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Whither the Artillery

Mountie

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Do you Gunners think that the time is coming that the artillery regiments will be strictly mortars, no artillery at all?  The other question is can 120mm mortars replace the 105mm gun/howitzer?  I have tried researching the topic as much as possible.  I have found two articles in US military magazines and also a USMC document on the subject. 

An article in the US Army Artillery Magazine tells of how 'B' Battery 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery of the 10th US Mountain division converted from the 105mm M119 to 120mm mortars for a tour in Afghanistan.  I believe the link is www.army.mil/FAMG/Previous_editions/05/jan-feb05  If not the title was "B/3-6 FA: 120mm Mortar Battery In Afghanistan" - by Capt. James W. Huffman III.  Basically it was felt that the 120mm mortar could fill the role of the 105mm artillery but with better mobility in the terrain of Afghanistan.  The battery was reorganized into two 4-tube platoons.

Another article in the US Army Infantry Magazine, July-August 2005 written by Colonel Keith J. Bucklew of the Indiana Army National Guard discusses the issue of replacing the 105mm artillery with 120mm mortars in the light infantry divisions.  Basically it is felt that the 120mm mortar can pack the same or better punch then the 105mm artillery can.  The only draw back is the reduced range.  He proposes that direct support artillery battalions in the light infantry division be organized with three 120mm mortar batteries and one 105mm or 155mm towed artillery battery.  Or one large battery of mortars and two batteries of 105mm or 155mm towed artillery.  He feels that the capabilities of the 120mm mortar surpass the 105mm howitzer.

An official United States Marine Corps document titled "Mobile Mortar: Fire Support for Every Intensity Conflict" by Major Patrick D. Conally discusses the proposal of the 120mm mortar replacing the 155mm towed howitzer in some USMC operations.  He is primarily talking about most operations conducted by the battalion-size Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operation Capable).  He feels that many operations the MEU (SOC) undertakes, especially light and medium intensity peace support operations, do not require the large 155mm howitzer.  The Mobile Protected Mortar System is a breach loading 120mm mortar mounted in a LAV-II vehicle.  (There is also a towed version the USMC is testing).  The MPMS is much lighter and takes up less room aboard ship, which is a major bonus for the Marines.  It is unknown if the 81mm mortar platoon in the infantry battalions will be eliminated in the manpower shuffle to man the new mortar batteries.  Major Conally proposes the MPMS being an artillery regiment system to eliminate the need for Forward Observers (FOO and MFC to us) in both infantry mortar platoons and artillery batteries.  One FO would do both.  He also feels that the artillery regiment is more suited then the infantry to provide logistics support to the MPMS.  He proposes that each Marine Division would have an artillery regiment with 3 direct support artillery battalions each with three 6-gun batteries of 155mm towed howitzers as opposed to the present 8-gun batteries and one battalion with three 4-tube mortar batteries. 

So my questions, would Canadian artillery regiments be better off if they were equipped with three 8-tube batteries of the LAV-III based 120mm Armoured Mortar System (two 4-tube troops) and one 8-gun battery of the LAV-III based 105mm Denel Self-Propelled Howitzer.  The 120mm mortar is cheaper to operate and it still has an impressive 10,000 metre range.  The Denel 105mm self-propelled howitzer has a 30,000 metre range and its new 105mm rounds have a kill diameter larger then a 155mm round.  A 105mm system would be cheaper to operate than a 155mm system I would think.  Unless a towed system like the 155mm M777 towed howitzer would be cheaper I'm not sure.  I would guess less maintenance for a towed system but the cost of a 155mm round I assume is much more than a 105mm round. 

Mortar/Artillery Battery:
-BC TAC CP in a LAV-III TCP
-FSCC in a LAV-III Command Post Vehicle (see pic below)
-Battery Fire Direction Centre in a LAV-III CPV
-3 x Fire Effects/FOO Detachments in the LAV-III FEV
-Support Troop (admin, stores, transport, maintenance & medical sections)
-2 x Mortar/Artillery Troop with a LAV-III TCP as a Fire Direction Centre, 4 x LAV-III 120mm AMS or 105mm SPH and ammo vehicles.

This of course is the ideal situation, meaning the Army actually got some money to buy the new systems.  Much of the same, less the mobility and crew protection, could be achieved with a towed 120mm mortar and a towed 105mm LG1 (less range than the Denel 105mm though) at a much reduced cost. 

