Tag Archives: militariana

Heavy Machine Gun Platoon

While it’s not too terribly difficult to find detailed breakdowns of the regular rifle squad, it’s a lot harder to find tables for the other units. Today, we’ll take a look at the Wehrmacht’s Heavy Machine Gun Platoon, courtesy of Collector Grade’s German Universal Machineguns. A heavy MG platoon meant that its MGs all had tripods and support equipment to maximize the effectiveness of the MGs. This platoon was divided into two groups of two machine guns. The platoon had, of course, a Platoon commander, plus an additional man to take care of the horses used to transport equipment. Each of the two machine gun groups had a group leader, plus a rangefinder and a messenger.

Each machine gun group had two MG “Squads” (for want of a better term). Each squad was based around an MG34/42 and a lot of ammo. They consisted of an MG leader, the MG gunner, MG assistant gunner, and no fewer than three ammunition bearers.

The gunner carried the machine gun, with a 50 round belt in a drum attached to the machine gun, in case it had to be used before the squad got set up. The MG leader carried the MG Z sight, a 300-round ammo can, and a spare barrel. The assistant gunner carried the tripod. The three ammo bearers each carried two 300-round ammo cans, and two of them carried spare barrels.

In terms of secondary weapons, the MG Leader, Gunner, and Assistant Gunner all carried pistols. The ammo bearers each had a service rifle. The MG Group Leaders and MG Platoon Leader had a submachine gun or a pistol. Both rangefinders had pistols, and the messengers and horseman were issued service rifles.

In total, each squad carried 2,150 rounds of belted 8mm Mauser, for a total of 8,600 belted rounds per platoon.

As always, these are the “by the book” figures, and actual platoons may vary.

Book Review: US Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History

Norman Friedman has written some excellent Illustrated Design History books for several types of US Navy ships. Let’s look at one today.

Cruisers goes all the way back to early steam-powered warship designs, focusing on ships built for independent operation away from the fleet, or to screen the fleet from same. For my interests, I found it got really good once they were working on designs related to the Great War, and it stayed good until about the 1950s. At that point, missiles were “in”, and there weren’t many new cruiser designs because of the large number of existing ships to convert.

Friedman does a great job of covering various proposals, desired force structures, and treaties. Like the other Illustrated Design Histories, he traces design proposals, offering a large number of comparative characteristic tables as well as plenty of design sketches. There are also a good number of pictures which illustrate completed designs and how they were altered by war experience.

The chapters on the war experience are the best part of the book. Due to the large number of cruisers available during the Second World War, and the paucity of larger surface combatants, cruisers saw lots of combat. It’s really nice to read about design tradeoffs and expectations and then see how these worked out in actual surface actions.

The missile age eventually sees the end of the independent surface ship, at least in American design practice. As a result, there’s not much in the way of actual Cruiser designs covered; the Long Beach is featured, as are the Command Cruisers, but that’s pretty much the end of it. Being published in the mid 80s, not much is left to cover.

Note that while the ill-fated Typhon system is mentioned in depth, Aegis is covered only briefly here. It is covered in more detail, along with the Ticonderogas and Burkes in Friedman’s Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History. A review of that is forthcoming.

Now, as with any good review, let’s talk price and value. Unfortunately, this book is out of print. As such, pricing is inconsistent. In general, prices are high. A peek at Amazon as this goes to press (late November, 2018) shows a price of about $122 being the best available. Whether or not this is too much for you depends greatly on your interest. If you like Cruisers pre-1947 a lot, that’s a fair price for an out-of-print, detail-laden book. Otherwise, you may wish to watch and wait for a deal. I got my copy for just under $60, and it was in good condition. At that price, which is much closer to the print-run pricing, it’s unquestionably worth it for the student of naval history and design.

Chinook Howitzer

Back in 1972, the Advanced Concepts division of the Aircraft Weapons Division came up with a unique idea. They wanted more aerial firepower. They wanted to super size the gun in helicopter gunship. And so they worked up a proposal to put two 105mm howitzers onto a CH-47C Chinook helicopter. The two howitzers would be mounted won on each side of the fuselage, facing forward, and had an automatic loading system for the two guns. Continue reading

The SAIFV

There are two consistent complaints about the Bradley. One is that it doesn’t carry enough dismounts. The other is that it’s not well protected enough. The US Army has made several attempts to rectify both of these issues. Today, we’re going to look at an alternative design to fix the latter problem: the Special Armor IFV, which dates to around 1978. Continue reading

The 1920s Screening Force

Having finished Shelby Foote’s excellent three-volume Civil War set, I’ve switched over to some more recent naval history: A History of U.S. Cruisers, by Norman Friedman. One of the cool bits of naval history in it is a breakdown of expected US Navy fleet screening requirements, circa 1920. This posited a main body consisting of seventeen battleships and six battlecruisers. These were considered separate elements, and as such, each had its own screen. There were separate screens for dealing with submarines and dealing with torpedo-armed light assets (the so-called “attack” screen). Each force also had its own scouting assets. Let’s look at the breakdown of what they expected to need to screen the main body in a future war at sea.

