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Field Artillery
The King of Battle

The Field Artillery Mission is to destroy, neutralize, or suppress the enemy by cannon, rocket, and missile fires and to integrate all fires into combined arms operations. Artillery soldiers have to closely rely on each other for both support and technical expertise. Training constitutes a large portion of these soldiers' days. The artillerymen have specific team drills with built-in double checks to process technical and mathematical data without error. As long as these drills are followed, tired and stressed teams are able to function accurately, if perhaps less rapidly. When stress or overconfidence leads to taking short cuts, disasters can occur.

Direct Support Battalions in Light Divisions primary weapons system is the M119, 105-mm towed howitzer. Direct Support Battalions in Heavy Divisions primary weapons systems is the M109, 155-mm, self-propelled howitzer. The Paladin howitzer, 155-mm self-propelled howitzer is replacing the M109. General Support Battalions in Light Divisions primary weapons system is the M198, 155-mm towed howitzer. General Support Battalions in Heavy Divisions primary weapons system is the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). Battalions of the Heavy Field Artillery Brigades (Corps Artillery) use the Multiple Launch Rocket System; the M109, 155-mm self-propelled howitzer; and the Paladin, 155-mm self-propelled howitzer. Battalions of the Light Field Artillery Brigades use the M198, 155-mm towed howitzer and the Multiple Launch Rocket System. Target Acquisition Batteries primary systems are the Q36 and Q37 Firefinder Radars.

The focal point of the Field Artillery is the line of metal-the firing batteries of Field Artillery battalions. Firing platoons, commanded by Field Artillery lieutenants, and firing batteries, commanded by Field Artillery captains, and run by their lieutenant Executive Officers, are the delivery units for an impressive array of artillery munitions. All other efforts of the Field Artillery team, fire support, target acquisition and fire direction elements serve but one purpose--to help the firing units place responsive, accurate and lethal fires on target. Such fires can impact from just in front of friendly troops to more than one hundred miles into hostile territory. The howitzers and rockets are the muscle of the Field Artillery--the hard-hitting hardware of fire support.

The Company Fire Support Officer (FSO), a Field Artillery lieutenant, leads the Fire Support Team (FIST). He and his team are responsible for planning and coordinating the fires of the infantry or armor company or cavalry troop his FIST is supporting. The Company FSO works with the maneuver company/troop commander to develop a fire support plan for the units scheme of maneuver. The fire support plan integrates all available artillery fires as well as those of the mortars organic to the maneuver units. When these systems are employed, the FIST calls for and adjusts fires on enemy targets. An important tool of the Company FSO is the Ground/Vehicular Laser Locator Designator (G/VLLD). The G/VLLD can be grounded-mounted or mounted in the Fire Support Vehicle (FSV). The G/VLLD determines range to targets and designates targets for laser-guided munitions such as the tank-killing copperhead round or the Hellfire missile. When you consider the total firepower available to the Company FSO-you know how much responsibility the Field Artillery places on its junior leaders. It is genuinely a position of trust. The fire support available to the FSO is not limited to artillery and mortars. When the tactical situation permits, the Company FSO may employ a variety of other available fire support assets as well as his own to assist the maneuver commander.

The Fire Direction Center (FDC) is the nerve center of Field Artillery. The Fire Direction Officer (FDO) and his team translate the FIST's calls for fire into firing data for the guns. This translation is now accomplished by digital means using a computer network consisting of the FIST's Forward Entry Device (FED), the battalion FDC's automated fire direction computer (TACFIRE), the battery FDC's Battery Computer System (BCS) and a Gun Display Unit (GDU) on each firing howitzer. Using this automated network, the FDC can now "place steel on target" seconds after the FIST requests fire.

The target acquisition element of the Field Artillery team is another vital link in the fire support system. While the FIST acquires targets visible to front line troops, target acquisition assets of the artillery locate more distant targets not visible to forward observers. This task is accomplished using highly sophisticated and effective weapons and target-locating radar systems.

Artillery has been "American" since before the Revolution. The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston (founded in 1637) served with the British Royal Artillery at the fall of the French bastion, Louisberg, during the French and Indian Wars, in 1745.

The history of the United States Field Artillery began in 1775, when Henry Knox was appointed Chief of Artillery of the Continental Army. During the War of Independence, the Field Artillery evolved into a formidable entity on the battlefield, prompting General Marquis de Lafayette to remark at the Battle of Yorktown, "Upon my honor I speak the truth. American Artillery -- one of the wonders of the Revolution." During the Revolutionary War, the Colonies' artillery, under the command of Alexander Hamilton, performed greatly at the Battle of Trenton, and the skill of American gunners forced the British to siege trenches at Yorktown.

Throughout the early years of the country, artillerymen were considered the Army's elite. Their pay was above the rate for infantrymen and even the cavalry. In 1784, when all of the Army was abolished except for a single detachment of 80 men to guard government stores, those men were artillerymen. Thus the artillery is the only part of the Army which has been in continuous service since the revolution.

