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Military

Chapter 9
Artillery Support

CONTENTS

ASSETS
Army Group
Army and Corps
Target Acquisition
Precision Weapons
NBC Weapons
COMMAND AND CONTROL
Commander of Missile Troops and Artillery
Centralization
Coordination
AIMS
Fire Superiority
Target Damage Criteria
ORGANIZATION FOR COMBAT
Allocation Procedures
Artillery Groups
Reconnaissance-Strike Complexes
METHODS OF FIRE
Counterbattery Fire
Maneuver by Fire
FIRING NORMS
Ammunition Expenditure
Unit of Fire
OFFENSE
Fire Planning
Target Priorities
Phases of Fire Support
Density of Fire
Weapon Density Norms
Types of Fire
DEFENSE
Counterpreparatory Fire
Phases of Fire Support
Organization for Combat
Fire Planning
Types of Fire
ANTITANK RESERVES
Organization
Assets
Missions
Deployment

OPFOR operations rest on the three basic principles of speed, maneuver, and massed firepower. Modern advances in armament and technology continue to drive the development and application of combined arms doctrine. The integration of artillery assets into a unified fire support plan is a major task for the combined arms commander. Integration is also fundamental to the success of any operation.

Integrated fire support is a decisive element on the modern battlefield. In the offense, it is the principal means of achieving an advantageous correlation of forces over the enemy. It can blast gaps in defenses; disrupt, immobilize, or destroy enemy groupings in his tactical depth; and repel counterattacks. In the defense, it disrupts enemy preparations for the attack, causes attrition as he approaches the forward edge, and repels forces that reach or penetrate the forward edge. Fire superiority is a precondition for the success of any attack. The attacker must be able to execute his fire missions while suppressing counterbattery fire. Fire superiority is also the cornerstone of any defense, although often achieved only for a limited time, at the crucial point in the battle.

ASSETS

Assets include not only artillery organizations and their weapons, but also their target acquisition means and the types of munitions available to them. Modern conventional fire support means, especially precision weapons, approach the destructive effect of low-yield nuclear weapons.

In the ground forces, the branch of missile troops and artillery is responsible for--

  • Surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) at army group, army, and corps levels.
  • Field artillery: multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), field guns, gun-howitzers, howitzers, mortars.
  • Antitank artillery (antitank guns and ATGMs).

With the exception of MRLs, field artillery assets at army, corps, and division levels do not necessarily remain at the organizational level to which they are organic. In organization for combat, the common practice is to allocate these assets downward to subordinates. Mechanized infantry units from division to battalion have their own organic field artillery; for example, an artillery regiment to a division, an artillery battalion to a brigade, and a mortar battery to a battalion. The same is true of tank units except that the tank battalion has no organic artillery or mortar unit.

Army Group

Some army groups could have an artillery division or perhaps even two of them. Such a division typically has four tube artillery brigades (152-mm guns, gun-howitzers, and 122-mm howitzers) and one brigade of long-range MRLs (220- or 300-mm). If an army group has no more than one artillery division, it may also have a separate SP gun brigade and/or a separate MRL regiment or brigade. For additional support, higher command may allocate a heavy artillery brigade to an army group. This brigade is not part of an artillery division. It may have four battalions of 203-mm SP guns or two battalions of those guns and two battalions of 240-mm SP mortars. An army group also has at least one or perhaps two SSM brigades.

Army and Corps

A mechanized army (MA) or a tank army (TA) each normally has an artillery brigade with four or five gun battalions (152-mm towed or SP). Both types of army also have an MRL regiment and an SSM brigade. The MA has an AT regiment. A corps has the same types of artillery assets as the army, except it may have only one battalion of MRLs rather than an entire regiment. Another difference is that both the artillery brigade and the AT regiment are smaller at corps level.

Target Acquisition

Each tube artillery or MRL battery and battalion has its own artillery command and reconnaissance vehicles (ACRVs) and rangefinders. MRL battalions (220-mm and above) and tube artillery battalions also have a mobile reconnaissance post vehicle with a battlefield surveillance radar.

At the tactical level, target acquisition batteries have a variety of battlefield surveillance and countermortar/counterbattery radars, plus sound-ranging sets, rangefinders, and topographic survey equipment. At the operational level, these batteries (and battalions comprised of them) add a meteorological radar. At army and army group level, there is a target acquisition regiment comprised of such battalions, plus a squadron of remotely-piloted vehicles (RPVs). A corps, however, has only a target acquisition battalion.

As with the field artillery systems they support, target acquisition assets do not necessarily stay at the level to which they are organic. In organization for combat, higher headquarters normally allocate target acquisition batteries or battalions downward along with the artillery battalions that form artillery groups.

Precision Weapons

The OPFOR defines a precision weapon as one capable of delivering guided conventional munitions with a 50- to 60-percent probability of destroying enemy targets with a first-round hit (within range of the weapon delivery system). This capability is possible only by employing precision munitions that have a guidance or homing element. The presence of the precision munition transforms a weapon into a precision weapon. However, a precision weapon system must also incorporate a target acquisition and tracking subsystem and a missile or projectile guidance subsystem. Some of these subsystems may be combined.

Precision weapons have enabled the OPFOR to mass firepower at critical points on the battlefield and simultaneously reduce ammunition expenditure and mission time. A reconnaissance-strike complex (defined later in this chapter) is the most effective form of precision weapon system. This complex, sometimes called a unified precision weapon system, links the highly accurate weapon to an automated reconnaissance and control system.

Precision munitions delivered by missile troops and artillery can include--

  • Homing and guided SSMs (some delivering advanced submunitions).
  • Semiactive laser-guided artillery projectiles.
  • Sensor-fuzed artillery submunitions.
  • Terminally homing cannon and mortar projectiles.
  • Terminally homing submunitions for MRLs.

The artillery precision munitions are primarily designed to effectively defeat armored vehicles; SP artillery systems; MRLs; command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence (C4I) centers; defensive fortifications; and bridges.1

The fielding of precision munitions provides distinct advantages for a tube artillery unit. First, tube artillery units are capable of firing at individual targets (to include pinpoint targets such as tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), or field fortifications) with a high probability of a first-round kill. For example, a unit firing 152-mm laser-guided projectiles (LGPs) can reduce its ammunition expenditure by 40 to 50 times, compared to using 152-mm conventional munitions, and also destroy the target three to five times faster. This eliminates the traditional requirement for an area fire or artillery barrage. Second, a tube artillery unit can fire at group targets using the same gun settings computed relative to the center of mass of the group target.

Not all OPFOR artillery units have precision munitions, making it necessary to allocated those rounds available against high-value targets. Even the units that do receive them do not distribute them evenly among all available tubes, but typically designate one particular subelement to fire them. For example, a typical allocation for a 152-mm SP gun battalion that receives LGPs could be four equipment sets. Each set typically includes a laser target designator, a shot synchronization system, and 50 LGPs. Thus, an SP gun battalion could receive a total of 200 LGPs.

The commander of that battalion may designate one of his three batteries as the special-weapons or LGP battery. In turn, that battery commander designates one platoon (possibly on a rotating basis to maintain crew proficiency) as the principal LGP firing unit.2 The LGP firing platoon retains 140 LGPs, with the 60 remaining projectiles distributed throughout the battalion at a rate of four LGPs per tube.

NBC Weapons

The OPFOR might use nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons either to deter aggression or as a response to an enemy attack on the State. The OPFOR has short-, medium-, and intermediate-range SSMs capable of carrying nuclear, chemical, or biological warheads. Additionally, it can employ aircraft systems and cruise missiles to deliver an NBC strike.

OPFOR military doctrine distinguishes between fire support and an NBC attack. However, the two are closely related. Strategic and operational fire support units must plan and deliver the strikes. They must also adjust the fire plan to account for the effects of NBC strikes on the enemy. Such strikes greatly affect the tempo of combat activity. This, in turn, influences the type of fire support required. It also influences the kind of logistics support needed, such as fuel or ammunition.

If needed, the majority of OPFOR artillery (152-mm and above) is capable of firing nuclear or chemical munitions. However, continued improvements in conventional munitions, especially precision munitions, increase the likelihood that the OPFOR can achieve operational- or tactical-level fire superiority at the desired location and time without resorting to NBC weapons.

