Friday, June 5, 2015

Confessions of a Shameless Treadhead: Part Trois Le Cold War

OK. As promised, here's the last batch of photos I shot during my last tour of the collection of the late Jaques Littlefield. This batch covers the Cold War era up to the first Gulf War in its scope, and includes some unusual subjects to say the least showcasing the continuing evolution of the modern armored fighting vehicle.

So without further ado, here they are for your consideration:

Among the first machines to greet arriving visitors was this M113 ACAV armored cavalry personnel carrier, a Vietnam War modification of the ubiquitous M113 personnel carrier. 

A former Russian-made East German army armored reconnaissance  car was also located outside the main buildings, cut away to expose the internal layout of the interior. Even for such a relatively small combat vehicle the interior is cluttered to say the least:

A 16-inch naval shell outside the main building.... 

 And representing Her Majesty's armored forces outside of the main building was a pair of Gulf War One vintage Alvis FV103 Spartans...

One of the Big Dawgs on display in the yard was this Israeli M60 Patton tank... 

The Israelis of course modified this tank to suit their own needs and ideas, including the installation of a mounting bracket for a machine gun over the main gun to use for rapid sighting of the main gun...

The most interesting feature of this tank is the actual battle damage that disabled it during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Usually when an historical vehicle is restored any battle damage is repaired at least cosmetically, however the decision was made to leave this bit of battle damage in place as an example of how a shaped-charge warhead actually works. The tiny hole in the left center of the photo at the base of the tow hitch is where a Russian-made RPG-7 rocket propelled anti-tank grenade struck the armor and burned through, gutting the engine in the process and knocking out the tank.... 

 Inside the hall sharing the parking spaces with the previously shown tanks and armored fighting vehicles from the World Wars are more than a few weird and wonderful machines from the Cold War era. Here is a childhood favorite of mine, the EBR-90 armored car with its distinctive eight wheeled suspension incorporating an inner pair of axles with solid steel rough terrain wheels...

The innermost steel rough terrain wheels were on an hydraulic system so they could be raised or lowered depending upon how much traction or speed the vehicle commander of driver needed...

Historically the French Army was a keen early user of armored cars, and this continued through the Cold War (as it does today). The French also exported a respectable number of armored cars to various foreign end users. Among the more commonly exported designs were those from Panhard. The South African Eland 90 seen here is the result of the South African government procuring a production license for the Panhard AML, then developing their own spin-off two-thirds of which was made up of indigenous components. Externally the Eland 90 looks much as its French progenitor, but optimized for operating conditions in Southern Africa:

Next up is a late 1940s design that just missed combat in WW2, but went on to leave its mark in several postwar conflicts. The Iosef Stalin III was an evolutionary development of Soviet heavy tank designs driven forward in reaction to the menace of the German Panther and Tiger tanks. Mounting a 122mm main gun and featuring an inverted frying pan style turret that came to characterize Cold War Russian tank designs ever since, the IS-III is a menacing machine whose lean lines and big gun hide some significant design and technical shortcomings that only became apparent when the IS-III was used operationally:

One of the distinctive features of Soviet heavy tanks and assault guns starting with their late WW2-era designs was the fitting of a 12.7mm DShk heavy machine gun on an anti-aircraft mount on the turret roof. Although first developed in 1938 and adopted as the standard heavy machine gun of the Red Army and red Banner Fleet before WW2, the DShk is a weapon that looks almost like a weapon from science fiction with its distinguishing cooling fins running the length of the gun barrel of this massive air-cooled weapon:

The Western NATO powers reacted to the revelation of the new Soviet heavy tanks (IS-III and later T-10M) by producing their own superheavy tanks sporting massive 120mm main guns to overcome the thick armor of the Soviet heavies. Here is the British answer to the Soviet heavy tank challenge, the Conqueror. This is a rare machine indeed, and seen in person close up one can fully appreciate the aura of sheer brute power and mass of this beast. I was struck by the sensation as I stood looking over this tracked kaiju up close and personal that it practically shouted "HEAVY!" in a deep, mechanical bass voice:

