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The News

Shotgun armed UAV's

The Taiwanese company Autocopter has been building weaponized UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles) since 2007.  Their product may not be a Global Hawk carrying Hellfire missiles, but it is still lethal in an up close and personal kind of way.  

picture of Autocopter Gunship


The Autocopter Gunship is 8 feet long and weighs 55 lbs with empty gas tanks, and is powered by a 8 1/2 hp turbine.  With standard tanks, the 60 mph machine could get 30 miles before turning back, and could get to 5000 feet.  

picture of Atchisson Shotgun

The thing that makes it lethal are the two mounted Atchisson 12 gauge automatic shotguns.  These guns are made of stainless steel and seem to be very reliable.  Fed by 8 round stick mags or 32 round drums, they fire at the relatively slow 300 rounds per minute, so no selector is needed to control auto or semi-auto fire.  With the long recoil system, there isn't much recoil, the better to control the helicopter, and they can also be fired upside down, and one is mounted upside down.

picture of helicopter being transported

The choice of ammunition is buckshot, standard slug round and a British invention, the Frag-12 round.  Frag-12's come in many flavors, and the most lethal is the armor piercing round which is a spin stabilized shaped charge warhead, designed to blast into armor plate.  This does have the potential to make this bird a troublesome opponent, and changes the possibilities of the hobby helicopter movement.  Even though the technical possiblities are quite interesting, it is also disturbing, having just read Daniel Suarez's "Kill Decision". These lethal flying machines have.... I'll let it go at that.  You'll enjoy the story, but it may also keep you up at night.

Dynamite Guns

Dynamite guns were developed from 1883 when a Mr. Medford successfully demonstrated a small model of the concept.  The desire was to develop a reliable high explosive shell.  The artillery of the time used black powder as a propellant, and as the bursting charge in the shell, and sometimes the shock of being fired would detonate the round in the barrel.  The big dynamite guns used steam driven air compressors to power their guns, lessening the impact on the unstable charges.

picture of Zalinsky Gun

 A retired artillery officer, Captain Zalinsky witnessed the Medford trial, and developed the guns for the US.  The first 15 inch 3 gun battery was installed at Sandy Hook in 1894, and other installations on the east coast followed, the latest in 1901.  The shells for the 15 inch guns were longer than conventional shells and sported fins, the guns possibly not being rifled, and the fuses were electrically fired nitroglycerin.  Sounds a little less than stable.  

picture of USS Vesuvius

The US Navy got in the act and commissioned the Dynamite Cruiser USS Vesuvius, which was built around a fixed battery of dynamite guns.  Being fixed, the ship had to be aimed at the target, but elevation could be varied with the amount of compressed air used, a could land a projectile up to 1 1/2 miles away.   A Holland submarine was also fitted with two dynamite guns, one for aerial use, and one for underwater firing

picture of USS Vesuvius' guns

The Sims-Dudley Dynamite Gun was a field gun with 2 1/2 inch barrel  and a 10 pound projectile.  Since carrying around a steam driven air compressor was out of the question, a charge of powder was fired in the cylinder under the barrel, compressing air for the operation of the gun.  This gun was finicky enough that mechanics spent more time fixing the gun than firing it.  

Picture of Sims-Dudley Gun

These guns were used in anger during the Spanish-American War.  The Vesuvius bombarded Santiago at night, and as no noise was associated with the firing of the guns, there was a certain psychological impact on the Spaniards.  The Sims-Dudley gun was used, along with Gatlings and Potato Diggers at the Battle of San Juan Hill, where Teddy Roosevelt was less than enthusiastic about the gun.  There was somewhat of a psychological effect in this battle too, as the projectile's explosion was delayed about 6 seconds after landing.  These guns seem  more akin to terror weapons than actual artillery.  In any event,  their use was soon discontinued, as development of high explosive shells and fuses enabled conventional artillery use them to better effect.

picture of USS Holland

The Millennium Gun

Oerlikon, now a subsidiary of Rheinmetall, builds a self contained, quick firing, 35mm quick firing revolver cannon for shipboard and land base defense.  It is a different concept than the standard Phalanx gun used by Allied navies.  The 4 chamber revolving belt-fed cannon is more akin to a giant automatic shotgun, than a Gatling gun.

