History - Page 5

The Interesting Case of the Army’s M551 Sheridan Light Tank

Even though it was labeled as a failure, a piece of equipment that was too complicated to maintain properly even in the barracks, let alone in the field, M551 Sheridan Light Tank managed to play a useful role in three wars. Another thing that we need to note is that its withdrawal left a gap in the structure of the armed forces, namely in airborne units who now lack organic armor support that can be parachuted into the battlefield together with infantry.

The M551 was named after General Philip Sheridan, a commander of the Union Army of the Shenandoah. General Sheridan was famous for his use of cavalry and Pentagon planners thought that he would be an ideal namesake for the fast, light, and powerfully armed tank they had envisioned. By the time M551 entered service, the division to light, medium, and heavy tanks was considered obsolete by many armed forces in the world, including the U.S. Army, but there was a need for a fast, armored vehicle which could be used in situations where M60 Paton, with its top speed of 30 mph, was just too slow.


The program, dubbed Armored Reconnaissance/Airborne Assault Vehicle, cost $1.3 billion and resulted in an amphibious 15-ton vehicle with a top speed of 43 mph. Its armor was made of aluminum, but that was the least strange thing about it. Its main gun was a 152 mm monstrosity, able to fire both shells and anti-tank missiles. The gun could devastate infantry and buildings, but its projectile velocity was just too low to harm heavily-armored Soviet tanks of the era. For that, it carried 9 MGM-51 Shillelagh missiles.

The new light tank had its baptism of fire in Vietnam. The first batch of 200 Sheridan’s was shipped overseas in 1969. They were assigned to Third Squadron of the Fourth Cavalry Regiment and the Eleventh “Black Horse” Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR). M551 was a replacement for older and slower M48 tanks. The first clashes with the enemy showed some glaring deficiencies of its design.

The most obvious was the recoil of the huge gun had on the light aluminum chassis. It wasn’t unusual for the front end of the tank to leap up several feet after firing the main gun. Unless the crew was strapped in, this often led to serious injuries. It also messed up its targeting computer, which needed to be reset. The semi-automatic loader was also clunky and loading those big 152 caseless shells within the confines of a small turret was a challenging task. All this led to an abysmal rate of fire of two rounds per minute. For comparison sake, an experienced crew of M48 could easily dish 12 round per minute.


But the rate of fire wasn’t the worst part. M551 lacked protection needed to survive for long on the battlefield. Lack of armor made it an easy target for Vietnamese RPG teams and mines. Add in the fact that its hull was made of flammable aluminum and it is easy to see why Sheridan’s crews suffered heavy casualties. The 12th ACR lost three vehicles due to mines in a single river crossing. The 11th ACR’s Sheridan’s fared even worse. Seven of them were lost to RPG’s in a battle of Lam Son 719. In total, over one hundred M551s were lost during the Vietnam War.

Despite all of its faults, M551 Sheridan seems to have been loved by the troops that used it. Its gun had quite the punch, especially when loaded with an M625 canister round packed with thousands of flechettes which shredded Viet Kong infantry in battles at TayNinh and Bien Hoa. The lightweight tank could also move easier through the jungle, where its heavier brethren like M48 would get bogged down. Several field modifications, like added belly armor and gun shield for the exposed .50 caliber machine gun, increased both tank and its crew’s survivability rate.

After Vietnam, Amry started withdrawing M551. Soon, they only remained in service with airborne units, which led them to their next war. In 1989, ten M551s were airdropped on Tocumen Airfield in Panama. The airdrop, conducted by the third battalion of the 73rd Armor Regiment, was the first and so far, the only tank airdrop in the history of the United States military. They made quick work of Noriega’s defenses in Panama City.

In 1990, 51 M551 of the 82nd Airborne Division were used as a part of the thin line in the desert, a deterrent against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Saudi Arabia. They were the only tanks the US could deploy via air fast enough to prevent Saddam from gobbling up Saudi Arabia as he did with Kuwait. The deterrent worked, and it gave the Pentagon enough time to deploy heavy armor in the region. Fortunately for M551’s crews, because Iraqi tanks would have little trouble in disposing of them in the open desert.