COMMAND AND CONTROL

OPFOR commanders believe in exercising control of artillery at the highest possible level. Doing so ensures maximum flexibility, maximum effort at the decisive point, and logistics economy. What the highest level is depends on the phase of the operation. During a penetration, control is at the army level. In an attack on a broad frontage against weak opposition, control is at the division level. In pursuit, control may devolve to individual maneuver brigades. In the defense, the army would control a counterpreparation or support for an army counterstrike, while the rest of the operation might see the division as the main focus.

Commander of Missile Troops and Artillery

At maneuver brigade and above, an artillery officer who plans and coordinates artillery fires serves on the staff of the maneuver unit commander. His title is chief of artillery at brigade and division level and commander of missile troops and artillery (CMTA) all levels above division.

At the army group, army, and corps level, the CMTA advises the maneuver commander on fire support. He also commands and issues orders to artillery units through the special chain of artillery subordination. This system preserves the authority of the army group, army, and corps commanders. They can rapidly allocate missile and artillery assets.

Centralization

The OPFOR accomplishes fire planning at the highest possible levels. An army commander and members of his staff are usually at army group headquarters before the army group completes its planning. This prior knowledge lets the army staff begin its own fire plan before receiving the final army group operations order and fire plan. The highest level of participating units coordinates and approves the plan. The fire plan also includes input from subordinate units. The fire planning process includes--

  • Target acquisition.
  • Organization for combat.
  • Assignment of tactical missions.
  • Determination of ammunition requirements.
  • Formulation of a detailed fire plan.

The artillery has targets for each phase of the operation based on the following data: target type, dimensions, degree of fortification, mobility, and depth into the enemy's defense.

Coordination

The army group, army, or corps fire plan incorporates the fires of all divisional artillery units. The artillery unit commander at each level coordinates the fires under his control. He determines new requirements and missions and, with the CMTA or chief of artillery (depending on the level), makes suggestions to the combined arms commander concerning adjustments in tactical organization as the situation develops.

AIMS

Effective fires enable OPFOR ground forces to attack successfully and quickly to exploit weaknesses. Commanders try to accomplish their missions by fire then by rapid exploitation with maneuver forces. The OPFOR continues to expand and upgrade fire support systems to achieve overwhelming firepower.

Fire Superiority

Fire superiority is a firepower advantage over the enemy in a given battle or operation. It allows a unit to execute its own fire missions successfully while suppressing enemy counterfire. The OPFOR believes that fire superiority is relatively assured for whoever--

  • Opens fire first.
  • Achieves surprise.
  • Delivers highly accurate and effective fire.
  • Masses fires effectively, either through maneuver by fire or maneuver of fire support means.

To gain and keep fire superiority, a unit maintains continuous fire on the enemy's fire support systems, especially on his artillery and attack aviation.

An extensive fire preparation in the offense can win fire superiority. This vital advantage should continue during the entire battle. In the defense, fire planners may achieve fire superiority by quickly massing fires in selected sectors for a given period of time. For example, units may fire in a sector selected for a counterpreparation or in support of a counterstrike force.

The OPFOR stresses that fire support systems should combine air assets, SSMs, and artillery into a coordinated attack throughout the enemy's defenses. The combined arms commander must increase the volume of air and missile strikes and artillery fire to destroy enemy weapon systems during preparatory fires. This can also provide continuous fire support for maneuver units while they move though enemy defenses.

Target Damage Criteria

Target damage is the effect of fires on a given military target. It results in total, partial, or temporary loss of the target's combat effectiveness. The categories of target damage are annihilation, demolition, neutralization, and harassment.

Annihilation

Annihilation fires make unobserved targets combat-ineffective, needing major construction to be usable. For a point target such as an ATGM launcher, the OPFOR must expend enough rounds to ensure a 70 to 90 percent probability of kill. For area targets such as platoon strongpoints or nuclear artillery assets, they must fire enough rounds to destroy from 50 to 60 percent of the targets within the group. These fires result in the group ceasing to exist as a fighting force.

Demolition

The OPFOR uses the term demolition in reference to the destruction of buildings and engineer works (bridges, fortifications, roads). Demolition requires enough rounds to make such material objects unfit for further use. It is a subset of annihilation.

Neutralization

Neutralization fire inflicts enough losses on a target to--

  • Cause it to temporarily lose its combat effectiveness.
  • Restrict or prohibit its maneuver;
  • Disrupt its C2 capability.

To achieve neutralization, the OPFOR must deliver enough rounds to destroy 30 percent of a group of unobserved targets. The term neutralization applies only in an artillery context.

Harassment

The OPFOR uses a limited number of artillery pieces and ammunition within a prescribed time to deliver harassment fires. The goal of these fires is to put psychological pressure on enemy personnel in concentrated defensive areas, command posts, and rear installations. Successful harassment fire inhibits maneuver, lowers morale, interrupts rest, and weakens enemy combat readiness.

ORGANIZATION FOR COMBAT

Offensive doctrine calls for intense artillery preparations of short duration. Defensive doctrine calls for prolonged, high volumes of artillery fire in depth to break up and to destroy the enemy's attack. The OPFOR concentrates fires on critical points in the offense or disperses them throughout the sector in the defense. This requires a numerical superiority in artillery pieces that are capable of rapid fire, long range, and mobility. Above all, the OPFOR stresses the importance of thoroughly integrated fire and maneuver plans.

Numerous longer-range tube artillery and MRL battalions from army group, army, corps, and division provide massive reinforcing fires when required. The OPFOR seeks to achieve the densities of fire they believe necessary without sacrificing the mobility that artillery units need to survive and perform their mission.

Allocation Procedures

The OPFOR carefully calculates artillery requirements in terms of weapons and rounds needed to produce a required effect on enemy targets. Planners adhere strictly to these norms. If insufficient artillery or ammunition is available to achieve the necessary result, the OPFOR does not fire less and hope for the best. Rather, if necessary, it engages fewer targets, adjusting the tactical, or even operational, plan. Alternatively, it may prolong preparatory fire to take in more targets.

Combined arms theory calls for artillery support to brigade- and division-size battles that exceed the capabilities of organic artillery resources. To do this, the OPFOR uses organic and allocated artillery to form artillery groups. A higher headquarters allocates artillery to a maneuver force to execute a given operation, for example--

  • Army group, army, and corps normally allocate artillery battalions according to the importance of the army, corps, and division missions.
  • A division might allocate some of its organic and allocated artillery to leading brigades.
  • The army might temporarily allocate second-echelon divisional artillery to first-echelon divisions.

The OPFOR does not normally reinforce second-echelon divisions, brigades, and battalions with additional artillery until the commander commits them.

Artillery Groups

Temporary, mission-oriented artillery groups are a command and organizational structure that ensures flexibility in concentrating artillery fire. The goal of forming artillery groups is to provide ample fire support to the maneuver commander to conduct an operation. Army, corps, division, and brigade artillery groups provide continuous artillery support to maneuver commanders with the required degree of centralized control.

The commander positions the groups' assets to support his concept of maneuver. As higher headquarters allocate artillery battalions to subordinates, they also pass down target acquisition batteries or battalions to support them in the artillery groups being formed.

Artillery groups usually consist of at least two battalions of field guns, howitzers, gun-howitzers, and/or MRLs. These groupings are command and control relationships and do not imply close positioning.3 While close positioning may be necessary to achieve desired effects, artillery groups disperse as much as possible to avoid becoming a target for enemy precision weapons, air attack, and counterfire.

A designated commander and staff provide the group's command and control. This is usually the commander and staff of the artillery brigade or regiment that forms the core of the group, regardless of whether or not that artillery unit was organic to the maneuver unit. Figure 9-1 illustrates how the OPFOR forms artillery groups.

Figure 9-1. Formation of artillery groups (example).

Army Artillery Group

The army commander forms the army artillery group (AAG) from army group assets allocated to that army and the army's own assets, less any assets that have been decentralized to divisions. The army group commander usually distributes army group artillery assets to committed armies in proportion to the importance of assigned tasks.

When an army commander receives army group artillery assets, he decides which artillery he will allocate to his first-echelon divisions. He bases his decision on the concept of the operation. The division executing the major army mission receives the most artillery.

The AAG may use the remaining artillery battalions for the army's counterbattery mission. The group comprises largely the longer-range systems. Its primary tasks are counterfire and the engagement of deep targets such as NBC or precision weapons, headquarters, air defenses, and reserves. It can also maneuver concentrations of fire to aid the advance of main-axis divisions.