The first of the new generation of U.S. main battle tanks (MBTs) to counter the assumed Soviet tank menace was the M48 Patton. This particular version has the boxy night vision sight mounted over the main gun barrel, and lacks the distinctive commander's closed machine gun cupola that characterized the later models of the M48 and M60:

Soldiers are soldier no matter when or where we're talking about, and that includes a soldier's sense of humor. Here is an example of that, some artwork on the side of an armored recovery vehicle that expresses the sentiments no doubt of recovering heavy, disabled armored vehicles under field conditions:

 Ever seeking an advantage in the technological arms race that was the Cold War, the U.S. Army concluded in the 1960s that a guided missile was the best means of knocking out a heavily-armored Soviet main battle tank, so they cooked up the 152mm MGM-151 Shillelagh gun/missile combination. Able to fire both the MGM-151 missile and a 152mm caseless shell, the weapon proved troublesome as a matter of course. The weapon was first mounted in the M551 Sheridan, then later applied to the M60 in a revised turret designed to accommodate the new weapon and deduce its target profile at the same time. 

Dubbed the "Starship," the M-60A2 was not a particularly successful design. First entering service in 1974, the "Starships" were phased out of service in 1980:

The West German Bundeswehr needed an armored personnel carrier, and went one better developing the sleek and effective Marder Infantry Combat Vehicle, (IFV), setting the standard that all armored infantry combat transport vehicles have had to follow ever since. Featuring a low profile remote control weapons fit that included a 20mm auromatic cannon, a 7.92mm machine gun, and smoke grenade launchers, the vehicle has like the M60 "Starship" an almost science fiction quality to its design aesthetic:

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the Israelis being ever practical creatures were quick to marry necessity to WW2-vintage U.S. surplus M4 Sherman tanks and create a stable of unique modernized M4s fitted with extra equipment and heavier, more modern main guns to give their tankers a fighting chance with the more modern Russian tanks being used by their Arab nation opponents. Note the extra armor plates welded in front of the hull over the driver's and radio operator's stations, the additional external stowage, and the French 90mm main gun adapted from the weapon found on the AMX-13 light tank also used by the IDF:

A sad sight! This is what happens when the sublime is taken to the ridiculous in legislating. These .50 cal. heavy machine guns were being rendered almost into little better than junk to satisfy very specific federal requirements to ensure the weapons could never be used for their original purpose. 

To me this is a reasonable precaution taken to an extreme that shows neither respect for the importance of preserving historical artifacts nor simple common sense, as far less effort would have done the job to render these guns permanently inoperable:

I've saved one of the best of the collection for last, a real bruiser of a super heavy tank, the M103 Heavy Tank designed like its British counterpart the Conqueror as a reaction to the Soviet IS-III and T-10M heavy tanks. Mounting a massive 120mm main gun that was so hefty it required a massive turret and a second loader to help handle the shells for this armor-smashing brute. 

An unsuccessful machine in many ways, the M103 soldiered on into the 1960s, finding its way into the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps in the fine old tradition of the Army handing the Marines their hand-me-down weapons, this example has been restored to include its original turret art from its last days as a Marine Corps vehicle:

Like the Conqueror the M103 is MASSIVE seen up close and in person. Its distinctive hull and turret design is almost retro science fiction in styling, and i for one think the M103 would be the perfect basis for a sci-fi conversion project!

Finally, showcased in the parking lot of the main buildings is a machine that nearly got the late Jaques Littlefield in some serious hot water with the U.S. Customs and federal law enforcement authorities when it turned up on the docks here in the U.S.! This Scud mobile missile launcher was in fact a perfect non-functioning copy of an operational Scud, being designed to train the maintenance crews of the Scuds, so every (non-functional) component had to be visually identical to the working version, and in precisely the exact same place in relationship to all the other bits. 

Needless to say, when this beastie arrived on the docks, all kinds of alarms went off, and Jaques had to do some explaining even though IIRC he'd already briefed his contacts of what precisely was coming and no, it does NOT actually work, so everybody remain calm!

Again a massive machine iconic of the Cold War era and of the first Gulf War, this is the last of my photos from my final foray to the Littlefield collection before it was sadly broken up:

Next up: Works in progress, more recovered photos, and other mischief: