September 30, 1915: For the first time, ground-to-air fire brings down an aircraft. During World War I, Serbian Army troops watched as three aircraft neared Kragujevac. The soldiers fired at the planes with machine guns but were not able to keep them from dropping 45 bombs over the city. Military installations and railroads were hit as were many other civilian targets. As the city was being bombed, Private Radoje Ljutovac fired his cannon at the enemy and managed to bring one of the planes down. The plane crashed in the city and both men aboard were killed. The cannon Ljutovac used was not designed as an anti-aircraft gun but it was a slightly modified Turkish cannon captured in 1912 during the First Balkan War.
Before the Great War broke out, Britain realized the need to protect themselves from aerial attack. In the July 8, 1914 edition of the New York Times, it was reported the British government intended to build towers, each armed with two “quick-firing guns of special design”, all along the coast and encircling naval installations as well as other particularly vulnerable points. By December 1914, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve was manning AA guns and searchlights which were placed at nine ports. The Royal Garrison Artillery was responsible for AA defense in the field. The tactic of firing on planes was well established and the practice spread quickly as a defense against attacks from above.
Between the two World Wars, it was realized that battles would not just be fought on the ground or at sea. The air was also a battlefield. Many countries developed an Air Force to supply this need for any future confrontations. But with every tactic to secure superiority, a countermeasure is also developed and so anti-aircraft guns were seen as necessary equipment and vital for national safety as well as for protection both at sea and on the ground. After studying the effects of AA guns during the Great War, there were five major areas to work on to improve the equipment.
AA guns are still in use today but they are being replaced by missiles. The onetime best AA gun, the GAU-8 Avenger 30 mm seven-barrel Gatling gun is being replaced by new systems such as the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile which is both smaller and faster and allows for mid-flight course correction, another name for guidance. These are being thwarted by stealth technology as they need a longer flight path, something the stealth feature mitigates. Detection ranges are shorter and there is not enough time to intercept the plane – that’s if the plane is seen at all. Detection systems are then the key to success and these are also being updated. There are other ways on the books to try and halt attacks from the air. World Peace seems a distant dream.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack. One defends when his strength is inadequate; he attacks when it is abundant. – Sun Tzu
War, except in self-defense, is a failure of moral imagination. – Bill Moyers
The best missile defense system of all would be a just and lasting peace. – Hillary Rodham Clinton
Also on this day: Meet the Flintstones – In 1960, The Flintstones came to prime time television.
FBI HQ – In 1975, The J. Edgar Hoover Building was dedicated.
Farm Work – In 1962, the first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association took place.
Magic – In 1791, The Magic Flute premiered.
Rebellion – In 1955, James Dean died.