Mongol Archery

mongolhorde

Originally the basis of the Mongols’ military power and later almost driven to extinction by the advent of firearms, archery has been revived in Mongolia as a purely recreational sport.

Mongolian archery in the Middle Ages had great military significance. The earliest surviving piece of Mongolian writing is a stone inscription set up in 1226, which records a 335-fathom (about 575 yards) bow shot made by CHINGGIS KHAN’s nephew Yisüngge. The Franciscan friar JOHN OF PLANO CARPINI observed that Mongols began shooting from their second year and that from child to adult they were all excellent marksmen. Mongolian men spent most of their time making their own arrows, which had a number of different heads made with bone or iron.

Under the QING DYNASTY (1636–1912) training in archery was required of all bannermen. The military compound bow used was only about 1 1/4 meters (four feet) long, although ones more than two meters (six feet) long were also used for hunting. Bows were composed of a goat horn or deer antler core covered by wood (larch, elm, or bamboo) and wrapped in animal tendons. The bow’s powerful tension made it spring back when unstrung, and Mongolian EPICS frequently cite the difficult task of stringing a powerful bow as the distinguishing test of the hero. The bowstrings were made of silk threads or leather wrapped in tendons, the arrows of pine, birch, or willow fletched with feathers of a lammergeier, eagle, or falcon, and fitted with heads of deer antler, bone, or iron. Well-constructed compound bows and arrows were highly prized and fetched high prices. Hunters used this powerful war bow for large game, but small game was also taken with a simpler bow made of strips of fir or larch cut from the stems and wrapped with tendon. The bowstring was a length of hide, preferably horsehide.

Mongolian traditional bow technique involved putting the arrow on the right, or outer, side of the bow. The arrow was held with the thumb and forefinger and the bowstring drawn with the thumb, which was protected by heavy leather or a polished stone ring. The string was released by rolling it off the ring. Under the Qing the ability to handle a pull weight of about 37 kilograms (80 pounds) was considered the minimum for a grown man, and one of about 60 kilograms (133 pounds) was necessary for men who wished to participate in the imperial hunt. Training encompassed not only shooting from a standing position but also shooting while galloping on horseback, when the reins were taken up in the left hand or mouth while the right hand pulled back the bow. The targets for these military competitions were made of sheepskin stretched over wooden frames or wooden balls placed on poles about 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) high. Since the Mongols found it disturbing for target shooters to target a person or animal, even in their imagination, the target was sometimes called a mangas, or monster.

In the NAADAM “games” that accompanied religious rituals, archery was practiced with large, blunt ivory heads. The most common target was a pyramid or line of sur, made of leather straps rolled into a cylinder and filled with oak bark or leather, which was to be knocked over. At the beginning of the competition, the umpires (uukhaichin, or “uukhai sayers”) gave a cry of uukhai, accompanied by a circular motion of their arms with the hands pointed up to the sky to summon good fortune. The same cry accompanied each striking of the target and the final tallying of the score. The victorious archer received the title mergen (sharpshooter, but also wise man).

By the late 19th century, however, firearms were clearly more useful in hunting and warfare, and the archery competitions became desultory. Among the lamas of Khüriye (modern ULAANBAATAR), who were forbidden by the letter of the vinaya (monastic discipline) from even being in the presence of weapons of war, shooting astragali (shagai) became a widespread sport. In it lamas shot lined-up astragali (shagai) at a distance of 3 meters (9 feet) with horn or ivory bullets flicked by the middle finger from a wooden plank.

In 1922 the army Naadam in Mongolia (later the National Holiday Nadaam) and in 1924 the Sur-Kharbaan (Archery) games in the BURIAT REPUBLIC became annual events, beginning the revival of archery as a sport. In the National Holiday Naadam rules, each man fires 40 arrows at a distance of 75 meters (246 feet). In the 1960s women began to compete in the event, shooting 20 arrows at a distance of 60 meters (197 feet). This innovation had been adopted first among the BURIATS and in the 1950s in Inner Mongolia. While traditional bows are still used in Mongolia with the traditional fingering, Buriat and Inner Mongolian archers use European- style professional model bows and have adopted the Western shooting style.

WWII USN Torpedoes

Torpedo_Exploder_Mark_6_NH-88457

“Damn those exploders…damn them all to hell!” exclaimed the skipper of submarine Jack, Lieutenant Commander Thomas Michael Dykers, on June 20, 1943, as he watched through the periscope and saw a torpedo, fired from an excellent position and at the optimal range of 1,000 yards, “premature” (explode before reaching its intended target), a 1,500-ton trawler. “Son of a bitch from Baghdad!” Dykers roared as the other two torpedoes he fired also failed to reach their target, either missing or failing to detonate.

This flawlessly executed attack, the premier combat for both the Jack and its skipper, failed because of faulty torpedoes. Very unfortunately for the U.S. war effort in the Pacific, its submarine campaigns were plagued for fully the first half of the war with torpedo problems. These problems included premature detonation, running depths deeper than specified, and failure to explode upon contact with a ship’s hull. Often one of these problems masked another, with the solution of one problem seemingly leading to the emergence of another, unanticipated one. The full extent of the torpedo problems was not known or completely remedied until the fall of 1943.

But, as if to compensate for this American failing, the Japanese committed an equal or greater strategic blunder of their own: they chose not to make extensive use of submarine warfare against U.S. shipping. Throughout most of the war, Japanese submarines and torpedoes were superior to their U.S. counterparts. Japanese submarines, or I-boats, were bigger than the U.S. submarines, and their torpedoes were vastly superior. Even after it was perfected, the U.S. Mark-14 torpedo had a range of 4,500 yards, a warhead of 668 pounds of Torpex (a specially designed mixture of TNT, other explosive compounds, and beeswax), and a speed of 46 knots. (Fired at 31 knots, the Mark-14 theoretically had a range of 9,000 yards, but this setting was seldom used, except against anchored ships.) The electrical Mark-18–1 torpedo, which came into increasing use toward the end of the war, had a range of 3,500 yards, a top speed of only 33 knots, and a warhead of 500 pounds. By contrast, the typical Japanese submarine torpedo, the Type 95, had a range of 10,000 yards, a speed of 49 knots, and a warhead of 900 pounds. It took only three such torpedoes, fired from Japanese submarine I–19 on September 15, 1942, in the Coral Sea, to fatally cripple aircraft carrier Wasp. On the same day a Japanese torpedo blew a 32-foot hole in the hull of battleship North Carolina.

mk14

The Mark-14. The standard Mark-14, the torpedo most commonly used by U.S. submarines in World War II, had three problems: running too deep, exploding prematurely because of faulty magnetic detonation devices, and not detonating at all upon contact with a ship’s hull, because of poorly designed mechanical detonators. The first fault to be detected and corrected was running below set depths. When this problem was solved, the issue of premature detonations came next, and when this in turn was resolved, faulty mechanical detonators had to be reworked until they performed satisfactorily.

