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Death of the fighter....

The fighter was born on April 1st, 1915.  Roland Garros, a French pilot, got his first victory in the air with his Moraine Saulnier aircraft equipped with a forward firing machine gun, the first in history.  Other planes had guns in the front, like the Vickers Gunbus, but they had gunners.  The true effectiveness of the fighter wasn't achieved until a fixed gun was controlled by the pilot. He achieved this feat by attaching metal wedges on his propeller to deflect any bullets that might hit it.  Within two weeks he was an ace.  The solution he used was pretty hard on propellers, shattering some of them anyway. He was forced down later that month, and once Anthony Fokker saw his plane he quickly developed the interrupter gear that made the fighter into the ultimate killing machine of the air.

pic of Morane Saulnier

The United States have developed the ultimate fighters of modern times, the F-22 and the F-35, which can not only carry huge payloads, but get them there without being discovered by radar.  However, even their reign will come to an end soon.  Cheap computers and sensors will soon make their life miserable in the air, and their role will be to get some payloads in the air, to be released and hunt on their own, leaving the fighters to vacate the area as quickly as possible before they are hunted and killed by swarms of networked hunter/killer missiles.

The US has been in this game for a while now, starting as long ago as 1998 with their LOCAAS or Low Cost Autonomous Attack System.  This reduces the size of the warhead and makes it better to adapt to conditions on it's own, without any influence from the pilot of the aircraft carrying it.  This system has already morphed into the SDB or the Small Diameter Bomb System.  The system extends the standoff range, guides itself with GPS and INS (Inertial Navigation System), and also carries anti-jam and anti-spoofing modules.  The size is smaller to reduce collateral damage, but it is still a killer, able to penetrate three feet of reinforced concrete.  And if they are destroyed in the air, we lose no humans or expensive F-35's.  

picture of SBS

Another thing that will kill fighters will be the inability and cost to protect aircraft carriers.  Other countries are developing weapons that will swarm the target, each equipped with different sensors and networked together, making a carrier quite a tempting target.  It will be much cheaper to outfit a lot of Arleigh Burke class destroyers delivering the same ordnance, with smaller cross sections  to attack.  The US has developed the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) mostly because the Chinese already have better anti-ship missiles than we do.  It has been successfully tested and has autonomously flew long range, identified and hit the target.  On it's own.  

diagram of LRASM's use

Other countries may not be able to match the US's sophistication in these matters, but they are plenty capable of building autonomous systems on their own, and sometimes cheaper is better, as you can build lots more of them, potentially swamping the defense of a ship at sea.  The aircraft carrier may not disappear, but like the battleship before it, it's time is almost up.

References

Birth of the fighter plane, 1915

Rise of the Missile Carriers, US Navy Institute

The Diplomat -LRASM

More 3D Printed Guns...

Most of the 3D printed gun stories around the net are plastic things that are lucky to get a round off.  One of those is a one shot wonder by Defense Distributed, and there is a rifle floating around called the Grizzly 2.0 that has fired several .22 caliber long rifle bullets, but none of them is something you'd go to war with.  Now there is a gun you can take to battle, but it's not made on a cheap 3D printer out of plastic, but a commercial 3D printer using stainless steel sintered metal.

picture of 3D printed gun

It's built by Solid Concepts, and is a classic 1911 design.  It's had 50 rounds through it so far, and the company says it's still in perfect shape, ready for more.  They said they chose the design because it was in the public domain, but I think it was because it was a relatively simple gun which is quite robust.  Even the barrel is printed (!) making 3D printing a new possible paradigm in gun manufacture.  They say they can make parts much more accurate than machining, and much less porosity than investment cast parts.  (This does suggest that there is much more porosity than machined steel...).  Needless to say, Police departments and cities that are freaking out about 3D guns may really have something to worry about.  However, printing a decent 3D gun is never going to be cheap, and doubtful that it will be in your basement anytime soon.  

picture of printed gun componants

Nevertheless, Philadelphia isn't taking any chances. They have just banned 3D printed guns from the city. 