TypeBattleship ScreenBattlecruiser Screen
Antisubmarine
Light Cruisers10
Destroyer Leaders21
Destroyers2412
Attack Screen
Light Cruisers11
Destroyer Leaders318
Destroyers540
Scouting Forces
Light Cruisers11
Destroyer Leaders32
Destroyers5436

Quite the force. The large number of destroyers is fascinating, as is the relatively small number of cruisers employed in the screen. Cruisers were called for elsewhere, of course. Also of note is that while the term ‘light cruisers’ appears in the plans, ‘heavy cruisers’ does not. Presumably light cruisers were cruisers that weren’t battle cruisers; questions of guns and tonnage would not be relevant until the various naval treaties of the 20s and 30s.

Cool Hornet Features

The F/A-18 Hornet is a really neat aircraft. While it didn’t win our Retro Light Fighter contest, it’s still an awesome plane with a couple unique options. Let’s take a look.

ATARS
ATARS, or Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System, combines image capture, datalink and image storage capability in one package. It’s got both visible-spectrum and thermal cameras, two data storage units, an interface with the APG-73 radar to save synthetic aperture radar imagery, and a datalink. That datalink can transmit to any Common Imaging Ground/Surface Station compatible system. The coolest part about ATARS is that the package fits in the gun bay of a F/A-18D, so it doesn’t require a big, heavy, draggy pod.

Night Attack Variant
The Guy in the Back isn’t a very popular feature amongst fighter pilots. The regular -D model Hornet has the usual second set of flight controls there. But under the Night Attack program, these were replaced with a dual-sidestick layout of the back seat cockpit of the Strike Eagle. Also, the center Multipurpose Color Display and Upfront Controller were transposed. This gave a position optimized for using the targeting pod and guiding weapons. I’m surprised Fishbreath hasn’t gone for this more, being a carrier-capable, smaller, cheaper strike fighter. The Night Attack layot could be swapped back to a conventional trainer rear cockpit, with center stick and throttles. This was not common practice though.

M1 Abrams Fuel Capacities

Another short fluid capacity post, this time for the M1 Abrams. All versions of the M1 use the Honeywell AGT-1500 gas turbine engine and the Allison X1100-3B transmission.

Fuel System
Internal Tanks: 505 gal. (1,911.6 L)
Internal Tanks if UAAPU is mounted: 450 gal. (1,703.4 L)

The Under Armor APU (UAAPU) is fitted standard on the M1A2C1. Previous versions may have an APU mounted in the bustle rack as a retrofit, the UAAPU as a retrofit, or no APU at all.

The Abrams makes no provision for external fuel. Suck it up, buttercup.

Engine Oil Capacity: 25 qt. (23.7 L)

Transmission Oil Capacity: 40 gal. (151.4 L)


  1. Formerly known as the M1A2 SEP v.3 

Griffin III: OMFV Frontrunner?

At AUSA 2018, we saw three possible candidate vehicles for the OMFV Bradley Replacement: BAE’s CV90 Mk. IV, Rheinmetall/Raytheon’s Lynx, and General Dynamics’ Griffin III. Of these, the Griffin III looks to be the frontrunner right now, in so far as it very closely matches what the US Army says it wants. Let’s take a look.

Griffin III is based on the ASCOD hull. This checks our already in service box; the ASCOD is used by Spain and Austria, and was the basis for Britain’s Ajax (and related family of vehicles). It is a newer chassis than the CV90, which is also in service in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and some other places. The Lynx is not in service in any version anywhere, which is points against it, though it is also a contender in Australia’s new IFV competition.

Both the CV90 Mk IV and Lynx have 35mm guns. However, US Army really wants a 50mm. Both BAE and Rheinmetall claim to be able to oblige. General Dynamics, on the other hand, went ahead and mounted the XM913 50mm gun in their AUSA show vehicle. General Dynamics also has a turret design with an incredible +85/-20 elevation range, which looks pretty spectacular on a show floor and is expressly directed at urban warfare scenarios that the US Army worries about. A near-vertical autocannon looks great for anyone who remembers Grozny.

Continuing to hit all the cool future features, General Dynamics has partnered with Aerovision for UAV integration. The Griffin III comes with a nine tube vertical launcher for Aerovision’s Switchblade UAV/Missile, with all the related digital datalink equipment installed. The turret can also accommodate ATGMs, but these weren’t fitted for the show model.

Additional systems fitted for the show model were the Iron Fist (hard kill) APS system, with associated radars and launchers, a gunshot locating system, and Armorworks Tacticam multispectral camouflage. A situational awareness system (i.e. a whole bunch of cameras) was also fitted. I’d guess it’s Leonardo DRS’ system, but this wasn’t stated.

Protection levels are not clear yet. At the show, the Griffin III model as configured weighed about 38 tonnes. With all of the supplemental armor kits mounted, the vehicle would weigh about 50 tonnes.