 

Observer23

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1. The matter of employing 120mm Mortars in Afghanistan instead of 105mm Howitzers is a simple case of the right wrench for the job.   If you look at how a lot of movement is done (heli) it may be more practical for them to use mortars in the mountains.   However, remember that mortars are high angle and guns are both low and high angle.   At low angle there is less time of flight hence less environmental influences on the round as it travels.   The greater airtime equates less accuracy when employing indirect fire support resources.   I would ask the Canadian Gunners who went with the gun battery give their point of on whether there was any issue with them being able to deploy their howitzers or getting ammunition to their platforms.
In Bosnia, we flew with our guns and slung our ammunition.   In that circumstance, we didn't have any serious trouble finding platforms to fire from.   We still maintained the advantage over the 120mm Mortar battery with our Regt with range and direct fire capabilities.

2. The article of the Colonel from the Indiana Army National Guard is interesting but his area of operation is confined to the State.   He has to be able to employ an indirect fire support body to support a light div.  
I've been to Grayling Mich when (in the 90s) they fired the inaugural shoot for two MLRS batteries for their National Guard units.   This is a little bit in the opposite direction for thinking.   Their opinion was they had to maintain the skill set to be able to amass fire.

3. The Marines have a logistical nightmare when it comes to how much floor and shelf space their MEU (SOC) has.   Sacrificing the 155mm Howitzers for a LAV Mortar vehicle may make sense from a shipping perspective.   A gun and a prime mover (truck for example) take up two vehicle spaces on the LCAC or Landing craft.   A LAV mortar variant takes up one vehicle space.   The ammunition size is (for sake of argument) two to one size ratio.   In short, you could carry on board ship double the ammunition for sustained fire.   The down side to all of this is you lose a lot of punch once you get out of range of any of your naval gun support and would increase your dependence on aircraft to strike harden targets.
The question of one observer for all formats of fire support is becoming practice here and in the US.   Their Chief of Artillery stated that they were going to do away with the dedicated observer per resource and strive to achieve the â Å“universalâ ? observer.   For years we have been practicing to do each others jobs so it only make common sense.   The principles and formats through are similar.

To go to your question directly on what we should have.   In Canada we should maintain the ability to use and employ a variety of guns and tubes.   I'll go back to my correct wrench for the job argument.   No mechanic is going to keep a single adjustable wrench in his tool chest for all jobs. The Chief of Artillery in the US put nicely when he stated that we should strive to function in a world were precision munitions is the norm but we should always maintain the ability to amass fire power in the battle field.   If you are going to battle against a hardened enemy position in the dessert then the ability to pore down fire is required.   If you are going to up against an enemy in an urban environment, you may need the high angle of mortars with low yield ammunition to minimize collaterally damage in the community.
 

Mountie

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Excellent reply.  My only question is should a mechanic keep a costly set of wrenches and continue to take courses for repairing a vehicle he will never have the opportunity to work on??  Let's be honest, we are not likely to be charging up the highway to Baghdad or Pyongyang in the near future.  We are more likely to be participating in the low-mid intensity 3-Block war in complex and/or urban terrain.  If the 120mm mortar can fulfill the role of the 105mm gun and the 81mm mortar for less cost, with better mobility while under armour (LAV-III AMS) why not.  Each regiment could also keep a battery's worth of 81mm mortars around for light infantry operations such as Afghanistan.
 

ArmyRick

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I like the idea of 120mm Mortars (mounted), 155mm ultralight Gun M777 (US is getting soon, they signed the deal) and 81mm for Light (mountain and jungle).
 

Matt_Ubbing

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All that I know is that My CO will not have mortars in his Regiment. If he absolutely has to, were not getting rid of the Howitzers.
 

ArmyRick

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Gunner78, newsflash, your CO can stomp his foot down and say what he wants, but if the powers that be decide your unit is now mortars, UAV or whatever, then guess what? Thats what will happen.
 
H

Historic Gunner

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My thought on this one is simple... "There will always be a need for indirect fire" 


UBIQUE!
 

STA Gunner

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When looking at the future of indirect fire, it is always a good talk.  The 120 mm mortar offers some good punch, but limited range when compared to the 105 mm HEER.  The 81 mm is man packable, can be thrown into a G-Wagon or LAV, and does not require HLs to carry the ammo.  Problem with 81 mm is the massive PEr and PEd, as well as the limited weight of fire that can be sustained in austere conditions.  I was at the LFDWG-WG last year discussing mortars over guns and the verdict was unclear.  I have read reports from Iraq saying that the army puts its mortars away because the eventual fire that will come in will be much more effective than any mortar fire.  And this is even in the city.  What about 155?  I don't think we need to rally the M109s.  But the M777 is certainly interesting, and offers many possibilities.  I know of a dozen people who have been to see it fire, or have gathered technical data about it, and it looks good.

