Monday, November 26, 2012

Dutch Bronze 6-pdr Field Gun

Field guns were increasingly used throughout much of the modern world by the time of Napoleon. The Emperor made frequent use of batteries after realizing their effect on the battlefield. Beforehand, the field artillery system was used as more of an auxiliary set piece to supplement advancing cavalry and infantry. Napoleon began fielding large quantities of artillery that would advance before the infantry and cavalry themselves. His tactic was to soften up the enemy that was usually grouped en masse, then lunge forward with his infantry or proceed with a massive cavalry charge to break the troops.

This particular 6-pdr Field Gun was captured from Napoleon at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington.

Field guns can in various calibers - 4-pounder, 6-pounder and 12-pounder - with the "pounder" designation directly reflecting the weight of the projectile that the system used. The weapon was usually fielded on a portable two-wheel carriage that could be draw by horse. When unhinged, the system was manned by at least six personnel in various capacities from gunner, commander and loader. The system was portable enough that the crew could turn the barrel towards a new target or even advance the weapon by pushing / pulling it to a new position.

A weapon's carriage, often referred to as a caison, would normally sit about 30 yards behind with roughly 200 rounds of ammunition along with fuses and gunpowder. The favorite projectile type during this time would have been the "solid shot".

Artillery particularly failed Napoleon at Waterloo, as the rain-soaked ground became too muddy to effectively weild his artillery to his liking. A soft ground also kept the solid shot (or round shot) from successfully ricocheting into the masses of armed infantrymen advancing on his positions. Roundshot could easily decapitate a man, or relieve him of his legs, as the cannonball could effectively bounce 2 to 3 times before coming at rest. This, in itself, was a demoralizing weapon as well as a devastating one. Crews would have to take great care as to firing the round over the heads of their own advancing infantrymen.

This particular Dutch Bronze 6-pdr Field Gun (pictured above) was constructed by L.E. Marits in the Hague when it was still under French control roughly around 1813. The gun bears the name of 'Le Achille' ('the Achilles') and was part of a captured set by the Duke of Wellington from Napoleon's forces in Waterloo in 1815. The cannon sits on a more contemporary carriage design and is available for public viewing at the Tower of London in London, England.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

FX-05 Xiuhcoatl

FX-05 Xiuhcoatl (Fire serpent) assault rifle was developed in Mexico by Directorate of Military Industry (Dirección General Industria Militar Mexicana - DGIM), and was first displayed to the public in 2006. The rifle is already in limited production and is issued to Mexican armed forces on limited basis. It is planned to replace older 7.62x51 HK G3 rifles in Mexican service with 5.56mm FX-05 rifles in the coming years.

While the FX-05 rifle bears more than passing similarity to the German-made HK G36 rifle, suspicions of the patent infringement from HK were turned down, as the FX-05 does not have any of the patented features of the G36, and have enough internal differences to be considered an original design, although its design is obviously heavily influenced by the German rifle. The FX-05 is currently available in three basic versions - rifle, carbine and short carbine, which differ in barrel length.

The FX-05 Xiuhcoatl assault rifle is gas operated, selective fired weapon. Gas piston is located above the barrel, barrel locking is achieved via multi-lugged rotary bolt. Charging handle can be installed on either side of the weapon. Receiver of the rifle is made from impact-resistant polymer, translucent magazines also made from polymer. Safety / fire mode selector switches are located above the pistol grip, on both sides of the gun. Rifle is equipped with integral Picatinny type rail on the top of receiver, and can be fitted either with removable carrying handle / optical sight unit or with detachable iron sights, with protected front post and diopter-type flip-up rear sights. The shoulder stock is also made from polymer; it folds to the right and can be adjusted for the length of pull. When folded, shoulder stock is located below the ejection port on the right side of the receiver, so the gun can be fired with stock folded.

