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Moving Artillery Forward

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Moving Artillery Forward:

A Concept for the Fight in Afghanistan

by Major Joseph A. Jackson

Download the full article: Moving Artillery Forward

The United States Army is no stranger to mountainous and high-altitude war fighting. American history contains many instances of successfully executed mountain conflicts. Central to this success was the movement and use of artillery in direct support of those campaigns. The first notable American instance of moving artillery across mountainous terrain occurred when Colonel Henry Knox's Continental Army soldiers wheeled, sledged, and levered the guns from Fort Ticonderoga across the Berkshire Mountains in the winter of 1776. These fifty-nine assorted cannon became the deciding factor in General George Washington's siege of Boston. Other notable campaigns include the U.S. Army operations in the Italian Alps during WWII, the Taebaek Range of Korea, and the Annamite Range in Vietnam. Each of these locations and conditions provides ample instruction on artillery use in mountain warfare; yet this time fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan is proving to be a greater challenge than anticipated.

Strategists and commanders who consider employment of artillery in Afghanistan should take a fresh look at history, doctrine, and tactical concepts. Doing so will ensure artillery can employ optimally, and in sufficient strength, and of the correct caliber to create the tactical conditions for success. Without a significant increase in firepower delivered by a correspondingly lightweight and maneuverable field howitzer, the long-range fight in Afghanistan will devolve into an even deadlier and protracted conflict.

Solely relying on technology and precision munitions incrementally applied across the current arsenal will not achieve the conditions to exploit and pursue the insurgent fighters ever higher and farther into the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Operational planners, artillery professionals, congressional staffers, and military acquisition officers should examine these relevant histories, review doctrine, and consider their implications. These sources serve as a guide to develop successful and sustained operational approaches to combat the Afghan insurgency. They also provide a reference for adaptive tactics and procurement requirements for weapons needed in protracted high-altitude mountain warfare.

Download the full article: Moving Artillery Forward

Major Joseph A. Jackson is a U.S. Army Field Artillery officer with deployment and combat experiences in Bosnia, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He earned a bachelor's degree in history and Russian from Purdue University and master's degrees from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies. Major Jackson is presently serving his second tour in Afghanistan with the NATO Training Mission, (NTM-A).

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Comments

arjspaz (not verified)

Fri, 02/25/2011 - 1:30am

Major Jackson has an undeniably valid point. Current infantry close support weapons consist of mortars, RCL's or similar and grenade launchers. A mortar cannot blow a hole in anything - walls, light AV's etc, and the need for such is glaringly obvious. Oto Melara produced an excellent pack howitzer in 105 and 75mm calibers, with augmented trails that are able to find purchase in the most steep places that other artillery would find impossible. The 75mm is in service in India - as he says - in the northwest areas and has provided sterling service in reducing strongholds and cave systems that would otherwise require storming and casualties - which is the whole point; less casualties.

Bob's World

Sun, 06/13/2010 - 2:51pm

The 105mm section at FOB Tinsley in Uruzgan province fires more rounds than anywhere else in theater. It allows maximum freedom of movement with minimum liklihood of Civilian Casualites that come with Air to Ground fires. We should do more of this.

Sadly, the SF community must fight to keep this resource over and over and over with the conventional community that has the duty to resource it.

As to the 75 pack; I've never employed one, but an uncle who fought extensively in the jungles of New Guinea, Biak, and the Philippines in WWII was not a fan. They far preferred to bring in a 40mm Bofors for the close dirty work of engaging Japanese fortifications. I trust his experience and assessment. In an open environment such as Afghanistan, a 75mm would be about as effective as a MK 19; and in no way could compete with a 120mm mortar.

This is taken from a post combat report from the Chosin River Campaign and shows how the Chinese People's Volunteers (PLA) used machine guns to provide fire support as they lacked artillery.

Considerable numbers (of mchine guns) were pushed forward stealthily into the front line during the attack. After one unsuccessful CPV battalion assault during the Chosin Reservoir Campaign, US Marines collected ten heavy and seven light machine guns, 12 Thompson sub-machine guns and 76 rifles.

