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An Old Way Of Doing Business: The Organization Of Heavy Division

An Old Way Of Doing Business: The Organization Of Heavy Division

Direct Support Artillery Battalions

 

CSC 1993

 

SUBJECT AREA - Artillery

 

 

Executive Summary

 

 

Title: An Old Way of Doing Business: The Organization of Heavy Division Direct Support

Artillery Battalions.

 

Author: Major David S. Henderson, United States Army

 

Thesis: The current organization for direct support battalions of heavy divisions prevents the unit

from acheiving its full potential as a fighting force. A change in organization which meshes the

fire power of the current unit and the battery structure of the old organization will produce a more

capable, better trained unit.

 

Background: Based on analysis of the Soviet military threat, including its counterbattery

capabilities, and the confined terrain of central Europe, the Army decided in the late 1970s to

adapt a new structure for the direct support artillery battalions in heavy divisions. This structure

increased the fire power of the artillery battalion by 6 guns yet retained the original battalion

organization of three firing batteries. This increase in fire power within an existing force structure

was accomplished by adding 2 howitzers to each of the existing batteries (from 6 guns to 8) and

deploying these batteries in 2, 4-gun platoons. This new unit was called the 3X8 battalion. This

structure has proven over time to cause problems in the areas of training, employment, and

deployment of the battery and the battalion. A change in organization, though not a cure for

every problem in the unit, to a hybrid one combining the benefits of the previous battery structure

and the up-gunned capability of the new, yields a more effective organization better capable of

meeting the manuever commander's needs. This organization is called the 4X6 battalion (4

batteries of 6 guns each). This organization offers real solutions to the training, employment, and

deployment of the current 3X8 structure.

 

Recommendation: The United States Army adapt the 4X6 organization as the structure for the

direct support artillery battalions in heavy divisions as the Marine Corps has done.

 

OUTLINE

 

 

Thesis: The current organization for direct support battalions of heavy divisions prevents the

unit from acheiving its full potential as a fighting force. A change in organization which meshes

the fire power of the current unit and the battery structure of the old organization will produce a

more capable, better trained unit.

 

I. Evolution of the 3X8 battalion.

A. Soviet Threat

B. Central german terrain.

 

II. Problems with the 3X8 organization at the battery level.

A. Training

B. Logistical

C. Battery defense

D. Battery communication

E. Fire direction

 

III. Problems with the 3X8 organization at the battalion level.

A. Tactical fire direction

B. Tactical employment

 

IV. Benefits of the 4X6 organization at the battery level.

A. Training

B. Logistical

C. Battery defense

D. Battery communication

E. Fire direction

 

V. Benefits of the 4X6 organization at the battalion level.

A. Logistical

B. Tactical fire direction

C. Tactical employment

 

An Old Way of Doing Business:

The Organization of Heavy Division Direct Support Artillery Battalions.

 

In the mid-1980s, the U.S. Army increased the number of howitzers in heavy division direct

 

support (DS) field artillery battalions from 18 to 24. Existing battalion structures absorbed this

 

increase in howitzers by adding 2 more howitzers to each of its 3 firing batteries. These units

 

became batteries of 8 rather than 6 guns. The Army Training and Doctrine Command

 

(TRADOC) made the necessary Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE), command,

 

control, and doctrinal changes to accommodate this up-gunning of the battalion. Touted to be the

 

best artillery organization for the direct support mission, the new organization became called the

 

three by eight (3X8) battalion. Years of trying to employ this unit proved, however, that the

 

3X8 organization suffered from structural faults that prevented it from being as effective a unit as

 

originally hoped for. A different structure combining the best qualities of the previous battalion

 

structure and those of the 3X8 organization is needed to produce a unit better capable to meet the

 

needs of the maneuver commander.

 

The structural flaws of the 3X8 battalion cause problems in training and employment that

 

affect the battalion's ability to support the maneuver commander. Since supporting the maneuver

 

commander is the DS artillery battalion's mission, anything that detracts from the artillery unit's

 

ability to accomplish it requires immediate correction.

 

Analysis of Soviet force size, their counterbattery capabilities, and the restricted terrain of

 

Germany drove the U.S. Army to make a change in the DS artillery organization. The restricted

 

German terrain required smaller units capable of emplacing in clearings or towns. Conversely,

 

Soviet counterbattery capabilities forced units to disperse to survive. Above all, the size and

 

sophistication of the Soviet armored forces required more guns to defeat them. Firing batteries

 

became organized with 2 platoons (or firing units) of 4 guns each. Tactically, the battalion

 

commander had 6 units capable of engaging targets in support of the maneuver commander's

 

plan, an increase of 3 over the previous 3X6 (3 batteries of 6 guns each) organization. These

 

platoons operated semi-independently of each other and the battalion operations officer (S-3)

 

coordinated their positioning, firing, and movement. The parent battery's logistical structure

 

supported the platoons, even though the platoons were occupying separate locations. In theory

 

this sounds superb. Unfortunately, the realities of the field exposed structural problems which

 

hurt the unit's effectiveness.

