Sunday, 9 April 2017

Lybian airbase at Misrata

These photos show an airbase of the Lybian Air Force at Misrata. Note MiG-25PU. In the last few months a few of these were reactivated.


G-2 Galeb.





- MiG-25PU photo courtesy of Bruno.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Tank competition in North Korea

The North Korean News Agency  KCNA has published photos of a tank competition. The event was observed by it's leader Kim Jong-Un. As usual the photos show the North Korean leader with his entourage of high ranking officers taking notes. At the end he poses with the crew members.The tank used is a Chonma-Ho


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Interview with D., former US Army tanker with experience in the M60 and M1 Abrams

A former US Army tanker with experience in the M60 and M1 Abrams had the courtesy of accepting an interview for the blog. D. is also a vetern of the Gulf War.

Hello D. Can you provide us a brief overview of your service in the US Army as a tank crewmember?

I spent 15 years in a tank company.  Initially I was in assigned to a tank unit at Ft. Hood which had the M60A1 AOS.  I subsequently transferred to a unit in Bamberg, Germany and worked with the M60A1 RISE Passive, M60A3 TTS, and the M1A1.  I was a driver, gunner and tank commander on the M60A1s, a tank commander, Master Gunner, and Platoon Sergeant with the M60A3 and M1A1.

The first tank in which you served was a M60 Patton. What was your impression of the vehicle, and the strong/weak points?
I always liked that the M60s were relatively roomy and comfortable.  I did not like that it was under powered compared to the tanks of our adversaries and some of our allies.  Funny enough, I was just talking about the old M60s with some other veterans and we all said the brakes were the single weakest point of the tank.  They just were not very good at all.

What were the capabilities of the M60A1/A3/RISE in terms of Fire Control System (FCS)? What sort of aimed fire did you practice (target, tank velocity…)?  
As many know, the M60A1 had a coincidence rangefinder so the crews could theoretically shoot aimed fire as far as 4400 meters.  The truth is, unless you were ready to expend enormous amounts of ammunition, the practical range was no greater than 2000 meters with 1500 meters being a comfortable long range shot.  We were supposed to use precision gunnery for most of our engagements (using the M17 rangefinder and gunners M32 periscope) but most gunners relied on battlesight gunnery.  Truth be told, most tank commanders weren't very good, or at least not fast enough, with the coincidence rangefinder, thus the reliance on really good gunners who knew how to use aim off to hit targets.  

Things changed considerablely with the M60A3.  Whereas we had been working with the idea that two rounds were needed to hit every target, with the M60A3 we found we were hitting well more than 80% of our targets with the first round.  And not just the really good gunners were doing this, but all gunners could.  Moving targets, once a hit or miss proposition, now were much easier to bring down with the automatic lead introduced with the M60A3.

I really liked the M60A3 with its thermal sight and fire control system.  Not only did our 1st round hit percentage increase dramatically with the M60A3, we were shooting at much greater ranges.  Now 2500 meters was a range quite manageable by all gunners and hitting targets with regularity at 3000+ meters was quite normal.  Sitting still, the M60A3 was every bit as good in gunnery as the M1.

We didn't practice much gunnery while moving thought.  In fact many tank crews would claim their stabilization system didn't work so they could fire from the short halt.  As it was we only had one main gun engagement fired from the move, and one machine gun engagement that was also fired from the move.  I never liked shooting the M60s main gun on the move, to me it was a wasted effort.  That stab system just wasn't up to the task.

The M60 you used did not have a thermal sight. How was the night firing conducted?
To be clear, I actually spent more time on M60A3 TTS than I did on M60A1s.  On the M60A1s our night engagements were pretty evenly split between white searchlight, IR searchlight, and mortar illumination (parachute flares).  When we got the Passive sights we fired no white searchlight engagements, some no illumination engagements, and a few IR searchlight and mortar illumination.  We also fired an engagement using our indirect fire control (Azimuth indicator and Quadrant elevation), and we did so blind.  That is, without illumination and without our sights.

You spent several years deployed in Western Europe. What was you impression of the terrain when first deployed?
Quite hilly, a lot like some parts of the American Appalachia.  People like to talk about how closed the terrain was in southern Germany, how you just couldn't see or shoot further than 800 meters.  That wasn't my impression at all.  Sure, there are forests, and the terrain does move up and down, but there are plenty of areas to utilize the long range gunnery abilities of the modern tank.
Not specifically terrain, but I was in love with the small towns and villages of southern Germany.  There is nothing equivalent in the States.