Caliber: 5.56x45 mm NATO
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 1087 mm (stock extended) or 887 mm (stock folded)
Barrel length: mm
Weight: 3.89 kg empty
Rate of fire: 750 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds

Friday, November 9, 2012

Curtiss SO3C Seamew

The Curtiss SO3C "Seamew" (Curtiss Model 82) was an oft-forgotten navy reconnaissance/scout/patrol floatplane produced in quantitative numbers during World War 2. She achieved first flight in 1939 and was officially introduced for service in 1942. Primary users of the system were limited to the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy (RN) Fleet Air Arm (FAA). Some 795 SO3C systems were ultimately produced in whole. However, one of her major problems lay in the chosen Ranger series engine that powered her - ultimately dooming the type to aviation history. She was deemed more-or-less obsolete by 1944 and retired completely from service by 1945. Her early forms were fielded with a fixed wheeled undercarriage in place of the floatplanes, part of the early USN requirement in her design.

The Curtiss SO3C Seamew suffered from a variety of setbacks, ultimately forcing the type out of service after just a few short years.

Seamew Origins

1937 saw the United States Navy looking for a replacement aircraft for its Curtiss SOC Seagull series of biplane floatplane aircraft. The USN was in the market for a more modern, monoplane-winged system that could fulfill the same floatplane reconnaissance role but also include better performance specifications and could operate from both land and water bases as needed. The undercarriage was, therefore, required to be interchangeable to suit the task at hand. The requirement was sent forth and proposals from various firms were entertained. Curtiss and Vought were invited to produce prototypes through a May 1938 contract. The Curtiss prototype was bestowed the developmental designation of XSO3C-1 while the Vought product took on the XSO2U-1 designation. XSO3C-1 first took to the air on October 6th, 1939. In the end, the Curtiss product won out and was ordered for production after some slight design revisions were ordered by the USN (including larger tail surfaces and upturned wingtips to aid in stability). The revised Curtiss Model 82A became the USN SO3C-1 for production under the early nickname of "Seagull". The chosen powerplant became the Ranger V-770-6 series engine.

Design of the SO3C was consistent with floatplane aircraft of the time. Most of her appearance was quite conventional-looking and revolved around a cylindrical fuselage mated to a localized network of floats under the aircraft fuselage and wings.

SO3C Walk-Around

With respect to the SO3C, the fuselage sat atop a large centralized float running nearly the length of the aircraft while each wing underside was supported by smaller stabilizing floats fitted to struts. The radial engine was fitted to the front of the fuselage and powered a two-bladed propeller assembly. The pilot sat immediately aft of the engine compartment under a glazed canopy that was usually left open for better visibility. The second crewmember, the designated observer (seated facing forward), took his position in a separate cockpit held to the rear of the aircraft, his position at the base of the vertical tail fin. Wings were mid-mounted and straight along the leading edge and tapered at the trailing edge, clipped at their tips (with a noticeable upturn to each tip end, needed to counter some initial instability problems in the prototype design), and fitted just aft of the pilot's position. The empennage was dominated by a large vertical tail fin curved to provide the SO3C a most identifiable appearance. Horizontal stabilizers were fitted to either side of the vertical tail fin base. Of note was the observer's heavily framed canopy; the assembly actually doubling as part of the forward portion of the tail fin base. This posed a problem to the aerodynamic qualities of the SO3C however, as the observer most often flew with the cockpit open. While this disrupted the airflow towards the rear of the aircraft, it offered the observer much better visibility when tracking surface targets from up high. Construction was of all-metal, with the exception being the fabric-covered control surfaces.

Power was supplied from the much-maligned Ranger XV-770-8 inverted V12 engine of 600 horsepower.

It's the Engine that Makes or Breaks an Aircraft

The engine provided for a listed top speed of 172 miles per hour though cruising was limited to around 123 miles per hour. Range was roughly 1,150 miles (or about eight hours of flight time) and the aircraft's service ceiling was limited to 15,800 feet. The SO3C held an empty weight of 4,284lbs with a maximum take-off weight equal to 5,729lbs.

The Ranger XV-770 was a powerplant developed by the Ranger Aircraft Engine Division of the Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Corporation.