 

The first major problem for the battery commander in this 2 platoon organization is that of

 

training. Though the battery commander sets the direction and establishes the training goals for

 

his unit to accomplish, the execution of his plan is left to the leadership of the 2 platoons.

 

Delegation of authority is essential to the success of the unit and the development of junior

 

leaders. The temptation that many commanders give in to is to relinquish all control of the

 

training to their officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) and to become distracted by daily

 

administrative requirements. The result is a wide disparity in the training levels of the 2 platoons.

 

In itself this situation is no different then other units and their training problems. For the field

 

artillery battery and battalion commander, however, this disparity can spell disaster on the

 

battlefield. Artillery units fight as battalions, not batteries, in order to maximize effects on targets.

 

This is unlike infantry and armor units that rely more on the abilities of the individual companies

 

to accomplish missions. The destructiveness of the artillery battalion's fires on a target is far

 

greater when all of its 24 howitzers are firing on the same target then by having platoons or

 

batteries firing individually. Training of the batteries, therefore, to meet battery and battalion

 

mission standards for time and accuracy is important and requires accomplishing. The platoon

 

concept of organization in the 3X8 battalion, and the manner in which it has been emplimented,

 

has produced 6 firing units at different levels of training within the battalion. This disparity in

 

training reduces the ability of the battalion to attack targets accurately and quickly, thus failing to

 

support the maneuver commander in his mission.

 

In the field, a firing battery deploys its 2 platoons to different locations. The usual

 

separation distance between platoons varies from 500 to 2000 meters. Platoons may, however,

 

operate at greater separation distances depending on the tactical situation. The combat elements

 

of the platoons are manned and equipped for such dispersion and, for what is essentially,

 

independent operation. The logistic system of the battery is not. The manning levels for logistic

 

and support sections of the battery are only equipped and manned to support one location. This

 

manning level forces the unit to organize either with the majority of its logistical capability in one

 

platoon with the second platoon containing combat sections and a few support personnel, or, the

 

battery forms a third element, separate from the firing platoons, serving the battery in all support

 

functions. In either case, the battery's supplies and rations must be shuttled back and forth from

 

one location to another. Maintenance, repair, and recovery of equipment is especially hampered

 

by separate platoon locations.

 

Battery support personnel are also called upon to perform defense missions, protecting

 

the platoons from attack on its periphery. The dispersion of the platoons and the shortage of

 

support personnel make perimeter defense almost an impossibility. Instead, section defense is the

 

norm with 1 or 2 entrance guards or listening posts to alert the platoon of enemy activity. This

 

puts the platoons at greater risk and, because of a lack of personnel in the platoon area, diverts

 

members of the gun sections away from their primary mission to fulfill perimeter defense roles.

 

Intra-battery communication is also a problem in the 3X8 unit. The battery's

 

communication section must ensure each platoon is capable of communicating inside its own

 

perimeter and with its sister platoon. This requires the construction of a wire communication

 

system internal and external to each platoon by laying large amounts of communication wire

 

inside and outside the perimeters of the 2 platoons. Invariably, the communication section is

 

always behind. Once the wire is in and communication is established intra-and inter-platoon, the

 

communication section personnel must continue to monitor the communication of the battery and

 

man defensive positions as well. This places a burden on the section to maintain its equipment

 

and personnel and reduces its effectiveness.

 

The 2 platoon structure of the 3X8 battery does provide a unique capability of maintaining

 

2 Fire Direction Centers (FDCs). Each platoon has its own FDC which is responsible for

 

determining firing data for the howitzers to shoot to engage targets. To accomplish this, the

 

FDCs must maintain ammunition, weapon, and location information for each howitzer in its

 

platoon. As a back-up capability the second FDC maintains all the location, weapon, and

 

ammunition data for the howitzers of its own platoon and those of its sister platoon. This requires

 

constant updating and checking information for accuracy. Maintaining 8 howitzer's data,

 

especially when 4 of the howitzers are located in a different location, is a difficult task to

 

accomplish in a peaceful environment. A wartime environment will prove too much for the FDCs

 

to handle.