[quote]
'...Using gator 6×6 ATVs, we were able to quickly move the mortars and ammo wherever they needed to be on the battlefield using CH-47s. CH-47s were also able to get 2-3 gun packages of M119s into overwatch positions to provide fires in direct support to every combat operation we conducted....'
[/quote]

pretty cool!
get the big guns on the ground
with the legs and use them as
soon as needed.

sounds like overwatch is what every
Army/Marine patrol should have.

AND... have air support up there
on every mission.

it's not like we have to invent
airplanes and figure things out
from there before they are
over the firefights.

A very late continuation of my thoughts:

Systems like the IMI Lynx mentioned by B. Smitty with a wider array of guided and unguided rockets maybe truly an interesting addition to the already considerable amount of fire support options.

A smaller rocket standard, maybe 160mm after the Israeli LAR/ACCULAR rockets might round up the NATO standard calibers. The other rocket options are also interesting. It should not be hard to design and adapt such rocket pod containers for HIMARS and company. The vicinity to the 155mm artillery calibre could be help to lower costs for (the shared) submunitions and enable efficient use of them.

Other calibers might also offer something, like the Soviet 122mm - synergies with the 120mm mortar - but the 160mm could be the most interesting one.

Firn

A very late continuation of my thoughts:

Systems like the IMI Lynx mentioned by B. Smitty with a wider array of guided and unguided rockets maybe truly an interesting addition to the already considerable amount of fire support options.

A smaller rocket standard, maybe 160mm after the Israeli LAR/ACCULAR rockets might round up the NATO standard calibers. The other rocket options are also interesting. It should not be hard to rocket pod containers for HIMARS and company. The vicinity to the 155mm artillery calibre could be helpful to lower costs for (the shared) submunitions and enable efficient use of them.

Other calibers might also offer something, like the Soviet 122mm - synergies with the 120mm mortar - but the 160mm could be the most interesting one.

Firn

GIZhou (not verified)

Tue, 04/06/2010 - 6:45pm

And in people speak that means?

More access to indirect would be great. However, the introduction of more firepower without a commitment by manuever forces to conduct BDA will result in further degradation of our STRATCOM/IO. You lay scunion on an AO, you had better be prepared to get boots on that ground before the Taliban does. No matter how effective your artillery is at killing the enemy, if the enemy still owns the ground at the end, you lose. All those taliban you killed will suddenly become innocent farmers and a few women or children are going to be dead, too. Of course, since the TB control the AO, you can't confirm or deny and you are already behind the curve. Apaches are about the only asset you can use without BDA as the gun camera footage can generally refute any IO by the TB.
In the absence of an in extremis situation, BDA needs to be part of any RFF.

I enjoyed the article and want to add some thoughts:

a) I agree with most posters that the 120 mm mortar (and the 81mm) took over many of the tasks of the light infantry and mountain guns. Indeed the Germans were quick to adopt the excellent Soviet 120mm and also made great use of it. Still the light 75mm were retained, partly because artillery was in very dire supply.

b) The distribution of light and heavy I.G gave the German infantry together with the mortars ans heavy GPMGs responsive and accurate fire-support. The aggressive German use of I.G goes at least back to the French-German war of 1870 and proved to be a risky affair for the gunners, but greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the infantry. See also this 30 min training video, which may give you some ideas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpQs9lrw_Eo

c) The concentration of firepower was achieved by the Germans generally more by good and careful observation, planning, coordination and responsive shifts than by sheer mass. Resources, training and METT-T influenced this behavior considerably. See also the emphasis in the video on supporting with all available means of firepower the break-in.

d) Experience in the Caucasus, Norway and in Lapland confirmed just how difficult it can be to supply troops and artillery in difficult terrain. In some occasions in the Caucasus the ammunition had to be carried by mules and porters for up to six days to reach the mortars and guns. Wounded soldiers had to be transported in some instances by up to 8-12 men.

The difficulties to supply the spear was re-confirmed during the Kargil war.

Some thoughts:

1) Huge Range and very high elevation can be of vital importance in mountain warfare as the artillery pieces can easily support the troops by fire while being easily supplied (road, train, cable, etc.) This way a lot of manpower and resources can be freed up while giving effective fire-support. This has been already pointed out.

To be continued...

