Taking Marine Artillery Into The Twenty-First Century
AUTHOR Major J. R. Murphy, USMC
SUBJECT AREA National Military Strategy
TITLE: TAKING MARINE ARTILLERY INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST
Introduction: The Marine Corps has spent over two billion
dollars over the past decade to upgrade artillery fire
support. It is time to step back and see what improvements
have been made and what it should mean to the supported
Part One: Marine Artillery Ten Years Ago. In order to
appreciate what we now have, we must look at what we had ten
short years ago. The FO was equipped with only a map and
compass. We had voice communications and firing data had to
be manually computed. It was difficult to account for non-
standard conditions and there were only six 105-mm howitzers
in a battery. Artillery had to be adjusted on to a target
and high explosive (HE) was the primary munition.
Part Two: Marine Artillery Today. The FO is now equipped
with laser range finders and a direction finding gyro (MULE
and AN/GVS-S). The FDC has a computer to figure firing data
and a backup computer if the first one fails (BCS and BUGS).
We have digital communications from the FO to the battery
(DGT). We can automatically determine and compute meteor-
ological corrections and muzzle velocity corrections (MDS
and M-90). Survey has been improved in speed and accuracy
(PADS). We now have eight 1SS-mm howitzers in a battery and
more lethal ammunition (M198 and DPICM). We have ammunition
that can lay mine fields and destroy tanks or other point
targets (FASCAM and COPPERHEAD). We can now find targets
that would have eluded us before (FIRE FINDER and RPV).
Part Three: The Future. Just around the corner are other
improvements. The Army has already fielded a rocket
launcher with the fire power of a howitzer battalion; it can
move about the battlefield independently and shoot at
targets more than 30,000 meters away (MLRS). Enhancements
to the M1O9 will give it the same independence as the MLRS
(HIP program). Digital communications will bring the fire
support coordinator, and the artillery battalion in the loop
with the FO and the battery (FIRE FLEX and AFATDS).
Artillery propellants will be more efficient and push rounds
to longer ranges (liquid propellants and electromagnetic
propulsion). Finally we will have a fire and forget tank
killer round (SADARM).
Summary: In order to employ artillery, it is important for
all Marines to know the new capabilities of Marine Artillery.
TAKING MARINE ARTILLERY INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Thesis statement. Over the past decade the Marine Corps has
spent a lot of money to improve every aspect of artillery
fire support; it is time to step back and see just what
those improvements are and how they all fit together.
I. Part One: Marine Artillery Ten Years Ago.
A. Forward observer and his equipment.
C. Fire direction center and equipment.
D. Metro/survey equipment.
F. Howitzers and munitions.
II. Part Two: Marine Artillery Today.
A. Modular Universal Laser Equipment (MULE).
B. AN/GVS-5 Laser Range Finder.
C. Digital Communications Terminal.
D. Battery Computer System.
E. Gun Display Units.
F. Back-up Computer System.
G. Meteorological Data System.
H. M-90 Chronograph.
I. Position Azimuth Determining System.
J. M-198 Howitzer.
1. Improved Conventional Munitions.
2. Field Artillery Scatterable Mines.
L. Structure changes.
M. AN/TPQ-36 Fire Finder Radar.
N. Remotely Piloted Vehicle.
III. Part Three: The Future.
A. Multiple Launch Rocket System.
B. Howitzer Improvement Program for M109A3.
C. Enhanced Digital Message Device.
D. Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System.
E. Liquid Propellants.
F. Electromagnetic Propulsion.
IV. Part Four: Summary.
A. What all the improvements mean to the supported
TAKING MARINE ARTILLERY INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Marine artillery had changed little for a half a
century, then about 1980, years of development and a more
liberal defense budget brought about some needed improve-
ments. Over the past decade the Marine Corps has spent a
lot of money to improve every aspect of artillery fire
support; it is time to step back and see just what those
improvements are and how they all fit together.
Before we look at what we bought, we should review what
we had. The discussions that follow on the past, the
present, and the future of our artillery system will follow
the same format. We will start with the forward observer
and follow the fire request through the transmission to the
fire direction center, computation of firing data, actions
at the guns, and the effects of the rounds on target.