During the Mexican War, the Field Artillery played a key role in campaigns that ranged from the Battle of Palo Alto to Mexico City. In fact, the nickname, "Redlegs", comes from that era when artillery uniforms had a 2-inch red stripe on their trousers and horse artillery men wore red canvas leggings.

The Field Artillery was also a dominant force in many of the Civil War battlefields. Leading artillerymen who became combined arms leaders included Joseph Hooker, Braxton Bragg, William T. Sherman, A.P. Hill, and Stonewall Jackson.

In 1907 the Field Artillery became a separate branch after parting ways with the Coast Artillery. The Field Artillery and the Coast Artillery were each organized with specific missions obvious from their names, and during World War I the Coast Artillery was given the additional job of developing railroad-mounted and antiaircraft artillery pieces.

During WWI the Field Artillery became one of the most dominant forces in the trench warfare of France. It emerged from the "war to end all wars" as the greatest killer on the battlefield, responsible for 75% of all combat casualties.

Throughout World War II, in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, the Field Artillery once again proved a decisive factor causing America's great combined arms leader, General George S. Patton, to observe, "I do not need to tell you who won the war. You know, the Artillery did."

Development of bigger and better guns and vastly improved field artillery tactics and techniques for using them was rapid with the onset of World War II. By the end of the war, artillery firepower had grown beyond all dimensions previously known to man. During this war, new weapons were developed which were to revolutionize our concept of war - guided missiles, radar, and nuclear weapons.

The Field Artillery's role in the Korean War was to offset the enemy's superior numbers with its superior combat power. From supporting the defense of the Pusan Perimeter to the stabilization at the 38th parallel, the Field Artillery proved decisive.

Shortly thereafter, gunners ushered in the tactical nuclear era when, in May 1953, a 280-mm gun called "Atomic Annie" fired the first nuclear shell downrange.

The Vietnam Conflict saw the Field Artillery meeting the challenges ranging from support of counter-insurgency operations to large unit warfare. Cutting fire bases out of the jungle, moving artillery by helicopter, and using them in the direct fire role, the Field Artillery provided immediate, continuous, and decisive fires in support of the maneuver arms.

It was this period during which the Air Defense Artillery became a separate branch from the Field Artillery.

The Field Artillery has continued to play its vital combat role with its participation in combat actions in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, its outstanding contributions during Operation Desert Storm, and Somalia. Massed artillery fires were the norm during Desert Storm. The coordinated fires of upwards of 11 Artillery Battalions on enemy positions proved time after time to be absolutely devastating. Simultaneous engagement of positions in the enemy's rear, on his flanks, to his front and on top of him, not only destroyed his equipment, but broke his will to fight.

Modularity and Artillery Force Structure

The Army is going to convert 36 field artillery battalions to 149 MP units.

As the Army creates one additional maneuver brigade combat team (BCT) in each of the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) (3d ID) at Fort Stewart, Georgia; the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) at Fort Drum, New York; and the 101st, Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; each brigade will require an additional cannon battalion. Paladin 155-mm self-propelled howitzers will support the 3d Infantry Division's new battalion, and M119 105-mm towed howitzers will support the 10th and 101st Divisions' new battalions.

Commanders from both these light divisions, as well as the XVIII Airborne Corps, have provided operational needs statements (ONS) for the development of a new enhanced forcible-entry cannon (EFEC) that we have taken for action. This cannon must be capable of 6400-mil operations and transportable by Black Hawk helicopter and the high-mobility multipurpose wheeled-vehicle (HMMWV) to meet the mission needs of the Soldiers in these divisions. Most likely, it will continue to be a 105-mm howitzer, based on several operational considerations, particularly ammunition weight.

In the new modular concept, the fires battalions are organic to their BCTs. The BCTs formerly known as "light" (i.e., in the 10th and 101st Divisions) are now called "infantry" BCTs. Although numbers are not final, the proposed organization and structure for the infantry fires battalion will consist of about 406 Soldiers. The organization of the heavy BCT fires battalion is nearly identical --the heavy fires battalion has a Q-37 Firefinder radar (Version 8). These battalions are designed to provide close support while fires brigade systems provide shaping and counterstrike (counterfire) operations.

The proposed fires brigade resembles a combination of the division artillery (Div Arty) and an FA brigade, with improved targeting, logistical and communications support. The three multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) and two cannon battalions in the fires brigade provide the additional fires normally expected from the Div Arty and a reinforcing FA brigade.

The brigade would have one organic rocket battalion, either MLRS or the high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS). The remaining four battalions will be assigned from the force pool.

It is likely that the active component (AC) fires brigade will be multi-component--have some number of battalions (cannon and MLRS) that are Army National Guard (ARNG). All the AC and ARNG MLRS battalions will have either the M270Al MLRS launchers or HIMARS, depending on the type of maneuver formation they will support.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:35:51 ZULU