Firn

Joe,

Message me a good email address for larger documents and I will send you something that will put a smile on your face - PLA after action reports turned into articles tranlsated fron Chinese and a book on Chinese weapons and tactics I wrote

Joe,

Message me a good email address for larger documents and I will send you something that will put a smile on your face - PLA after action reports turned into articles tranlsated fron Chinese and a book on Chinese weapons and tactics I wrote

Joe Jackson (not verified)

Fri, 03/26/2010 - 1:44pm

GIZhou,

Well done on the history! I now that I am not advocating something "entirely new" - my point is, is that the US does and has rely so much on precision and range, that we have lost the element of mobility to augment (clear, hold, build), the infantry...mortars - while useful lack the punch and sustained rate of fire that could be provided by pack howitzers/mountain guns (and in certain cases a recoiless system)

My research on Siachen Glacier and the Kargil Campaign in the Kashmir indicate that artillery is viable and is needed in (mountainous (extremely) terrain to augment the lack of infantry that can be used, the limit on mortars, and the limitations on fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

GIZhou (not verified)

Thu, 03/25/2010 - 6:55am

Joe, if I may be so bold, beware the lessons of history. It sounds like you are advocating the return of Kipling's famed Indian Army screw guns. Same place, different century.

Light artillery accompanying the infantry has a long history in the 20th Centruy. John English in 'On Infantry' wrote about storm troopers bringing their infantry guns and mortars along with them, as did the US Army infantry and Marines in the First World War and US Marines in the Central American campaigns beween the wars, with their 37mm infantry gun.

In the Second World War, the US, Russian and British artillery, especially the US, being centralised were able to support or concentrate on any target with in its range utilising all the division and above artillery. The German infantry, by farming out 75mm and 150mm infantry guns to their INFANTRY later bemoaned the lack of concentrated firepower, divisional artillery could deliver, as the guns were given up as manpower issues hit. This was acutley felt on the Eastern Front.

In Korea, the old 75mm M20 recoilless rifle was very useful in this respect, although it is a propellant hog.

To my pet army, the PLA. They kept four old Japanese 70mm howitzers in the infantry regiment until at least the early 1970s, when they were repalced with 76mm pack howitzers. The lack of a decent command and control net meant the regiment was often on its own and they ahd to rely on their own assets for support. The 70mm guns probably fell apart from old age Many PLA units still have 82mm recoilless rifles in service, for example the engineers, to peovide direct fiore support.

PLA units that have gone over to the brigade and battle group structures now have their artillery grouped at brigade level and higher.

After boring the reader with useless facts, what you are suggesting is not new. However the need for the soldiers to man, and protect it, will be considerable. The PLA in the 1962 Sino-Indian war had a team of eight soldiers just to keep one 57mm recoilless rifle manned, protected and supplied in combat. The biggest issue I see is whether to make it self-propelled or towed but that is for another time.

Joe Jackson (not verified)

Thu, 03/25/2010 - 4:51am

Aussie Gunner,

I value your insights on the M119/L119. You are correct that the 105 has a role in COIN and is a good system. A system such as the 75mm is limited in its high angle capability. My assumption was that; a. reinforcing batteries operating on FOBs would provide for this limitation and b. moving artillery concurrently with the advancing infantry would provide a significant psychological and tactical advantage. -- For this point, I would reference COL. Georg Bruckmuller's tactical use of artillery on the Eastern Front in WWI - (Stee Wind by David T. Zabecki). Not exactly mountain warfare, but provides the utility of artillery that is much more integrated into the infantry maneuver plan.

Aussie Gunner (not verified)

Thu, 03/25/2010 - 2:34am

Joe,
Great article I think you have raised some very valid points regarding the employment of Artillery in COIN and Mountionous terrain. I would offer the following observations/ comments:
- Whilst we gunners know that precision guided munitions are a force multiplier, its accuracy is only as good as the target location plotted by the Forward Observer, and when in contact in mountainous terrain or built up areas this can be difficult. Dumb munitions still have a critical place in the inventory.
- The M119/ L119's range can be enhanced to 18 kms by using UK ammo, barrel and firing mechanism.
- The M119/ L119 is a very accurate platform, particularly at Ch6 and 7, it is normally the inaccuracy of the forward observer that is the problem.
- The operational flexibility of the M119/ L119 due to its light wieght and excellent high angle fire cannot be written off. A 75mm system does not have the same High Angle capability.
- The UK have proven the effectiveness of the L118 (UK version) in the direct fire mode in Musah Qula Helmand Province. Look up UK defence pages for 'Dragon Gun'

GI Zhou

Thu, 03/25/2010 - 12:20am

Why change something that works. Making a weapon too light has its own issues in regards to the laws of physics and recoil. The 75mm Pack Howitzer is good because it was invented in the USA, is a known product, is very accurate, and could fire extended fire missions whereas many pack howitzers can't.

