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Subject: A weird weapon from the Vietnam War -- the M50 Ontos rss

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A weird weapon from the Vietnam War -- the M50 Ontos

The strange M50 Ontos was a lightweight self-propelled artillery vehicle that featured six recoilless rifles mounted on a turret:




Originally designed as an anti-tank weapon for airborne units, the Ontos (taken from a Greek word for "thing" according to most sources) was rejected by the US Army and passed along to the Marine Corps. The awkward design of the vehicle forced the crew to exit the armored interior to reload the 106mm recoilless rifles and the small Ontos chassis only carried 18 rounds of ammunition. Old television footage of the Ontos in combat (available on YouTube) shows a powerful back blast that raises a cloud of dust and debris that could probably be seen for a mile!





Marines developed an appreciation of the firepower available with the M50 Ontos and it was used as an infantry support weapon in Vietnam during the early phase of that conflict. I included an Ontos in my Operation Starlite scenario using the Memoir '44 system developed by Richard Borg.





Since no Ontos of the proper scale could be found on the internet I decided to create my own primitive miniature. The chassis is a British Scorpion light tank produced by Hot Wheels and the turret with machine gun is from a Micro Machines M551 Sheridan tank. The six recoilless rifles are from Axis & Allies Miniatures.


The game called A Bloody Business: The Battle of Hue, 1968 includes an Ontos counter...



...and there must be other Vietnam War titles that feature this bizarre weapon.
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Yep.. Lock 'n Load: Forgotten Heroes – Vietnam
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Jim Cavallari
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pete belli wrote:
Old television footage of the Ontos in combat (available on YouTube) shows a powerful back blast that raises a cloud of dust and debris that could probably be seen for a mile!


Not very "recoilless" was it?
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Andrew N
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Pete, this website appears to sell a 15mm scale Ontos (no picture, unfortunately).

http://www.scalecreep.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_...

There's also a 1/144 scale one on offer from Shapeways (with picture this time).

https://www.shapeways.com/product/TADSEANS6/1-144-m50-ontos?...
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JimboThulu61 wrote:
pete belli wrote:
Old television footage of the Ontos in combat (available on YouTube) shows a powerful back blast that raises a cloud of dust and debris that could probably be seen for a mile!

Not very "recoilless" was it?

It was only considered recoilless in comparison to similar-sized artillery. Regular tube arty uses a recoil absorption system of some variety to handle the recoil from firing the weapon (there are several different ways to do so). With recoilless systems, they just vent the propellant gases out the back of the breach. It makes for a lighter and simpler weapon than the regular tube artillery that would be considered its siblings.

Just don't stand near the back side when it gets fired...

-M_R
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Brandon
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Quote:
Ontos (taken from a Greek word for "thing" according to most sources)


"pragma" (πράγμα) is "thing" in modern Greek. Not sure about ancient Greek.

"ontos" (όντως) means "in fact", "really" etc. Even in ancient Greek, this seems to be the case (if I can make heads or tails of the ancient Greek Wiktionary): "ὄντος" is the present participle of εἰμί, "to be", and it again means "in fact". Edit: it's related to the root of words like "ontology" and "ontogeny".

όντως Δεν μιλάω πολύ καλά ελληνικά......
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wernervoss wrote:
Pete, this website appears to sell a 15mm scale Ontos (no picture, unfortunately).

http://www.scalecreep.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_...

There's also a 1/144 scale one on offer from Shapeways (with picture this time).


AFAIK Memoir '44 is scale 1/72 which is 25mm so both options above would look a bit small - but that's maybe just in the eye of the beholder
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I remember vaguely a documentary about the Battle of Huey showing those "things" shooting a "beehive" ammo making it a very effective antipersonnal weapon...
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eddy_sterckx wrote:
wernervoss wrote:
Pete, this website appears to sell a 15mm scale Ontos (no picture, unfortunately).

http://www.scalecreep.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_...

There's also a 1/144 scale one on offer from Shapeways (with picture this time).


AFAIK Memoir '44 is scale 1/72 which is 25mm so both options above would look a bit small - but that's maybe just in the eye of the beholder


M'44 tanks are probably about 1/144.
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jakobcreutzfeldt wrote:
Quote:
Ontos (taken from a Greek word for "thing" according to most sources)


"pragma" (πράγμα) is "thing" in modern Greek. Not sure about ancient Greek.

"ontos" (όντως) means "in fact", "really" etc. Even in ancient Greek, this seems to be the case (if I can make heads or tails of the ancient Greek Wiktionary): "ὄντος" is the present participle of εἰμί, "to be", and it again means "in fact". Edit: it's related to the root of words like "ontology" and "ontogeny".

όντως Δεν μιλάω πολύ καλά ελληνικά......


So the name is something like "you really had to make a vehicle like that? "
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wernervoss wrote:
eddy_sterckx wrote:
wernervoss wrote:
Pete, this website appears to sell a 15mm scale Ontos (no picture, unfortunately).

http://www.scalecreep.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_...

There's also a 1/144 scale one on offer from Shapeways (with picture this time).


AFAIK Memoir '44 is scale 1/72 which is 25mm so both options above would look a bit small - but that's maybe just in the eye of the beholder


M'44 tanks are probably about 1/144.


