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Scramjet projectile tested

Wanted to give you some info on the 16" Scramjet projectiles tested under the HARP project with Gerald Bull back in the early 60's.  They successfully test fired 16" Scramjet Projectiles:

I have been emailing back in forth with Andrew J. Higgins, Department of Mechanical Eng., Assistant Professor at McGill University Shock Wave Physics Group, Montreal, Quebec CANADA.  He has been quite helpful and also seems interested in the subject of using the 16" Iowa Class Battleship guns.  He has also said that Sannu Molder, who designed the 16" Scramjet Projectile for HARP is still around and is currently working with Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto and would be happy to discuss his work:

Andrew's background is from a project called the Ram Accelerator, which is a ramjet/scramjet that does not carry fuel on board, but rather flies down a tube filled with premixed fuel & oxidizer at high pressure (50-200 bar).  Due the high pressure, the accelerations of the projectile are tremendous (50,000g's) and nearly constant, making the device capable of accelerating projectiles to velocities greater than conventional guns:

The Ram Accelerator has already been successfully scaled up to 120 mm bore by the US Army Research Lab, and is currently being funding by the U.S. Navy as a possible "muzzle extension" to the current  5" guns to increase muzzle velocity and  range.  If you want to learn more about the ram accelerator, you can contact Prof. Adam Bruckner at the University of Washington:

Bruckner also worked on Project HARP at McGill in the 1960's.

                                                                              Ted Yadlowsky

scramjet.jpgEd.  Coincidentally, the 8-27-01 issue of "Aviation Week" carried an article "Gun Launched Projectile Reaches Hypersonic Free Flight".  This is an Air Force/DARPA project at a test facility in Tennessee which successfully fired a scramjet projectile, although just 1000ft in a enclosed range.  The projectile was launched with a gas gun to a speed of Mach 7.1 followed by the ignition of an  ethylene fueled scramjet.  (Ramjets which exceed Mach 5 are called scramjets).  I often get ridiculed for proposing wild ideas like pneumatic guns and ramjets rounds, so its always a thrill to read that others already employed the idea and conducted actual tests.  Building a compact ramjet is no problem since this projectile (above)  had a diameter of just four inches.  Development and testing cost only $230,000.  The Army and Navy should jump on this breakthrough so their guns can fire Mach 7 rounds hundreds of miles.  More information and the article can be found at this link: AEDC Scramjet

Battleships Aren't Needed

Ed. The battleship article generated a lot of mail from informed people.  Evidently, the battleship debate, which started in the 1930s, continues on the Internet today, with some people simply hating battleships.  I have read nothing but praise about the battleship support in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Kuwait, but some readers insisted that all those accounts were wrong.  Due to the large number of letters, I'll just summarize comments.

1. I mentioned that a battleship did not need escorts when responding to most world events and can provide the sea control of a cruiser if needed.  It is true the battleships have no anti-submarine capabilities and almost no anti-air weapons, so my comparison to a modern cruiser was an exaggeration.  However, when I wrote "most", this accepts that few nations have navies and the only threat are commandos in small boats.  The comparison I made was really with today's LCC command ships, which have no combat capabilities at all.  Having served aboard an LCC, the USS Blue Ridge in 1990, I informed several critics that command ships must go close to shore to communicate with ground elements using backpack radios.  One reader who ridiculed the use of battleships as flagships was not aware they were used as fleet flagships during World War II and Korea.

2. One reader pointed out that the max elevation for a 16-inch gun is 45 degrees, which limits its anti-missile ability.  I agreed, but even at 45 degrees it could eventually hit ascending or descending missiles.  I should have mentioned that it would require a data link with a ship with Aegis radar for targeting.

3. There is tremendous debate about a battleships survivability.  Although I implied they are invulnerable, they can be sunk.  A larger Japanese battleship of an older design, the USS Yamato, was sunk after direct hits from 10 500lbs bombs and 12 torpedoes.  Several former Soviet Admirals said they were terrified of the battleships since they couldn't stop them with massed cruise missile attacks.  Unfortunately, the Navy has never conducted anti-ship missile tests against the battleships.  Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman has stated that the French Exocet anti-ship missile, which sunk British ships during the 1983 Falklands war, can penetrate 2.75 inches of steel.  An Iowa battleship has steel armor from 6-17 inches thick, compared to just a quarter inch on modern Aegis cruisers and destroyers. 


