Visions of VERA (C-GVRA Lancaster Heavy Bomber) from Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (@CWHM)

fullsizeoutput_5b5Flying over the house today was C-GVRA “Vera,” a Lancaster Heavy Bomber belonging to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. The plane is in town for the Great British Fly-In celebrating the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Royal Air Force at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center on Sunday, April 15.

The weather forecast for Sunday is not good so the organizers decided to fly the airplanes in Saturday. I was thinking about going with the RockyMountainNavy Boys to the events but may not; fighting crowds inside will be bad enough and with thunderstorms forecast going out to the flightline to see the airplanes up close may not be an option. In some ways we don’t have to go because we saw Vera today the way she’s supposed to be seen, in flight. Oh yeah, we got to hear Vera too. I have never before heard the sound of four Merlin engines purring along, and it will be a long time before that sound will be forgotten.

The RMN Boys were outside and lucky enough to see and hear Vera as she flew almost directly overhead. Some neighbor boys were stunned; both by the airplane and by the casual way the Youngest RMN Boy explained what it was. In some ways that was the best part – both RMN Boys were absolutely excited to see this piece of flying history. They understand what Vera is and what she represents; the heroic actions of so many in World War II.

It is one thing to see a plane on the ground but so much more to see it in flight. Thanks to the CWHM we enjoyed a great show from Vera today.

#4thofJulyWeekend at the National Museum of the Marine Corps

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Invasion of Tarawa – with Air Support

Little RMN was agitating this morning that we really should go to a nice museum at least once this holiday weekend. So we jumped in the RMN-mobile and made our way to Quantico, VA and the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

This is a beautiful museum that covers the history of the Marines from 1776-1975. What, you say? Why stop there? The docent told us that they are working on a new wing that will bring us up to the 21st Century (scheduled to open in 2018). But what they have is more than enough and quite spectacular!

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M26 Pershing in the Korean War

The museum is beautiful. In addition to the many artifacts and historical items, it has many displays that vividly capture moments in history. These displays bring history alive by not only using static displays but visuals accented by lighting, sound, vibrating floors, blowing winds, and even deep cold. Walking through the Chosin Reservoir  display the room is deeply chilled with a breeze blowing. Not nearly as bad as it was for the real Devil Dogs that were there, but a small glimpse – and feel – of what it was like.

The museum also does a good job of remembering that the Marines were not all just glory in combat. There is a very nice tribute to John Philip Sousa and his music. Indeed, it is hard to imagine to 4th of July parade (or any celebration) without his great music.

IMG_1719The museum also manages to work in unusual bits of history that leaves one shaking their head. Like the story of Sergeant Reckless. Sergeant Reckless was horse that served alongside Marines in the Korean War as a pack animal. It is a wonderful story and it is awesome to see this fine animal proudly placed on the walls of the museum not far from where the Medal of Honor winners are shown.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps does an excellent job in showcasing the history of the Marine Corps and their contributions to freedom  of the United States of America. Surprisingly, admission to this great museum is free. The immeasurably valuable part is all the history shown inside.

#ThreatTuesday – The 80’s Are Calling and They Want Their Super Etendards Back!

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Courtesy BGG.com

I have written elsewhere that I am a child of the Cold War and had my wargame coming-of-age in the 1980’s. One of the games I got during that time was Harpoon II. H2 is a miniatures game of modern tactical naval combat. The game system would eventually inform an author by the name of Tom Clancy who famously used the game to play out a key battle of his book Red Storm Rising. That game series is explained in Dance of the Vampires available at Wargame Vault. But Red Storm Rising was still five years away. I was interested in Harpoon because of another war, one that had just happened – The Falklands War.

 

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Courtesy dailymail.co.uk

One of the most dramatic events of that war was the attack on HMS Sheffield on May 4, 1982. Using an Exocet anti-ship missile launched from a Super Étendard fighter, the Argentinians sank the Type 42 destroyer. Many times I replayed this scenario as well as the larger naval confrontation. To this day the Falklands War remains my favorite modern naval battles scenario generator.

 

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Courtesy BGG.com

So it was with much interest that I read Argentina intends to buy six Super Étendard fighters. Sorta proves that everything that is old is new again. It also makes we want to bring out Harpoon 4 and see how the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Daring-class destroyer would fare against this new-old threat.

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Courtesy dailymail.co.uk

 

 

#TechTuesday – Boxer ATV for #TravellerRPG or #CepheusEngine

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Courtesy @biomassart

One of the first vehicles in the Classic Traveller RPG is the ATV, or All Terrain Vehicle. As the TravellerRPG Wiki relates:

 

 

All Terrain Vehicle (ATV): Also known as the ATV, the All Terrain Vehicle is a wheeled or tracked vehicle designed to provide high-quality transportation on the terrestrial surfaces of any number of worlds. It can traverse all but the most forbidding (difficult) terrain and is fully amphibious (capable of water operations).

ATV’s commonly have the following features:

  • The ATV masses 10 tons, and can carry a payload of six tons, including the driver and seven passengers.
  • Cruising speed depends on the terrain being traveled: roads can allow up to 100 kph, while cross-country will rarely exceed 60 kph, and broken ground will keep speeds to 20 kph and under. Tracked ATVs are somewhat slower that wheeled versions, but are more reliable in difficult terrain.
  • An ATV may be powered by a battery charged from a ship’s power plant, or it may contain a small fusion pack requiring water or hydrogen for fuel.
  • The vehicle’s pressurized interior allows up to eight passengers living quarters with reasonable comfort for long periods of time.
  • The major drawbacks of ATVs are refuelling requirements (depending on the specific model), slowness in some types of terrain, and the bulk of the vehicle itself
  • While amphibious, most ATV’s have very poor water performance. Unless intended for short trips, a dedicated watercraft is recommended. And in rough seas or under inclement weather conditions, on large bodies of water, an ATV can be a very dangerous vehicle to be in. Some more advanced ATV’s have better water performance, but most have extremely poor water performance.