After the First Gulf War, only M551s in service were a part of 82nd Airborne rapid reaction force, but they have also been withdrawn a few years later. Some have lingered as dummy OPFOR tanks at the National Training Center, but soon the cost of their maintenance was too much to bear, and even NTC gave up on them.

Airborne units were never given a suitable replacement for M551. Even today, they lack the organic armor support that can be airdropped. Some would argue that with modern anti-tank missiles like Javelin they don’t need it, but some tasks do require a tank. While M1 Abrams are vastly superior to M551 and can even be air deployed inside C5 cargo plane, they certainly can’t be airdropped and can’t be really considered an airborne asset.

Source: nationalinterest.org

Russian Tu-22M3 Scares the World

One of the best planes in the Russian air force is the Tu-22M3. It has been patrolling the skies from Japan to Europe and dropping bombs over Syria. The airplane has been upgraded, and it is now able to fire new Air-Launched Cruise Missiles, but some of the upgrades might change the way Tu is categorized under the New START treaty.

The US forces learned about the Tu-22M back in 1971 when they couldn’t figure out its purpose. Even though it was possible to attack the States with refueling, the Russians didn’t use it for that. Instead, they kept it for defense on the periphery of the Soviet Union border.


However, in the early 1980s, new ALCM missiles were tested, and their range was around 3,000km causing the US officials to believe that Russians are preparing for an attack. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Tu-22M was no longer considered a “heavy bomber” under START.

However, the recent updates are causing us to believe that Tu-22M3 will be used as a strategic weapon. Honestly, most of these upgrades are intended to improve conventional capability, the avionics suite became a standard feature for instance.


The aircraft is set to carry newer Kh-32 missiles with the range of about 600km, but it will also be armed with Kh-SD weapons that can go as long as 2,000km. Should the Tu-22M3 implement this missile as an option, its status under new START will change. Another condition that needs to be fulfilled is to confirm that Kh-SD has nuclear capability.

Do you think that the Tu-22M3 will present a danger to this world in the future?

Source: nationalinterest.org

Russian Navy Aircraft Carrier two biggest problems

Russia has only one remaining navy aircraft carrier, and in a couple of weeks, two airplanes were not able to land on it resulting in their destruction. The carrier, named Admiral Kuznetsov, had some technical issues in arresting gear compartment which led to the loss of the Mikoyan MiG-29KUBR Fulcrum-D and a Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker-D. Although the carrier’s technology is obsolete, the real problem might be the incompetence in naval aviation as well as experience in sending the fighters to their mission and safely grounding them onto the Kuznetsov.

The first incident happened on November 14th when a MiG-29KUBR flew around the Kuznetsov until it ran out of fuel and eventually fell into the Mediterranean. During that time, the carrier crew was trying to repair an arresting cable, which was entangled in one of the three wires. Another MiG-29KR, which had a safe landing, might be responsible for the incident since it broke the fourth cable on deck. The same problem with arresting cable occurred on December 5th when a Su-33 Flanker was destroyed.


Even though we can agree that navigating an airplane to land on a carrier is quite difficult and hazardous maneuver, most of Russia’s troubles start with inexperienced crew and procedures that don’t function properly. Safety procedures are not developed well, and with the carrier’s mechanical flaws it combines for a destruction course.

Admiral Kuznetsov was built on December 25th, 1990 and while it seems that was a long time ago, that shouldn’t be the main reason for failures as the US has much older carriers that work well. Some of these are Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and USS Enterprise (CVN-65). The last one on the list, the USS Enterprise was commissioned in 1962, and it served for 50 years with great success until it was retired on December 1st, 2012.

The key to the success of the US Navy is well-trained crew and taking great care of their carriers. Kuznetsov hasn’t been nurtured as it should be since the fall of the Soviet Union which is a long period of 25 years. Moreover, the people working on the carrier didn’t have time, nor the chance to upgrade their experience and do the job with more regards to safety.

Occasionally, even the US has problems with cables snapping. In 2005, a cable broke on USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) when Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet tried to land which almost lead to many deaths on the carrier. The pilot and his weapons systems officers were unharmed after the airplane fell into the water, but some crew members were injured since the broken cable landed on the flight deck. This is one of the rare incidents in the US Navy. It looks like Kuznetsov has some big issues because two big accidents in three weeks are not just bad luck.


One senior naval aviator stated that “Cables separate/break at some interval—and that’s big news usually leading to injury, death or mishap. The cable system breaking does happen regularly and they usually just remove it and work with less wires—two or three now with the new design.” He also concluded, “The bottom line is that it’s very rare, sometimes preventable (settings, maintenance, etc.) and it’s big news when it happens.”

The destruction of the MiG-29KUBR could have been prevented only if the Russian commander in charge had ordered the pilot to land on a shore base in Syria. The procedure in US Navy when the carrier is close to the shore is to find close-by airports that would serve as emergency options if something were to happen. Also, the navy usually deploys recovery tankers such as Super Hornets that refuel the aircrafts mid-air. The Russian carrier is in no shape to send a tanker or a similar airplane to refuel the fighters, which is why the only logical option is to steer the plane to another airfield.

One more senior US naval aviator said that “When the carrier and air wing team first put to sea they are considered to be in divert ops until they pass their Combat Operations Efficiency (COE) evaluation, which is also called ‘blue water certification.’ We also use divert ops if there is an engineering casualty on the carrier, for example if we’re only using one reactor… whether by necessity or by choice.” He also stated, “Typically, a ship-based limitation that could put the recovery of fixed-wing aircraft at risk leads to a divert ops situation, so we’d need to be in relatively close proximity to land—say, 200 nautical miles or so.”


The US has a proof that it can be safely done, as they are known to conduct spotless procedures during which many of their fighters are deployed and landed miles away from the shore. The senior aviator concluded “Blue water ops enable the carrier and air wing to conduct flight operations anywhere, anytime. We utilize tankers to provide the required gas — ‘front side’ gas to give us more to train with, with ‘back side’ gas available as required when an aircraft’s fuel state gets low.”

Although the US has carriers from the same time or older than the Admiral Kuznetsov, their success lies within their qualified crew and strict procedures. It is obvious that Russia is not up-to-date when it comes to naval aviation since the key components are well-trained staff and well-established procedures, which Russians lack.

Source: nationalinterest.org

Russia’s MiG 21: History Lives On

The military aircraft can have a short lifespan. During the World War I, the planes that were state-of-the-art became obsolete shortly after and the similar things happened in the World War II. And with the enhancement of the technology, the fleets of aircraft became passé as well. Also, the fighters that were a top threat in the skies over Korea became poor a few years later. You get the point.

There is the other scenario as well. Some designs managed to stay with us and one of these is the B-52 Stratofortress which took its first flight in 1952, and it is still in service today. The C-130s became operational in 1954, and it is still actively produced in 2018. We have to bear in mind that these are bomber and transport aircraft and it is slightly different when it comes to the fighters. They have the longevity problem, that is obvious, but one plane which is an exception is the MiG-21 Fishbed.



The studies for this aircraft started in 1953. Prior to this model, there were MiG-15 and MiG-17 which proved to be very successful, and they showed that combating the Western powers in the sky is possible. The MiG-19 was the first supersonic fighter created by the Soviet Union. At that point, technology advanced quickly, and those fighters which were involved in the Korean War were obsolete by 1955, one of them being MiG-15, capable of some things, but helpless in some other situations. The Russians hoped to improve their fleet with the MiG-21.

The MiG-21 had an internal cannon, and it was able to carry between two and six missiles. It earned the nickname Fishbed by NATO and just like the most fighters, this one would serve for ground attacks since it is able to carry a limited number of bombs and rockets. Instead of equipping this plane with a complex radar, the Soviets controlled it from the ground.

Between 1959 and 1985, the Soviet Union assembled 10,645 Fishbeds. They were followed by China with 2,400 Fishbeds produced between 1966 and 2013, India, with 657 planes constructed under a licensing and technology transfer agreement with Moscow and former Czechoslovakia with 194 units built.