I was intrigued so I investigated it a bit and fount out that Memoir '44 uses a different scale for infantry and armour.

The infantry is 1/72 (25 mm), the armour is 1/160 (10 mm)

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"Ontos" struck me as possibly being a philosophical joke on the nature of existence in the target area, before and after. As in ontology.
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This intrigued me so I poked around a bit. The photo below is from a post that says it was made by Academy and is 1/35. Perhaps this is more a model than mini. I see it can be bought on Amazon.

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I was recently at the Historicon game convention in Fredricksburg, VA there was a Flames of War Vietnam miniatures game going on that used an US Marine Ontos. Battle of Hue 1968.
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We got to see one at the Patton Museum on libbo a few years back. Turns out someone made a segment about that one:

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HerrJork wrote:
jakobcreutzfeldt wrote:
Quote:
Ontos (taken from a Greek word for "thing" according to most sources)


"pragma" (πράγμα) is "thing" in modern Greek. Not sure about ancient Greek.

"ontos" (όντως) means "in fact", "really" etc. Even in ancient Greek, this seems to be the case (if I can make heads or tails of the ancient Greek Wiktionary): "ὄντος" is the present participle of εἰμί, "to be", and it again means "in fact". Edit: it's related to the root of words like "ontology" and "ontogeny".

όντως Δεν μιλάω πολύ καλά ελληνικά......


So the name is something like "you really had to make a vehicle like that? "


More easily shortened to "really?"
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midnight_reaper wrote:
JimboThulu61 wrote:
pete belli wrote:
Old television footage of the Ontos in combat (available on YouTube) shows a powerful back blast that raises a cloud of dust and debris that could probably be seen for a mile!

Not very "recoilless" was it?

It was only considered recoilless in comparison to similar-sized artillery. Regular tube arty uses a recoil absorption system of some variety to handle the recoil from firing the weapon (there are several different ways to do so). With recoilless systems, they just vent the propellant gases out the back of the breach. It makes for a lighter and simpler weapon than the regular tube artillery that would be considered its siblings.

Just don't stand near the back side when it gets fired...

-M_R

Back in my misspent youth (fall 1973), I was training to be an infantryman in the US Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Recoilless rifles were just then exiting the US inventory as TOW was being introduced into combat units. Nonetheless -- and possibly because our curriculum was still oriented toward Vietnam-style tactics -- we spent a day on a recoilless rifle range getting familiarized with the 90mm recoilless rifle.

For a demonstration of just how dangerous was the backblast of these weapons, we were ushered into bleachers to watch a jeep-mounted 106mm recoilless rifle fire a live round. About 10 yards behind the weapon was a stack of empty wooden crates. When the weapon fired, the backblast shredded the crates into splinters of various sizes.

After my graduation from Infantry School, I was assigned to a mech infantry battalion of the 1st Armored Division in West Germany (January 1974). I never saw a recoilless rifle, they having been replaced by TOW missile launchers on M-113A1s. Our light anti-tank weapon was the M-72 LAW, which had been introduced in 1962 (It was 66mm). It had a small backblast, but it was a personal (vice crew-served) weapon that was lighter to carry (you could carry several over your shoulder), easier to operate, and disposable (thus, no reloading or maintenance). I think it was used in Vietnam as a 'bunker-buster.'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsnBX6OVAxM

Here's a video of ONTOS firing . . .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUvqvtV3Z_o

I'm sure the most common 106mm ordnance for the Marines were flechette rounds.

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Looks like something I would draw as a kid when I thought the only way to make a tank better was to stick more guns on it.
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If Body Count: Five Battles in Vietnam 1965–1969 ever sees the light of day, we'll have the Ontos in a non-Hue application.

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A lot of countries used recoilless rifles back in the '50s and '60s, but even in smaller military forces they almost all seem to have been phased out of service by the mid-'80s. Does anyone know why? Are there any armies that still use them today?
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Lancer4321 wrote:
A lot of countries used recoilless rifles back in the '50s and '60s, but even in smaller military forces they almost all seem to have been phased out of service by the mid-'80s. Does anyone know why? Are there any armies that still use them today?


RR were phased out because they were replaced by ATGM with longer range and much greater accuracy.
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Battletech played on this in Technical Readout 3026 (and probably others)




http://www.sarna.net/wiki/Ontos

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I had a model of the Ontos as a kid. I thought it was very cool with the multiple guns. And I didn't want to be the guy reloading it under fire!
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Lancer4321 wrote:
A lot of countries used recoilless rifles back in the '50s and '60s, but even in smaller military forces they almost all seem to have been phased out of service by the mid-'80s. Does anyone know why? Are there any armies that still use them today?


They're still around in China and places that buy Chinese weapons.
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wernervoss wrote:
Lancer4321 wrote:
A lot of countries used recoilless rifles back in the '50s and '60s, but even in smaller military forces they almost all seem to have been phased out of service by the mid-'80s. Does anyone know why? Are there any armies that still use them today?


They're still around in China and places that buy Chinese weapons.


Before missile weapons were perfected, recoilless rifles were popular with airborne and mountain troops, due to their light weight. The Germans used them in WWII. That back blast was a major drawback, for all the reasons mentioned earlier.
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