Did you have the opportunity to train with other NATO Armies? What were your impressions? Did you like/dislike any specific equipment?
Worked with the Canadians once.  I was utterly envious of their meal times, fresh food.  Of course they had the Leopard 1, and yes the Leo 1 was a good tank, but I wouldn't have traded.  Drank beer with both the Brits and Germans at Graf and Hohenfels but didn't ever have the opportunity to do more.

In the 80s the Warsaw Pact had deployed a very large number of tanks in Eastern Europe, including T-64/72/80. Did you have access to intelligence on these vehicles?
If you're asking whether or not we received classified briefings as part of our regular training.  No. What we knew about those tanks was public domain.  The exception to that were briefings we received during advanced training courses at the Ft. Knox armor school.  But even with that, most of those briefings regarded how easily we could destroy T55s and T62s.  As an aside, the first instance that most of us had that such a thing as the T55M existed was in 1990 when we went to Halle to examine what the East Germans had been using.

Was there any Soviet equipment that you found impressive/unimpressive?
Not really.  Of course it's impressive that the Sovs were able to cram a huge cannon in such a small tank, but what they gave up doesn't seem worth it to me.

After serving in the M60 Patton you moved on to the much more modern M1 Abrams. What was your first impression? Were there any teething issues?
First impressions.  Damn fast tank.  Fast, and it stopped even faster.  The M1s Thermal Imagery System (TIS) was good, the M60A3s TTS (Tank Thermal Sight) was better.  No vibration.  The M1 is tight and just doesn't rattle and shake while it's moving, and the stabilization system makes shooting on the move, at any speed, almost as good as sitting still.

Some sources stated that the Abrams was difficult to maintain and operate. Do you agree?
Compared to the M60A1/A3, no comparison.  The M1 was a much easier tank to work on and maintain, and it was more reliable.

How did the firepower of M60 and Abrams compared? The M60 turret was very roomy in comparison to other tanks. How did the M60 and Abrams rate of fire compared?
Between the M60A3 and M1, about equal actually.  Sure the M60 appeared to be more roomy, but if the floor rack had its full complement of 13 rounds, the amount of room the loader had was drastically reduced.  The M1 wasn't quite as tall inside, but that didn't seem to bother many people.  Of course the ammo doors would tend to slow the loader's ability to reload the gun, but it was my experience that the gunner rarely had to wait for the loader.  And if he did, it wasn't because an ammo door had slowed the loader.

The Abrams and other modern Western tanks were equipped with thermal sights, a very important advantage. Can you comment on this?
Totally changed the world of land warfare.  My first experience with the thermal was during transition training for the M60A3.   I was the gunner watching another tank driving back and forth in front of us when my TC asked me if I could see the tank.  Sure, I said, can't you?  He said, come up here and take a look.  So I climbed out of the tank to find we were completely enveloped in a cloud of smoke.  I couldn't even see the end of our own gun much less the tank making the smoke screen.  Night gunnery became day gunnery, and in fact we quickly realized the thermal was best used both day and night.

In 1991 you were deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the international response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Did you receive any extra training or intelligence on Iraqi Armed Forces before you left?
NBC training was always a regular occurrence on our training schedules, but as soon as we were notified for deployment both NBC and 1st aid training increased.  We did some additional gunnery and took our trip to Halle to inspect WarPac equipment.  We also were briefed on the Iraqi's use of triangular defensive alignments.  And we received very regular updates about their defensive alignment along the Kuwait/Saudi and Iraq/Saudi borders.

How did the terrain affected fighting conditions?
Obviously we could see and shoot further, but people might be surprised just how much the terrain goes up and down in the desert.  Nothing necessarily extreme, but enough that a tank could be below your horizon less than 2000 meters away.  Or not.

Did the Abrams cope well with the desert condition? Was the maintenance more intense? Did you install any extra equipment?

Dust was always the biggest challenge, we were cleaning our engine air filters everytime we stopped.  Interestingly, that winter was one of the wettest on record for that part of the world.  It rained, at least a little bit, almost every single day from the middle of January until the beginning of March.  The day we went to zero our main guns with service ammunition, a rain storm had us wading around in knee deep water. 

No extra equipment though.  What we had in Germany is what we took to Saudi Arabia.

Many analysis pointed out that the Iraqi training was hopeless inadequate. What was your impression?

Probably, but I wasn't really in a position to make that assessment.  When people are shooting back at you, how well or not they are trained isn't something that crosses one's mind.

The Republican Guard units were better equipped and trained, fielding T-72s. Did they give a better account of themselves than standard Iraqi units?
The Iraqi 26th Infantry Division surrendered right in front of our eyes.  We shot up some of their equipment but they weren't shooting back, so busy were they trying to surrender.  Later we ran across parts of two RG divisions and they did fight back.  So there's that.

Apart from Soviet and Chinese tanks, the Iraqi Army also operated locally modified T-55 Enigma. Did you ever come across any? What was your impression?
None that I saw.  Mind you, most of the Iraqi vehicles I saw were in one state of destruction or another.

Was there any equipment operated by the Iraqi Army that you found impressive/unimpressive?
Nothing that I saw.

After your experience with the Abrams during the Gulf War, were there any improvements that could be applied with the lessons learned?

Better heat dissipation for the electronics rack.  This was always somewhat of a problem for the M1 as the turret electronics were prone to overheating with the TIS being the biggest victim.  I understand that there were some changes made that made an enormous difference.  I'm guessing better heat sinks and better ventilation, but I don't really know.  Keep in mind that the M1A1s my unit had for Desert Storm were the oldest M1A1s in theater.  Our unit was the first in Germany to receive them in 1987, and we took them to war in 1991.  

During your career you used vehicles with diesel engines and turbines? What is your opinion on this debate?

I really liked the turbine for its ease of cold weather starting and reliability.  I understand the concerns about the heat signature and fuel economy.  To the first, it was nothing I remember exploiting during training exercises.  For a number of years while we still had the M60A3 we would train against M1.  We were in awe with how quickly they could move, but their heat signature was never something we pointed out.  Fuel economy, yes we had to be aware of how much fuel we were burning, but so long as we got fuel we were good.  That said, the introduction of an auxiliary power unit should be well received.

Tanks like Leclerc and South Korean K2 have incorporated autoloaders. What is your opinion on this item?

My opinion is that there hasn't been an automatic loader built that can man a listening post, pull KP, break track, or burn shit.  However, I know advancement never stops and an automatic loader will be incorporated into US tanks sooner rather than later.  Of course it is quite possible that the next US tank will have to have an automatic loader because the tank will be unmanned.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

First MiG-29M2 for Egypt

Yesterday the first photos of the MiG-29s acquired by Egypt appeared in the media. The designation of these Fulcrums has caused quite a debate because they are still referred as MiG-29M2s. This designation was dropped in favour of MiG-35. One of the reasons could be that the contract was signed before this change took place.


- Photo vía VK network.

Friday, 31 March 2017

USAF considers retiring it's F-15C/D fleet

The United States Air Force (USAF) considers retiring it's fleet of 236 F-15C/Ds and replacing them with modernised F-16s. The C/D versions were manufactured between 1979-85, and are the oldest F-15s in the inventory. On the other hand they have been upgraded in recent years. In December 2016 a contract was signed with Boeing to modernise the C/E radars.

F-15C (USAF).

The USAF considers that the main role has been taken over by the F-22, and suitably modernised F-16 could do the job. In any case the decision will not be taken before 2020. It is not the first time these measures are considered, but the retirement of the F-15C/D fleet had not been proposed before.


- Boeing to upgrade F-15C/E radars

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Syrian MiG-29 with R-73 missile

Analyst @LuftwaffeAS has published in his twitter account a  photo of a Syrian MiG-29 equipped with a R-73 missile. It is the first time this missile is seen in a Syrian Fulcrum. Up to now only R-77 and R-60 had been seen.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Captured T-90 used against Syrian Army


More photos of the same vehicle. Note large bags placed around the turret. These will provide little protection and encumber the turret rotation. Perhaps this is a confirmation that the turret traverse mechanism is damaged, as some sources stated.


Syrian rebels have put to use a captured T-90. A video and several photos surfaced yesterday of an attack against Syrian Army positions. The vehicle could belong to the Jihadist  group "Tahrir Al-Sham", an amalgamation of several groups that include the al-Nusra Front.

Previously the Syrian opposition showed 2 captured T-90s, one in April and the other one in July. However, the damage in the Shtora projector does not match...