PART ONE: MARINE ARTILLERY TEN YEARS AGO
Prior to 1980 the FO was equipped with only a map and
compass. It was up to the observer to map spot his loca-
tion. He then had to determine a target location from his
map and a direction to the target using his compass. A good
FO was supposed to locate a target to an accuracy of 100
meters and a direction to an accuracy of ten mils. More
often the FO was lucky to be within 400 meters and 50 mils.
He then had to compose a call for fire and transmit it over
a voice radio net to the fire direction center (FDC).
The FDC received the mission and plotted the target
location on a chart. Using a range deflection protractor
and pins in the chart representing the battery position and
the target, a relative direction and distance to the target
was determined. After comparing the elevation of the target
and the battery, a graphical firing table was used the
compute firing data.
The firing data was transmitted to the guns over a land
line. All six howitzers received the same data. Often at
least one of the gun crews would make an error in transcrib-
ing the message and the data would have to be repeated.
Since all the guns fired the same data, the rounds impacted
on the ground in the same relative positions that guns were
located in the battery position. This did not produce
optimum effects on target and it made emplacement of the
howitzers more difficult.
In addition to target location errors, many other
factors contributed to inaccuracies.1 The most important
correction factor is weather. It is not uncommon to have
the affects of wind, temperature, and air density, move a
round 400 meters from its intended target. Calculating the
1See Chapter 2, FM 6-40, for a detailed description of
affects of weather was not easy. The most common method was
to send a balloon aloft and track it manually with a
theodolite. After lengthy computations a "met message" was
sent over the radio to each battery. The met message con-
sisted of up to 16 lines of 12 digits each. The message
took a long time to transmit and errors were common. After
the message was received it took an additional 15 minutes to
compute and apply corrections to the graphical firing
To confirm the location of the battery, manual survey
teams were employed to locate battery center and provide
direction control so that all the howitzers would be pointed
in the same direction. Battery center could be located to
the nearest meter and direction was accurate to the nearest
ten mlls. Survey teams were slow and manpower intensive.
Survey had to be accomplished before to occupying a posi-
Each howitzer has its own unique muzzle velocity
error.3 A radar chronograph was used to determine the
muzzle velocity error for each howitzer. Annually each
regiment conducted an exchange of howitzers among the
batteries to keep the "long shooters" and "short shooters"
2See Chapter 10. FM 8-40, for a detailed description of
3See Chapter 11, FM 6-40, for a detailed discussion of
muzzle velocity errors.
together. This helped keep a better sheaf4 for each
battery. Trading howitzers was never popular and with some
batteries always deployed it was difficult to ensure that
the howitzers in each battery were properly matched.
Direct support battalions were organized into batteries
of six 105-mm howitzers. High explosive was the ammunition
of choice although variable time fuse could be used to
enhance the effects on target. The effects on target would
be minimal unless all the factors described above were
accurately computed and the target location was very
precise. The most common way to account for all the
nonstandard conditions5 was to register.6 A battery had to
register every four to six hours to keep up with the
changing meteorological conditions. An observer was needed
to conduct a registration.
Because of poor target location or old registration
data the rounds usually had to be adjusted on to the target
by the observer. This was time consuming and usually took
three to five rounds to accomplish. The enemy who was thus
being bracketed was hardly surprised and the affects were
less than if an accurate, surprise, mass mission was
4See Chapter 13, FM 6-40, for a detailed description of
types of sheafs.
5Standard conditions are described in FM 6-40, p.10-2.
6Registration techniques are described in Chapter 12,
PART TWO: MARINE ARTILLERY TODAY
In late 1986 the Marine Corps began fielding the
Modular Universal Laser Equipment (MULE). The MULE is a
laser range finder/designator. It consists of three
modules. The designator/range finder module (LDRM) is a
rifle like device that contains the laser components of the
system. The tripod (STTM) provides a stable platform to
track moving targets and a base to mount the North Finding
Module (NFM). The NFM can orient the MULE to one mil
accuracy in less than two minutes. The LDRM can range
targets to ten meter accuracy or designate point targets for
attack by laser guided munitions. At a unit cost of
$380,000 it is not cheap, but it is the only manpackable
laser designator in the inventory.
With the MULE the FO can use the capabilities of range
finding and direction finding to accurately self locate by
resection. Once his position is known, the FO can locate
targets to an accuracy of ten meters. In addition, if a
registration has not been conducted and the first round has
no effect on target, the FO can laze the burst. This
information, called "did hit" and "should hit" data8 a when
7Field artillery effectiveness is discussed in Chapter
1, FM 6-30.
8This method is described in FM 6-40, p.12-2.
computed in the FDC should produce a second round hit. This
method eliminates the lengthy bracketing, saves rounds, and
produces rapid effects on the target.
The MULE can range targets to 10,000 meters, and
designate targets out to 3500 meters. The MULE can also be
equipped with a thermal imaging sight, the AN/TAS-4D. The
AN/TAS-4D give the FO the ability to see into the night to a
range of about 3000 meters. The system weighs 41 pounds
without the night sight. All observer teams9 are equipped
with the MULE as well as selected reconnaissance teams.
A hand held laser range finder, the AN/GVS-5, was
fielded in 1984.10 This device looks much like a pair of
binoculars, but it contains a range finder that can range
targets to an accuracy of ten meters at ranges out to 10,000
meters. It does not have any direction finding capability,
but it is a very useful device when the MULE cannot be
carried. Again the distribution is one to every observer
team plus other selected units. At a unit cost of over
$5000 the prudent FO would not want to lose it.
The Digital Communications Terminal (DCT) has already
been fielded, however the fire support software is still in
development. There is no current projection for the
9Observer teams are artillery forward observers,
forward air controllers, naval gunfire spot teams, and
10See Chapter 6, FM 6-30, for artillery uses of the
fielding of the software, but when it is available, the FO
will have the ability to transmit his fire request over a
digital net directly to the Battery Computer System (BCS).
The DCT is compatible with the MULE so the information
readout of the STTM11 can be electronically transmitted to
the DCT. With a range and direction reading from the MULE
and a preformatted fire request in the DCT, the FO can
rapidly and accurately transmit his mission to the FDC.
The most dramatic improvement at the FDC will be the
fielding of the Battery Computer System (BCS) later this
year. The BCS replaces the aging Field Artillery Digital
Automatic Computer (FADAC) and manual gunnery techniques.
The BCS will mount in the back of a HMMWV which will add
more mobility to the FDC. The BCS can receive digital
messages directly or the fire mission can be manually
The BCS can store muzzle velocity errors for each
howitzer, meteorological corrections, observer locations,
preplanned target locations, fire support coordination
measures, and locations of each howitzer in the battery.
When a mission is computed, the BCS determines separate
firing data for each howitzer. A circular sheaf is plotted
around the target and each howitzer is given a different
aiming point. This produces the better effects on the
11The STTM has the electronic interfaces that provide a
digital readout of range, direction, and elevation.
The BCS transmits the firing data to each howitzer over
a land line to a Gun Display Unit. The section chief's
display is an interactive unit so the section chief can
inform the FDC when each round is fired and the ammunition
status of his section. The deflection and quadrant are
displayed for the gunner and assistant gunner as well as for
the section chief. This helps prevent errors in relaying
The BCS also comes with a printer, the AN/UGG-74, to
record missions. This $25,000,000 program provides dramatic
improvements over the old manual system. Each battery level
FDC will be equipped with a BCS.
Because there is always a possibility that the BCS will
go down, a Back-Up Computer System (BUCS) was fielded in
1986. The BUCS is a hand held computer with of most of the
same capabilities as the BCS. The biggest deficiency of the
BUGS is that it does not have any communications capability.
it cannot receive digital messages nor transmit data to the
guns. It is a big improvement over manual gunnery and a
relatively cheap investment. The BUCS program cost only
$650,000 and provided 20 computers and printers to each
artillery battalion. The BUCS can also be used to solve
manual survey computations.
