Japan’s Weaker Fleet Crushed China at the Battle of the Yalu River
“TOKYO, July 31, 1894—’For the foreseeable future,’ declares an American defense expert, ‘no rational Japanese naval planner could present a plan to defeat the Chinese navy, even in the Yellow Sea.’ Why say such a thing? Because it stands to reason. Japan has been a modern industrial nation only... Read more
AAI’s Rifle-and-Grenade-Launcher Combo Went Nowhere
The U.S. Army’s Objective Individual Combat Weapon program launched in December 1993. The goal was to develop a new, ergonomic infantry weapon combining a rifle and grenade launcher and possessing superior hit probability at intermediate and long ranges — 500 and 1,000 meters, respectively. The OICW had to be better than... Read more
Germany’s A115 Semi-Automatic Rifle Arrived a Decade Too Early
The Walther A115 from the mid-1930s made use of advanced stamping techniques and extensive machining. The German weapon was ahead of its time. Walther ultimately abandoned it. The A115 was gas-operated, had a rotating bolt and fed from a fixed. 10-round double-stack, single-feed magazine that the shooter loaded by... Read more
‘Shock Troop 1917’ Is a Brutal War Film … From 1934
Hans Zöberlein’s 1934 feature film Stoßtrupp 1917 — Shock Troop 1917, in English — depicts German stormtroopers fighting on the Western Front during World War I, slogging from the Aisne to Champagne to Cambrai. The film is deeply nationalistic — and was hugely popular in its time. Compared to... Read more
A Soviet Fighter Plane’s Tragic Error Brought Us Google Maps
The April 1978 shootdown of Korean Air Lines Flight 902 by a Soviet Su-15 fighter plane—which killed two passengers but spared 107 others—distressed the Soviet air force, not because it had shot down a civilian airliner, but rather that it had gotten so far into Soviet airspace before being... Read more
The Su-15 Was the Doom of Airliners and a Cosmonaut
The Sukhoi Su-15, NATO codename “Flagon,” was a high-speed interceptor dedicated to guarding the long borders of the Soviet Union from nuclear bombers, cruise missiles and snooping spy planes. Unlike the famous MiG-21 or Su-27, the Su-15 served exclusively in 29 regiments of the Soviet PVO Air Defense Force... Read more
How States Screw Up After Terrorist Attacks
A resource-strapped terrorist group taking on a wealthy or powerful government can use drama, violence and political manipulation to lure that state into making bad decisions. This changes the balance of power between the two adversaries, and over a long enough timeline, a creative terrorist campaign can make the... Read more
The U.S. Army Tried Really Hard to Replace the M1911 Pistol
Starting in 1948 the U.S. military made a valiant but futile effort to replace its World War I-vintage Colt M1911A1 pistol. The U.S. Army approached several companies to submit bids. Ithaca declined to bid. High Standard, Colt and Harrington & Richardson all submitted proposals, but the Army quickly rejected... Read more
In the 1980s, U.S. Troops Almost Got a Killer New Shotgun
In the early 1980s, the U.S. military wanted a new combat shotgun. The Close Assault Weapon System program aimed to produce an automatic shotgun with greater range and more firepower than a conventional shotgun possessed — and which could engage targets between 100 meters and 150 meters with a... Read more
Britain’s Bizarre ‘Fleet Shadower’ Showed Up at the Wrong Time
The Royal Navy was still heavily a gun and battleship-centric force in the years just before World War II. So to help spot targets for its battleships, the Royal Navy in 1938 summoned manufacturers General Aircraft and Airspeed to develop two very similar prototype planes — which would become some of... Read more
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