An army could have four to eight battalions of tube artillery with which to form one or two AAGs.4 If the number is closer to four battalions, the army would form one AAG; with closer to eight, it is probable that an army would form subgroups or two AAGs. The latter may be necessary to support more than one division or to perform more than one mission (for example, divisional support, counterbattery, or demolition of fortifications). The OPFOR might not form an AAG in fluid operations or if the army has a wide frontage.

Army Rocket Artillery Group

An army would not normally allocate the MRLs of its organic MRL regiment to its subordinate divisions. With these and additional MRL battalions possibly allocated to the army from an army group-level MRL brigade or regiment, the army commander would form an army rocket artillery group (ARAG).5 The three to seven battalions in the ARAG do not include any SSM units. With closer to seven battalions, and army might form two ARAGs. An ARAG normally fires under centralized control in support of the army's main attack axis. However, it could also conduct rapid maneuver to any axis, as required, to inflict losses on main enemy groupings.

Division Artillery Group

Army resources would augment divisions on the main axis, either with army group or army artillery or units taken temporarily from second-echelon or reserve divisions. The division commander allocates this artillery, and the division's own organic regiment, less any units decentralized to brigades, to form a division artillery group (DAG). The division may organize more than one DAG, if necessary, due to the span of control, the number of battalions available, and the assigned missions.

Brigade Artillery Group

Brigade artillery groups (BRAGs) provide fire support to maneuver brigades. The division commander allocates additional divisional and nondivisional tube artillery to form strong BRAGs in first-echelon brigades. He could do the same for a brigade performing an independent mission, such as a pursuit or forward detachment (FD). Likewise, an operational-level commander could allocate additional resources to form a BRAG in a separate brigade or any brigade performing an independent mission for him, such as an OMG or FD.

Regrouping

Where possible, commanders meet changing situations by the maneuver of fire from one axis to another. As the situation becomes more fluid, artillery groupings change in line with the nature of combat and the strengths of supported groupings. The centralization of logistics support at army group, army, and corps levels makes substantial regroupings relatively quick and easy. Artillery groups established for the defense normally remain intact until the offense resumes.

Higher headquarters forms or dissolves DAGs and BRAGs in accordance with plans and the tempo of operations. The OPFOR normally releases BRAGs from firing preparation targets first, then releases the DAGs. When higher headquarters dissolves these groups, army group and army assets may revert to centralized control. Thus they can provide long-range reinforcement for divisional and brigade artillery.

Reconnaissance-Strike Complexes

The same types of artillery assets normally found in artillery groups may also act as part of an operational-level reconnaissance-strike complex (RSC).6 The RSC integrates reconnaissance and target acquisition, fire control, and weapon systems into a closed-loop, automated strike system that detects, identifies, and destroys critical targets in minutes. One reason for this requirement for accelerated engagement is that high-value targets may expose themselves for only fleeting periods. As with artillery groups, the assets assigned to an RSC are organizationally and functionally interconnected only for the duration of the RSC mission and do not necessarily have to be colocated.

Normally, the operational-level commander designates specific reconnaissance, C2, and fire support assets to conduct the RSC. This type of arrangement allows the assets to remain silent or concealed until the desired high-priority targets are detected in the RSC target area. However, it is more likely that OPFOR commanders would establish a window of time (based on a reconnaissance assessment of when the enemy targets should be in the designated target area) for assets tasked to support the RSC. Thus, the designated RSC assets can execute other missions or taskings prior to executing the RSC.

The RSC system enables the OPFOR to deliver long-range air, SSM, and artillery fires (including precision munitions) on enemy targets in real time or near-real time. The OPFOR can use RSCs in offensive and defensive phases of combat. The size of the target area, the objectives to be achieved, and the forces available will determine the number and types of RSCs formed. Assets designated for RSC use are under control of operational-level commanders, and control remains centralized for planning, analysis and evaluation of reconnaissance data, and execution of the RSC mission.

Reconnaissance and Target Acquisition

The RSC employs a target acquisition system or multiple systems capable of detecting and determining the location of the specific type(s) of target assigned to that RSC. To locate critical enemy systems and complexes, the OPFOR may use--

  • Advanced airborne early warning aircraft.
  • UAV (drone and RPV) systems.
  • Battlefield surveillance radars.
  • Weapon-locating radars.
  • Sound-ranging systems.
  • Ground-based and airborne signals reconnaissance systems.

Fire Control

The RSC is a closed-loop system with direct communications links between reconnaissance assets and fire support systems to support real-time or near real-time targeting. The OPFOR employs a fire control system capable of providing automated and non-automated control of designated fire support systems. Once firing begins, the reconnaissance unit observes the results and controls any additional fires necessary to destroy the target.

Fire Support Assets

Using targeting criteria established during the planning process, fire support systems automatically (or semi-automatically) deliver fires against critical targets upon detection. The OPFOR may use SSMs (with terminally homing warheads or submunitions), MRLs (with precision munitions or mines), conventional artillery and air munitions, tactical aircraft, and attack helicopters during the execution of the RSC. However, attack helicopters do not operate outside of an air defense umbrella. For targets detected on the move, the RSC might use artillery-delivered scatterable mines to fix the target in place and then engage it with precision weapons or advanced conventional munitions.

When reconnaissance and target acquisition assets locate critical targets that take precedence over artillery group missions, predesignated fire assets come under the control of the RSC until they complete their engagement of those critical targets. Only on completion of the RSC mission do these assets revert to control of their parent units or the artillery groups to which they had been allocated.

Targets

An RSC may engage moving or stationary targets. These targets include--

  • Precision weapons.
  • NBC delivery means.
  • Long-range conventional weapons.
  • C4I facilities.
  • Air defense assets.
  • Weapon guidance systems.

The OPFOR wants to neutralize enemy equivalents of the RSC to maximize its own offensive or defensive capabilities.

Engagement Time

Recent technological advances in target acquisition and fire control systems provide the OPFOR with a capability to rapidly disseminate information on suspected enemy targets within one minute or less. This includes from time of acquisition to computation by a fire direction center and the initial transmission of data to a firing battery.

Under favorable conditions, the first artillery round may be on target within 2 to 4 minutes of acquisition. The desired identify-destroy cycle should not last any longer than 6 to 10 minutes. In essence, the RSC allows the detection and simultaneous attack and destruction of a target in near real time.

METHODS OF FIRE

The OPFOR uses various types of fires against the enemy. The methods of fire may have different purposes in the offense and defense. The following definitions provide the background on OPFOR methods of fire.

Counterbattery Fire

Counterbattery fire accomplishes the neutralization or annihilation of enemy artillery batteries. Combat with enemy artillery is one of the artillery's most important missions. It enables ground forces to achieve fire superiority on the battlefield. Combat with enemy artillery requires more than counterbattery fire. It requires the destruction of C2 centers as well as artillery. It also requires the cooperation of other ground combat arms and aviation.

Maneuver by Fire

Maneuver by fire occurs when a unit shifts fire from one target, or group of targets, to another without changing firing positions. This is a combined arms concept in which the artillery plays a critical role. Maneuver by fire masses fires on the most important enemy installations or force groupings. Its intention is to destroy them in a short period of time or to redistribute fires to destroy several targets simultaneously. Another purpose may be to shift the OPFOR's main combat effort from one axis to another.

In the offense, maneuver by fire in the depth of the enemy's defenses can--

  • Neutralize enemy strongpoints.
  • Repulse counterattacks.
  • Cover the attacking unit's tanks with protective fires.

In the defense, it can--

  • Destroy the enemy as he deploys to attack.
  • Repulse the attack.
  • Support a counterstrike force.
  • Protect gaps in defenses.
  • Seal off enemy penetrations.
  • Assist neighboring units that lack sufficient firepower.
  • Support a unit defending in all directions.

Wide use of maneuver by fire enables the defending commander to achieve fire superiority at the critical time in decisive sectors.

The fire plan normally includes plans for maneuver. In such planning, artillery units have several supplementary assigned sectors of fire. These sectors cover areas along the supported unit's flanks and the gaps between units.

FIRING NORMS

When establishing firing norms, planners consider several variables. The norms change as any one or more of the variables change. These variables include--

  • The type of target; such as equipment or personnel, defensive positions, hard- or soft-skinned vehicles, point or area, and disposition.
  • The type, caliber, and number of weapons engaging the target.
  • The range to the target.
  • Whether the target is under direct observation during the artillery attack.
  • The types of ammunition available.
  • The time available to prepare for firing.