As mentioned earlier, knowing the effects of meteoro-
logical conditions is a major factor in getting rounds on
target. The Meteorological Data System (MDS) will be
fielded in 1989. The MDS has the capability to sound the
atmosphere every two hours. The on board computer automati-
cally tracks the balloon and radiosonde in any one of three
ways. The radiosonde can be tracked by navigational aids,
by signals transmitted to a large dish antenna, or manually
with a theodolite. The first two methods are the most
accurate, however navigational aids are not available in all
parts of the world. In any of the methods, the computer
calculates the meteorological message and transmits it
digitally over radio net to the BCS. The BCS then applies
the necessary corrections to each round fired.
The MDS is not small or cheap. The entire MDS section
requires three five ton trucks, each with a towed load. The
unit cost of $1.4 million does not include the trucks or
generators. There will be three MDS sections per division.
The MDS will replace the old RAWIN set12 and the manual
meteorological stations. The addition of the MDS will
finally give the division and deployed MEBs the meteoro-
logical capability that was never really used before.13
The single radar chronograph that was used at the
12The RAWIN is a semi-automated meteorological station
that can track and record data from radiosondes, but it has
no communications link other than voice radio. It is so old
that there are no records in existence to tell when it was
fielded. For a complete description of artillery meteor-
ology and the RAWIN set see FM 6-15.
13There are only seven RAWIN sets in the inventory and
the average availability in the Marine Corps is only two.
regimental level to determine muzzle velocity errors, was
replaced in 1981 by the M-90 radar chronograph. The M-90
was distributed to each battery. The old chronograph had to
be surveyed in next to a howitzer and the howitzer had to
fire at least six rounds at a quadrant of 300 mils to get a
The M-90 mounts on a bracket on the howitzer and can
take muzzle velocity readings from any round fired. This
means that fire missions do not have to be interrupted to
update muzzle velocity errors. The muzzle velocity errors
can be stored in the BCS and are applied to each howitzer on
every mission. The unit cost of the M-90 is $23,000.
Survey speed and accuracy has also been improved. The
Position Azimuth Determining System (PADS) was fielded in
1986. PADS is a self contained inertial gyroscope that is
mounted in a HMMWV. The PADS is initialized over a known
point just as manual survey teams begin their measurements.
The PADS then simply drives to the next battery position and
the team marks the battery center and puts in stakes to mark
The unit cost of $253,000 sounds high, but since a
manual survey team consists of seven Marines and a PADS team
consists of only two Marines, the savings of 120 billets
made the procurement very cost effective. Each battalion
received two PADS and two were assigned to each regimental
14Field artillery survey is described in FM 6-2.
headquarters. One manual survey team remains with each
battalion. The enhancement in accuracy and response time
will mean that artillery will be better equipped to keep up
with the fast moving battlefield of the future.
Most of the enhancements described above deal with
speed and accuracy; its time to look at the business end of
artillery, the effects on target. The Marine Corps began
fielding the M-198 in 1981. The primary reason the Marine
Corps changed from 105-mm direct support howitzers to 155-mm
was the ammunition. The 105s fired only high explosive
(HE), illumination, and white phosphorus (WP). While
beehive and anti-armor rounds were available they were they
were only for close in defense. The 155s provided a larger
carrier so other rounds requiring more room could be
The round that we depend on now as the primary round,
over the HE, is the Duel Purpose Improved Conventional
Munition (DPICM). The DPICM round contains 88 grenades,
some of which explode in the form of a shaped charge when
they hit a hard target such as a BMP, others explode in the
air after bouncing up off a soft target such as the ground.
The affect is that there is a greater chance of killing
vehicles with light armor. The affect of soft target kills
such as troops is enhanced over conventional HE. Half of
all 155-mm rounds that the Marine Corps buys is DPICM.
The next capability that is only possible with 155-mm
or larger rounds is the family of Field Artillery Scat-
terable Mines (FASCAM). There are two types, Area Denial
Munitions (ADAMS) and Remote Anti-Armor Munitions (RAAMS).
ADAMS dispenses 32 anti-personal mines and ADAMS dispenses
nine anti-armor mines. Only the imagination limits how
these two rounds can be employed.