When dealing with any LAV based vehicle, the challenge is in commonality with other LAVs.  The much hailed MGS will only have 30% commonality with a "normal" LAV so the techs working on the vehicle will have their own challenges.  I do not believe for a second that our LAV based indirect fire system will have much commonality with the LAV III OPV.  Let's even look at the MMEV, the turret is so heavy they are contemplating a 10 wheeled version of the LAV for it.  So the argument about LAV mounting is weak.

The future of the artillery, whether we like it or not, is precision effects.  By precision, I am not referring to guided rounds, although that is one possibility.  The future artillery will need to have precise targeting systems (radar, UAV, SRg, OP, Coyote, EW etc) and engagement with precise fires for maximum effect (no 8 rounds of adjustment, this will require accurate survey, met and MVs).  Sure the airforce can drop a 1000 pound bomb within a metre of a target.  That bomb will obliterate the target, but it will also demolish all the houses surrounding the target if it is in a city.  An LG1 that is primed and ready will be able to drop 15 rounds within 10 metres of the target and not destroy everything around it.  So, precision effects is it.  And unfortunately, the mortar will never be precise enough.

Good talking with you.  :)

 

TCBF

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" An LG1 that is primed and ready will be able to drop 15 rounds within 10 metres of the target ..."

- So, why is it when those of us in the OAS (Other Arms and Services) get to practice what you Gunners once called "supported arms call for fire", the first round always lands in the next township, after which we acuse you all of deliberately throwing it wide to make us practice our corrections (which is fine with us, by the way, we do need and appreciate the practice, and your advice that goes with it), but you then vehemently deny this, and bring forth an explanation that leads us to believe Artillery is closer to the Art of Witchcraft rather than the Science of Ballistics.

"One would expect" we reply, "that in this day and age, one should not have to give a 'LEFT, 800' correction to a gun that is only 2000 meters from the target - all things being equal."

"Aha," starts the re-explanation....

Thats why I spy on you guys, so I can read what you tell each other when you think we aren't around.

;D

Tom (011 Crmn)
 

STA Gunner

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That's OK, I understand the jealousy  ;D

I once was given an attack position to get to by an armoured recce callsign.  I went there with the rest of the company, and did not see how it could be a suitable attack position.  When we finally go ahold of said recce callsign on the net and asked him to verify location, he double checked and then recanted his grid, only 1800 metres off.

It happens to the best of us.

:)
 

TCBF

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"It happens to the best of us."

- Yep, 'In the door and up the stairs'.

Now, about that 'LEFT, 800'.....

Tom
 

The Bat

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Yes Tom it is witchcraft and back in the Napoleon days it was Science. but if the person had some what of a "Laser" on him or in his Veh or new how to read MAPS ( Manual Artillery Plotting System) he or they would not have to do a "Left 800.....". but to give a left 800 correction the OP has an OT of 2.5 so as long as your at the LD or on the FB with him and don't take off like a bat out of hell then you will be safe. some people just think its science and and then there is some that just do there job, but what is a couple of "MILS" between friends, as long as your on my side then you don't have to worry where the rounds land
 
C

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Personally from my point of view, there is room for both.  For those of you that have not packed an 81MM tube & ammo for it, it is a daunting task for the ppl on the line.  Almost the same as trying to support a .50 in a fire fight.  For me the tube has it's advantages on the line, as much as it is comforting to hear a "Khesan" rnd whistle over you.

Bottom line the trg has to support both.  The deployment is task related.  Should the Arty boys be cross trained? Yes.  Cross Trg of all units needs to be increased.  This might help eliminate a specialised FOO or FAO in some situations.  Guess some basic map reading skills are a neccesity. This skill seems to be on a decline, from what I saw as an instructor.

Cheers
 

horsegunner353

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A few thoughts;


I think a 120mm Mortar would be a tremendous advantage, the problem is, as with every indirect fire system, there is no panacea.  There isn't a single fire support system that is "all singing all dancing" each have their respective strengths and weaknesses.

The 120mm for example... here are some problems....

While it has a greater kill radius than a 105mm howitzer, it lacks the range.  It also lacks the range and punch of a 155mm How.

Mortars are great when you're fighting Taliban and ineffective Iraqis, but the second you encounter someone with even a hint of counter battery radar skills, the longer your bullet is in the air the more easy it is to conduct counter battery.

The NATO standard artillery ammo is 155mm.  If we wish to maintain a certain degree of pan-alliance standardization, the entire alliance would have to adopt a 120mm Mor.

I'm not sure, but I think the effects offered by a 155mm (i.e. the different types of rounds capbable of being used) is greater than those available to 120mm Mor.