Ammunition Expenditure

For annihilation or neutralization missions against fires as many (or as few) rounds as necessary for the observer to indicate that the target has sustained the required amount of damage. For unobserved fire, the OPFOR uses a general table of ammunition expenditure norms as the basis for artillery fire planning. Figure 9-2 is an example of such a table for fragmentation high-explosive (frag-HE) rounds required to annihilate or neutralize various targets. This table does not consider time. The norms might apply to any of the methods of fire previously described.

 
Target

 
Required
Effect

Frag-HE Rounds by Caliber in Millimeters

Guns and Howitzers

Mortars

MRLs

76

85

100

122

130

152

203

82

120

240

122

220

SSM Launcher

Target
annihilation

800

720

540

300

280

200

70

 

 

60

360

200

Battery (platoon) of
armored self-propelled
artillery (mortars)

Target
neutralization

1000

900

720

450

360

270

120

 

450

120

400

240

Battery (platoon) of
unarmored self-propelled
or dug-in towed artillery
mortars

Target
neutralization

540

480

360

240

220

180

100

400

240

100

320

180

Battery (platoon) of
towed Artillery in the
open

Target
neutralization

250

220

150

90

80

60

30

180

90

20

120

60

SAM Battery

Target
neutralization

250

240

200

150

150

100

60

 

 

 

200

100

Signal and Radar vans or
radar control point in
the open

Target
neutralization

420

360

280

180

180

120

60

350

180

40

240

120

Dug-in troops and
weapons in prepared
defense strongpoint
positions

Neutralization
of 1 hectare
of target area

480

450

320

200

200

150

60

 

200

50

240

100

Dug-in troops and
weapons, tanks, IFVs, and
APCs in hastily prepared
defense positions, and
assembly areas

Neutralization
of 1 hectare
of target area

400

350

250

150

150

110

45

300

140

45

180

80

Troops and weapons
in assembly area in the
open

Neutralization
of 1 hectare
of target area

50

45

30

20

20

15

5

35

10

4

8

5

Command post in dug-
out shelter or other
overhead cover

Neutralization
of 1 hectare
of target area

480

450

320

200

200

150

60

 

200

50

240

100

Command post in the
open (or mounted in
vehicle

Neutralization
of 1 hectare
of target area

120

100

80

80

50

40

15

 

25

10

20

15

ATGM,antitank gun of
other individual target in
the open

Target
neutralization

250

240

180

140

140

100

90

240

140

35

 

 

Figure 9-2. Ammunition expenditure norms (unobserved targets at ranges up to 10 km).

Planners use norms based on unobserved targets at a range of 10 km or less from the artillery. For tube artillery, this expenditure increases by 10 percent for each additional kilometer at ranges beyond 10 km. The expenditure for MRLs does not increase with this longer range. The ammunition expenditure rate typically decreases by 25 percent when the artillery adjusts from a known point.

The table also assumes that batteries have occupied their firing positions and laid their guns based on survey data. Finally, the meteorological data used should be no more than 3 hours old. Below are some examples of ammunition expenditures derived from this table.

To neutralize a tank or mechanized infantry platoon in a hasty defensive position covering 6 hectares (1 hectare equals an area 100 by 100 m), a 122-mm howitzer battalion would have to fire 900 rounds weighing 19,800 kg. To neutralize an SP artillery battery at a range of 15 km, a 152-mm gun battalion would have to fire 405 rounds weighing 17,820 kg. A unit in defense presents a multiplicity of such targets. For example, a two-battalion defense to be penetrated could consist of 60 to 70 targets requiring between 30,000 and 40,000 rounds for neutralization (2,500 to 3,000 metric tons), depending on caliber and the effectiveness of target acquisition.

The ammunition expenditure in these examples is only to achieve neutralization of the target. To ensure annihilation of unobserved targets, planners may have to multiply the expenditure norm by a factor of 2 to 3 for targets in the open or by 3 to 4 for dug-in targets. The massive level of expenditure implied in this example illustrates the logistics challenge facing the OPFOR if it has to mount frequent attacks on a defending enemy. Even a series of meeting engagements and battles might stress the logistics system. The OPFOR possesses a large number of ammunition vehicles, but their movement must be carefully coordinated so as not to limit the mobility of their parent units. If the OPFOR anticipates the need for artillery preparation, it must pre-position the required ammunition to conserve unit stocks.

The availability of precision weapons reduces the amount of ammunition required to achieve specific effects. Given proper acquisition and guidance, it might be possible to annihilate the above-mentioned enemy platoon in a hasty defense with no more than three precision artillery rounds. In most cases, the OPFOR supply of precision weapons is not unlimited and must be allocated carefully against high-value targets.

Unit of Fire

The unit of fire is a fixed number of rounds per weapon, or weapons system, for planning and accounting purposes. It is not an authorized allowance or a daily expenditure rate. A unit of fire is the basic factor to plan ammunition requirements in each action.

The OPFOR establishes units of fire by directive, based on combat experience, the enemy situation, and the availability of ammunition. The weapon unit of fire refers to the number of rounds required for a particular weapon to accomplish a planned mission. A weapon unit of fire may or may not be equal to the number of rounds carried on board a particular system.

Ammunition distribution and stockage use units of fire as a basis of measurement. The use of units for fire simplifies ammunition accounting procedures.

OFFENSE

The fire planning process includes target acquisition, combat organization, assignment of missions, determination of ammunition requirements, and the formulation of a detailed fire plan. The army group commander coordinates and approves the plan.

In an army attack, the army commander lays down timings and specifies engagement priorities. The army CMTA then allocates targets and timings to the AAG(s), ARAG(s), and DAGs. With the fire units, time, and ammunition remaining, division commanders and their chiefs of artillery apportion tasks to DAGs and BRAGs.

Fire Planning

Although the CMTA conducts basic fire planning, senior commanders often give artillery orders and amendments to orders as the operation progresses. Units initially engaging the enemy conduct detailed fire planning. As the operation develops and additional artillery deploys, the artillery staff refines the fire plan. It also enlarges it to provide maximum fire at critical points. The artillery commander positions accompanying artillery to facilitate prompt fires for each maneuver unit as the maneuver commander commits it. Reinforcing artillery displaces forward to be in the best location to support the operation with fire. The single, coordinated fire plan includes precision weapon strikes, conventional fires, fixed-wing aircraft, and attack helicopters. Fire preparations precede major offensive actions.

Target Priorities

Generally, the highest priority targets, in the approximate order of importance, are--

  • Precision and NBC weapons.
  • Conventional artillery and air defense systems and mortars.
  • Defensive strongpoints, especially ATGMs and tanks within them.
  • Command posts, observation posts, communications, and radar facilities.
  • Reserves and logistic support units and routes units could use when moving up to counterattack.

The priority each target receives can obviously vary according to the stage of the battle. For example, enemy reserves are a high priority at the time of commitment of a second echelon.

Phases of Fire Support

The goal of fire support in the offense is to weaken the enemy through the conduct of an "artillery offensive." This goal is accomplished by the continuous supporting fire of artillery through the depth of the enemy defense. The duration of fires varies with circumstances. There are four phases in the fire support of the offense (see Figure 9-3). The number of phases used and their form depend on the situation of the enemy. For example, Phase I normally applies only to an attack from the march against a defending enemy. Phases II through IV apply to an attack against a defending enemy from the march or from positions in direct contact. The artillery may repeat some of these phases for the commitment of a second echelon, OMG, or reserve. To varying degrees, these latter phases also apply to an attack against an attacking enemy (meeting engagement) or against a withdrawing enemy (pursuit). In the meeting engagement or pursuit, artillery commanders must be ready to enter the battle at any phase.

Figure 9-3. Phases of offensive fire support.

Phase I: Fire Support for the Movement Forward

Phase I applies to conventional support of any uncommitted force moving toward commitment in an attack from the march against a defending enemy. It targets the enemy's long-range attack capabilities, acquisition assets, and command and control. It also covers a unit's movement from the assembly area to the line of deployment from march to prebattle formation. It might also cover a follow-on force's movement forward before commitment. The OPFOR commander wants to establish battlefield conditions favorable for Phase II fires.

