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Friday, July 15, 2011

"DRONE" SHIPS

From the "Secret List"
PROJECT "STINGER"
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The following is about a U.S. Navy project that during WW II was classed as "Secret"....as was many projects and programs at the time.  In and around November of 1949 this particular project that was buried in some file somewhere in the bowels of WW II history the "Secret" part was removed.  This project was so named at the time "PROJECT STINGER".

This project consisted of unmanned, radio-controlled vessels loaded with high explosives that were launched against the enemy harbors and beaches.

Drone ships, ranging in size from cargo vessels, capable of carrying up to 7,000 tons of explosives, to small amphibious sea sleds, had been prepared as a surprise before the end of WW II, so says the U.S. Navy.  Their only operational use, however, was in the 1944 invasion of southern France, where drone LCVP's (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel)...such as the vessels in the picture above.... were used against several invasion beaches.

In the un-veiling of "Project Stinger" it was hinted at, by the Navy, of the possible use of television in amphibious operations, including opposed landings.  Now don't forget this is 1949 folks.  But, 'Yea there is always a 'but' isn't there.  The Navy still at that time would not release an official comment on the current use , if any, of television in such operations, but the Navy did state the following at the release of this secret data:
"The larger ships in the (Project Stinger) program could be equipped with television camera, mounted to give the distant operator a full view of what lay ahead of the drone.  The same television transmitter could also flash to the operator a view of the drone's compass, and a card indicating the speed of the ship, taken from the propeller shaft speed"


Drones would be controlled from specially designed and equipped command ships, which lie well off shore screened from beach defenses by planes, destroyers, landing craft and rocket ships, and, in large operations covered by the heavy guns of battleships and cruisers lying even further off shore.

Ships assigned to the 'Stinger' one-way missions, it was stated in the release were to be guided into enemy beaches to be sunk and exploded in the best positions to demolish underwater defenses and clear a channel for landing craft, thus saying lives of American fighting men at the cost of the ships and explosives.

Smaller craft in the program were developed for a variety of purposes, such as amphibious vehicles which could fight on land through radio directions.

At the time the latest of these 'smaller craft' were produced exclusively for the program, and these were then known as x-craft.  These small sea sleds hulls known as salamanders, powered in water by conventional propellers and on land by tank-type treads, were capable of speeds over seventeen miles an hour in water and over fifteen miles an hour on land.  There was several of these units some called different names....but most were similar of the design below:

What the Navy done was load these puppies full of about 1,200 pounds of explosives, and then direct them from the water onto the beach, and then explode them among the enemy's land defenses.  The operator could start, stop, turn, slow and speed up completely under a remote control program.

Other craft equipped and tested for the "Stinger Program" included destroyer escorts, PT's or motor torpedo boats, and all the varieties of LVT's...[Landing Vessels Tracked].

Virtually all the vessels in this secret program could, at the will of the remote operator, drop buoys which would mark the scent of their destruction and thus, for the guidance of the following craft, the location of the channel blasted in enemy defenses.  Larger vessels also could drop depth charges when desired with out detonating their entire explosive charge.

Also to avoid the dangers possible if the enemy seized control of or destroyed the control vessel most of the drones were equipped with a mechanism which automatically detonated them if the proper radio signal was not receive from the control craft for a specified period of time.

I'm not sure just how long the "Stinger Project" was developed after WW II....but I'm sure if one was to dig into it, and turn over enough rocks I'm sure something would crawl out and reveal itself.

Hope you enjoyed reading a tad of naval history

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