In June 1942 navy technical personnel placed a large fishnet across a bay in Western Australia and then fired three torpedoes at it. Two torpedoes set to run at 10 feet tore through the net at 18 feet and 25 feet, respectively, and a third, set to run on the surface, pierced the net at 11 feet. The U.S. Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) questioned the unsophisticated protocols of this test, but its own more careful tests confirmed that the torpedoes were indeed running deep. The reasons involved, among other things, weight differences between live and dummy torpedoes tested, improperly calibrated equipment, and inaccurate record-keeping. Instead of addressing all of these problems, submariners simply set torpedo depths for 10 feet less than they needed.

The next major problem with the Mark-14 torpedoes was the Mark-6 magnetic exploder, a device copied from captured German U-boat torpedoes and designed, at least in theory, to detonate the torpedo’s warhead just as it passed through the magnetic field beneath the keel, usually the most vulnerable and least armored part of a ship. Unknown to the Americans, the Nazis had encountered so many problems with their own magnetic exploder device that they eventually abandoned it as unreliable.

Torpedo_exploder_Mark_6_Mod_1

The Mark-6 Exploder. The most infuriating quirk with the Mark-14 torpedo equipped with the Mark-6 exploder was not that it never worked, but that it worked unpredictably. When this torpedo/exploder combination did perform as designed, it was devastatingly effective, and severely damaged or sank any vessel unfortunate enough to be its target because it broke up the ship exactly at its most vulnerable part, the keel. These successes happened with just enough frequency to convince BuOrd that the torpedoes were largely problem-free.

Predictably, skippers very quietly deactivated the magnetic exploders on their torpedoes and set them to detonate on contact only. Most did not reveal that they had done so, because tampering with the government’s ordnance was, technically, a serious offense that could get them courtmartialed. Admiral Charles A.Lockwood, commander of the Pacific Fleet submarines, eventually learned of this practice and sided with the skippers. He also decided to take his case against the faulty magnetic exploder to the commander of the Pacific fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz. After hearing Lockwood’s grievances, Nimitz directed Lockwood to issue orders for the deactivation of the faulty devices, and this Lockwood did in June 1943.

Disabling the magnetic exploders did greatly reduce the premature explosion problem, but an equally serious fault emerged: dud torpedoes. Instead of exploding prematurely, many torpedoes did not explode at all, even when they hit an enemy hull with a solid thud.

On July 24, 1943, Dan Daspit, skipper of Tinosa, was on the trail of a huge tanker of 19,000 tons, Tonan Maru III. Two of the first four torpedoes he fired at the vessel were solid hits, and smoke began billowing from the tanker. Finding no surface or air escorts for the tanker, Daspit had a matchless opportunity to send it to the bottom. In all, he fired fifteen torpedoes, the last against a Japanese destroyer. All failed to detonate. Daspit saved his last torpedo to take back to Pearl Harbor as proof that something was drastically wrong with U.S. torpedoes. At Pearl Harbor, Lockwood and others soon concluded that the contact detonators were malfunctioning, and a team of investigators was soon looking into the problem. Dummy warheads fitted with the defective exploders were dropped 90 feet from a crane onto a thick steel plate. When the warheads hit the plate at the perfect angle of 90 degrees, the contact detonators were crushed by the impact before they could strike the fulminate caps. But when the warheads were dropped onto a plate angled at 45 degrees, only about half were duds. It was clear that the detonators were poorly designed, and torpedo experts at Pearl Harbor immediately began reworking them. (Ironically, the new and improved detonator devices were fashioned out of very tough metal obtained from Japanese aircraft propellers found in the Hawaiian Islands.) Lockwood directed that all Mark-14 torpedoes thereafter be equipped with the new detonators, and told submarines still at sea to try for angled shots instead of the ideal 90 degree approaches.

By the late summer of 1943, all of the torpedo problems were remedied. Only now could submariners confront the enemy with full confidence in their ordnance. The reworked torpedoes soon led to dramatic increases in submarine sinkings of Japanese shipping, and by the first quarter of 1944, more than 1,750,000 tons of Japanese shipping were destroyed, which nearly equaled the figure of 1,803,409 sunk for all of 1943. By the end of 1944, the destruction of Japanese shipping was truly devastating: more than 3.8 million tons sunk.

Mark_18_torpedo_general_profile,_US_Navy_Torpedo_Mark_18_(Electric),_April_1943

The Mark-18. Early in 1942 the Allies had captured a German electric torpedo, and eventually Westinghouse was producing copies. One of the main advantages of the electric torpedo was its wakeless track, which made it much more difficult to spot. Westinghouse’s Mark-18 electric torpedo also proved to have none of the depth control or detonation problems of the Mark-14s, and its production costs were less. Its main immediately discernible drawback was its slower speed of about 30 knots. But as the Mark-18 was taken into combat situations, problems emerged. For one thing, it ran slower in cold water because the cold reduced the power of its batteries. Hydrogen leaks from its batteries led to several fires and explosions, and ventilating the torpedoes of hydrogen became a frequent precaution. (Later, hydrogen-burning technology right inside the torpedo itself made this unnecessary.) Torpedo technicians at Pearl Harbor quickly identified and remedied these and other problems, and by 1944 the Mark-18 was gradually gaining acceptance from submariners. Gradually a consensus arose: they would use the electric Mark-18s by day and the now reliable Mark-14s by night. Some 30 percent of the torpedoes fired from U.S. submarines in 1944 were electric, and by war’s end the figure had risen to 65 percent. By the end of the war, the Mark-18 had definitely proven its worth: it had sunk nearly a million tons, about one-fifth of the total sent to the bottom by U.S. submarines.