picture of Millennium Gun

To be sure, hitting missiles that are homing in on your ship is a daunting task.  In order to have time to track, identify and hit something that looks like a baseball bat flying 3000 mph you almost have to give up human control, and artificial intelligence is being prepped for the task.  Oerlikon, however, has been building anti-aircraft guns for quite a long time, and their solution is a bit different.  

picture of projectile

The heart of the gun is it's ammunition.  The Millennium can fire many different types of ammunition, in order to counter any number of threats, but the Ahead round  is the most interesting.  Not only can it counter ship killing missiles, but is also effective against land attacks by rocket,  artillery or mortar shells.  The round is pre-fragmented, and is programmed as it leaves the barrel to separate into 152 spin-stabilized tungsten fragments at the optimum time  into the target path of the incoming threat.  In less than a second, from 18 to 24 rounds are grouped together forming a metallic cloud that the threat is not likely to survive.  

picture of diagram

And in the sales pitch, the whole thing is self contained in an easily installed turret.  All you need to feed it is electricity to charge it's batteries, a radar input and someone to say "fire!", and you are ready to go.

The following video is the Millennium Gun in action with the Royal Danish Navy, from the FirstSeaLord01's channel

Dornier Update 2-23-2013

The last remaining DO-17 buried in the Goodwin Sands off Deal in the UK  is due to be brought up from the deep in May 2013.  The RAF Museum in Hendon has finished plans for bringing the craft up in one piece.  After that, the important work starts, that of stabilizing the aluminum and steel machine that had been laying in salt water for 70 years.  

picture of Dornier 17

The Imperial College Metallurgy Department donated the time for testing and developing  a solution that would stabilise the metal fuselage and remove all traces of chloride, and in this day and age, also be environmentally friendly.  When this aircraft was built, it was only meant to last for a specific time, and in practice they didn't last long at all, with the RAF hell bent on destroying them.  After the war, they couldn't be scrapped fast enough, such that sometimes airframes were just piled up and set alight to get rid of them.  Now it is a different time, and many people want to see what's left preserved, if only to see what their grandpa flew in during the war. You can also donate to the project.

picture of Do X seaplane

Dornier was one hell of a company.  Started in the 20's, it was famous for it's flying boats.  It survived WW2 and made many successful designs, but withered away in the 90's, being absorbed in many companies, one of which was Fairchild aircraft, builder of the Flying Boxcar and the A10 Warthog. Fairchild has since been absorbed by another company and no Dornier designs are being produced by them.  Parts of it's accomplishments live on in medical  technology, and one company still manufacturers a seaplane, the Dornier Sea Star.

picture of Dornier Seastar

Local boy makes good, John Thompson

A child born across the river from Cincinnati in 1860 would grow up to invent the original subgun, the Thompson submachine gun.  He was born in Southgate House, a hopping music venue and bar in Newport Ky.   Check out the story.

picture of Thompson submachine gun

 The submachine gun was invented in the ashes of the First World War, and came to late to revolutionize warfare.  For close in work, whether the jungles or WW2 cityscapes, the Tommy Gun beat longer range rifles hands down.  British Commandoes couldn't get enough of them, and during continental raids, the .45 caliber lump of lead would usually settle things.

Picture of British Soldier and Tommy Gun

The gun was not an overnight success though, most conservative militaries were drawing down after the Great War and didn't have budgets that would include innovative weapons.  In desperation, submachine guns like Thompson's would be marketed to farmers for pest control.  

picture of US Marines on Okinawa

In the 20's and 30's, gangsters did take to them, and the police had to respond in kind.  During that time period, there were a number of shoot outs with machine guns around the Cincinnati area.  Newport was a big mob town through the '50's and 60's.  The last shootout in which Cincinnati Police armed with Thompsons was 1957 with safecrackers in Anderson Township, a local sleepy suburb.  

Even during the Vietnam War, the CIA carried Thompson's.  They are a bit heavy, but they are every bit as useful today as they were in the past.