feet and was over 120 feet at the beam. Because of the secrecy involved in development, the Yamato had to forgo any formal launching ceremonies when she set out for trials on August 8th, 1940.

Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, 24 October 1944
Japanese battleship Yamato is hit by a bomb near her forward 460mm gun turret, during attacks by U.S. carrier planes as she transited the Sibuyan Sea. This hit did not produce serious damage.

Serving as the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Yamato nearly took part in the Battle of Midway in 1942 but failed to even arrive within range of her main guns. After that near-engagement, the Yamato took on a new look with its armament, having several of her 155mm turrets removed in favor of anti-aircraft systems. On the move once more, the Yamato and her sister were called into action in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, with the Yamato utilizing her main guns for the first time, in 1944 which the Musashi was lost to American Navy air groups. The resilience of the Yamato continued on, however, suffering little critical damage from direct hits from bombs and torpedoes alike. She definitely was starting to fit the part of the invincible ship.

Japanese battleship Yamato maneuvers while under heavy air attack by US Navy Task Force 58 planes in the Inland Sea off Kure, 19 March 1945. She was not seriously damaged in these attacks. Photographed from a USS Hornet (CV-12) plane.

By April of 1945, the last-ditch plans of the Empire of Japan were being laid down. Among those was to sacrifice the Yamato in what was for all intents and purpose a suicide mission at having the great battleship run aground off of Okinawa to provide a stationary and permanent defense base off the coast. American Navy planes, already on patrol to find the Japanese Task Force, located the mighty ship and engaged. The Yamato was hit with conventional bombs, armor piercing bombs, high explosive rockets and cannon fire, dropped from low altitude to ensure direct hits. As expected, uncontrollable fire soon began to take over portions of the deck and sub-decks. Unrelenting additional attacks ensued throughout the day, this time with bombs and torpedoes. The Yamato could do little as her anti-aircraft positions were put out of action and her larger ordnance proving useless against aircraft. She began listing and taking on water to which the order to abandon was given. As the fire spread uncontrollably at this point, a massive ammunition explosion (reportedly seen from the southern part of Japan itself some 120 miles away) officially did the vessel in, allowing just 280 of her crew to be rescued. The battleship as a type was sealed by airborne elements of a carrier group positioned miles away - the aircraft carrier had arrived. The Yamato sank in just two hours after incurring some 13 torpedoes and 6 direct bomb hits.

"Ten-Go" Operation, April 1945
Japanese battleship Yamato maneuvers while under attack by U.S. Navy carrier planes north of Okinawa, 7 April 1945.

The IJN Yamato was officially sunk on April 7th, 1945 just north of the island of Okinawa. She was orignially ordered in 1937 and laid down that same year. The vessel was launched in 1940 and officially commissioned the following year serving until her ultimate demise. A museum at Kure, Japan has been set up in her honor and contains a 1:10 scale model of the mighty ship.

Japanese battleship Yamato listing to port and on fire, under attack by US Navy carrier planes north of Okinawa, April 7, 1945.

"Ten-Go" Operation, April 1945
Japanese battleship Yamato blows up, following massive attacks by U.S. Navy carrier planes north of Okinawa, 7 April 1945. An escorting destroyer is at left.


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