The torpedo was the submariners main tool of war, and its improvement was the single most important technological development in U.S. submarine warfare during World War II. But other items of equipment and improvements in them also contributed to the stealth and deadliness of the U.S. submarine.

LINK

Motobomba FFF

3969288

Seite-16j

The Motabomba, or more properly the Motobomba FFF (Freri Fiore Filpa), was a torpedo used by Italian forces during World War II. The designation FFF was derived from the last names the three men involved with its original design: Lieutenant-Colonel Prospero Freri, Captain-Disegnatore Filpa, and Colonel Amedeo Fiore.

The FFF was a 500 millimetres (20 in) diameter electric torpedo which was dropped on a parachute and was designed to steer concentric spirals of between 550 and 4,375 yards (500 and 4,000 m) until it found a target. It weighed 350 kilograms (770 lb), and contained a 120 kilograms (260 lb) warhead. Its speed was 40 knots (46 mph) and it had an endurance of 15–30 minutes. It was acknowledged by the Germans as superior to anything they had and American intelligence was eager to get its hands on it after the Armistice with Italy in September 1943.

Development

The initial development work on the torpedo was carried out at Parioli, near Rome. It was demonstrated in 1935 to Benito Mussolini, Admiral Domenico Cavagnari, General Giuseppe Valle and other high officials. Freri later demonstrated it at the Germania works at Travemünde, the Luftwaffe experimental trials centre, and the Germans were sufficiently impressed to order 2,000 examples.

500 were ordered for the Regia Aeronautica, the first planned uses for them in combat to be against the British naval bases at Gibraltar and Alexandria in 1940. The limiting factor was the fact that only the Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 bomber had the necessary power and range to deliver such a weapon over such a distance.

The first version of the FFF were designed to enter the water vertically, but it was found that a tilt device allowing it to make a gentler angled entry was less likely to upset the delicate mechanisms, and this was implemented on the second series.

Service history

The first attack using the FFF was made on July 17, 1942 when three SM.82s flew from Guidonia against Gibraltar, an effort repeated on July 25, both missions aborted before launch. On the night of August 20, a Major Lucchini conducted a successful mission against Gibraltar and this was followed by attacks on targets in Albanian, Libyan, and Egyptian waters. Aircraft of 32 Stormo attacked Gibraltar once more in June 1941 and in that same month Lieutenant Torelli (based at Rhodes) attacked Alexandria harbour on the night of June 13.

The largest use of the weapon was against the PEDESTAL convoy to Malta on August 12, 1942 when ten Savoia-Marchetti SM.84s of 38 Gruppe’s 32 Stormo launched them against the convoy south of Cape Spartivento, Sardinia. This made the ships of the convoy alter course, which allowed conventional attacks to penetrate the convoy’s defences.

By September 1942 the Italians had 80 of the improved Mk 2 version at bases in Sardinia, 50 in Sicily, and 50 more with their experimental (ASI) 5 Squadron.

The Luftwaffe made their first mass attack using the weapon on March 19, 1943 when Junkers Ju 88s launched 72 of them against shipping at Tripoli, sinking two supply ships and damaging the destroyer HMS Derwent. Derwent was subsequently beached with her engine room flooded and although salvaged and returned to England, was never repaired.

The FFF was subsequently used in attacks against invasion shipping at Bône in Algeria on April 16, 1943 and at Syracuse during the Allied invasion of Sicily later that year. On December 2 a force of 105 Ju 88s attacked Bari harbour with FFFs, destroying 16 Allied ships including the SS John Harvey, which had been carrying mustard gas.

Bibliography

Giuseppe Ciampaglia: “La sorprendente storia della motobomba FFF”. Rivista Italiana Difesa. Luglio 1999

Motobomba FFF

The first Italian bombers appeared on Gibraltar in 17 of July, 1940. three SM 82 Marsupiale dropped each 4 250 kg high explosive bombs on the harbour( not in the sea) that was not darkened because none in the British Empire knew the performances of this three-engine aircraft yet ( 4000 km autonomy, 4000 kg bomb load).The British night fighters didn’t succeed in striking the raiders.

Bombs on the sea? Maybe you are right, but some weapons MUST be dropped in the sea.

In July/august 1940 and in June 1941 the SM 82s bombed Gibraltar 4-6 times. A special weapon employed in this attacks was the Motobomba FFF ( Freri Fiore Filpa) torpedo. These were 50cm electric torpedoes which followed a circular course when dropped, the circle getting gradually larger. They weighed 350kg, of which 120kg was the warhead. The weapon was dropped as a bomb in the sea but it moved as a torpedo and was very useful against ships that were anchored in an harbour. Each motobomba was connected with a parachute , this is the reason why the wind took 2 bombs on a Spanish village.

In 13 July and 20 august 1941 two merchant ships in Gibraltar were sunk by the “motobombe” .

The Motobomba was also employed by the Luftwaffe ( FLT 400 torpedo was dropped by Ju-88 and Dornier 217 on Tripoli, Bona and Algeri harbours , some ships were sunk).

‘Istrebitel Sputnikov’ (IS)

spacekiller

An artist’s conception of a Soviet anti-satellite weapon destroying a satellite in 1984.

is_side_ortho_1

The Russian satellite destroyer known as ‘Istrebitel Sputnikov‘ (IS). Carrying an explosive charge, it would be guided on an intercept course towards enemy satellites.

America’s ability to gather intelligence on Soviet developments was severely limited during the early post-war years and the only methods of aerial observation available were large numbers of camera-equipped balloons and specialised spyplanes. The balloons were uncontrollable, unreliable and generated serious diplomatic problems, while the high-altitude reconnaissance flights ended on 1st May 1960 when a Lockheed U-2 was shot down and the pilot captured. There was now intense pressure on US defence contractors to provide the USAF and CIA with a reconnaissance satellite system, and there was an equal determination within the Soviet Union to counter US satellite observation of its activities. Vladimir Chelomei is generally credited within Russia as being the first designer to suggest the idea of an anti-satellite system using another small space vehicle carrying an explosive charge. His initial proposal for an Istrebitel Sputnikov (IS – Destroyer of Satellites) was made in 1959. This small vehicle would be directed towards the target from the ground before it switched to its own terminal guidance system.