In terms of capacity, the Griffin III is at a bit of a disadvantage, being designed around no more than six dismounts, where the CV90 can accommodate eight and the Lynx can hold nine. But the US Army has stated that it’s happy enough with a lower capacity vehicle. Their documents indicate that six or even five dismounts is acceptable, and their plans call for a six vehicle platoon with five dismounts in each one.

Let’s also talk about the crewing needs. General Dynamics designed the Griffin III to have space for a three man crew, but automation and crew aids sufficient to enable a two man crew. They’ve done a good job of hedging their bets, being prepared to deliver the future-looking vehicle the Army says it wants, but being prepared for a more conservative design if that ends up winning out.

It’s still really early in the race, and the US Army might change the requirements somewhat. But it’s clear that General Dynamics did their homework when putting the Griffin III together. They seem to have a reasonable idea of what the Army wants, and what tradeoffs they might be willing to accept.

The OMFV Program

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The US Army is looking to replace it’s Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles with…

Okay, yeah. We’ve been down this road a few times. And we at the Soapbox are super skeptical. But let’s look at this “Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle” anyway.

Obviously, it’s supposed to do double duty as a UGV. Not really a surprise there. We do have some ground drone kits, so that might work out okay.

It’s also supposed to be “better” than the Bradley in terms of protection, dash speed, and lethality. Unsurprising. Better can be kind of an annoying word though, because it make you vulnerable to the sort of Lucy-with-the-football stuff we’ve seen before.

Hopefully continuing the trend of this program having some restrictions in it to help it actually go somewhere, the Army is keenly interested in buying something that’s a derivative of someone else’s already-in-service vehicle.

We also see that they’re looking to fit a pair of the new OMFVs in a C-17, giving a maximum weight of about 38.75 tonnes. Or can be stripped down to that weight. Again, this is pretty reasonable given the capacity they want, which we’ll get to in a minute.

The fun begins when we look at the manning numbers. The US Army is specifically requesting a crew of 2 and capacity for 5 dismounts. Let’s look at those in turn.

A crew of two means some faith in your sensors and computer systems for observation and fire control. In practice, this means distributing the gunner’s work between the computers, the driver, and the commander. There have been tests of two-man armored fighting vehicle crews in Germany, the United States, and Israel going back to the 90s. The conclusion has been that it works if you had quality situational awareness aids (i.e. electronic sensors with some computer systems for ‘sensor fusion’), and faith that those aids would actually work. The Israelis have been working on a next gen combat vehicle called the Camel, which also has a crew of two. So it’s very possible, but it requires some forward thinking. Big Army is not usually fond of being forward thinking, so good on them.

Five dismounts is a bit more than half of the old GCV’s goals. It’s nice to see the Army realizing what gave them so much trouble last time and trying something else. Five dismounts reduces the size of the armored volume. It also is smaller than the standard six-man dismount capability that seems to be the common standard. The army is not changing the number of dismounts per platoon though; they’re planning to have six OMFVs in each platoon.

I’m coming around to the idea of smaller, well-protected vehicles with fewer dismounts. I’m a little skeptical of a platoon of six vehicles with thirty dismounts though. That seems a lot for one platoon commander (probably some Lt.) to manage. Maybe modern technology makes it easier. Maybe they plan to give platoon command to some other rank. Or maybe they know something I don’t.

EAPS: The US Army’s New 50mm Cannon?

Over at AUSA 2018, General Dynamics showed off their Griffin III demonstrator vehicle, which was armed with, among other things, a new 50mm cannon. At first, I thought this was simply someone actually executing on the old 50mm Supershot idea, but this is only half true.

What’s carried over from the Supershot program is the basic cartridge shape1, i.e. that of a 35x228mm cartridge ‘necked out’ into a straight-walled case. The gun, which is basically a Bushmaster III with a new barrel and slightly revised feed system, is still externally driven. Nothing super new there. What is new is the goal.

50mm Supershot was designed to have a way to get a more powerful APFSDS round out of the 35mm cannon. A quick barrel change, add new rounds, and you could smash up a tougher Soviet IFV, since 50mm Supershot got you about as much propellant as a 40mm Bofors round, but in a smaller package. Of course, the Soviet Union is no more, and now they have much smaller armored forces. What they do have are precision guided munitions, UAVs, and the traditional giant artillery park.

The new Extended Area Protection System (EAPS–yeah, it’s a stupid name) worked to adapt modern technology and the capacious 50mm round to attack the problem of C-RAM (Counter Rockets, Artillery, and Mortars) as well as countering larger UAVs. What they’ve settled on is a Course Corrected Projectile, fired out of the 50mm gun, equipped with command guidance and a fragmentation warhead.

EAPS and its guided projectiles have passed some basic proof-of-concept testing. It remains to be seen how well the system will shake out. I kinda like the idea, and it’s a better reason than most to increase the autocannon caliber. I’m skeptical that it will work all that well in practice, but it’s at least a new idea.

As for the gun, we can extrapolate a little from the Bushmaster III. Still no word on the capacity of a mounted one yet.


  1. Though the devil lurks in the details. I have no idea if the old rounds would also fit in the chamber for the new gun.