Copperhead is a laser guided round capable of destroy-
ing a tank or other point target. With the MULE as the
designator the artillery now has the capability to engage
tanks successfully. The Marine Corps buys of Copperhead
have been postponed by Congress due to budget constraints,
but each year the Marine Corps has requested money to buy
this capability. The Army has already fielded the Copper-
The 155-mm howitzer is a nuclear capable launcher.
With an all 155-mm or 8-inch force, the enemy will have a
more difficult time isolating nuclear capable units and
engaging them. Deploying the 155s as the direct support
weapon of the MEU gives the Nation a forward deployed
tactical nuclear capable unit. This is quite an added punch
to the power of a MEU.
One other change that took place during this time is
that the direct support batteries increased from six to
eight howitzers. This coupled with the change to 155s,
improved the target coverage from 210 by 50 meters to 400 by
75 meters. That is quite a difference when planning final
I can't leave this topic without acknowledging some of
the problems in the move to 155-mm. First is the obvious
increase in lift requirements. The 155s are larger and take
up more room on ship. Tactical mobility is decreased
because the only helicopter that can lift the M-198 is the
CH-53E. The M-198 also requires a larger crew. I believe,
however, that the increase in range, flexibility of ammuni-
tion type, and firepower more than offset these difficul-
There are two other enhancements to locating targets
that must be mentioned before we move on to the future
developments. The AN/TPQ-36 Fire Finder Radar was fielded
in 1985. It replaced the AN/TMQ-4. The Q-36 increased the
range to which we can detect enemy indirect fire units to
24,000 meters. It not only increased the accuracy to which
we can find enemy batteries but it can also relay that
information digitally over radio net to the BCS for rapid
engagement. Borrowed Army BCSs and Q-36s were used in
Lebanon very successfully.
The other procurement with artillery applications is
the Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV). The RPV does not belong
to the artillery, but with its long range eyes, the artil-
lery can be more effective. Artillery is only as good as
our ability to find and engage targets. The RPV extends the
range that we can find and engage targets.
PART THREE: THE FUTURE
We have come a long way in only ten years, but there
are still many improvements just over the horizon. Below is
a sample of some of the systems that are under development
or already fielded by the Army, but not yet budgeted for by
the Marine Corps.
The Multiple Launch Rocket System is a tracked vehicle,
somewhat smaller than the 8-inch howitzer, that carries
twelve 9-inch rockets. The rockets come in two six-pack
pods that can be reloaded in ten minutes. Each rocket
carries 640 DPICM grenades. The rockets can be individually
aimed or barrage fired at one target. The twelve rockets
can by fired in less than one minute. The effects of one
launcher load is about the same as a 155-mm battalion three
The MLRS requires only three crewmen. It has its own
on board fire control computer and a self locating gyro.
This give the MLRS the ability to move independently around
the battlefield, stop to fire a mission, and move out again
in less than five minutes. A counter battery attack against
the MLRS would be almost impossible.
The MLRS has already been fielded by the Army, but its
program cost of over a billion dollars15 has kept it out of
the Marine Corps budget. Because of the personnel savings
15Includes the cost of ammunition.
of 1500 billets and its fire power, it is an attractive
In the early 1990's, the Army plans to product improve
the M-109A3 self propelled howitzer. The program is called
the Howitzer Improvement Program (HIP). The Marine Corps
has been following this program with interest because it
offers many survivability improvements as well as personnel
The-HIP is to have the same type of independent fire
control equipment as the MLRS. It will have a crew of three
or four and have a semi-automatic loading capability. It
too will be able to move independently about the battle-
field, self locate, and engage targets much the same as the
MLRS. The difference is that in order to mass fires the
fires of all the howitzers in the battery will be co-
One enhancement that is in the POM this year is the
Enhanced Digital Message Device. This program will be
called the Flexible Fire Support System (FIRE FLEX) by the
Marine Corps. It is a product improvement of the Army DMD.
It is a four pound battery operated computer which will be
used by fire support coordinators to monitor and coordinate
fire missions and fire support at the fire support coordina-
tion centers of the battalion, regiment and division.