In early 1960 Khrushchev approved development of the UR-200 ballistic missile which Chelomei had suggested as the launcher for his IS satellite destroyer, and a decision to proceed with the IS was approved in early 1961. This project was assigned to Anatoly Savin and his deputy K. A. Vlasko-Vlasov, who ran a group within OKB-52 called KB-1. Much of the work on the IS appears to have been compartmentalised and classified as top secret. As the first prototypes neared completion in 1963, there were still problems with developing the UR-200 and a formal request was made via official channels to secure the use of R-7 launch vehicles for testing. The first two prototype test vehicles, named Polet (Flight), were launched on 1st November 1963 and 12th April 1964. Both lacked radar and infrared homing systems but successfully demonstrated orbital manoeuvring capabilities. But the UR-200 missile intended to launch IS still proved very troublesome and after the second test it was cancelled. However, the Ministry of Defence was sufficiently impressed with IS to recommend that the launch vehicle should be replaced by an R-36 missile (SS-9 NATO Scarp) then under development by OKB-586. This resulted in OKB-586 receiving a formal request in August 1965 to develop a suitable version of the R-36 as an IS launcher, and the new slightly modified design was designated 11K67 (and later Tsyklon-2A).

The test launch of this rocket carrying the third prototype IS vehicle took place at Baikonur on 27th October 1967 and was judged to have been a success. Named Cosmos- 185, the IS spacecraft initially entered a 339 x 229 mile (546 x 370km) orbit with a 64.1° inclination, which was later boosted to a 550 x 324 mile (888 x 522km) orbit. During April 1968 another IS vehicle was launched at Baikonur as Cosmos-217, although something went wrong with this test and the IS failed to separate from the upper stage. Six months later Cosmos-248 was launched into orbit at Baikonur as a large target satellite for a fullscale test of the IS vehicle’s capability. Within a matter of hours Cosmos-249 had been launched which was a fully equipped IS vehicle. Cosmos-249 attained a 157 x 84 mile (254 x 136km) orbit and manoeuvred to pass within close proximity of Cosmos-248. A small explosive charge was then detonated to demonstrate the system, although the target vehicle is thought to have remained largely undamaged.

Less than two weeks later another IS vehicle designated Cosmos-252 was launched and successfully intercepted Cosmos-248. The spacecraft exploded within close proximity of the satellite and it was completely destroyed. Although the IS system was still in its early test phase, it seems reasonable to conclude that these trials were considered very successful. Further launches took place during 1969 and 1970 with the orbital apogees of the vehicles increasing to more than 1,242 miles (2,000km) before descent to the target. During 1971 several target satellites designated DS-P1-M were launched from Plesetsk and ASAT trials continued until 1972 when SALT 1 was signed. However, it seems that the Soviet anti-satellite system was considered semi-operational by this time.

Tests resumed in 1976, possibly as a response to military proposals for the US Shuttle which the Soviets perceived as an offensive weapon. It was also clear that the capability and accuracy of the IS system continued to improve. Development of this programme proceeded rather erratically until 1983 when Chairman Yuri Andropov decided to halt further ASAT trials for political reasons. Although ASAT research continued and the Polyus orbital platform was built and unsuccessfully launched in 1987, no further tests were undertaken. Just how far the US went with attempts to duplicate the Soviet IS system remains unknown, but Project SAINT may have been conceived as a direct response to IS.

ASDIC

asdic_patterns_b

This pictorial illustrates the shape of the detection area for the 144 ASDIC, the ‘Q; attachment and the 147 Asdic. Click on graphic to enlarge.

From “Anti- Submarine Detection Investigation Committee,” dating to British, French, and American anti-submarine warfare research during World War I. Known as ASDIC (Admiralty’s Anti-Submarine Division) in British and Commonwealth navies until the 1950s and the most important underwater detection device since the interwar period. Sonar takes two forms: active, emitting sonic impulses and measuring distance and direction through receiving their reflections; and passive, determining bearing and range through comparative analysis of received sound.

The Allied Submarine Detection Investigation Committee produced an experimental set in 1918, but the first operational units went to sea only in 1928 (aboard British A-class destroyers). All were “searchlight” units using high-frequency emissions (20–40 kilocycles). They had short ranges (to 3,500 yards) and were ineffective at speeds much above 15 knots. Such sets also had a 200-yard dead zone and slow operating rates. They determined direction but not depth. Most navies, in consequence, relied heavily on hydrophones for submarine search and used sonar primarily for attack guidance.

All Royal Navy destroyers were fitted with ASDIC during the early 1930s. This underwater detection device to locate U-boats using sound echoes was refined before and during World War II by British and other anti-Nazi scientists. Improved hydrophones had long been able to detect a U-boat’s bearing. When grouped to receive echoes of sound pulses, they also determined range. ASDIC worked by sending out acoustical pulses that echoed off hulls of U-boats, but also sometimes off the sides of whales or schools of fish. The echoes were heard by grouped hydrophones on the sending ship, so that an ASDIC screen and operator provided the escort’s captain with estimated range and position of the enemy submarine. It was limited by the sounds of other ships’ screws, rough seas, and onboard machinery of its host ship. Such interference enabled U-boats to hide from escorts inside the “noise barrier” created by a convoy. More importantly, even in optimum conditions early ASDIC could not determine a U-boat’s depth.

British and Commonwealth ASDIC operators could locate U-boats to a distance of 2,000 meters by 1940. However, from 200 meters range to source, pulse and echo merged. That meant U-boats were lost to detection before the moment of attack, just as a destroyer closed on its position. Because forward-throwing technology for depth charges had not been developed, the explosives were dropped astern of the charging destroyer across the last known position of the U-boat. Loss of contact, stern attack, and the time it took charges to sink to explosive depth combined to permit many U-boats to escape destruction simply by turning hard away from the closing destroyer or corvette. Admiral Karl Dönitz, head of the Kriegsmarine U-boat arm, countered the threat from ASDIC by instructing U-boat captains to attack only on the surface and at night. That countermeasure was lost to U-boats once the Western Allies deployed aircraft equipped with Leigh Lights. Dönitz next ordered research into absorbent coating and rubber hull paints to reduce the ASDIC signature of his U-boats, but with little success. Similarly, release of a Pillenwerfer noise-maker only tricked inexperienced ASDIC operators. An advanced Type 147 ASDIC set was developed later in the war that tracked U-boats in three dimensions, giving readouts of bearing as well as range and depth. Note: All Western Allied navies adopted the U. S. Navy term for ASDIC in 1943: sonar.

Major wartime sonar developments attempted to address these deficiencies. Power rotation and improved displays enhanced operating rates, and streamlined steel domes raised useful search speeds. Dual-frequency sets (operating at either 14 or 30 kilocycles) enhanced ranges, and tilting transducers eliminated the dead zone. Britain also developed a specialized sonar (Type 147B) for accurate depth determination. A simultaneous line of development, the scanning sonar using an omnidirectional transmitter coupled to an array of fixed receiving transducers, offered a possible solution to the search problem. Such equipment required greater power to maintain its range but could be larger (since rotation was eliminated) and hence could operate at lower frequencies, enhancing performance.

Wartime submarines also carried sonar. Most navies relied on active sets for target detection, but Germany pursued a different course with its Gruppen-Horch-Gerät (GHG) equipment, a standard installation from 1935 on. An array of sound-receiving diaphragms on each side of the bow connected to a pulse-timing compensator provided bearings of received noise. This apparatus could detect single ships out to 16 miles and large groups to 80 miles, but the bearings it provided were insufficiently precise for accurate attacks. At short ranges, however, a supplemental swiveling hydrophone (Kristall-Basisgerät) generated bearings accurate to within 1 degree. Finally, to obtain ranges U-boats carried an active sonar (SU-Apparatus) developed from surface warship sets, although this device was rarely used because its emissions would reveal the submarine’s presence. Late-war trials, however, using GHG together with SU-Apparatus demonstrated that as few as three active impulses sufficed to determine target distance, course, and approximate speed.

Fixed-array scanning formed the basis for active sonar development after World War II, while passive systems evolved from the original German GHG. In the process the two types converged; most modern ship-mounted sonars operate in both active and passive modes, often simultaneously.

Antisubmarine Warfare

The success of sonar led in the interwar period to complacency about the need for further ASW research, since echo-ranging appeared to compromise a submarine’s ability to remain undetected. The fact that most submarine attacks had actually occurred on the surface, where sonar was irrelevant, was not taken into consideration. Submarines of World War II were faster, able to sustain greater depths, and had longer range and more powerful weapons than submarines of the previous world war.

With the beginning of World War II in September 1939, German submarines were once again deployed around Great Britain. They were not charged with destroying shipping, but rather with attacking naval vessels. Over the course of the next year, however, the rules of engagement were expanded and U-boats began concerted efforts against shipping. The Allies instituted convoy tactics at the onset of hostilities, but the fall of Norway, the Low Countries, and France in 1940 gave German U-boats better access to the Atlantic convoy lanes, something conspicuously missing during the last war. This greatly expanded the area where submarine attacks could be expected.

Increasing numbers of Allied escort vessels, long-range aircraft, and small carriers to accompany convoys infringed upon submarines’ ability to attack shipping. Depth charges and launchers became more reliable and powerful. Sonar also greatly improved, and was ultimately able to determine a submarine’s approximate bearing and depth. Such information could be exploited by the newly invented ahead-throwing weapons, the hedgehog and squid. Airborne ordnance, including sonobuoys, homing torpedoes, and devices such as the magnetic anomaly detector (MAD), were becoming commonplace.

Radar, both on surface ships and in aircraft, proved the most important ASW device of the war; radio direction finding (HF/DF) was also extremely important against German submarines. Decoded intelligence also played a major role in the defeat of the U-boats. Whole convoys could be routed around known German wolf packs, while hunter-killer groups composed of escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts could intercept and sink U-boats. Germany developed countermeasures, but the sheer scale of Allied saturation techniques, combined with the extraordinary production of shipping, made it very difficult for diesel submarines to prosecute the war.

In the Pacific, American submarines waged an even more destructive war against Japanese shipping. Japanese ASW was markedly inferior to that of the Allies, partly as a result of deeply ingrained doctrine that submarines were fleet vessels and deployed only against other naval ships, not merchant ships. Consequently, the Japanese navy had few ASW measures to protect shipping in place before their 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

References

Brown, D. K. The Grand Fleet: Warship Design and Development, 1906-1922. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1999.

Campbell, John. Naval Weapons of World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1985.

Friedman, Norman. Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons, 1994 Update. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1994.

Hitler’s Saw

World War II Interior Pages

dfsvdrfzdfrgb

mg34_tr

MG-34

mg42_53_tripod_5

MG-42

The MG-42 was designed during World War II as a replacement for the multipurpose MG-34, which was less than suitable for wartime mass production and was also somewhat sensitive to fouling and mud. It was manufactured in great numbers by companies like Grossfuss, Mauser-Werke, Gustloff-Werke, Steyr-Daimler-Puch, and several others. It is estimated that more than 400,000 MG-42s were manufactured during the war, and it was undoubtedly one of the best machine guns of World War II. It was designed to be reliable and cheap to manufacture; the design was so effective that it is still in production in more or less modified form in many countries.

Although the German Army of 1939 was not an entirely mechanized force (the German infantry was still largely foot-mobile), the hallmark of the blitzkrieg was fast-moving offensive operations characterized by speed, firepower, and sudden, overwhelming force. During these types of operations, the machine gun ceased to be a specialized weapon and became instead an integral part of the firepower needed to overcome the enemy at the point of attack. The infantry’s need for a sustained-fire weapon that soldiers could carry into battle on the attack was one of the parameters that drove the development of both the German light machine gun and the submachine gun. German tactics were built around the small team armed with light automatics. This gave a small force the firepower advantage and the ability to move rapidly and overcome opposition quickly with a large volume of self-contained automatic fire.

