Everybody Hates the Anti-Aircraft Man...

By Mike Sparks


By a fortune of war, on March 7th, the American Army has captured the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen bridge across the mighty Rhine river leading into the heart of Germany when explosives failed to bring it down. A year earlier, during Operation MARKET-GARDEN, the allies had suffered heavy casualties trying to seize a bridge across the Rhine to strike into German and end the war; now a bridge fell into their hands! American 9th Armored Division troops, tanks and anti-aircraft batteries--surge across and take-up positions along the far bank awaiting the inevitable German counter-attack. This was in the nick-of-time, because Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler ordered the bridge be destroyed at any cost! Within minutes, German prop-driven fighter-bombers were diving to get an accurate line-of-sight to hit the bridge with high explosive bombs, when nasty black explosion surprises begin exploding all around them---American .50 caliber heavy machines guns, 20-90mm anti-aircraft guns shooting hundreds of exploding shells that ignite the German planes which crash in flames and their bombs miss. The Germans are desperate; the bridge must come down!

Hitler orders his best bombers to strike; a force of top-secret Me-262 fighters escort Arado 234 jet-engined bombers that dive onto the Remagen bridge at over 500 mph! However, SPEED cannot ward off high explosive bursts and the unarmored jets are downed in flames. This is a foreshadowing of things to come: in Vietnam we tried to drop the Thanh Hoa bridge beginning in 1965 with small, unguided bombs and air-to-surface missiles thinking SPEED would enable unarmored fighter-bombers to survive against bursting high explosive shells. We lost a lot of good men until laser-guided bombs took the bridge down from a safe stand-off in 1972.


Oh, how history repeats! The Remagen bridge was continually attacked by Ar-234s of III/KG 76 carrying 1,000 kg (2,204 lbs.) bombs. Hitler even launched V-2 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles--those not destroyed by RAF attacks directed by British 30 Assault Unit Naval Intelligence commandos lead by Commander Ian Fleming--at the Remagen bridge--which missed due to their lack of accuracy.

The Remagen bridge stands for several days until collapsing on March 17th from under the strain of the U.S. Army's 9th Armored, 78th and 99th Infantry Divisions surging across and setting up new pontoon bridges nearby to keep pouring into Germany.

Hitler's Nazi Germany is finished.

James Bond is For Real.

So Why do We Hate Anti-Aircraft Weapons?

The anti-aircraft defense of Remagen bridge is to date, the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery's (ADA) finest hour. Army ADA had some earlier fine hours like during the North Africa campaign surprising the German Luftwaffe's attacking planes with nasty half-tracked mounted fires that saved our maneuver forces when a squabble over control of the Army Air Force resulted in the counter-air mission of hitting the enemy's planes on the ground first being ignored. Their M3 half-track modified with anti-aircraft gun combination (T28E1) was brilliant and executed in just a matter of months just in time for the fantastic Torch landings in 1942.

Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, ADA is not sexy; they don't make movies about "Top ANTI-AIRCRAFT Guns"; they make movies about fighter pilots. We don't hold anti-aircraft shows for the public, but we do hold AIR shows all around the country and the world. The reason is that to fly is a triumph of human spirit and engineering; those that swat down mankind's aviators--even if they are enemy aviators--are simply being ugly, necessary--but still a kill joy. So when Royal Navy commander Ian Fleming after the war, uses his intelligence knowledge to write his 007 spy fiction novels, in Diamonds are Forever he has the villain's helicopter shot down in flames by James Bond using a 20mm anti-aircraft cannon mounted in the back of a truck. You are angry at the villain by book's end and are happy he finally gets his just punishment. We make movies about James Bond as the SPY--not as the anti-aircraft gunner. In the movie adaptation, Fleming's anti-aircraft gun end for the villain is not depicted.

20mm Polsten AA cannon on 360 degree rotating mount on back of truck

His counter-part spy master in the Royal Air Force, Captain Fred Winterbotham in his non-fiction book, The Nazi Connection, argues that had the British and French taken his direct warnings from Hitler and his top officers from 1934 onward that they would attack by swarms of Panzers and Stuka dive-bombers around the Maginot Line, they would have fielded a dual-use anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapon system like the terrifying German 88mm and this might have been enough to deter them:


The Mighty German 88mm AA/AT Gun

Had British/French ADA been created in mobile forms like Fleming's 007 "flak wagon" the Germans might have stuck to their plan of attacking east and meeting their demise against the immense Soviet Union sooner; sparing the West MILLIONS of casualties. The real loser of WW2 was Great Britain who lost a generation of men--and their empire.