Even though MiG-21 came out in the late 1950s, the engineers managed to tackle the problems that could not be cured with time. Thus, the modern jets cannot fly faster or maneuver better than the MiG-21. Sure the modern fighters have the equipment which is much more sophisticated, but they can be perceived as a luxury and they do not make the plane better in the true sense of the word. The Fishbed is a cheap and easy-to-maintain plane that can do it all.

Had Fishbed been produced in the United States, it wouldn’t have been useful. The aircraft has short legs, and it cannot carry a lot of ordnance, but it also lacks the space to accommodate the sophisticated items we have mentioned previously. However, it served its purpose on the Soviet side, and it was a capable ground control intercept fighter. The MiG-21 could fly and fight over battlefields and act as an interceptor, and it did all those things. Even the American pilots praised this plane during the Cold War.



The MiG-21 was never used on the Central Front in a NATO-Warsaw Pact war, but this doesn’t mean that it was just sitting in the backyard. In Vietnam, they took advantage of the United States by cutting through bomber packages before the US fighters could visualize them and attack. They were quite maneuverable, and they could evade the air-to-air missiles, which were not quite developed at the time.

However, on January 2, 1967, a group of F-4 Phantom IIs commanded by pilot Robin Olds tricked the North Vietnamese and shot down several Fishbeds. After the Vietnamese War, the Fishbed was used across the Middle East. The Israeli Defense Force sent their fleet against the Egyptian and Syrian Fishbeds, and they managed to destroy them in the opening days of the Six-Day War. In the War of Attrition, the Fishbeds went against the Israelis and once again in the Yom Kippur War and the Lebanon War as well.

All of this caused people to believe that the MiG-21s were doomed, but the aircraft performed more than adequately in comparable pilot training contexts. The Indian MiG-21s flew in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, the 1971 War, and the Kargil War and proved to be awesome.


As the time passed, the number of MiG-21 decreased, especially as the new models emerged. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it had major consequences on the Russian military strength. Their client states could no longer keep the aircraft in service, and there are still some air forces which use the MiG-21 and the Chinese F/J-7 version of the same aircraft.


You can find the MiG-21 in 18 air forces. Two of those states are NATO members – Croatia and Romania. Just for comparison, the Fishbed served in 40 additional countries at its peak. As for the Chinese J/F-7, it is still active in 13 states, but four retired this one from service. The Fishbeds which are in service today have been updated, but they still resemble the originals. Nowadays, they have different, much better weapons such as the Magic 2, the Phyton III or the R-60 AAM. Their electronics and communication equipment is upgraded as well, and they are much more precise.

Will the Fishbed live on?

China will no longer produce the J-7, which means that the final MiG-21 version has rolled out of the assembly line. In the meantime, Romania and Croatia are going to dispose of their Fishbeds in the upcoming five years, and as for India, the country will retire the MiG-21 planes.

Despite all of this, the Fishbed will keep going on. A lot of the J-7 and F-7 models are predicted to stay in service for a very long time. For example, Bangladesh purchased the last dozen of F-7 models five years ago, and they will not have to be replaced for quite a while. And we also need to take into consideration the fact that a lot of states and their respective militaries do not have the budget to refresh their forces all the time and buy something more sophisticated than the Fishbed. A hundred-year fighter could never exist, but the MiG-21 could easily reach 60 and even 70, without too many issues.

The first one was produced in 1959. It is not that hard to believe that at least one MiG-21 is going to survive to celebrate the 100th birthday. They are still widely used, and with the few more upgrades down the line, the Fishbed could be going strong in years to come.

Whether this airplane survives the upcoming years and the advancements in technology doesn’t matter at this point because one thing is for sure. The Russian MiG-21 has been problematic for the enemies. Even though it is assembled by the enemies of the United States, America needs to admit that it is one of the most iconic airplanes ever created. This model is definitely going down in the books as one of the best fighters.

Source: nationalinterest.org

Gudrun Himmler never gave up Nazi ideology

Gudrun Margarete Elfriede Emma Anna Burwitz was the daughter of Margarete Himmler and Heinrich Himmler. She was 14 when she was left without father, and unlike most children whose fathersserved Hitler on a high hierarchical scale, she did not give up on hers.