The FIRE FLEX will also be used at the artillery
battalion FDC to coordinate the fires of the batteries. It
will put the FSC and the battalion fire direction officer
(FDO) in the digital loop with the FO and the BCS. This
capability was lost to the Marine Corps when the Marine Fire
and Air Support System (MIFASS) program was cancel led last
year.16 The unit cost is just over $100,000. It is
expected to be fielded by 1992.
The Marine Corps is also following the development of
the Army's Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System
(AFATDS). This is a replacement system for the TACFIRE17
system that the Army has used for a number of years. It
will be used at the same locations as the FIRE FLEX, but it
will be able to handle more communication nets and it will
have a graphic map display. The graphic map display will
give the FSG a visual picture of the battlefield to include
friendly locations automatically updated by Position
Locating Reporting System (PLRS).
Experiments have been underway to explore new methods
of launching artillery rounds. One such method is the use
of liquid propellants. A 55 gallon drum of fuel will be
used to replace the powder propellant bags now used. The
advantage of this method will be a more efficient use of
propellant. The liquid propellant would be precisely
injected in to the howitzer chamber. Extra powder bags
16MIFASS was cancelled because it failed operational
17Tactical Fire Direction System (TACFIRE) is described
in detail in FM 6-1.
would not be wasted or have to be disposed of after missions
not requiring a full charge.
Also being looked at is electromagnetically launching
rounds from rails. It is estimated that ranges of 45,000
meters can be achieved using this method of propelling the
round. The problem yet to overcome is finding a strong
enough power source that is small enough to transport
One exciting new development in ammunition technology
is Search And Destroy Anti-armor Munition (SADARM). The
SADARM has been under development for over ten years and is
expected to be in the inventory by the mid 1990's. SADARM
is a fire and forget anti-armor munition. After launch the
round senses heavily armored targets and fires forged steel
projectiles down through the top of tanks or armored
vehicles. Each round will be capable of attacking three
armored targets. The rounds can be fired without the
requirement of a observer or designator. With this round
artillery can be a true tank killer.
PART FOUR: SUMMARY
Artillery has come a long way in just ten years. The
FO has the equipment for accurately locating targets and
rapidly transmitting his fire request to the battery. The
battery has a computer system to figure firing data that
will incorporate all non-standard conditions for each round
fired, not just an aggregate of the battery's errors. With
the use of the MDS and the M-90, non-standard conditions can
be measured, computed, transmitted, and applied in a timely
manner. Survey will be accomplished more rapidly. The TPQ-
36 and RPVs will find targets that would have eluded us
before. Targets can be engaged more rapidly at longer
ranges with more powerful and sophisticated munitions.
Artillery can lay mine fields, destroy tanks, and add
greater lethality to soft targets such as infantry. Digital
communications will tie the whole system together providing
faster and more accurate communications.
This all sounds great for the artillery, but for the
infantry this means better support. The infantry should
expect and demand faster response time, better effects on
target, and an artillery system more able to keep up with
the fast pace of the modern battlefield. This is a vast
improvement over the six 105-mm HE rounds that could be
expected to land near a target just ten-years ago. It is
now up to us to learn how to best exploit the range,18
flexibility, and speed of today's artillery. We all must
know the capabilities of the equipment recently fielded in
order to be able to integrate artillery support into the
l8The range of the M-198 is over 18,000 meters (30,000
rocket assisted) compared to the M101A1 range of 11,000
meters (17,500 rocket assisted).
Department of the Army. Field Artillery Tactical Fire
Direction System. FM 6-1. Washington D.C. 1979.
Department of the Army. Field Artillery Survey. FM 6-2.
Washington D.C. 1978.
Department of the Army. Field Artillery Meteorology. FM 6-
15. Washington D.C. 1978.
Department of the Army. The Field Artillery Observer. FM 6-
30. Washington D.C. 1978.
Department of the Army. Field Artillery Cannon Gunnery. FM
6-40. Washington D.C. 1984.
Department of the Army. Field Artillery Cannon Battery. FC
6-50. (Coordinating Draft) U.S. Army Field Artillery
School, Fort Sill, OK. 1986.
Department of the Army. Field Artillery Target Acquisition.
FM 6-121. Washington D.C. 1978.
Department of the Army. Field Artillery Radar Systems. FM
6-161. Washington D.C. 1984.
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