Not only does the airplane have the popularity advantage of humankind, it's a small, fleeting target that is hard to hit 100% such that MANY humans committing suicide in Kamikaze planes off the coast of Okinawa in 1945 hit our vulnerable surface ships replicating today's guided missiles, sinking them with horrific losses. All of our massed ADA guns could not get them all--and the same thing happens even with guided missiles--SOME are going to get through--and all it takes is one high explosive direct hit and today's flimsy surface ships are toast:


The 1982 Falklands War also proved that ADA fires cannot stop air attacks 100%


However, they CAN ward off enough of them to prevail at great costs with what you intend to do on the Earth's surface which MAY be a war-winner like it was for the British in the Falklands. Its also very likely that ADA may not be enough as it was for Nazi Germany who couldn't be saved by their superb 88mm guns nor the Egyptians in the 1973 Yom Kippur war when the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) attacked their surface-to-air missile (SAM) batteries by GROUND MANEUVER:


So far, ADA has only beat airplanes and driven them from the air to win a war all by themselves once: the Afghan Mujihadeen's use of U.S. supplied Stinger SAMs drove the Soviet Air force from the skies as depicted in the movie [Congressman] Charlie Wilson's War. Again, the Hollywood movie was about CHARLIE WILSON and his sexy women entourage--not the Muj anti-aircraft gunners who did the deeds.

Who Wants to Be a Water-Boy to Help Win a War?

So if ADA cannot win wars but can only help, who wants to be a part of such an organization that already is frowned upon by the imaginations of humankind to soar above the clouds? Saint Francis of Assisi tells us why:

"Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

Unfortunately, Army ADA has been neglected for years since it's been ASS U MED the enemy's aircraft will be destroyed on the ground or shot-down triumphantly by our own Top Guns in our own sexy planes. ADA is thought to be unnecessary, so its certainly not doing all that's possible and is unready to do the impossible if our Top Guns fail and we are in a 1942-43 North African situation being strafed by enemy aircraft again. Our ADA weaponry is weak at shooting down enemy planes and by institutionalized cowardice doesn't want to pitch-in and help the grounds maneuver forces win like the previous generation did with the M42 Duster twin-40mm cannon and M163 Vulcan 20mm Gatling light tanks did in Vietnam. Army ADA in light brigades has emasculated itself from towed 20mm cannons and in heavy brigades from light tracked, armored platforms into flimsy unarmored "Avenger" Humvee trucks with Stinger SAMs and a laughably weak .50 caliber heavy machine gun with no more than a few burst's worth of fire and absurd Bradley "Linebackers" with Stinger SAMs and a slow traversing 25mm gun with a mere 250 ready rounds. Both Army light and heavy brigades have at best a few shots of short-range SAM and .50 caliber or 25mm fire that enemy aircraft can easily avoid by stand-off or terrain masking pop-up attacks. If the enemy chooses to not play by our rules--and ground attacks Army ADA units looking skyward because they care little for the horizontal ground fight--they will be easy pickings, since both the Avenger Humvee and the Bradley Linebacker are high ground pressure vehicles that lack cross-country mobility and adequate armor protection against RPGs and land mines.


For example, all Bradley variants have their 175 gallons of fuel in their center--making any tiny penetration into the hull ignite and incinerate everyone and everything inside. Our Soldiers have suffered horrific fire and burn deaths/maimings in Bradleys in Iraq.



And the crutch U.S. military forces have leaned on for too long, the U.S. Air Force's fighter-bombers to counter enemy air--is crumbling fast.

The USAF and USN/Mc are Self-Destructing

Today, the USAF and Navy/marine corps are wearing their F-15, F-16 and F-18 fighter-bombers out over Iraq/Afghanistan doing Sub-National Conflict (SNC) jobs they are ill-suited for rather than a buy off-the-shelf observation/attack aircraft (O/A) which we should be using that are appropriate for the discretionary firepower needed to kill rebels and not civilians to prevail:



These bureaucratic racketeers are using up their sexy platforms to con Congress that they are still sacred cows and relevant so they can get the "prom dresses" they want to wear to the next Nation-State War (NSW) "dance". They think if they hold out for a Republican military-industrial complex (MILINDCOMP) "sugar daddy" in the next Presidential election they will get the F-22s and F-35s they long for. The problem is each one is over $130M each and America broke occupying Iraq/Afghanistan to make war profiteers rich, cannot buy them in adequate numbers. Chuck Spinney's "death spiral" where we can only afford less and less aircraft at higher and higher prices is driving us into unilateral disarmament. In the next NSW, THE USAF/USN/Mc MAY SIMPLY BE UNABLE TO STOP THE ENEMY AIR FORCE FROM ATTACKING OUR GROUND MANEUVER FORCES due to reduced numbers. Compounding the problem is the Navy and Mc who are deluded into thinking they can re-create WW2 badly without either the numbers or qualitative overmatch needed to prevail in a world dominated by precision guided munitions:


U.S. Army ground forces are headed for a repeat of the debacle on Guadalcanal in 1943 where the Navy left them driven from the sea because her flimsy under 10, 000 tons (like the Washington Treaty ships) cannot put up enough ADA or ASW force to protect themselves--much less bloated aircraft and amphibious carriers packed full of lemming marines. Navy/Mc bureaucrats delude themselves that by laying sensors all over the ocean floor and doing a digital cum-by-ya with other ship close-in sensor feeds, that this will somehow compensate for their lack of an outer protective ring.


With Navy TacAir shot-down, sunk or driven from the area, and the few USAF fighter-bombers they can muster destroyed on the ground, the Army will be on its own to fend off enemy air attacks.

The first thing the Army needs to do is obtain its own "Swarm Fighter and Killer Bees" to do ground attack close air support (CAS) since the USAF is bent on retiring the armored A-10 Warthog and playing with unarmored F-35s--which cannot do low altitude CAS:


It's Time for U.S. Army ADA to Be Like Fleming's James Bond and Save the Day

We are rapidly headed with our greed, ego and malice to a military defeat the likes of which that will make Pearl Harbor look like child's play. It's time for Army ADA to prepare itself tangibly for enemy aircraft attacks which cannot be 100% stopped by our own diminishing aircraft power and must do more than take up the slack, but to obtain OVERMATCH.

First, the superb M113 Gavin light tracked platform must be used as the base since it affordable, infinitely adaptable and fully cross-country mobile. V-hull shaped, fitted with applique armor and infared camouflage, hybrid electric drive and band tracks, upgraded Gavins would be "stealthy" against both enemy eyeballs and infared sights. A3 models already have external fuel tanks. Such "Super Gavins" can be used by both light and heavy brigade combat teams simplifying logistics, training and conserving funds. The ADA weapon system fitted on top is critical and we have neither time nor money to spare. As I see it, we have 3 options:

USMC LAV-AD: One of a whopping 17 total!

OPTION 1. The 25mm cannon shell "Blazer" Gatling gun turret with Starstreak hypersonic triple warhead SAM/AT missile pods and target acquisition radar. The USMC has absurdly only 17 x LAV-AD wheeled trucks with Blazer and simple fire control radar.

OPTION 2. The 25mm cannon shell "Blazer" Gatling gun turret with Stinger SAM missile pods and target acquisition radar.

OPTION 3. The 75mm ARES dual-purpose anti-aircraft and Anti-Tank automatic cannon used on the AAI Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) Light Tank

The 25mm shell used in the Bradley's single barrel cannon is devastating when it hits any target and has a reasonable 2.5 KM range--but the 6-barrel Gatling is more likely to hit with its much higher-rate-of-fire and large ammunition capacity. Not as far out as the ARES 75mm 4 KM or as lethal--BUT ITS IN PRODUCTION AND AVAILABLE NOW. The Starstreak missile can kill both aircraft and tanks--but is not in U.S. service. The Stinger is in stock--but is only good against aircraft.

AAI built their 14.5 ton RDF light tank using a cut-down M113 Gavin chassis. They put on a demo at the Boeing Plant in Philadelphia carrying their RDF light tank under a CH-47D helicopter on a sling-load flying nap-of-the-earth at 110 knots. The large 75mm gun fired at an amazing rate of 1 shot per second. A burst of 4 shots was enough to bring down a jet fighter flying evasively at about 4000 meters range and kill a Hind or Havoc Helicopter at about 4000 meters range (both with a probability of a kill of about 90%. A 3-shot burst with APFSDS rounds would kill a T-72 medium tank head-on at about 2000 meters range with a probability of kill at about 90%. We believe that the light tank is in a combat vehicle museum in Manassas, VA. We also believe that Ares still has a 75mm cannon at Port Clinton, Ohio, along with a number of rounds of ammunition. TRASANA at White Sands ran a Force-on-Force Carmonette simulation that showed the RDF Light Tank performing better than the M-1 tank in a delaying action scenario in the Fulda Gap in Germany.