     The first cruise missiles were Japanese Kamikazes which sunk dozens surface ships during World War II.  The battleship USS Missouri was hit by a Japanese A6M "Zero" Kamikaze, while operating off Okinawa on 11 April 1945. (above) The plane hit the ship's side below the main deck, causing minor damage and no casualties. 

4. One reader claimed that mines make battleship operations almost impossible, citing the 1991 Persian Gulf war.  I  explained that the US Navy's reluctance to devote resources to deal with the mine threat should not reflect badly on the battleships, especially since the battleships still fired 1100 rounds while the Navy fired no 5-inch guns from their billion dollar destroyers and cruisers. The Navy must remove mines before any shore assault anyway.

5. I also learned more about projectiles as two readers questioned the explosive power of 16-inch shells.  A 2000lbs high explosive shell uses only 145 lbs of explosive.  Shawn Welch explained: 

      That bursting charge is actually pretty large by major caliber shell standards.  Most of the weight is taken up by the walls and such of the shell.  Also, for these big shells, you want the walls and point to have some measure of strength or you can't do things like crater runways or pierce 5 or so feet of concrete.  One of the serious problems with British major caliber rounds was the lack of strength of the HE would break up on hard targets.  This round did not generally break up against hard targets and with a delay fuse will crater a runway rather nicely.  Also, this shell (and especially later ones from the 1980's) were designed to fragment well.  With this sized bursting charge, they are quite lethal to ships when burst in 100 feet or so over the target. But, when compared to the normal weight of the shell, the bursting charge will always seem small.  

 Larry Altersitz added:  145 pounds of dynamite, a less-powerful explosive, makes a big hole and a massive boom.  Modern USAF/Navy bombs may have a better percentage of explosive to weight, but it's still well under 40%.  Fragmentation is the primary killer of people and things; secondaries are usually caused by metal impacting a sensitive explosive and getting it started.  In WWII, the filler was TNT; many of today's projectiles/bombs use something like RDX or C-4, which is a good deal more powerful.

      I looked up a 5-inch shell, only 18.5 lbs HE for a 70lbs projectile, meaning that a 16-inch gun fires seven and half times more explosive power.  The new $50,000 ERGM 5-inch missile with a 19lbs payload must have less than 5lbs spread in quarter pound blocks in submissions, it would have trouble taking down a Nipa hut.   Debating the effectiveness of 50-year old projectiles is pointless since superior 16--inch ammunition can be purchased today.

6. One reader wrote that removing the 5-inch guns to add more Tomahawk missiles was not needed since the Navy already has 7300 tomahawk launchers on its ships, far more than it needs.  I agreed with him, but pointed out the Navy plans to spend billions of dollars to convert two Ohio SSBN ballistic missile submarines to SSGNs with 154 tomahawk missiles each.  Here is yet another example of funds which are better spent on converting battleships.  (see Sept 2001 Naval Proceedings, pp. 89)

7. Two readers disputed the costs to renovate the two battleships, and some people cannot grasp the idea that any outdated system on the battleships can be replaced.  Perhaps new battleships would be better, but I'm sure they would prove far more expensive.  No one disputed my claim that two renovated and fully modernized battleships will cost less than the requirement for two new fleet flagships.

8. One reader noted that it was the destroyers and cruisers which provided the best naval gunfire support to Marines ashore because the battleship rounds were too powerful and too inaccurate for close support.  I agreed, but pointed out the battleships unmatched shore bombardment support was vital, a concept he was unable to grasp.  (See current article on ERGMs).  In addition, the accuracy problems of battleships were caused by their use of very old reblended powders.  New 16-inch powder bags would be extremely accurate, and the options for pneumatic fired or liquid propellants offer even greater advantages in range, accuracy, and safety.   Also, cruisers once had 8-inch guns, but now have only 5-inch.