 

The 3X8 structure creates unique difficulties in employing the battalion as well. The DS

 

battalion FDC, headed by the Fire Direction Officer (FDO)) has the responsibility to perform

 

tactical fire control of the battalion's fires (i.e. the determination of how many platoons to fire on a

 

target with a specific type and quantity of ammunition). This involves maintaining the location,

 

weapon, and ammunition status's of each firing unit. In the 3X8 battalion, 6 unit's data must be

 

obtained and kept current so the FDO can make a tactical firing decision. Though aided by the

 

TACFIRE computer and its digital communication links to the platoon FDCs, the large amount of

 

fire unit information to maintain makes the job of the FDO extremely difficult. Management of

 

this information becomes impossible in heavy firing periods. The FDO must also take into account

 

the ability of each platoon to inflict casualties on the target. Four howitzers in a platoon can

 

achieve negligible effects against an armored target of any type. More fire units are needed when

 

engaging these type targets. This means the FDO must coordinate the fires of more than 1

 

platoon, often times the whole battalion, on 1 target. It takes extra time and effort to control 6

 

firing units. Communication with all 6 platoons is the critical link in the process, and invariably

 

the link that breaks first.

 

The DS battalion Operations Officer (S-3) is responsible for employing the batteries and

 

platoons in such a way as to support the maneuver commander in accomplishing his mission. The

 

S-3 must coordinate locations for the platoons to move to, survey teams to provide location and

 

direction information for the platoons, and the routes and times of march for the unit. He must

 

also monitor platoon ammunition and weapon status and coordinate for resupply of ammunition

 

through the battalion support structure. Six platoons is too much for the average S-3 to plan and

 

coordinate for. Basic command and control functions of reporting and information dissemination

 

become difficult when platoons are scattered and communications tenuous. In an effort to

 

expedite communications, orders are sent from the S-3 to the platoon FDCs. The battery

 

commanders are then by-passed, the chain of command broken, and bad habits built in the

 

battalion's leadership.

 

There is a solution to these problems. Before the 3X8 structure, field artillery cannon

 

battalions were organized with 3 batteries of 6 guns each. This structure had fewer officers and

 

NCOs at the battery level than the 3X8 battery and thereby placed more emphasis on the

 

commander's direct interaction with his unit in training and field exercises. Because of this direct

 

interaction by the battery commander, the 3X6 battery structure offers many important

 

advantages over the 3X8 battery. On the other hand, the 3X8 organization gives the DS

 

battalion additional firepower necessary to fight a mechanized enemy. Blending the 2

 

organizations, however, produces an up-gunned unit that can be better trained and employed.

 

This unit is the 4X6 battalion (4 batteries of 6 guns).

 

The 4X6 unit simplifies the training process. As previously discussed, training for artillery

 

units, as for any unit, revolves around the commander and his role in the training process. The

 

commander sets the goals and enforces the standards which training plans and events must meet.

 

If a commander does not take an active role, the unit's training program falters. Understandably,

 

an organizational change by itself will not overcome the training deficiencies caused by a weak

 

commander. However, in adapting the battery structure of the 6 gun battery (with fewer officers

 

and NCOs), the battery commander can not remain insulated from his battery like a 3X8 battery

 

commander could. The commander must take an active role in planning and conducting unit

 

training. His presence influences the conduct of training and allows him to assess the state of his

 

unit's readiness. This, inevitably, has a positive impact on his unit's, and the battalion's, training

 

proficiency.

 

The 4X6 configuration also provides benefits in the field. Logistically, the battery supply,

 

maintenance, and communication sections must only support 1 location, which is what these

 

sections are resourced in men and material to do. These sections in the 3X8 organization had to

 

support 2 or more locations. This requirement stretched, if not exceeded, the capabilities of these

 

sections to provide adequate support. However, under the 4X6 organization, the consolidation of

 

the battery makes logistic support more easily accomplished.

 

The 4X6 battery can establish a viable battery defense. The 3X8 unit does not have the

 

personnel to adequately man defensive positions in 2 locations. A 4X6 unit can establish a

 

cohesive perimeter defense because all of its sections are in 1 location. This allows the battery

 

first sergeant to utilize all of his people to protect the battery.

 

A 4X6 battery simplifies intra-battery communication. The battery communication section no

 

longer has to build 2 internal platoon communication systems and then link the 2 platoons after

 

each move. Instead, the communication section establishes internal communication in 1 area.

 

This speeds the intra-battery communication setup and provides almost instant contact between

 

critical command and control centers of the battery. It also reduces the amount of field wire

 

required by the section to carry and recover.

 

A 4X6 battery simplifies delivery of fires. Under the 3X8 design, each platoon had it its own

 

Fire Direction Center (FDC) that determined data for the howitzers to fire. Consolidating the

 

battery's howitzers in 1location simplifies the FDC's job. Difficulties with data are rectified

 

quickly within the battery location because of the proximity of all the unit's firing elements. For

 

the battery commander, the supervision of the battery's howitzers is simplified because all 6

 

howitzers are in 1 location and under 1 chain of command. The commander can then concentrate

 

on fighting 1 unit with all of its firepower consolidated. The result is more timely and accurate

 

fires in support of the maneuver commander.