New book just out , The K-Frame Revolver

Received my copy of the newly published "The K-Frame Revolver, The S&W Phenomenom Volume II", by Timothy J. Mullin.  I look forward to many hours pouring over details of one of my favorite handguns, the K Frame Smith.  Almost could be called the perfect handgun, fits the hand, easily controllable, and quite good looking also.  This gun in it's many variations has been in production for over one hundred years, and there are so many variations a collector could add specimens for years and not get them all.  

picture of the K-Frame Revolver book

I look forward to reviewing this 520 page, well illustrated tome on the K-frame.  I was also able to contribute to this book in a small way with some pictures of a Webley 38/200 for comparison to the M&P Lend Lease guns, and a section on Spanish copies of S&Ws.  As always, this Collector Grade Publication is a feast for those with a historical or technical frame of mind.

picture of book

Middle East Commando and the Knuckle Knife

While researching the Apache Revolver and the British Commandos I came to realize how fond of brass knuckles the commandos seem to be.  Their equipment consisted of at least one fighting knife, the most famous of which was the Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife, but almost all the other knives they used had brass knuckles as part of the handle.  Some of these knives were leftovers from WW1, but one of the most unusual and interesting is the knuckle knife used by the Middle Eastern Commando.

picture of Commando knife

From Roy Shadbolt's collection

 It is hard to say how the Commandos that fought in the Middle East came by these knives, but I suspect they were locally sourced because of urgent need, and failure of wartime logistics.  The Commando's Death's Head knuckle knife came from Egyptian shops.  The blade was made from left over WW1 German bayonets, something common in that part of the world after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire during WW1.  The Ottomans and Turks were German allies and used a lot of their equipment. The handles follow closely the same pattern as each other, but had to have come from a number of different shops.

picture of Commando cap badge

The Middle East Commandos even used a representation of this knife as their cap badge.  It's a unique symbol of a gritty time in history.  Knives and cap badges are still available but not cheap. Real ones are rare and many reproductions abound.

Men of No. 51 Commando

The Apache Revolver and the British Commando

The revolver was designed in 1860 by a Belgian, a Dolne Brevette... as a Multi Purpose Pinfire Revolver, and nicknamed Daisy, as it opened like a flower.  It consisted of three weapons, a knife, brass knuckles, and of course a pepperbox revolver body.  It could be hidden in a pocket and used folded up effectively as a knuckle duster, or a knife could be unfolded and used, or all of it could be unfolded and used as a  revolver.  As it didn't have a barrel, it was a strictly short range weapon.  The early guns were 5mm and 7mm pinfire, but a 9mm version was known to be used by British Commandoes in WW2.

picture of Apache Revolver

Photo by Michele M. F.

The end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries was a great time for the well to do.  They could enjoy the latest inventions and culture, it was so great it was called the Belle Epoque in Paris,  or the "Gilded Age" in the US. But in Paris, as elsewhere, everyone wasn't included in the prosperity, so gangs of Parisian hoodlums made a bit of their own prosperity.  They armed themselves with, among other killing weapons, the Multipurpose Pinfire Revolver.  One gang, Les Apaches, was so notorious that the revolver was named for them and became the Apache Revolver.  They preyed on the upper middle class, and made such a nuisance of themselves the even fought a week long pitched battle with the police, and it wasn't clear the police won.  World War One brought an end to the Apaches, though, and they and their kind were consumed in the trenches along with everyone else.

picture of Le Petit Journal

The last stop on the story of the Apache Revolver is the British Commando and the French Resistance. Numbers of these guns were still floating around when  WW2 came about, and it has been rumoured that when the Commando was born, this weapon was adopted and Whitehall is still quiet about their use.  The gun was supposed to be 9mm, and is still supposed to be in the Commando's arsenal.  The French Resistance undoubtedly used them, since any gun was better than none.  I for one think the Brits may have tried them, and rejected them for the flimsy and awkward weapon they are, even though they have a love for all things with brass knuckles attached to them.  They liked close in weapons so much the cap badges of the Commando Groups that fought in the middle east featured the early fighting knife with brass knuckles for a handle.  I think Whitehall liked the reputation the Commando's may have achieved by fostering use of such a malicious looking gun.

picture of Apache Revolver

Photo by Trinjac