Phase I specifically targets the most dangerous enemy long-range weapons that might strike the supported unit while it is still a considerable distance from the forward edge of enemy defenses. These targets primarily consist of enemy nuclear and precision weapons, long-range artillery, and SSMs. Targets also include aircraft on airfields and combat helicopters. The OPFOR uses aviation, tactical and operational-tactical SSMs, long-range guns, and MRLs to destroy or neutralize deep targets. These OPFOR assets often take the form of RSCs or RFCs committed to engage specific high-priority targets.

Phase I may begin more than an hour before the attacking force reaches the enemy's forward edge of defense. The aim is to protect advancing columns by destroying or harassing enemy systems that could interfere. The artillery is likely to conduct fire for this phase largely from temporary fire positions, with the artillery shifting to its main positions for the preparatory phase. Phase I ends when maneuver units are ready to deploy into battalion columns.

Phase II: Fire Preparation for the Attack

Phase II can apply to the attack or the counterattack. It may also precede the commitment of second-echelon or reserve forces. The artillery preparation should neutralize and/or annihilate a defending enemy with organized, thoroughly planned, massed fires. These fires deny the enemy the opportunity to organize resistance. The OPFOR may deliver fires for the preparation either simultaneously or sequentially. The fire preparation should annihilate and neutralize enemy weapons systems, C2 elements, and troops in the tactical and immediate operational depth of the enemy's defenses. In this and subsequent phases, RSCs and RFCs stand ready to engage critical targets immediately upon detection. Otherwise, the artillery portion of the fire preparation comes primarily from the artillery groups supporting particular maneuver forces. The OPFOR strives to achieve fire superiority early to deny any real opposition by the enemy.

The preparation includes fires from artillery, fire support helicopters, and combat aircraft. It may include tanks and other direct fire weapons. The fire planner allocates targets for the preparation phase to these various fire support assets. His allocation depends on the target's type, dimensions, degree of fortification, and mobility. He must also consider depth in the enemy's defenses.

The organization of the preparation reflects--

  • The overall attack plan.
  • The nature of the enemy's defenses.
  • The type and density of fire support means available for the preparation.
  • The number and type of fire preparation missions allocated to missile troops and aviation by higher headquarters.
  • The role of NBC or precision weapon strikes in the attack plan.

The length of the preparation depends on the time required to achieve the planned level of destruction. In an attack from the march, the preparation lasts until first-echelon maneuver units are ready to deploy into battle formation. The shift to this final battle formation usually occurs within 1,000 m of enemy defenses. The fire preparation might consist of several artillery strikes. The first and last of these normally would be the most powerful. The final strike concentrates on the enemy's artillery and mortar batteries. It overlaps the end of the fire preparation phase and the start of the fire support phase of the attack.

Depending on the combat situation, the preparation may take as little as 10 minutes or it may extend to over an hour. However, it typically begins about 20 to 30 minutes before the supported force reaches the forward edge of enemy defenses. The OPFOR may repeat this fire against well-fortified, deeply echeloned defenses. The preparation includes the following targets:

  • Precision weapons.
  • C2 centers.
  • Air defense equipment.
  • Artillery and mortar batteries.
  • Antitank weapons.
  • Enemy strongpoints

Because of the mobility of potential targets and the threat of enemy counterbattery fire, the OPFOR strives to increase the intensity of fire. It tries to reduce the length of this phase by adding more artillery (with special emphasis on MRL units) to the force structure.

Phase III: Fire Support of the Attack

Phase III begins when the supported maneuver units cross their assault line and deploy into battle formation; it continues at least until the supported maneuver unit achieves its immediate mission. For OPFOR brigades, attacking partially prepared enemy defenses, that normally equates to the rear of the enemy's first-echelon brigade defensive positions. The army, division, and sometimes the brigade plan and organize the fire support of the attack phase. It is vital that the enemy does not identify the transition from preparation to support phases, alerting him to the need to man fire positions and return defensive fires. In this phase, first priority goes to maintaining fire superiority.

To help the advance, fire is preplanned on sequential lines moving progressively deeper into the enemy's deployment directly in front of and on the flanks of attacking troops. This hastens the forward movement of assaulting tank and mechanized infantry troops. The method of shifting fires is normally by successive fire concentrations or a rolling barrage. Emphasis is on the continuity of support, making sure the fire of the artillery and the advance of the maneuver units do not get out of phase. This phase should prevent the enemy from restoring fire, C2, and observation systems disrupted during the preparation. Fires continue to neutralize enemy troop activity and weapons systems, maintaining fire superiority.

Artillery support fires must coincide with the advance of the supported maneuver unit. The time required for the supported attacking troops to move from the assault line to a safety line determines the length of time artillery can fire on the initial barrage line or line of targets. The maneuver unit commander orders fires to shift from line to line. The interval between shifting fires and attack by the ground troops should not exceed from 2 to 4 minutes. These shifts must coincide with the advance of the supported attacking troops to the minimum safety distance from the friendly artillery fire.

Phase IV: Fire Accompaniment to Depth of Enemy Defense

Phase IV includes artillery and air strikes against troops and weapon systems opposing the attacker's advance as well as against enemy reserves deep in the rear. Artillery units support maneuver units with on-call fires as they exploit their success in the rear of the enemy's defenses. The attackers must maintain fire superiority during this phase. The OPFOR continuously refines the artillery accompaniment part of the plan during the course of the attack.

The senior artillery battalion commander or the supported maneuver unit commander assigns targets to exploit success and to assist the commitment of second-echelon forces. Fire strikes must destroy the following types of targets:

  • Precision weapons.
  • NBC delivery means
  • Enemy aircraft on the ground.
  • Artillery units.
  • C2 centers.
  • Antitank weapons systems.
  • Enemy troops.

During Phase IV, artillery units displace with the units they support. They fire on newly located targets or targets that have survived the preparation and support phases. Artillery units provide fires to the maneuver units as they--

  • Attack enemy defenses from the march.
  • Fight meeting engagements.
  • Force water obstacles.
  • Commit the second echelon or reserve to battle.
  • Repulse an airborne or heliborne assault.

Artillery and combat aviation units coordinate mutually supporting fires with each other and with the supported maneuver unit. They support the commitment of the attacker's second-echelon forces to ensure a high rate of speed. Fires must keep the enemy from using his reserves for counterattacks.

If the enemy counterattacks, the artillery would fire on the counterattack force as it advances and deploys for the attack in conjunction with tanks and mechanized infantry troops. During pursuit, accompanying artillery would fire on the withdrawing enemy and destroy or neutralize enemy units left behind to cover the withdrawal.

Artillery units fire various types of missions, depending on the tactical situation. If attackers encounter an enemy strongpoint in the depth of the enemy's defenses, the supporting artillery attacks the target with a fire concentration or with massed fires. To repulse a counterattack, the artillery employs defensive tactics such as standing barrier fire or rolling barrier fire. A unit may have to overcome an enemy occupying defensive positions, force a water obstacle, or commit its second echelon. The artillery might then have to conduct a preparation of 4 to 10 minutes followed by successive fire concentrations.

Density of Fire

The OPFOR is not content merely to deliver the normative number of rounds to the target. It recognizes that, under current conditions, the density of fire is important (for example, the number of rounds per minute landing on each hectare). In several circumstances, a high density of fire (from 24 to 30 rounds per minute per hectare minimum) is desirable; the following paragraphs outline the reasons:

Surprise

The first salvo is the most destructive and should therefore be large. The OPFOR believes artillery fires achieve their greatest effects in the first 3 to 5 minutes of any fire mission. Artillery should fire one-third to one-half the ammunition allocated to the target during those first minutes.

Increased Effectiveness

In a mobile, fast-developing battle, a detailed survey becomes impossible. A high density of fire provides some compensation for the resulting inaccuracy. It also disposes with the requirements for adjustment, which can cause the loss of both time and surprise.

Target Mobility

Tanks, IFVs, APCs or SP guns can move out of a fire concentration in from 4 to 5 minutes. The artillery must deliver the required number of rounds to neutralize or annihilate a target in less than that time.

Enemy Counterbattery Fire

The enemy might locate OPFOR artillery as little as 2 to 3 minutes after it opens fire. It might deliver counterbattery fire in another 4 to 7 minutes. Short engagements can lessen vulnerability by allowing timely changes of fire positions.

Meeting Engagements

In a fast-developing meeting engagement, there may only be a short time available for artillery preparation before maneuver troops close with the enemy. Therefore, it is important to deliver short, high-density fires.

