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Sea Stories: Rule II.....OOps


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Sea Stories : Rule Two….Oops.


Most of us are familiar with the four basic rules of firearms safety:

I.                  Treat all weapons as always loaded.

II.                Never cover anything with the muzzle that you are not prepared to destroy.

III.              Keep your finger off the trigger until your front sight is on an identified threat.

IV.              Be sure of your target.  Know what is around it.  Know what is behind it.

These rules actually have some application to naval warfare as well!  I am pleased to say that the events I am about to relate predated my time on the ship in question.  I was not there, but saw evidence of the event after the fact.

My Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) class Guided Missile Frigate was armed with a 76mm automatic dual purpose gun.  It was located on the 02-Level of the superstructure, aft of the mast and just forward of the ship’s engine exhaust stack, on the ship’s centerline.   It fired a projectile about 3 inches in diameter, and had a ready service magazine of 80 rounds, which cycled automatically.  Explosive projectiles and solid practice projectiles were carried.  This gun wasn’t much in terms of power, but it could shoot down some aircraft or slower missiles, and poke a few small holes in surface targets if needed.  Hey, “love the one you’re with”, as the song says.  It wasn’t a bad shipmate, but it didn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

My ship was undergoing refresher training, and performing a gun shoot exercise. They were using BLP, or solid, non-explosive ammunition for safety purposes.  Somehow, the gun jammed, and the inspectors were watching the crew try to clear the jam and return the gun to operation.  The clock was ticking. 

Now, normal stow position for this gun when not in use was trained directly aft (180 relative) and with the barrel horizontal, parallel to the deck.  In other words, pointed directly at the exhaust stack.  Violating the most basic of safety procedures, that of maintaining a safe firing bearing whenever you have a gun casualty with a round in the bore, the crew somehow returned the weapon to normal stow position as they worked the problem.  And in attempting to clear the jam, …….BOOM.  They fired the chambered round.

The projectile shot right through the stack, and through an aluminum locker full of life jackets.  It looked like chicken heaven had blown up, with flotation material all over the place, apparently.  And one big fragment of projectile penetrated and killed the CIWS gatling gun just behind that.  Ouch.

Of course, the ship had to report this casualty back to command ashore.  Word got around the squadron in a flash.  And when the ship pulled into port that afternoon licking its wounds, one of our sister ships had prominently pasted a large bullseye target on their own CIWS!  (It’s nice to have friends, isn’t it?) 

Take a look at the photo below.  The gun is in the official, fleet- mandated new stow position which was ordered for all ships of this class after this incident: super-elevated above the stack so it can do no harm. 

And the ship forever after sported two patches on the stack: one of about 4” diameter on the forward side, and a much larger one on the aft side.  I’m sure the Turkish navy wonders what they are for.




Edited by Gunboat1
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