 

For the Battalion Commander, Executive Officer (XO), and S-3 the 4X6 battalion offers

 

unique benefits over the 3X8 unit. The 4X6 battalion is simpler to command and control. In the

 

4X6 unit, there are 4 separate firing units requiring resupply and control. The reduction in the

 

number of units (6 to 4) to supply and control simplifies the efforts of the battalion's logistical and

 

operational efforts.

 

Logistically, the consolidation of equipment at battery positions means reducing ammunition

 

and maintenance resupply trips from the battalion logistic support area to the firing units by 2.

 

This saves personnel and equipment usage. Battery maintenance sections can collect damaged or

 

inoperative vehicles within the same perimeter. This allows concentration of effort by all the

 

battery's mechanics to fix or evacuate disabled pieces of equipment. Though this does not sound

 

like much, in reality this is a major saving in personnel, equipment, and fuel usage.

 

Operationally, the Battalion Commander and the S-3 can provide more responsive fires to the

 

maneuver commander with 4 batteries. Though the number of howitzers remains the same as the

 

3X8 battalion, the reduction of fire units from 6 to 4 streamlines the command and control of

 

these howitzers. Communication and information requirements at the Battalion FDC are reduced.

 

The Battalion FDO can make better and quicker decisions with the 4X6 configuration on how to

 

attack a target than he could with the 3X8 structure. Tactical fire direction decisions are

 

processed more quickly because the FDO can make decisions faster with less data to evaluate

 

and compare. Effects on targets will increase when 1 battery is fired versus a platoon. The S-3's

 

movement plans are less complicated with fewer units to plan for and to control. For the same

 

reason, his requirements to coordinate future battery locations and march routes with the

 

maneuver commander is also simplified. And, the battalion's survey section will better able to

 

meet the battalion's location and directional control needs with 2 fewer units to have to provide

 

survey data for.

 

Tactically, the Battalion Commander can influence the battle more easily with a fourth battery

 

than he could with platoons. A battery, with its complete chain of command and logistic

 

structure, is more deployable than individual platoons. Therefore, 4 firing batteries gives the

 

battalion commander a great deal more flexibility in the way he organizes his battalion for combat.

 

He can position his batteries in such a way as to weight the brigade commander's main effort and

 

influence battlefield operations.

 

Execution of this plan will not be quickly accomplished. The United States Army Field

 

Artillery School will have to develop the Tables of Organization and Equipment (TOE)

 

authorizing the equipment and manning levels for the 4X6 units. The Artillery School will also

 

need to address doctrinal changes for employing a 4 battery battalion vice the traditional 3.

 

Because of the nature of the change (i.e. taking existing firepower systems within a battalion

 

and reorganizing them) equipment distribution from 3 to 4 batteries can be accomplished easily in

 

the current 3X8 units. This is especially true of the artillery specific equipment (i.e. howitzers,

 

ammunition carriers, FDCs, and command and control vehicles). Personnel changes will also

 

have to be made. Field Artillery specific Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs) of all ranks

 

are already in the 3X8 unit and can be easily redistributed. The difficulty lies in adding special

 

MOS qualified personnel to the fourth battery. These are personnel trained in supply,

 

maintenance, and communication skills which are vital to keep the battery support systems

 

operating. These MOSs are traditionally short in tactical units Army wide. This problem will

 

require extensive work as the Army faces significant reductions in personnel.

 

The 4X6 battalion is not the perfect answer to the DS artillery battalion and will not fix all of

 

its problems. However, it offers such significant improvements in training, employment, and

 

deployment that the United States Marine Corps is changing from the 3X8 battalion to the 4X6

 

structure for its DS artillery battalions. Many of the reasons listed above are the reasons the

 

Marine Corps used to justify this transition. The United States Army needs to make this change

 

also. By making this change, many of the DS field artillery battalions weaknesses will be solved

 

and will again prove to be the best supporter of the maneuver commander in the execution of his

 

battle plan.

 

Bibliography

 

 

1. U.S. Army, U.S. Army Field Artillery Center, FM 6-20-40 Fire Support for Brigade

Operations (Heavy), 5 January 1990.

 

2. U.S. Army, U.S. Army Field Artillery Center, J Series Tables of Organization and

Equipment. Date dependent on specific unit identified.

 

3. U.S. Army, U.S. Army Field Artillery Center, TC 6-50 The Field Artillery Cannon

Battery, 29 September 1988.

 

4. U.S. Army, U.S. Army Field Artillery School, Legal Mix 5. A Study in the

Effectiveness of the 3X8 and 4X6 Configurations. 1978

 

5. U.S. Deparment of Defense. Joint Munitions Effects Tables. Effectiveness Data for

Howitzers M198 and M109A1/A2/A3. Classified. 61S1-2-25 1 September, 1984. with

change 2.

 



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