Already today we have this:

Looks like the ATV is already here! Now to work up stats using the Cepheus Engine Vehicle Design System.

#ThreatTuesday – Planning the PLA Navy

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Courtesy BGG

Being a Navy guy, I have long played naval wargames. For modern tactical naval combat nothing beats Harpoon in my book. I started way back with Harpoon II in 1983. The current version is Harpoon 4 first published by Clash of Arms in 1997 and now by Admiralty Trilogy Games.

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Courtesy BGG

I am also a fan of the Asia-Pacific theater, having spent way too many years in the Western Pacific. The Harpoon system does have a “sourcebook” for the Pacific Rim in the expansion Sea of Dragons, but it was published way back in 1997!

With the news that China is set to launch it’s first indigenously built carrier any day now, I got to thinking about how one would update at least the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) order of battle information in Sea of Dragons. Fortunately for wargamers, there are several excellent publicly available sources to help!

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Courtesy ONI

The first is from the Office of Naval Intelligence. In 2015, ONI published The PLA Navy: New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century. In addition to the publication itself, ONI also has provided useful graphics and videos and maps on their website. This should be every wargamer’s first stop when looking at the modern PLA Navy.

But today is 2017, and the Chinese have not been resting on their laurels since ONI printed their book. In another stroke of luck, gamers can look to Ronald O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service. China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress is updated several times a year and is one of the best running estimates of the threat. It is a very useful publication for bringing the ONI 2015 report forward to today.

I would also point the wargamer to Andrew Erickson’s excellent website. Dr. Erickson is on the faculty of the Naval War College, China Maritime Studies Institute. He specializes in using Chinese-language sources to study the PLA Navy and is a prolific speaker and author on the topic.

Between these three sources one should be able to update Sea of Dragons and get a better sense of what the PLA Navy would look like in a tactical naval game like Harpoon 4. One probably also will need to purchase back issues of The Naval SITREP magazine from the Admiralty Trilogy Group on a site such as Wargame Vault to get many ship characteristics.

Threat Tuesday – Un’er’s New Missile

NorK Missile Launch, June 2015
NorK AntiShip Missile Launch, June 2015

The world’s favorite naughty boy, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, showed off a some new naval toys this weekend. He watched a firepower demonstration where a “new” antiship cruise missile, which some in the press call the “KN-01”, was launched. The missile looks to be a near-copy of conventional Russian designs. If one looks close, you can see a radar reflector set up on the target (gotta make sure you get a hit for the big guy or you’ll end up a dead guy yourself).

For Harpoon 4 players, just use a Russian Kh-35 and see what it gets you!

Model Monday – Pegasus Hobbies ME-262

Little Rockymountainnavy is into building model kits these days and really has a love for World War II aviation. We have been collecting the Pegasus Hobbies 1/48th scale series and the latest one he has built is the Messerschmitt Me-262. This is a wonderful E-Z Snap series kit molded in dark green. Assembly was super easy and the parts fit the well with few gaps. This model even has a metal counterweight to place in the nose that will balance the aircraft on the tricycle landing gear. We will be painting and applying decals in the coming week.

The model did inspire Little RMN to dig into my library and pull out several books on the Me-262 and World War II jet aircraft. This has led to another spate of Lego creations and further exploration into German jet plans (ala Luft ’46). Once again, a model has inspired greater learning by Little RMN. After all, isn’t that what a good hobby does for you? (Image Courtesy modellingmadness.com)

Threat Tuesday – Liaoning

AFP/Getty Images

China is now officially an aircraft carrier-operating navy with the commissioning of Liaoning on 25 Sept 2012. Though much has been written, I direct you to Andrew Erickson’s column in the Wall Street Journal, “Introducing the ‘Liaoning’: China’s New Aircraft Carrier and What it Means.”

Courtesy Killer Apps/Foreign Policy

Andrew (and many others) point out that the Chinese have yet to meet a major milestone; landing aircraft on the deck. Just one day after being commissioned, photos appeared on the ‘net that may indicate that landings have already happened (see “Who left skidmarks on the flight deck of China’s new aircraft carrier?“)

But does China really need an aircraft carrier? Yet elsewhere in Foreign Policy is an argument entitled “Shipping Out: Are Aircraft Carriers Becoming Obsolete? I will be the first to say that the arguments put forth are very simple and the author shows little real understanding of naval matters; not to mention apparent ignorance of anti-ship ballistic missiles. For a far better analysis of the Chinese naval threat I recommend the latest edition of  Ronald O’Rourke’s Congressional Research Service report China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress. On the issues of China’s aircraft carriers, the report points out:

Although aircraft carriers might have some value for China in Taiwan-related conflict scenarios, they are not considered critical for Chinese operations in such scenarios, because Taiwan is within range of land-based Chinese aircraft. Consequently, most observers believe that China is acquiring carriers primarily for their value in other kinds of operations that are more distant from China’s shores, and to symbolize China’s status as a major world power. DOD states that “Given the fact that Taiwan can be reached by land-based aviation, China’s aircraft carrier program would offer very limited value in a Taiwan scenario and would require additional naval resources for protection. However, it would enable China to extend its naval air capabilities elsewhere.” (p. 20-21)

Regardless of the threat, it will be fun to play out a wargame scenario using Liaoning. Indeed, the Oct 2011 issue of The Naval SITREP from Clash of Arms featured a Harpoon scenario “The Wisdom of Shi Lang” (Shi Lang being what the west originally thought the carrier would be named).