Weapon Density Norms

The OPFOR plans to achieve certain density norms for artillery depending on the tactical situation. For example, even under the threat of precision weapon or NBC strikes, planners know that they need massive artillery fire in order to penetrate well-prepared enemy defenses. Without necessarily massing the artillery weapons in vulnerable proximity to one another, the OPFOR plans to mass the fires of high numbers of tubes per km of frontage.

Some average guidelines for desired densities are as follows:

  • Attack of a well-prepared defense, on a main-attack axis: 60 to 100 tubes per km of frontage.
  • Attack on a hasty defense on a main-attack axis: 60 to 80 tubes per km of frontage.
  • Attack on a supporting axis: 40 tubes per km of frontage.

These densities include all calibers of guns, howitzers, and mortars. When fire planners include MRLs, the number of tubes per km increases, but the number of actual systems per km decreases.

To reduce mission times and increase fire densities, the OPFOR has adopted both technical and organizational solutions. Even more important has been the allocation of more artillery to each mission. The battalion is now the basic fire unit and engages targets previously engaged by batteries. Some missions, especially counterbattery fire, are fired by two or even three battalions.

Types of Fire

During the offense, OPFOR artillery may conduct seven types of fire. These types of fire are described in the following paragraphs.

Fire Assault

Surprise and a high density of fire on the target characterize the offensive fire assault. Several batteries or battalions fire against an individual target. Fire assaults are the major subelements of an artillery preparation for an attack. All, or at least the larger part, of the artillery of a division, corps, or army carry out these assaults simultaneously on a large group of targets. Fire assaults may annihilate or neutralize targets. Six factors determine the number of fire assaults on a target:

  1. The area or nature of the target to be destroyed.
  2. The number of rounds allocated for its annihilation or neutralization.
  3. The range to the target.
  4. The number of tubes available.
  5. The types of ammunition available.
  6. The time required for available artillery to prepare and expend the rounds allocated.

The situation and the maximum rate of fire of the weapons firing the mission determine the duration of the fire assault. A fire assault of a given duration typically begins with rapid fire of from two to four rounds per minute per weapon. It continues with systematic fire at a rate that uses the allocated ammunition in the time allotted for the mission.

To destroy a target in the shortest possible time, the OPFOR does not fix the duration of the assault. Artillery subunits conduct the mission at rapid fire until they expend the allocated ammunition. A fire assault at the rapid rate of fire also has application to annihilate a target rather than neutralize it.

A fire assault can neutralize a moving target or a target deployed in the open. Controlling fire might fire against the target in the time intervals between fire assaults.

Controlling Fire

Artillery directs controlling fire at an enemy target in the intervals between fire assaults on the same target. Controlling fire denies the enemy the freedom to conduct combat activity. It also prevents escape before the next fire assault. The planner uses this method when the interval between fire assaults exceeds 15 minutes. A single battery usually conducts this fire at a systematic rate of fire, rapid fire, or a combination of the two. This ensures a smooth transition for supporting fires. Controlling fire usually expends one-tenth to one-fifth of the allocated rounds for the engagement.

Fire Concentration

Several batteries or battalions may simultaneously conduct a fire concentration against a common target. Artillery uses fire concentration against the enemy's--

  • Troop concentrations.
  • Strongpoints.
  • Artillery batteries.
  • Command and control centers.

The dimensions of the fire concentration target area depend on the fire mission and the firepower of the artillery unit firing the mission.

Batteries and battalions conduct fire concentrations with all weapons firing at once on the center of the target area. All weapons may fire on the same elevation and deflection settings, or some units may use different settings. Settings depend on factors such as target disposition and whether the target is under direct observation.

Massed Fire

Artillery masses fire against an important target with all or most of the available artillery. The goal is to destroy the target in the shortest possible time. This massed fire may be one large fire concentration or several large fire concentrations fired simultaneously.

Before conducting massed fire, the artillery battalion chief of staff designates target areas and assigns each area a code name. If the dimensions of the target area do not exceed 800 by 800 m, all participating artillery groups fire simultaneously on the center of the target area, applying the principles used for fire concentrations. If the target area is larger than 800 by 800 m, the target has subdivisions of numbered targets or target sectors. Fire planners designate targets or target sectors for assigned artillery groups or units to annihilate or neutralize with fire concentrations. Artillery units fire the mission simultaneously to the extent possible.

Successive Fire Concentrations

Artillery fires successive fire concentrations in the attack when the supported maneuver unit has begun the final assault on enemy defensive positions. The artillery fires such concentrations for the successive neutralization or annihilation of specific targets or target groupings such as strongpoints, weapon systems, and C2 points deployed to the front and on the flanks of attacking troops. Successive fire concentrations primarily support the offense. This fire can also support counterattacks or counterstrikes in the defense. Successive fire concentrations may be single or double. In a single successive fire concentration, the artillery unit initially fires on the single line of targets closest to the attacking troops. The artillery unit shifts the single fire concentration to progressively deeper lines or groups of enemy targets as the supported attacking troops advance. The principal weight of fire concentrates on neutralizing the enemy's forward defensive positions. A double successive fire concentration requires at least two artillery battalions to fire simultaneously.

The first group fires on the line of targets closest to supported attacking troops. The second group fires on the next line of targets. The first group then shifts its fires from the first line of concentration to the second line. The second group shifts its fires from the second line to the third. This action continually shifts. In a double successive fire concentration, every line of targets, except the first, receives fire twice.

The first line of concentration covers the defender's forward positions. Subsequent lines of concentration are about 300 to 1,000 m apart through the depth of the enemy's defenses. On each successive fire concentration, the fire planner assigns concentration sectors to every battalion or battery firing the mission. Preparatory fires become supporting fires when attacking troops deploy into battle formation at the assault line. The time required for troops to travel from there to the troop safety line is important; it determines the duration of fire on the initial line of targets (concentrations). The maneuver commander signals initiation of this fire when the ground assault begins.

The supported maneuver brigade or battalion commander gives a signal to shift fire to each subsequent line of concentration. The duration of fire on subsequent lines depends on the distance between the lines and the rate of advance of the attacking troops.

Rolling Barrage

Alternatively, artillery support of the attack might use the rolling barrage, which is a continuous curtain of fire. The rolling barrage successively shifts from one phase line to another in front of attacking troops. Like successive fire concentration, it might fire against a single line or against two lines simultaneously. The supported maneuver commander orders the fires to shift to support the advance. The rolling barrage differs from the successive fire concentration in that it assumes a uniform distribution of targets throughout the target area. It then shifts fire between uniformly spaced phase lines. (The successive fire concentration focuses on targets that require concentrated fires. The target location determines the intervals between lines.) The rolling barrage may have a fire concentration superimposed to ensure the destruction of the most important targets.

In the rolling barrage, phase lines have planned concentrations every 400 to 800 m. Spacing depends on the density of targets in the target area. Planned intermediate phase lines lie every 100 to 200 m. Artillery units fire on each phase line for at least 5 minutes at a rate of 4 to 6 rounds per 100 m per minute. They fire on each intermediate line for 1 or 2 minutes at the same rate. A rolling barrage has battalion and battery sectors with standard widths. The division or brigade commander gives the order to shift from a phase line. However, fires shift automatically from intermediate lines in accordance with a timed firing program.

The depth of a rolling barrage depends on the nature of the enemy's defenses, the attack plan, and the availability of artillery and ammunition. Normally, there is a rolling barrage through the depth of the defenses of the enemy's first-echelon battalions. The rolling barrage requires a great deal of ammunition. It is not, therefore, the most likely method of offensive fire. A rolling barrage, however, may support a penetration of well-prepared defensive positions and forced water obstacle crossings.

Direct Fire

Direct fire is economical of ammunition and at the same time gives a better guarantee of the destruction of point targets than indirect fire. The OPFOR does not limit this role to tanks, ATGMs, and other traditional direct fire weapons. Often, it uses substantial numbers of guns in this way, particularly against structures that require large numbers of rounds for their demolition.

DEFENSE

In the defense, fire planners allocate fire strikes by all available means against likely avenues of approach. The CMTA closely coordinates precision weapons, NBC delivery means, conventional artillery, and supporting aircraft. Intelligence efforts concentrate on determining enemy formations and locating his precision weapons and nuclear delivery means.