The design appeared in 1931 and stemmed from the Ranger 6-440 series. The 6-440 was an in-line, air-cooled engine and produced by the company to power a series of training aircraft. In US military nomenclature, the 6-440 took on the designation of L-440. One of the first platforms to be fitted with the V-770 was a Vought XSO2U-1 Scout. Later, the engine was mated to the Curtiss SO3C Seamew. With the Seamew, the engine proved lacking and was found to be of generally poor return. Overheating proved a major sticking point particularly at low speed flying. Despite its limitations, the V-770 found a home in a few other military platforms including the Fairchild AT-21 trainer aircraft and the Bell XP-77 experimental fighter. Neither platform was produced in quantitative numbers, however, with the AT-21 reaching just 175 production units and the XP-77 being produced in just two prototypes.


As an observation platform, the SO3C was never meant to be a dedicated fighter. She maintained a single 0.30 caliber fixed, forward-firing M1919 Browning machine gun (operated by the pilot) and a 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine gun in the rear cockpit (operated by the observer). If called upon in an offensive role, the SO3C could make use of a pair of 100lb general purpose bombs or 325lb depth charges, all held externally underwing or on a central bomb rack (the latter if so equipped). The central bomb rack could field a single 500lb general purpose bomb.

Seamews in American Service

The first SO3C-1 "Seagull" production models were received by the USN in July of 1942 and fielded aboard the USS Cleveland with their V-770-6 series engines. Some 300 were delivered in all but performance of these systems was never truly up to the expected USN performance standards. As such, the type was subsequently generally converted to radio-controlled target drones under the designation SO3C-1K. Consequently, all SO3C-1s were removed as front-line implements by the USN by the time the SO3C-2C production models became available.

The SO3C-2 was based on the Curtiss Model 82B and was perceived as a more "navalized" form complete with arrestor gear and an under fuselage bomb rack. 456 SO3C-2s were ultimately produced though 250 of these were sent to the UK under Lend-Lease under the designation of SO3C-1B (Curtiss Model 82C). However, these were ultimately delivered as SO3C-2C models featuring an uprated powerplant among other subtle improvements.

The SO3C in British Service

The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, a British Royal Navy branch, utilized the SO3C and christened her with the designation of "Seamew" (or Seamew Mk.I). The United States Navy later adopted the "Seamew" name from the British from then on, replacing her original "Seagull" naming convention. When the newer SO3C-2C versions came online with the Royal Navy, these were simply designated as the "Seamew 1". It is of note that none of the British Seamews were ever fielded with operation squadrons, instead they were relegated to general training elements and specific air gunnery/radio training groups.

First Seamews were delivered to the Royal Navy in March of 1943. The first squadron fielding the Seamew became training 755 Squadron at Worthy Down (FN459), Hampshire, UK, in August of 1943. This squadron operated up until 1945. Two other training squadrons existed as the 744 and the 745 Squadrons based out of Nova Scotia, Canada. Beyond that, no Seamews ever saw combat action.

Originally, FAA Seamews were intended as catapult-launched reconnaissance floatplanes to be used on Royal Navy ships. However, the type was never truly fielded in this capacity and ended up serving as nothing more than trainers or second-line aircraft. In all, some 250 Seamew aircraft were received by the British. Later deliveries were cancelled after the availability of the American Vought OS2U "Kingfisher" floatplanes increased by January of 1944. Up to 1,519 of these Kingfisher aircraft were produced and served as the shipboard mainstay on many US Navy vessels during the war. Once the Kingfisher gained more ground, the Seamew quickly disappeared into Royal Navy lore by the beginning of 1945.

The "Queen Seamew"

The "Queen Seamew" was the FAA designation for the SO3C-1K target drone production variant of the SO3C series. Thirty such examples were ordered under Lend-Lease but the order fell to naught, the British cancelling delivery of the systems.

Curtiss Tries Once More

As reception of the SO3C proved lukewarm at best, Curtiss attempted to revive their stillborn aircraft by introducing the SO3C-3 (Curtiss Model 82C). The SO3C-3 boasted a lighter operating weight with a more powerful engine in the form of the SGV-770-8 series. While promising, only 39 examples were completed before the type was dropped from USN and FAA interest. Any existing orders were cancelled outright and the Seamew disappeared into history.

Performance of the Seamew was such that her crews christened the aircraft with the nickname of "Sea Cow".