In life, one needs to be decent, brave and kind. In his collection of poetry, this is how Himler spoke to his 13-year-old daughter, Püppi, as he used to called her.Heinrich Himmler loved his daughter very much and had her regularly visited him to his offices in Berlin from Munich.


Her world completely fell apart when Himmler committed suicide in the remand center of Allies near Luneburg, 24 May 1945.He was arrested on May 22, 1945, for having false documents, but was quickly recognizedin captivity.

He was supposed to be tried together with other major German commanders in Ninberg but Himmler committed suicide. He drank a cyanide pill before the trial began. His last words were: “Ih bin Heinrich Himmler!” (I am Heinrich Himmler!).

Gudrun and her mom were arrested by the Americans after Himmler’s death. They were detained in various camps in Italy, France and Germany. They were later brought to Ninberg, where they testified at the trial and were released in November 1946.


Gudrun later recalled those years with bitterness, describing them as the hardest part of her life. She also said that she and her mother were treated in a way as if they had to redeem her father’s sins. Nevertheless, she never gave up Nazi ideology.

In the 1950s, Gudrun was saying that she would go to the United States, to find “her father’s documents” in order to prove that he didn’t commit suicide but was killed instead.

Gudrun Himmler, also known as the “Princess of Nazism”, denied the Holocaust until the end of her life and claimed that her father was a “good man”.

Source: ww2gravestone.com

Who Was Walther Wenck, The Boy General?

Walther Wenck was born in 1900 in Wittenberg and he was the youngest General in the Nazi Army during the Second World War. He had two brothers but one of them, Helmuth died in the First World War in Russia, whereas the other one, Hans Ulrich was killed in France.

In 1919, Wenck was a member of the Free Corps, but one year later, he joined the Army of the Weimar Republic. Wenck had a good humor. For instance, when he was in France during the invasion, he ordered antiaircraft Flak 88mm gun to be fired, which scared a visiting General who was taking a bath. When he jumped out of the bath and went out, he was dripping wet, but Wenck laughed.


Even though he was the youngest General in the army, also known as The Boy General, Wenck played an important role in the Battle of Berlin. Moreover, he ordered his army to surrender to the forces of the United States, rather to see them getting captured by the Soviets. From 1939 to 1942, young Walther was Chief of Operations for the First Panzer Division under the command of Generallieutenant Walter Kruger. In 1942, he got a position of an instructor for the War Academy, Chief of Staff for the LVII Corps, commanded by General der Panzertruppen Friedrich Kirchner and Chief of Staff for the Third Romanian Army commanded by General Petre Dumitrescu.

Between 1942 and 1943, Wenck was on the Easter Front as the Chief of Staff of “Army Detachment” Karl Hollidt. One year later, he became the Chief of Staff of the First Panzer Army and Chief of Staff of Army Group South Ukraine. It was in the last year of War that Wenck became Quartermaster General I.

He quickly got the command of the German forces that were involved in Operation Solstice on the Eastern Front and this operation was one of the last major German tank offensives in the Second World Warr. The Soviet positions in Pomerania were endangered, but luckily for the Soviets, the operations was poorly planned and organized, ending with the loss for the Germans.

As General of Panzer Troops, Wenck became the commander of the German Twelfth Army just west of Berlin. The Soviets were closing on the German capital and there was not much for Hitler to do. He commanded Felix Steiner to attack the forces led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, but Steiner declined because it was a certain death with no manpower and lack of tanks. Instead of attacking, his army retreated and for Hitler, there was only Wenck’s Twelfth Army left to save Berlin.

It was planned for Wenck and Rudolf Holste to surprise the Germans with the attack, but Holste’s army consisted mostly of people transferred from Steiner’s units. It was Wenck who surprised the Russians with his newly formed unit but despite the initial progress, they were stopped outside of Potsdam. The Soviets prevailed and encircled Berlin. The forces inside the capital of Nazi Germany were cut off and it was up to Walther Wenck and Theodore Busse to help them out.