You don't want higher velocities as they increase the zones where the rounds can't reach as you want plunging fire. One thing I can't emphasise is that lighter rounds are good enough as the shell walls on the 75mm are thin due to the lower muzzle velocity compared to ones designed for field guns.

No issues in developing better rounds but the weapon is needed now, not after an extended R&D program. In this case better becomes the enemy of good enough. Don't get me started on bringing back the 106mm recoilless rifle.

Joe Jackson (not verified)

Wed, 03/24/2010 - 5:03pm

Xhou, et al.

My monograph will be available here at SMJ in the very near future. The editors have kindly agreed to post it. It is currently available at the Ft. Leavenworth CARL Library - Go to the SAMS papers, the full title is: Howitzers on High Ground: Considerations for Artillery Employment in Southwest Asia,(2009).

B.Smitty, your post gets to exactly what I was attempting to convey, the 75mm does not have to be a heavy beast or identical to its original versions. Lighter materials are available and it could be as portable as a mortar, with good range (9-11Km) and a significant muzzle velocity for impressive terminal effects.

Additionally, a platoon or reinforced squad could have direct fire support attached directly. In my research, the Soviets seemed the most aggressive in finding ways to include all of their weapons systems. In contrast the US tends to find reasons to limit the scale and utility of our innovations to "precision and longer reach." This creates a gap in the most basic tactical fighting.

Xenophon

Wed, 03/24/2010 - 4:25pm

GI Zhou: The crosswinds issue is a very good point, so I'm rethinking my earlier comments. I think a pack howitzer would be ideal in Afghanistan. Maybe the Army should outfit their mountain units with such a system.

Maj Jackson: Any plans to publish the full monograph? I would be very interested in giving it a read.

B.Smitty

Wed, 03/24/2010 - 2:37pm

To some extent, can't the function envisioned for the 75mm pack howitzer be accomplished by NLOS missiles like Spike ER?

Sure their cost per shot is much higher, and each round weighs more, but the CLU is much lighter than a howitzer and they are far more accurate at range.

On the other hand, a modern version of the 75mm pack howitzer could be much lighter and have greater range and lethality than its WWII counterpart. However if we were contemplating new production for guns and munitions, we might as well come up with a clean sheet design, IMHO.

Joe Jackson (not verified)

Wed, 03/24/2010 - 5:09am

All,

I appreciate your comments and critique. The 75mm is but one option. For the purposes of getting to the article, I chose the 75mm based on the need for easy transport, institutional knowledge, and muzzle velocity - firing into caves and rock formations. To the point of the 120mm... it does have a larger bursting radius but MV is also important.

There are a number of systems on the market that would be well suited for Afghanistan beyond what our current arsenal contains. OTOBREDA, GIAT, etc produce smalltruck chasis mounted guns of 155 or 105 mm. This article is a slice from a full monograph that explores those other options.

The idea of reintroducing the 75mm Pack Howitzer is not new, and was first mooted after Operation Anaconda. The big issue in mountain warfare with long range mortars, and mortars generally is cross winds. This will not change when the long mooted GPS guidance package arrives for 120 and 81mm mortars.

The Russians, and subsequently the Indians, discovered thatover 10,000 fgeet there is insufficient 'bite' in the air for the wings to correct or guide shells in flight. A very expensive way to ensure smoke arrives on target too.

The 75mm has sufficient velocity, range, elevation, accuracy and punch to fulfil the missions of a 120mm mortar with lighter ammuniton and no need to spend timt settling in the base plate. Sand bags take up weight and space too you know.

Xenophon

Tue, 03/23/2010 - 6:01pm

I think the problem is less a gap in capability (as mentioned above, mortars do fill that gap) and more due to there not being enough fire support systems in theater and a reluctance to move the fire support systems from their positions on FOBs.