9. Several readers disputed the need for Navy ships to operate close to shore.  This is a more complex issue which I will address in a future article.  In short, when the airpower gods announce that all shore based threats have been destroyed and it is safe for the minesweepers, landing craft, and even cargo ships to go forth, who will lead them into harm's way?  A professional enemy will manage to hide most of his shore batteries and small boats from airpower waiting for targets to appear.  A battleship is an inviting target which can see these threats as they open fire and return fire immediately.  A billion dollar Aegis destroyer is likely to sink after one shore round penetrates and sets off its large stock of missiles.

10. Finally, one reader asked why battleships were mothballed after each war.  The truth is they don't generate huge  peacetime profits like aircraft carriers.  A carrier requires billions of dollars for new aircraft every few years, and  expensive aircraft  parts, constant aircraft upgrades, and replacements for crashes.  Industry reps even have cabins onboard carriers and deploy overseas.  There are dozens of aircraft lobbyists tossing millions of dollars into the pockets of Congressmen, but no "battleship" lobbyists.  Ironically, the best known battleship advocate was a naval aviator, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman.  Aircraft carriers are more powerful and flexible than battleships, but they cost four times more to operate and can't fill the battleships fire support niche.  Any sane person who reads about this issue will discover that a US Navy with 11 carriers and 4 battleships could provide far more land attack power than 12 carriers, and would require less manpower.

Another Battleship Article

     I believe you will find this recent article about battleships informative and useful.  To read the "PDF" file, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is free off the internet.  The website below takes you to the Military Review publication proper.  Enjoy!

                                                             Shawn Welch

Rigid Overhead Cover is Essential

      I feel that your position on the use of Ballistic Protective Blankets (BPB) is not completely thought through.   For one, the use of the BPB as top cover only (I am making the assumption that it is used as exclusive top cover as you propose to eliminate the other materials such as sandbags and plywood) would not be effective versus large concussive blasts from large bore weapons that rely on large explosive payloads to work.  Being a non-rigid and light (in weight) barrier it would be easily moved away by the force of said blast, it cannot take a direct hit from (and I am guessing here) a medium sized explosive round ( for arguments sake lets use a 60mm mortar round) where as the previous position constructed emplacement (using sandbags and plywood) would probably survive such attacks (at least be much more likely to, there is always room for extreme examples to the contrary).

     With this being said, I am not saying the idea of reducing the visibility of the fighting position has no merit.  I feel that a 1/2" piece of steel (20.4 pounds per square foot at 1/2", I think) would better serve as part of the barrier.  The weight would actually work for you in keeping the position being removed by near misses from larger explosions and would be more likely to survive larger caliber explosive hits.  There would be an additional advantage in the fact that lighter vehicles and possibly even heavy armored vehicles could physically run over the position and still not collapse it.  With this being said I fully concede that this piece of steel is not man-portable, but could still be transported on the 5-ton trucks, Humvees, and APCs.

                                                                     Rich Gozynya

Ed. Those are good points, but logistics must be considered.  Sandbagged bunkers are much stronger, but the chance that adequate Class IV material will be delivered to a forward unit whenever it needs to dig in during fluid combat situations is unlikely.  Wood is bulky and difficult to reuse.  However, perhaps a lightweight, rigid kevlar/plastic overhead cover plate (or steel plate as you suggest) would be useful, especially if it had short legs which could fold out like a card table to hold it one foot above the fighting hole.

Don't ignore anti-tank mines

      I must strongly disagree with your recommendation that ballistic blankets could be used for mine protection.  I have worked on vehicular mine protection since the early 1990s, deploying to Somalia to install mine protection kits on US Hummers and 5-ton trucks.  We have done extensive testing, there is no technical doubt that ballistic blankets provide no significant personnel protection against the actual mine blast threat.  In fact, very few anti-vehicle blast mines have less than 12 pounds of TNT.  Indeed, the Russian-made TM-62 has about 16.5 pounds and is one of the most common anti-vehicle mines in the world.  

      Any military vehicle or retrofit kit designed only to protect against anti-personnel mines is ignoring the proven threat.  In practice, the use of ballistic blankets may actually be detrimental because they give our soldiers a false sense of security.  Given that mines in Vietnam accounted for 80% of US tank losses, 79% of APC losses, and 46% of truck losses, the US would be wise to consider the actual nature of this threat, especially since mines are today becoming one of the asymmetric "weapons of choice" in many places such as the Middle East and Chechnya.  It must be noted that the South Africans made tremendous strides in the protection of their soldiers from mine strikes by specifically designing mine protection into their vehicles.  This reduced personnel casualties on vehicles that detonated mines from about 43% to 4% while virtually eliminating KIAs.  If we are serious about countering this threat, this is a proven approach.