However, it was not that easy at all. The Boy General and his Twelfth Army were forced back along the entire front and they couldn’t do anything in the planned counterattack. Meanwhile, Busse’s Ninth Army couldn’t be counted on.
Late in the evening of 29 April, Krebs contacted General Alfred Jodl and said: “Request immediate report. Firstly of the whereabouts of Wenck’s spearheads. Secondly of time intended to attack. Thirdly of the location of the Ninth Army. Fourthly of the precise place in which the Ninth Army will break through. Fifthly of the whereabouts of General Rudolf Holste’s spearhead.”


Early in the morning, Jodl replied: “Firstly, Wenck’s spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, Twelfth Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of Ninth Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste’s Corps on the defensive.” But Wenck had one final mission in mind and that is to save people from fighting for the lost cause. “Comrades, you’ve got to go in once more,” Wenck said. “It’s not about Berlin any more, it’s not about the Reich any more.” Wenck was captured by General William Hood Simpson’s Ninth Army and he was a prisoner of war. He got released in 1947.

Walther Wenck, The Boy General died in a car accident on his way to Austria, when he crashed against a tree. He was 81.

Source: ww2gravestone.com

The strongest weapons from World War II: Nazi Germany’s King tiger tank

One of the most powerful machines from the World War II is Nazi Germany’s Tiger tank. According to reports, allied tanks were completely powerless to Tigers, that is, it took 5 Sherman tanks to attack Tiger so that one of them would be able to approach and defeat it. The Mark VI,soon became the strongest war weapon on battlefield, also known as Tiger I.

Due to its main purpose of breaching enemy defenses, the tank’s appearance (square, castle-like shape and long cannon) was specially designed to look deadly. Despite its weight, it was able to move pretty quickly. However, Hitler’s designers wanted to improve the weapon, as they considered that its KwK 36 gun was not appropriate and forceful enough for its 88-millimeter cannon. For this reason, soon they focused on building its successor.


Its new, better version was named Tiger II or Konigstiger (King Tiger tank).What TigarII was known for was the cannon. Very precise 88 mm KwK 43 L71 top, 6.3 m long, indicating the L71 mark (71 caliber long). Tiger II was larger than its predecessor. Initially, it was equipped with a binocular TZF 9b / 1telescope, and later with a monocular TZF 9d. The top could rise 14 degrees above the horizontal and could drop 8 degrees below. Thanks to the extremely thick front armor, which was resistant to almost everything the allies had in their arsenal, Tigar II made a significant initial advantage in the confrontation with opponents.King Tigar tank had lots of improvements over the Tigar I. What contributed to Tiger II’s thickness of armor was its sloped armor, whereas Tigar I had vertical armor.


The only real threat to this tank were aircrafts that could easily destroy it.

Source: nationalinterest.org

Centurion tank – British main battle tank in the period after the Second World War

The British invented a tank as a combat device, but until the end of the Second World War they did not create a better higher-quality design of this armored vehicle. Their tanks Matilda, Crusader, Valentine, Churchill and Cromwell could be called relatively solid, but nothing more than that. Against the German Tigers and Panther, the British tanks were powerless, and the only one who could confront them at greater distances was the American Sherman Firefly.

The British were looking for a tank that would be well-armored, with a cannon of great breakthrough power and agile. The first tank that was introduced, called Centurion tank, was produced in 1945, after the end of the war in Europe and was armed with the same gun as the Sherman Firefly – Ordnance QF 17-pounder caliber 76 mm. This top was soon replaced by the new Ordnance QF 20-pounder gun of 84 mm, and with this cannon, Centurion tank was massively introduced into the British Army’s armament.Centurion was the first British tank that could accurately shoot on the move thanks to the built-in gyroscope, and was more secure due to the decision not to store the shells above the dome ring.


Tank Centurion in the standard British version weighs 52 tons. The armored protection is up to 152 mm thick, and the weapon is made up of a top L7 caliber of 105 mm. The operating range is 80 to 190 km (depending on the variant). The crew consists of 4 men – commander, gunner, charger and driver.

The Centurion outperformed its contemporaries, the American M-48 Patton and Soviet T-54 and T-55. Although it was a British tank, it was used by nineteen nations, such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Jordan, Sweden and Switzerland.

Source: nationalinterest.org

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