Specifications for the Curtiss SO3C-2 Seamew

Length: 36.84ft (11.23m)
Width: 37.99ft (11.58m)
Height: 14.99ft (4.57m)

Maximum Speed: 172mph (277kmh; 150kts)
Maximum Range: 1,150miles (1,851km)
Rate-of-Climb: 0ft/min (0m/min)
Service Ceiling: 15,797ft (4,815m; 3.0miles)

Accommodation: 2
Hardpoints: 2
Empty Weight:4,284lbs (1,943kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight:5,730lbs (2,599kg)

Armament Suite:
1 x 0.30 (7.62mm) caliber M1919 Browning machine gun in fixed, forward-firing position.
1 x 0.50 (12.7mm) caliber M2 Browning heavy machine gun in rear cockpit position.
2 x 100lb bombs OR 2 x 325lb depth charges underwing.
1 x 500lb on centerline bomb rack (land-based Seamews).

Engine(s): 1 x Ranger VX-770-8 inverted V12 engine delivering 600 horsepower.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Diemaco C7 (assault rifle), C8 (carbine)

In 1984, Canada adopted a new 5.56 mm assault rifle. To avoid research and design expenses, the Canadians simply purchased the license from USA for a new assault rifle, chambered for the latest 5.56 x 45 NATO ammunition. This was the Colt model 715, also known as the M16A1E1 rifle. Adopted as the C7,this rifle combined features from both earlier M16A1 rifles, such as full automatic fire mode and a two-position flip-up diopter sight, and from the newest M16A2, such as heavy barrel, rifled with faster 1:7 twist, better suited for 5.56mm NATO ammunition. Latter on, Diemaco (now Colt Canada) developed a short-barreled carbine version, fitted with telescoped buttstock, which was designated the C8. While the C7 rifle went to the Canadian armed forces, the C8 is in use with Canadian police forces. According to the recent trends in small arms development, Diemaco also produced so called "flat top" models of both the C7 and C8. These models have a Picatinny-style rail instead of the M16A1-style integral carrying handle with rear sight,and are usually issued with the Elcan optical sights, or with the detachable carrying handle with M16A1-type diopter sights. Designated by the manufacturer as the C7FT and C8FT, in Canadian service these models are issued as C7A1 and C8A1, respectively. Other derivatives are the LSW (Light Support Weapon, basically a heavy barreled C7) and SFW (Special Forces Weapon, a heavy barreled C8). Netherlands adopted the C7 (in both standard and flat top versions) in 1994, and Denmark purchased and adopted the C7FT as the Gevaer M/95 in 1995.

Diemaco C7A1 rifle (top) and upgraded C7A2 rifle (bottom), both fitted with Elcan optical sights

Currently Canadian army is upgrading existing C7 and C7A1 rifles in Canadian service to new C7A2 configuration, which combines the standard C7-type 50cm barrel with C8-type telescoped buttstock, colored furniture, C7A1-type Picatinny rail upper receiver, and additional short Picatinny rails on the sides of front sight block for mounting sighting aids like laser pointers and tactical lights. C7A2 also is fitted with improved sight, Elcan C79A2. Other changes include ambidextrous magazine release and safety/fire selector switch, and other minor improvements.

Diemaco C8A1 carbine

Internally, the C7 differs very little from the original M16A1 rifle, with the most visible differences being the heavy M16A2-style barrel and A2-style handguards. Flat top models (C7FT / C7A1) are quite similar in appearance to the M16A3 rifles, and issued with Elcan optical sight along with backup iron sights. The C8/C8FT carbines are quite similar to the US M4/M4A1 carbines.

  Diemaco C7 Diemaco C8
Calibre 5.56 x 45 NATO 5.56 x 45 NATO
Length 1020 mm 840 / 760 mm
Barrel length 510 mm 370 mm
Weight 3.3 kg empty w/o magazine
3.9 kgloaded with 30 rounds
2.7 kg empty w/o magazine
3.2 kgloaded with 30 rounds
Magazine capacity 30 rounds 30 rounds
Rate of fire 800 rounds per minute 900 rounds per minute



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