As in the offense, "maneuver by fire" in the defense means shifting concentrated fires. An essential element is the ability to shift fires on to new targets as the enemy maneuvers. This delivers a high volume of fire against the enemy's most important target groupings and against targets in the enemy's rear areas. It also covers friendly flanks with fire.

Counterpreparatory Fires

Counterpreparatory fires are an intense delivery of SSM, artillery, and air strikes. Their intent is to annihilate, neutralize, or at least disrupt enemy forces preparing to attack. These fires should surprise the enemy when he is still in assembly areas or moving up to the line where he deploys into battalion columns in preparation for the attack. The aim is to anticipate the enemy's preparatory fires by a few minutes and thus to reduce their effectiveness. Of course, the intelligence necessary to achieve this is not easy to acquire, and the time required to organize it (3 to 5 hours at division level or 6 to 8 hours at army level) may be lacking. However, when accomplished successfully, it can be devastatingly effective.

Counterpreparatory fire is an army group-level measure. Its execution is in accordance with decisions of the army group commander. When it involves the artillery of more than one army, army group SSMs, and the main forces of army group aviation, the army group commander organizes it. Under some conditions, counterpreparatory fire may occur within first-echelon army or corps areas as well. When it involves only those elements of army group aviation assigned to support one army or corps and only army- or corps-level artillery, the army or corps commander organizes it in accordance with instructions from the army group commander. Direct preparation for counterpreparatory fire is always an army or corps responsibility.

The OPFOR uses all appropriate fire support means for counterpreparatory fires. This includes the fires of DAGs of first-echelon divisions, the army's AAG and ARAG, and artillery of second-echelon divisions. It includes SSMs at army group, army, or corps levels. It can also include army aviation helicopters and some or all of the army group's fixed-wing ground-attack aviation. Reconnaissance strike complexes can engage critical targets.

If the area specified by the army group commander for counterpreparatory fires falls in the defensive area of one army, its size can be about 10 to 15 km in width and from 10 to 30 km in depth. Using the artillery assets of one army, weapon density can be 30 to 40 tubes per km of frontage. Counterpreparatory fires typically consist of 2 or 3 fire strikes and last from 10 to 15 minutes. If the army or corps receives aviation support from the army group, the overall depth of counterpreparatory fires is more likely to reach 25 to 30 km, and the duration of fires can be 25 to 30 minutes.

However, if two adjacent armies conduct the counterpreparatory fires, the width can be up to 20 to 25 km. Using the artillery assets of both armies, weapon density can be 40 to 50 tubes per km of frontage. Even if the enemy attack is focused on one army or corps, artillery in adjacent areas can participate in the counterpreparatory fires, as long as it is within range of the targeted attackers. If the enemy is attempting to attack on a boundary between two adjacent armies or corps, both can participate. If only artillery assets conduct the counterpreparatory fires, the depth of strikes is still 10 to 30 km, with 2 or 3 fire strikes in a period of 25 to 30 minutes. If aviation also participates in counterpreparatory fires, it strikes areas beyond the range of artillery. With aviation, the overall depth of counterpreparatory fires is more likely to reach 25 to 30 km. In any case, the duration of fires can be 25 to 30 minutes.

Phases of Fire Support

In the defense, as in the offense, the fire planner uses all available fire support to carry out the commander's plan. Emphasis is on integrating field artillery, SSM, air, antitank, engineer and electronic combat assets into an overall defensive fire plan. The staff produces several variations of the plan based on the various approach and deployment options open to the enemy.

The OPFOR recognizes that, in the attack, the enemy is likely to enjoy a numerical advantage in fire support assets. Maneuvering massed firepower against key groupings at the crucial moment then becomes critical.

The OPFOR plans fire support in the defense in four phases. These phases are detailed in the following paragraphs.

Phase I: Fire Interdiction

Fire interdiction of advancing enemy troops occurs when the enemy deploys into battalion columns and continues until the enemy reach its assault line. Fire interdiction may include preplanned fires on chokepoints, massed fires by artillery groups, precision weapon strikes, and MRLs emplacing minefields.

Fixed-wing aviation, SSMs, and long-range artillery conduct fire on distant approaches using precision weapons, NBC, or conventional munitions. To the extent possible, long-range fires destroy enemy forces as they move forward. However, if target intelligence is inadequate, the OPFOR can cause disruption and delay by using remotely-delivered mines or possibly by creating barriers of radiation or chemical contamination.

To ensure maximum reach into the enemy's depth, long-range systems and SSMs initially deploy as far forward as the security zone. Attached or supporting artillery units may occupy temporary fire positions beyond the forward edge of defense.

If the OPFOR adopts the defensive when already in contact with the enemy, this phase concentrates on the enemy's second echelon. Throughout the period before the enemy's attack, the focus is on denying the enemy good target intelligence for his preparation. Measures include maintaining strict radio silence and destroying enemy reconnaissance vehicles by specially chosen antitank systems firing from temporary fire positions. As much of the artillery as possible remains silent until needed to repel a major attack. Batteries used before the main enemy attack fire from temporary fire positions or as roving batteries to confuse enemy artillery intelligence.

Phase II: Fire to Repel Enemy Attack

Fire to repel the enemy attack is the most important phase of defensive artillery fire. It begins when the enemy crosses the assault line and ends when he enters the first defensive positions. The goal is to create a zone of continuous fires in front of the defense.

Fire to repel the enemy attack coordinates artillery fire with antitank weapons and all weapons of the maneuver units. The OPFOR employs fire on individual targets, fire concentrations, and barrage fires.

Because this phase is largely tactical in nature, forward divisions control most artillery assets. The army or corps commander may still hold the AAG or CAG for counterbattery fire and to have the means to quickly shift support from one axis to another. Army aviation resources also remain under army direction to continue hitting deep targets and to provide a flexible firepower reserve that can quickly maneuver to meet dangerous developments.

Division and brigade artillery groups attempt to break up attacks and split armor from the infantry with preplanned linear and box concentrations in front of forward edge positions and minefields, in gaps between strongpoints, and eventually in depth. Artillery units deliver short but intense fire assaults no more than 15 to 20 minutes in duration. Then they displace to alternate fire positions to avoid counterbattery fire.

Phase III: Fire Support of Defending Troops

Fire support of defending troops occurs when artillery battalions attack enemy forces penetrating the defensive positions of first-echelon maneuver battalions. The purpose of fire support is to canalize the enemy and to prevent him from developing the attack further into friendly positions. Some batteries may enter preselected direct fire positions. The defender fires against individual targets as well as using fire concentrations and barrage fires.

The OPFOR expects the enemy to penetrate the defense but to pay a heavy price in losses and momentum and be canalized. The artillery supports defensive positions in depth and disrupts the enemy by separating his infantry from armor and his fighting troops from their logistics support. If necessary, artillery can use direct fire as a backstop against armored penetrations. Generally, artillery plays a key role in creating suitable conditions for the launching of a counterattack or counterstrike.

Phase IV: Fire Destruction of the Enemy During Counterattack and/or Counterstrike

Phase IV goals are to recover lost positions, to destroy the penetrating enemy forces, and to capture a line to launch offensive operations. There are three subphases for artillery support:

  1. Support for the forward movement of troops.
  2. Preparation of the counterattack or counterstrike.
  3. Support of the counterattack or counterstrike.

A successful counterattack or counterstrike requires a stabilized line of contact. A stabilized line allows enough time for second-echelon forces to advance and deploy for the counterattack or counterstrike. A density of at least 50 to 60 weapons per km of frontage is necessary to ensure success. Preparation should last at least 30 to 40 minutes. Artillery requires 2 hours to prepare, including one of daylight. Planners must consider this factor, and the time required to move second-echelon artillery forward.

Organization for Combat

The artillery organization for combat in the defense resembles that in the offense. The artillery planner locates artillery groups so they can execute their primary mission and still be able to mass fires in support of forward positions, especially against armor. Fire planning supports the defensive mission of the force.

Fire Planning

The fire plan provides for artillery and aviation to accomplish, in a rough order of priority, the following tasks:

  • Destroy the enemy's precision weapons and NBC delivery means.
  • Destroy aircraft on airfields and annihilate or at least neutralize the enemy's artillery. This attack includes the use of smoke to blind enemy observation posts, attacks, and fire units.
  • Disrupt C2.
  • Support covering forces in the security zone.
  • Neutralize or disrupt enemy march columns, concentrations, and units deploying to attack.
  • Conduct defensive fire to protect forward units, cover gaps, or halt enemy units that have achieved a penetration.
  • Support counterattacks or counterstrikes.
  • Contaminate terrain, or obstacles to hamper clearance.
  • Illuminate the battlefield.