I also don't think direct fire capability is that big of a "gap". Rare is the situation where it will be needed, and crew served machine guns answer the mail in those situations, unless you're facing a battalion-sized banzai charge.

No mention of the EFSS? It's a fantastic weapon system and fills in the gap better than the M120.

Red Leg

Tue, 03/23/2010 - 12:50pm

MAJ Jackson,

I concur with the two previous comments on the M120, 120mm mortar, vs the 75mm pack howitzer. The range difference, 7.6 km vs 9km, does not justify its reinsertion into the Army inventory in my opinion.

In July 2002 I deployed to Afghanistan with the 505th PIR from the 82nd Airborne Div, and one of the lessons we learned from our predecessors was the need for light howitzers. In fact the Brigade Fire Support Officer present at Operation Anaconda personally briefed us at Ft Bragg prior to our deployment and stressed the need for 105mm howitzers. Our answer was to take our entire FA Battalion, 1-319 AFAR, with one battery of 6xM119, 105mm, howitzers and convert the other two batteries to 120mm mortar platoons. Using gator 6x6 ATVs, we were able to quickly move the mortars and ammo wherever they needed to be on the battlefield using CH-47s. CH-47s were also able to get 2-3 gun packages of M119s into overwatch positions to provide fires in direct support to every combat operation we conducted.

The one system you do not mention is the M777, 155mm, towed howitzer. An 18 gun M777 battalion is assigned to every Stryker BCT in the Army (5/2 SBCT is currently in southern Afghanistan), as well as the 18th FA Brigade at Ft Bragg. Weighing in at less than 9000 lbs, versus the 16000 lbs for the M198, it is able to be positioned at much higher altitudes using the CH-47, and fires the full family of current 155mm ammo in the Army inventory, including the Excalibur GPS-guided round.

With 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; the M119 and M777 howitzers; MLRS and the truck mounted HIMARS; as well as Army attack aviation and CAS, I believe we have the correct mix of fire support delivery systems in the Army inventory right now. Do we need revisit our history to apply the correct tactics for using artillery in mountainous terrain: yes. Do we need a new weapon system: no.

v/r,
Jeremy

Ken White (not verified)

Tue, 03/23/2010 - 11:47am

I agree with B. Smitty on the 120mm Mortar. I think the author of the article is perhaps excessively branch focused and is fulfilling a need that might not exist with the rebirth of the 75mm pack...

Two minor points in addition. As a non-artillerist, I'm surprised that the use of truck mounted guns or howitzers is mentioned. Seems to me their disadvantages really outweigh the advantages. Literally...

I also hope that Nexter, the former GIAT knows that they have subsumed Oto Melara.

B.Smitty

Tue, 03/23/2010 - 11:34am

How is the 75mm pack howitzer really an improvement over the M120 mortar? The ammunition is lighter, it has slightly longer range, and it has a direct-fire option, but the M120 is lighter, fires a more potent projectile, and is already in service.

The GIAT LG1 MkII makes more sense, IMHO. It has longer range than the M120, can use in-service 105mm ammunition, but is significantly lighter than the M119.

I wonder if the Cockerill 90mm Mk3 could be adapted for indirect fire? The gun itself "only" weighs 456 Kg and there is a full line of ammunition for it already.

I also have been thinking maybe we need something like the <a href="http://www.imi-israel.com/home/doc.aspx?mCatID=66185">IMI Lynx</a>. It is a smaller MLRS that can fire 122mm GRAD (22-45km range), 160mm LAR/ACCULAR (45km range), larger EXTRA rockets (130km range), or DELILAH-GL cruise missiles.

Using the ACCULAR TCS, it can achieve a 50m CEP with LAR rockets out to their maximum range (IIRC). If a GPS/INS guidance was developed for all three rocket types, a wide range of near-precision effects could be had on a relatively small platform. It would, in effect, be a GMLRS-lite.

A single Lynx can carry 40 GRAD rockets, 26 LAR rockets, or 2 EXTRA or DELIAH-GLs in 2 pods.

Having 40 "GGRADS" (Guided GRADS) on a single vehicle provides a lot of precision shots that can be fired rapidly. Maybe the concept could be adapted for the HMMWV (carrying one pod) or as a towed system.

A laser guidance kit could be added later, if desired.