Cold War


Merlin 81mm smart mortar round

Another piece of history we’ve come across in amongst a load of other stuff in a lot. Having bought a lot of demi-johns last week I spotted the ammo tin which was bundled with them. These tins can be useful for storage and are worth a few pounds each. This one, however, had an interesting label on the side, proclaiming it to be from the Experimental Stores and contain 3 inert Merlin warheads for trials on a range near Glasgow.

The Merlin 81mm smart mortar round was a weapon developed a little too late. It was a fire and forget homing round which would seek out tanks at the end of its trajectory and guide itself in for the kill. Teams could fire the projectile from 4 miles away and at the top of its flight it would start scanning for targets- moving tanks for preference, what might be stationary ones as second choice. It was intended to be fired at the masses of Soviet tanks expected to roll across Western Europe should the Cold War go hot, and be more accurate and effective than just lobbing bombs and hoping.

The Merlin was considered superior to other guided or “smart” mortar bombs being developed at the same time if only because it would have been fired from a standard piece of kit rather than requiring its own dedicated launcher. Apart from the fall of the Berlin Wall rendering unlikely the conflict for which it was developed there were also issues with getting the electronics small and reliable enough. It only ever got to the testing stage, which is where this case is from.

You can own this piece of military history, because the case is for sale in the Spinneyworld eBay shop.

Information on the Merlin from here and here.


The M-65 280mm Atomic Artillery Gun

A piece of pure 1950s early Cold War madness. The cannon was originally developed to fire conventional warheads but someone must have decided that the best way to halt, or at least slow, the hordes of Russian tanks that were expected to roll into West Germany was to toss low yield nukes at them. It wouldn’t matter how much the area was contaminated, at least it wouldn’t be Commie, dammit.

There’s a part of me that would like to write a technothriller style tale of a conflict involving some of the madder weapons from the Cold War era. These guns, Vulcan bombers, Ekranoplan etc. Of course, the hard part would be resisting the urge to romanticise all that awesome tech and ignore the rather horrible effects of its use.

via this review of a Revell reissue of a model of the gun.