Whichever Super Gavin-ADA weapon system variant is chosen, at least 100 units need to be purchased for both the lead light infantry brigade forcing an entry by parachute and the first heavy brigade to arrive as reinforcement.

The enemy may come to hate our Super Gavin-ADA Anti-Aircraft Men; but we will grow to love them when they have their moment of deserved limelight if they get prepared now to do what's necessary, possible to do what many think is impossible.



The Light Armored Vehicle - Air Defence (LAV-AD) is a hybrid gun/missile air defence system, manufactured by General Dynamics Armaments Systems of Burlington, Vermont, USA. It combines a high rate of fire Gatling gun and the short range, infrared Stinger fire-and-forget missile system. LAV-AD is in service with the United States marine corps (USMC). The last of 17 systems was delivered in January 1999. The mission of the USMC LAV-AD is to provide air defence for the Light Armored Vehicle Battalion, with a secondary role to defend against ground threats.

The system consists of the Blazer air defence turret, developed by General Dynamics Armaments Systems and Thales Air Defense (formerly Thomson-CSF Airsys) of Bagneaux, France, installed on a modified LAV-25 vehicle, manufactured by the Diesel Division of General Motors of Canada. The LAV-AD 8 x 8 wheeled vehicle has all-terrain and amphibious mobility.


The Blazer turret for the LAV-AD includes two air defence weapons: the GAU-12/U 25mm Gatling gun and two four-Stinger surface-to-air missile launcher pods. The gun and missile combination provides quick and decisive reaction to close-in, low-flying air threats. The turret is all-electric driven and is controlled by either of two turret operators, the commander and the gunner. A stabilisation system is fitted for fire on the move capability.

The Stinger missile, manufactured by Raytheon, has a two-colour, infrared-ultraviolet rosette scan seeker and a 3kg high explosive warhead. Maximum speed of the missile is Mach 2.2 and maximum range is 8km. The current production Stinger missiles are the RMP (Reprogrammable Microprocessor) FIM-92D and the Block I FIM-92E. The Block I missile has a new roll frequency sensor and an improved processor. The Stinger Block II missile, with an imaging infrared seeker based on a focal plane array, is due to enter production in 2004. Elevation for the missile and gun is -8 to +60. As well as the eight missiles in the launch pods, another eight missiles are carried which are reloaded manually.

The 25mm Gatling gun provides anti-air cover in the missile dead zone and has a rate of fire of 1,800 shots per minute and maximum range of 2,500m. The gun is effective against pop-up helicopter targets, low infrared signature and ground targets.

Two banks of four electric smoke grenade dischargers are fitted either side of the front turret.


LAV-AD is equipped with an automatic digital fire control system. The fire control system is set up with user-friendly firing sequences for both missiles and gun and the system is pre-programmed with 44 on-board air defence engagements.

Primary target engagement is provided by the FLIR TV Sight System (FTS), which is manufactured by Raytheon Systems Company based in Arlington, Virginia, USA. The system provides passive acquisition and tracking of targets by day and night. The integrated sight system has a two-axis, stabilised, digital line-of-sight director for fire on the move capability. The sensor suite includes a second generation, dual field of view thermal sight and day TV, coupled with an eyesafe carbon dioxide C02 laser rangefinder for passive target acquisition. The thermal imager is based on a 240 x 4 scanning array. There is high-resolution video output for detailed remote viewing.


A variant of the LAV-AD, the Blazer Air Defence System has been developed by General Dynamics Armaments Systems and Thales Air Defense for the export market. Blazer integrates a Thales TRS 2630P acquisition radar for early threat detection and cueing of the Raytheon FLIR/TV targeting sight. The TRS 2630P radar system is also fielded by the French Army. It has a range of up to 17km and also provides target identification.

The Blazer air defence system combines the high-rate-of-fire Gatling gun with either the Stinger or Mistral infrared-guided surface-to-air missile system. The Mistral missile is manufactured by MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics, France) and has a maximum range of 6km. A fully automated digital fire control system allows the Blazer to carry out stationary and on-the-move target engagements.