Such tactics demanded a new approach to the tactical use of the machine gun. Built around the interwar technological innovations by German armament manufacturers and the tactical and doctrinal transformations of the Wehrmacht, the new concept was called the Einheitsmaschinengewehr (Universal Machine Gun) or what would eventually be described as the general-purpose machine gun. The medium was too heavy and immobile to fit the new German style of warfare. In determining how to produce weapons, the Germans decided to do away with the distinctive MMG- and LMG- designs. Rather than further develop one machine gun for the sustained-fire role and another for the squad’s automatic weapon, one machine gun would be expected to fulfill all these tasks and others. Given a tripod, it would serve in the sustained-fire mode, much like a heavy at the beginning. Fitted with a bipod, it would serve as the squad’s standard automatic. The gun could also be fitted on tanks and armored cars and even aboard ships for naval air defense and on light vessels and submarines. The initial German effort to meet the general-purpose needs was the MG-34. The MG-34 entered service in 1934, the plan being to replace the collection of existing machine guns in the German Army under the one-gun-fits-all approach. The designers set out to produce the perfect weapon, demanding a higher-quality finish and precision manufacturing than was necessary. Ironically, however, the very quality of the MG-34 caused problems. Though it was superbly engineered, the resulting manufacturing process was slow, and German munitions officials anticipated that they would have difficulty replacing MG-34s lost in battle, much less produce enough to replace all the German machine guns in the Wehrmacht inventory, even with five factories working three shifts per day. Additionally, the fine tolerances made it difficult to maintain, vulnerable to poor conditions, and susceptible to stoppages caused by sand and dust.

New Production Methods

By 1937, with war clouds gathering, the German Army became concerned that enough MG-34s could be manufactured to meet the increased demand. Accordingly, three companies-Grossfuss Metal-und-Lackierwarenfabrik of Doblen, Rheinmetall-Borsig of Sommerda, and Stubgen of Erfurt-were asked to submit designs for a new gun to replace the MG-34 that would be easier and quicker to manufacture in great numbers. Rheinmetall and Stubgen submitted gas-operated designs, and Grossfuss proposed a recoil-operated design. Interestingly, Grossfuss, which had no previous experience in weapons manufacture (the company’s main line was sheet-metal lanterns), came up with a unique roller-locked breech mechanism that was both simple and resistant to dirt and dust. Ernst Grunow, a design engineer with Grossfuss, knew nothing about machine guns, but he specialized in the technology of mass production, including metal stamping and pressing. Grunow took six weeks off and attended an army machine gunner’s course in order to familiarize himself with the actual handling of such a weapon. He wanted to know what the users thought was important in a machine gun. He then returned to his office and designed a machine gun built around an earlier Mauser operating system, incorporating lessons from his stay with the machine gunners and other lessons learned during the first years of the war. The other designs were eliminated, and production began on the MG-39/41, as it was designated. By late 1941, large-scale trials were conducted, and after favorable reports all around the weapon was adopted as the MG-42 early the following year.

This design was specifically engineered for quick and cheap manufacture. The MG-42 was made from steel stampings and pressings rather than machined from solid block. It used rivets and spot welds, rather than fine finishing like the MG-34. As a result the cost of the weapon was cut significantly; more important, the manufacturing time was reduced by 35 percent. The MG-42 was to become one of the finest machine guns of all time, combining simplicity, ruggedness, and reliability with the firepower of the MG-34.

The MG-42 incorporated innovative approaches. It used a new form of delayed-blowback action, partly developed from a Polish design obtained when that country was overrun in 1939. It also had a plastic butt and pistol grip. The design also included a quick-change barrel system that permitted a well-trained gunner to exchange barrels in a matter of seconds during combat. The gun had a phenomenal rate of fire-more than 1,200 rounds per minute-far higher than any other machine gun fielded at the time. Because of its light weight, the increased rate of fire meant that accuracy was reduced. However, the Germans were prepared to accept this limitation because they theorized that a machine gunner had only a few seconds to fire at enemies before they took cover. Therefore, it was thought that the more rounds one could fire in this time, the more enemy casualties one could cause.

The MG-42 proved deadly effective and fit perfectly in the GPMG- role required by German tactical and operational concepts; it would see extensive service on the battlefields of World War II. The standard German infantry battalion employed twelve MG-42s in the schwere (heavy) role mounted on a tripod. It would prove particularly effective when the German Army was forced on the defensive late in the war. MG-42s were also used as armament on virtually every German armored vehicle, from halftracks to Panzers. Regardless of its role, Allied soldiers who faced the MG-42 will always remember the terrifying sound (“like ripping canvas”); the MG-42 was deadly and effective in the hands of German infantry.

While the MG-42 was being developed, the German Army continued work on other designs in case the MG-42 design never materialized as a viable weapon. Part of this effort was in improving the MG-34 design. The MG-34/41 was a radical modification of the MG-34 design that was no longer capable of using the spare parts provided for the original MG-34. In that sense, it was entirely new. However, by the time that the MG-34/41 was perfected, the MG-42 had arrived on the scene and proved superior to anything the German Army faced. Therefore, the MG-34/41 was abandoned, and further machine-gun development in Germany virtually ceased for the rest of the war.

American Civil War Rail-Weapons

From the very beginning of the war, the employment of railway batteries in the form of guns placed at the head of trains came into use at several different locations on the front line, either on the initiative of the high command or of especially inventive local commanders. For example, in May 1861, in order to protect the network of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Union General McClellan ordered the mounting of artillery at the head of troop trains. The Dictator was another example, made famous during the siege of Petersburg between June 1864 and March 1865. This 13in coast-defence mortar lacked armour protection, and fired from a simple platform wagon. However, in this chapter we will confine ourselves to an examination of those armoured artillery batteries which demonstrated the modern aspects of the American Civil War, and which provided the inspiration for similar construction in many future conflicts, beginning with the Franco-Prussian War, until surpassed in ingenuity during the Boer War.

During the very first days of the war the Federal Government ordered the construction of an armoured wagon to protect the track workers on the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. It was placed under the orders of General Herman Haupt, a renowned railroad engineer, but he refused to use it, considering the wagon to be a ‘white elephant’. Nevertheless, the idea of armouring railway vehicles had taken root.

The Union Army built several armoured wagons. In the Summer of 1862, General Burnside ordered the construction of armoured wagons to counter the incursions of guerrillas and Southern raiders, but they were not meant to resist artillery. These wagons were mainly built in the workshops of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

In 1862 a captain in the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment designed an armoured artillery wagon which was built by the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad and used for patrolling the line to the west of Newberne, where the Confederates were posted in some force. Propelled ahead of an engine with an armoured cab, this wagon bore the name Monitor. The wagon front, sides and rear were all inclined vertically inwards by some 15 degrees, and were painted black, with red firing loopholes. Its front end, pierced by an embrasure for a small naval gun, was armoured with vertical rails, and the sides and rear by boiler plate. The sides were bulletproof, and the front armour resisted projectiles from field guns. The roof was left open for ventilation and light, and covered by a tarpaulin. One Confederate artillery lieutenant expressed puzzlement and alarm at the first appearance of what the Southerners called the ‘Yankee gunboat on wheels’.

Faced by the cottonclad wagon of General Finegan (see the chapter on the Confederate States of America) during the Confederate attempt to recapture Jacksonville, in Union hands ever since 10 March 1863, the Northerners built their own armoured railway battery, armed apparently with a 10pdr Parrott rifle. The fighting between the two was the first example of combat between armoured railway wagons. The siege of Jacksonville would be lifted by the Union forces on 29 March.

In the same year, the Scientific American described trials by the Northerners of an armoured engine named Talisman, on which the cab and connecting rods were protected by an iron plate four-tenths of an inch (10mm) thick, on the advice of General Haupt. However, the trials showed that only small-arms projectiles would be stopped.

A Union armoured train was built by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad with the aid of the 2nd Maryland Regiment, and was given the task of protecting the region around Cumberland. The train was arranged symmetrically on either side of the engine, which had an armoured cab. At front and rear there was an armoured battery protected by rails on three sides, the roof and rear of the wagon being left open, and then an armoured van with firing loopholes. In spite of its armour, a projectile in the boiler of the engine followed by a second striking an armoured wagon led to its destruction by the Confederates in July 1864.

The siege of Petersburg (June 1864–April 1865) saw the employment of railway artillery by the Union forces who wished to seize this strategic railroad centre where five major lines converged. The United States Military Railroad (USMR) which was by this time fully operational, deployed these weapons to such good effect that the Confederate Army was gradually cut off from outside aid. The town fell on 3 April 1865.

The Dry Land Merrimac

In June 1862 the Union Army of the Potomac advanced on the Confederate capital of Richmond. General Robert E Lee looked for a means of countering the enemy’s preponderance in heavy siege artillery, which they would be transporting into position by rail. On 5 June he asked Colonel Josiah Gorgas, the Chief of Ordnance, if it would be possible to mount a heavy gun on a railway car. The challenge was taken up by the Navy, who already had experience of armouring the famous Virginia (ex-Merrimac), which had taken on the Union blockaders and fought the first ironclad battle with USS Monitor.

On 26 June, Captain M Minor reported to Lee: ‘The railroad-iron plated battery designed by Lieutenant John M. Brooke, C.S. Navy, has been completed. The gun, a rifled and banded 32-pounder of 57 cwt, has been mounted and equipped by Lieutenant R.D. Minor, C.S. Navy, and with 200 rounds of ammunition, including 15-inch solid bolt shot, is now ready to be transferred to the Army.’ The railway gun was manned by Lt James Barry CSN, Sergeant Daniel Knowles and thirteen gunners of the Norfolk United Artillery Battery, many of whom had previously served on the Virginia.

The Battle of Savage’s Station, fought on 29 June 1862, was a Union defeat, watched by Confederate Major General Magruder from the rail overbridge. The railway gun was propelled towards the Union lines along the track of the Richmond & York Railroad by an unarmoured steam engine, with obstacles being removed or pushed aside by the gun itself. Firing explosive shells as it advanced, it forced the Union troops to abandon their lines across the track and take up flanking positions beside it, which the gunners could not counter as they had no means of training the gun to one side. Eventually, the gun had progressed so far in front of the Confederate lines that it risked being lost due to the Union flanking fire, and Lieutenant Barry ordered it to pull back.

Fifty-nine years after the event, the Confederate veteran Charles S. Gates described from memory the famous ‘Dry Land Merrimac’, as the railway gun was called by Richmond newspapers in 1862. Later descriptions, and reconstructions in model form, have been based on his recollections,5 including the painting above.

Fortunately we also have an eyewitness to the action, who fixed the scene in a watercolour. Private Robert Knox Sneden of the Union Army was a topographical engineer, who produced maps for the Army of the Potomac. Among his almost 1000 watercolours, sketches and maps was a painting of the Battle of Savage’s Station, with the railgun as the centrepiece. While answering many questions, his depiction poses others.

Private Sneden may have painted this scene from memory afterwards, as the Army of the Potomac was forced to withdraw from in front of Richmond in some disorder. He certainly stretches the platform wagon to a unbelievable length, which would be too weak to support the weight of the gun, never mind withstand the recoil. As he obviously observed the event from a considerable distance away, his rendering of the moving flatcar may not be all that accurate. Nevertheless, what his illustration does reveal is the ‘Virginia-like’ armoured casemate surrounding the cannon and its gunners, with armour on the sides as well as the front. He has correctly depicted the Union force being obliged to take up position flanking the railway track, which would ultimately oblige Lieutenant Minor and his men to pull back, for fear of being fired upon from the rear.

There has been some confusion in the minds of railway enthusiasts between this gun and the Union railway gun used at the siege of Petersburg, mounted on a fourteen-wheel wagon (see the United States of America chapter). The latter gun, however, is clearly protected by timber baulks alone, even if they do cover the sides as well as the front, and there is no covering of iron as mentioned in all the accounts of the Confederate piece.

Accounts differed as to its effects in action, and certainly the Union commanders did not make much of it in their reports. But then, mentioning the attack of an unstoppable railway weapon adding to the debacle of the battle would be like rubbing salt in one’s own wounds. After the battle, presumably recognising its tactical drawbacks, the Confederate Navy retrieved their valuable gun and the platform would be returned to freight work.

Ancient Technology Transfer

Military technology is likely to be transferred to the enemy whenever it is used against them. Through battle the enemy at least learn of the existence and capabilities of the weapons and techniques used against them, and may attempt even on that basis to reproduce them. Thus Cato was said (by Pliny, NH pref. 30) to have been educated by Hannibal, as well as by Scipio. Or they may capture a specimen and/or people who know how to use it, and copy that with advice from the captive(s). If they do secure a specimen, they will also know more of its shortcomings (every weapon has some). The Nervii learned how to make siege-works by watching the Romans and being instructed by prisoners of war; Caesar elsewhere commented that they were very good at copying, and were inventive too, and some technologies could be transferred simply by intelligent copying. That, no doubt, was one method by which catapult technology was diffused, and would explain why some worked well and some did not.

The Romans were extremely adept at adopting technologies from peoples they conquered. In this process pragmatism was apparently unhindered by prejudice, and the best of ancient technology, wherever it originated, was absorbed into Roman traditions, where it met, modified, and was modified by other technologies, old and new. Their armor and weapons were in constant evolution because of contact and conflict with other peoples. For example, most forms of “Roman” helmet seem to have been based on Celtic designs, the pilum may have originated with the Etruscans, “Moorish” javelins came from Africa, and cataphract cavalry-archers were adopted from the Persian/Parthian tradition. The emperor Antoninos was nicknamed Caracalla after the Celtic or Germanic word for a type of cloak that he adopted and adapted—a full-length hoody. Sometimes the debt was explicit and acknowledged, for example, Polybios tells how the Romans first learned to build a fleet by copying a Karthaginian vessel that ran aground, and later copied Rhodian ships. Centuries later Vegetius added that experience in battle showed the Romans that their Liburnian allies’ warships were of a better design than anyone else’s, including their own, and as a result the Romans copied both the design and the name.

The Egyptians were reputed by Caesar so good at copying Roman tools and techniques that “no sooner had they seen what was being done by us than they would reproduce it with such cunning” that they seemed to be the originators. Away from the southern Mediterranean, in northern Europe, the Batavians, who were evidently much less skilled than the Egyptians at copying by sight, used deserters and captives to teach them how to make and use Roman siege engines and sheds. The Romans’ expertise with catapults meant that such “crude” machines were soon destroyed by Roman shot or firebrand, but the Batavians in due course became the Germans’ artillery experts, and other German tribal leaders asked them to build machines and siege works for later campaigns. It is likely that engineers, usually stationed by their machines, were captured if not killed whenever machines were captured; thus we are told that one of Pompey’s chief engineers, one L. Vibullius Rufus, twice fell into Caesar’s hands. Another method of technology transfer through battle was by accident, so to speak. Hanno moved Utica’s artillery to his camp, after (as he thought) chasing away the mercenaries who were besieging the town, but while he and most of his forces were celebrating in said town, the mercenaries came back and seized his camp, and thus obtained both his and the town’s artillery. Some Spaniards, after causing a Roman force to abandon its camp under cover of dark, entered the deserted camp and armed themselves with the equipment that had been left behind “in the confusion.” The Iapydes of the transalpine region used against Augustus Roman machines that they found lying around some years earlier, after a civil war clash in their territory between Brutus, on the one hand, and Antony and Octavian on the other. The tale of Bousas, who taught the Avars how to build helepoleis, siege towers, is another example.

Another vector is the arms dealer, moving either between allies, or between suppliers and customers whoever and wherever they may be. A negotiator gladiarius, procurer of swords, who pops up in the records of Mainz, was perhaps such an arms trader. This trade is notoriously secretive, as well as dangerous, and it would be naïve in the extreme to think that the paucity of evidence for arms traders in antiquity was an accurate reflection of the state of the business at the time. The largest businesses known from classical Athens were arms manufacturers (shield workshop and blade maker, respectively), and it is inconceivable that the arms trade was not flourishing in a world where warfare was more common and regular than tax collection. The Codex Theodosius laid down capital punishment for anyone caught teaching the barbarians how to build ships, but the Vandals (who had moved down from inland Eurasia) nevertheless had found out how to build a decent navy by A.D. 419. Cassiodoros meanwhile lamented that Italy (being governed by the Goths when he was writing) lacked a navy despite the abundance of timber.

To the victor went the spoils, and on surrender of a town, their catapults, along with their arms, ships, and money, were usually handed over. This could be a very effective method of acquisition of new technologies. Consider a comparative case from Hawaii. In 1790, the lightly armed American merchant ship Eleanor fired a broadside and killed about 100 natives. The natives responded by seizing the next American ship to reach the islands. They unloaded its weapons, and captured a white man (haole) who was able to teach them how to use the guns. Over the next few years they captured more ships and seized their weapons and gunpowder stores. By 1804, one of the chiefs could deploy 600 muskets, fourteen cannon, forty small swivel guns, and six mortars. Returning to antiquity, paperwork might be an asset to be exploited by the conquerors, or not, depending on the particular conqueror’s appreciation of the contents. Thus it appears that the Karthaginian libraries were given away by the Romans in 146 B.C., when they destroyed the city, making an exception only of Mago’s twenty-eight volumes on agriculture, of which the senate ordered a Latin translation be made. Polybios records that Philip V, not relying on another bout of such absent-mindedness by the Romans, kept his head in such an emergency and ordered the burning of his papers before the Romans could get their hands on them. Papers might include blueprints or other scientific or technological information of use to the enemy, as well as diplomatic documents. Certainly, Pompey recognized the value of Mithridates’ toxicology results, which arose from a program of research into poisons so successful that Mithridates was reputedly immune to all known venoms and toxins so that when he wanted to commit suicide he had to fall on his sword. Pompey ordered a Latin translation be made of them, apparently for his own use rather than that of the Roman reading public, since there is no hint that it was ever published either in its original Persian or in Latin.

Allies will copy good technology too, of course. Polybios’ belief in Greek superiority over the Romans leaks out through his text here and there. At one point he compares in detail the Greek and Roman methods of cutting and setting stakes around a palisade, and having concluded that the Roman way was better, said that if any military contrivance was worth copying from the Romans, then this was it. One could be forgiven for thinking (erroneously) that the phalanx had beaten the legion.

It is not just technology that is reproduced by enemies; fighting techniques are, too. Caesar observed that troops adopt the fighting techniques of the enemy if they fight them continuously over a long period. We are reminded of the Spartan Antalkidas’s criticism of his king, when he said that by persistently fighting the Thebans, Agesilaos had thereby provided them with the means necessary to defeat the Spartans. Agesilaos had apparently ignored a decree of the legendary Spartan lawgiver Lykourgos that forbade campaigning frequently against the same people, for that very reason.

Rome’s enemies did not always want captured ordnance, of course, and might destroy it instead. Thus the Parthians destroyed the siege engines apparently left behind by Antony in his haste through their country, including an eighty-foot-long battering ram and other equipment whose scale is indicated by the fact that it was being transported on three hundred wagons and protected by more than 10,000 troops. In the third to sixth centuries A.D., the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and sometimes even the Romans themselves destroyed more than they copied, and the western empire descended into the Dark Ages.