In modern asymmetric warfare, the threat to the gun position is significantly greater.  Fortunately we have six cannons that are pretty effective in direct fire... not so with mors.

Just a few quick thoughts.
 

JackD

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hi! I'm knew here and apologise for that, but are their any plans for purchasing replacement 155's and what would the holdings be per brigade - are the skills acquired  to run a 155 battery to be lost completely - what about the purchase of 120 mm mortars for close support taskings or specialist taskings - what of air defence? Where goes artillery in this reorganized army?
 

Observer23

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Sorry, I've been away so long.  I was away on Course.

Mountie
I agree that we will more likely be engaging a low-mid intensity 3-block war in complex and/or urban terrain.  (For the layman the three-block war describes three situations that you would likely engage in an urban environment.  The first block would be against an organized and/or professional military force.  The second block (further down the street) would involve guerrillas or other insurgency.  The last (third) would be the passage of aid and other humanitarian assistance (ie refugee evac).)

That being said, this leads to a greater need for accuracy.  (As mentioned by STA Gunner when addressing PEr and PEd.).  In specific examples we were exploring the accuracy differences between Guns and Mortars (against Targets they both could engage).  There were times the Mortar was three times less accurate than the Gun.  In a three-block war this would be disastrous.

While engaging a target in a block 1 environment, there is a greater chance you will land a bomb into one of the other blocks.  Nothing affects the local population's trust in you more when you start shelling them (and some how they don't under stand that these things happen) unintentionally. 

Anyone who has studied Stalingrad and Grozny (the first campaign) would remember that the more collateral damage caused increases the resolve of the enemy and offers more places (rubble) for them to fire from.  Greater accuracy and precision (again my hat off to STA Gunner, thanks for your observations) is required to reduce collateral damage.  One major consideration of an urban operation is the effect on the local populations attitude and morale.  It is difficult to foster positive support from the locals but you should at least strive for neutral or passive involvement.  One incorrectly placed round is the recruiting poster for any guerrilla force or insurgency.  The correct wrench for a 3-Block op is a howitzer.  Mortars are fine for ops/msn that collateral damage is a lesser consideration.

JackD
All guns (105, 155, 203, etc) operate on the same principal.  There would be no skill lost if we have no 155mm for duration of a few years (or more).  Most conversation courses can be done in a few days (my LG-1 crse was three days).
The future of the artillery has greater involvement in target acquisition while still maintaining the ability to use indirect fire support resources.
 

Mountie

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Good point.  But the developement of presision guided mortar ammunition is well under way.  The Merlin is one example I've read about.  I believe the US Army's Future Combat System Non-Line of Sight Mortar (NLOS-M) will been more accurate than the present mortars or artillery systems.
 

JackD

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hi! Thanks for your reply...My background (too long ago) was as a sapper. I guess the skill sets I was more interested in lay not so much in the gunnery itself, but in the logistics of supply, in the use of the guns and the tactical reaction to gun use amongst the infantry, armoured and general officers. The employment of a 105 or 81mm mortar is obviously different to that of a 155. It is this aspect I find troublesome. I think back to my very unrealistic training circa middle 70's, early 80's. It was as if the machine gun, artillery, the tank, the airplane was not invented and tactically had the balloon gone up, I'm sure there would have been a  slaughter.
 

Observer23

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The employment of precision munitions is going to be strictly controlled.  Decision matrixes would be drafted for opportune targets but all other targets would require authorization from a higher command.  The dollar value of such munitions could easily cost the same as 10 to 100 rds (TOWs are 20,000 plus each) of conventional munitions because of the guidance systems alone.
A decision matrix would give a priority rating and maybe a condition when to employ it.
For Example: Any command, communications and control (C3) elements (to cut the head off the snake so to speak), Any mounted reconnaissance vehicles (to blind the enemy) and heavy armour aka tanks (What better way to get the bang for your buck than taking down a multi-million piece of kit with a ten thousand dollar bullet or bomb)
The chief of artillery in the US acknowledges that they are developing precision munitions but they still have to maintain the ability to amass artillery fire.
When determining the effect you want against a target (point destruction, harassment, suppression of an area, etc) you are still going to need conventional ammunition.  If you are going to harass the enemy simple conventional ammunition is all that is require to ware away the morale of an entrenched enemy over a period of time.  If you were to suppress the enemy (a common task for the guns) this would involve amassing fire into a specific area (football field size or a bit bigger) to allow our own troops to get in closer.  I believe the guns are still suited for this task because it is easier for them to control/reduce collateral damage.
 
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