Types of Fire

Barrier fires are the primary type of OPFOR defensive fires. Barrier fire is a continuous curtain of defensive fire across the approach of attacking tanks and infantry. Although normally used in the defense, it also has applications in offensive operations against enemy counterattacks. It is useful with fire concentrations, massed fires, and direct fire from tanks and guns. The two types of barrier fire are standing barrier fire and rolling barrier fire.

Standing barrier fire consists of a single line of concentration planned well in advance to disrupt an enemy attack. The OPFOR plans artillery fires for likely tank avenues of approach. A ground observation post observes these fires planned in front and to the flanks of defensive positions. All available artillery, except MRLs, fires standing barrier fire. The fire planner assigns each battalion or battery a sector on the line of fire concentration. Planners compute the width of each unit's sector based on 50 m of coverage per gun (howitzer) or mortar.

The line of concentration for standing barrier fire must be no closer than 300 to 500 m from friendly troops for troop safety. This allows gunners to fire antitank weapons in direct fire at enemy tanks and armored vehicles as they come through barrier fires.

Standing barrier fires begin the moment enemy tanks and infantry approach the planned line of fire concentration. The fires continue at rapid fire until they cut off the infantry from the tanks and halt their attack. If the infantry goes around the fire concentration line, the fires shift to the new approach.

Defensive fire can combine a standing barrier fire with other artillery fire and fire from tanks and infantry. For example, if dismounted infantry should lie down to avoid the standing barrier fire, the OPFOR would conduct a fire concentration to destroy them. Direct fire would destroy the tanks penetrating the barriers.

Rolling barrier fire lands on several lines of concentration. Each line lies successively closer to defending troops. Lines of concentration for rolling barrier fire should impact on terrain that a ground observation post can see. Distances between lines of fire concentration are 400 to 600 m or more. The final line of concentration closest to friendly troops is 300 to 400 m from forward defensive positions.

The fire planner assigns every battalion or battery that participates in the fire mission a sector of fire on each of the lines of fire concentration. He bases the width of each sector on 25 m of coverage for each gun (howitzer) or mortar. The entire area has a general code name. Each individual line of concentration has a number in sequence, beginning with the one farthest from the defensive positions.

The rolling barrier fire begins the moment the lead tanks or other armored vehicles approach the initial line of fire concentration. The fire continues on that line until the bulk of the advancing force has moved out of the zone where rounds impact. Then the fire shifts to the next line of concentration. Fires continue to shift until surviving enemy armored vehicles pass through the last zone of fire concentration.

ANTITANK RESERVES

Antitank (AT) reserves comprise units of AT artillery, often reinforced by other means, such as engineer, tank, or mechanized infantry troops. They are directly subordinate to the combined arms commander, who uses them to reinforce AT defenses on important axes. They are a standard part of both operational and tactical formations down to brigade level. Almost invariably, these reserves work with engineer mobile obstacle detachments to create AT obstacles.

Organization

Because neither army group, army, nor corps has a fixed organizational structure, the AT units available for forming AT reserves at these levels also vary. A mechanized army or corps typically has an organic AT regiment. An army group might have one organic AT brigade. However, the Reserves of the Supreme High Command may allocate an additional AT brigade from its national asset pool to an army group. When this occurs, the army group may form two AT reserves or it may allocate its organic AT assets to its combined arms reserve or to a first-echelon army or corps. At army or corps level, the AT reserve normally consists of the organic AT regiment or of several AT battalions from an AT brigade at higher level. An army or corps receiving additional AT assets from the army group might form two AT reserves at that level. Alternatively, the army or corps could opt to allocate some of its organic assets to reinforce first-echelon divisions or separate brigades. The amount of AT reinforcement at all levels depends on the subordinate unit's mission and the assessment of the threat of armored attack or counterattack.

Assets

OPFOR planners believe that AT fire plays a decisive role in repelling enemy armor attacks. The OPFOR divides AT weapons into two categories: general and special.

General Weapons

General AT weapon systems include missiles, aircraft, tanks, and artillery. The purpose of these systems is to destroy a variety of battlefield targets. However, they may also deploy to fire against tanks and other armored vehicles. According to the OPFOR, any artillery-type weapon (over 20-mm) should have an AT capability. All conventional artillery up to 152-mm has good direct-fire AT capability and carries some armor-defeating ammunition. The 122-mm towed and SP howitzers and the 152-mm SP howitzer, which have a 360-degree traverse, are particularly effective in this role. Antitank forces often include direct-fire field artillery. Antiaircraft guns can also fire against ground targets.

Guns and howitzers have the sights necessary for direct-fire engagements. Some weapons may reinforce the AT firepower of mechanized infantry strongpoints. However, should enemy armor penetrate, the OPFOR may use artillery units. They can delay and disrupt the attackers and, thus, create favorable conditions for a counterattack or counterstrike into the enemy's flank.

Special Weapons

Special AT weapons systems consist of antitank guided missiles (ATGMs), AT guns, grenade launchers, and recoilless guns. The OPFOR designs these weapons to destroy tanks and their crews by direct fire. It considers ATGMs to be effective AT weapons, although limited by minimum ranges, low rates of fire, and visibility requirements. OPFOR antitank forces therefore have a mix of ATGMs and direct-fire weapons (guns and grenade launchers). Direct-fire weapons provide quick-response fires at medium, short, and point-blank ranges, on broken terrain, and under favorable visibility conditions.

Missions

The importance of the AT reserve continues to grow, partly because many armies today are almost totally mechanized; therefore, defense must first and foremost be antitank in nature. It is also partly a function of the growing trend for the defense to occupy broader frontages in order to achieve protection against nuclear attack through dispersal. Gaps now routinely exist in the deployment of defending units and formations. These trends have increased the importance of the AT reserve in ensuring stability in defense and in maintaining the momentum of an offensive in the face of counterattack.

Missions that commanders may assign to an AT reserve include, in the offensive (or meeting engagement)--

  • Repelling counterattacks.
  • Protecting the flanks of a unit or a gap in deployment.
  • Covering the commitment of a second echelon.
  • Consolidating on captured lines.
  • Gaining time for the mounting of a counteroffensive.
  • Sealing off encircled forces.

Missions in the defensive include--

  • Destroying armored groupings that have penetrated the defense.
  • Reinforcing the AT defense of the first echelon on an important axis.
  • Covering boundaries, flanks, or the deployment line of a counterattack and/or counterstrike forces.
  • Gaining time for the mounting of a counterattack or counterstrike through counterpenetration.

Deployment

For planning purposes, AT units can be assigned the following sector widths:

  • A division AT battalion, 3.5 to 5 km.
  • An army or corps AT regiment, 8 to 10 km.
  • An army group AT brigade, 20 to 25 km.

Where the commander holds a reserve, and how far from the line of contact (or head of tactical march column), depends on the operational or tactical situation. As a generalization, the AT reserve deploys between the first and second echelon. Both in the offense and defense, it is usual to designate two, three, or even more alternate lines of commitment on each axis depending on the assessment of likely enemy actions. In the defense, the OPFOR places great stress on the surprise use of AT reserves.


1 Air-delivered precision munitions include homing and guided air-to-surface missiles (including radar-seeking antiradiation missiles); guided bombs and cluster bombs containing homing elements; and air-launched cruise missiles.

2 The special weapons platoon might also be responsible for firing other special types of munitions. Thus, its basic load could include LGP, smoke, and illuminating rounds.

3 On maps and diagrams, artillery groups often appear as "goose eggs" for the sake of convience. However, this does not mean that all battalions assigned to a group are physically located in such a small area.

4 A corps would form a corps artillery group (CAG) to serve the same function,but on a smaller scale. It might comprise from four to six battalions and include the corps' organic MRL battalion.

5 If a corps has two or more MRL battalions (organic or allocated from army group), it mithe firn a corps rocket artillery group (CRAG). Otherwise, MRLs would be part of the CAG.

6 Tactical commanders can use tube artillery and MRLs under their control as a reconnaissance-fire complex (RFC) fir tactical missions similar to those of an operational-level RSC. A collective term that includes includes both RSCs and RFCs is reconnaissance destruction complexes.



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