     A mine expert recently told me that shortly after the signing of the Dayton Accord in 1995, mine and direct fire
protection was sought for soft-skinned (tactical) vehicles operating in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. A number of armor kits were produced and installed to address this need, but insufficient funding was made available to equip all vehicles. The Ballistic Protective Blanket (BPB) was conceived as an economical means of providing some minimal level of protection to vehicles not equipped with armor kits. The BPB protects the vehicle floor against small fragments generated by grenades or unexploded submunitions, and in this role is superior to sandbags in area of coverage and on a per weight basis.

      The danger associated with using these blankets is the belief that the blankets will provide protection against anti-vehicular landmines.  This false belief causes soldiers to be less cautious because they believe that they are protected, and leaders not to demand equipment for their troops because they think the current equipment is adequate.  In fact the BPB's are less effective than sandbags at mitigating the effects of these anti-vehicular landmines. The ballistic nylon "blankets" contain large 2.5mm thick steel plates which are not firmly attached to the floor and can become dangerous secondary missiles during a mine blast. Overall, where anti-vehicular landmines are a threat, these blankets are a poor, and probably hazardous substitute for tactical vehicle armor kits.

                                                                                          Bill Schneck

                                                            LTC Engineer Corps Virginia Army National Guard

Use light trucks instead of light armor

     I've read numerous articles on lightening the Army.  As a career soldier first in Armored Cav, then in Special Ops, and now in the illustrious field of Signal Operations. Maybe you should do some research with real soldiers and not senior officers or pet project managers.  There are no soldiers in the US Army willing to go to a barbeque in the most advanced M-113; the slow, ill handling, non-defensible death trap that it is.  Real soldiers know that there are two kinds of soldier: the quick and the dead.  The LAV has major short comings when tested as a tank.  But as a APC, it does have the asset of speed. Sorry to inform you but that is what soldiers in the field want, need and do not have.

     Your documentation of the financial follies of the Army/Industry are very interesting, but do nothing for soldiers in the field.  If a soldier does not have confidence in his equipment, he will not fight well.  So lets address the major issue of US defense.   A separate Transportation service is needed free of internal Army, Air Force, Marine, and Navy interference. This would be nice, but would never happen. So, lets deactivated one half of the Germany based Heavy units, forward deploy those assets. Move our Stateside divisions to a Light, Medium and Heavy configuration. Rework the SF community and the 82nd/Marine Team for forced entry only.

        The M1A1 is every bit as good as any foreign tank, the F-15 can stand up to any adversary out there (they maybe old but there are 177 at Davis-Monthan AFB with less than 6 years on the airframe).   Capital transport aircraft are a premium.  Bulk transport of supply can be economically met by C-141 re-engined with 2 high bypass turbo fans. The European Airbus Transporter is 6 years away, but really can land at unimproved airfields.  We can fight light and win. All it will take is a Congress that allows no overrun on ALL defense contracts.  

       Here is a the real scout vehicle ALL 19Ds are waiting for (left).  This is the Australian Long-range scout vehicle. It is used all over the outback and is now the preferred police cruiser of East Timor.  They run them them as the forward element, ahead of a mixed LAV & 20mm M-113 team, punch is provided by the attack helicopters.  Speed, punch and agility, I wonder who could use that?  The vehicle is on a 6X6 Land Rover chassis and is powered by a turbo diesel rated at 305HP. Road speed is over 130kph and cross country in heavy sand is approx 40kph.  In scout config, it mounts one .50 M2 Browning MG as well as a 7.62 FN MAG, 4 personal weapons, 6 AT4s, night vision, long range listening devices, and one 500cc 4-stroke scout/messenger dirt bike (What a recruiting tool young soldiers on dirt bikes). Some also carry a 82mm mortar. One version also mounts 8 106mm Recoilless rifles like a modern Ontos Vehicle.                                                       

                                                                                            Robert Fritts

Ed.  I'm not an advocate of the M113 either, even thought the A3 version is much better.  I'd want something that is UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter movable with steel front armor.   I don't like the LAV as a warfighting attack platform  because troops will get too aggressive and too afraid to dismount, so RPGs will chew them up.  I like General Reimer's HMMWV idea (or your Land rover) so everyone knows to dismount when bullets start to fly.

LAV III fails Army C-130 requirement

    The LAV III at 105 inches is too wide to fit into the 105 inch floor width of a C-130.  At a 105 inches high, without a turret, it needs air removed to possibly fit into the 102 inches the Air Force will give it.  The AF will give 104 inches for airdrop, but no more.  The best you could hope for is a vehicle with flat tires and those tires being very narrow in order to squeeze the LAV III in.

     Even if you could get the LAV III to fit inside a C-130, any kind of turret on top will prevent this from happening.  This is why the MGS is going to have the hull cut down and the suspension to kneel.  The LAV III is 16.5 tons empty.  Its already 1000 pounds to heavy for a C-130 to land it in a forward landing strip with enough fuel to fly back (e.g. it would need to refuel at the strip).  The situation is only going to get worse when you try to make it kneel and try to add all that computer crap they want.  The bottom line is, the LAV III is not C-130 transportable in a practical way.  Just like the LAV I are not practical for CH-53Es to lift them.  They are paper bragging points, not real combat capabilities.

       The road-bound LAV-III armored car brigades concocted for the Army transformation are not OK for hunting terrorists hiding in difficult terrain, where cross country travel, transportability by fixed and rotary wing aircraft and ability to advance against enemy fire are life/death requirements since the enemy is going to FIGHT BACK, not "throw the towel in" like a wily Serb Army in Kosovo or disinterested Iraqi rabble in Kuwait.  If the Pentagon is putting up a brave face for the public, fine.  But it damn well better not be thinking of spending billions on rubber tired LAV-III armored cars that will end up killing our men in predictable ambushes, especially Afghans who had a field day firing up Russian BTR 8x8 armored cars in their victory over the Red Army.    

                                                   Mike Sparks

LAV Scam

     I also wrote a detailed article about the LAV III:  Medium Brigade Flaws, and the Cure: The IBCT Revisited

                                                       Michael Robel

Ed. Yahoo News usually links my editorials, but failed to link "Shinseki's Light Armor Scam", even after two reminders from me.  I thought they would love scandal, but now I realize I should have called it "The Army's Light Armor Scam" because all the politically correct nuts don't like to read negative things about a Japanese-American; or maybe they didn't like the criticism of potential advertisers; Generals Dynamic and Motors.

Cluster TURDS

     I like the idea rearward released airburst bombs to discourage ground defences or pursuing aircraft. These could be improved if constructed as a sort of cluster bomb.  The bomb would contain munitions that produce chaff, IR decoys, fragments, smoke and engine fouling elements. The latter are materials that would be sucked into a jet intake and would foul or damage the engine. Certain of the above munitions may perform multiple functions. Chaff may also be designed to foul engines and flares may also produce smoke. Detonation of such a bomb would hide the aircraft from a gunner or pursuer over a broad part of the spectrum.  The presence of the exploding fragmentation grenades and fouling materials would also make flying through the cloud or being beneath it highly hazardous.

        An idea that I have had is of a short-range radar guided defence suppression missile, which can be released by aircraft as they come under ground fire. The radar element would probably home on the emissions of ZSU-23 radar or similar systems. The weapon would also home in on AAA that turn off their radar and attempt to change position or be guided by other threat sources such as the sound of gunfire. A rearward released bomb could use the same form of guidance to suppress ground fire.

                                                         Phil West

Ed. The US military already developed a small anti-radar missile.  The AGM-122 Sidearm can be carried on the Army AH 64A/D Apache and Marine Corps AH-1W/Z SuperCobra attack helicopters for self defense against anti aircraft gun and SAM radars.  (details at FAS)  I don't understand why these are not used by attack aircraft.  More advanced versions may be able to down radar emitting fighters head on, or even shoot down self-guided radar missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

Phil has many other future weapon ideas on his "Scrapboard".