The fire support gunnery problem is solved through theN coordinated efforts of the field artillery team (Figure 1-1). This team consists of the observer, the fire direction center (FDC), and the firing unit-all linked by an adequate communications system. Doctrine requires team members to operate with a sense of urgency and to continually strive to reduce the time required to execute an effective fire mission.

a. Observer. The observer serves as the "eyes" of all indirect fire systems. He detects and locates suitable indirect fire targets within his zone of observation. To attack a target, the observer transmits a request for indirect fires and adjusts the fires onto the target when necessary. An observer provides surveillance data pertaining to his fires. See Chapter 2 for a discussion of the fire support team and the observer.

b. Fire Direction Center. The FDC serves as the "brain" of the system. It receives the call for fire from the observer, determines firing data, and converts them to fire commands (technical fire direction). The FDC transmits the fire commands to the sections designated to fire the mission. Because of the great distance between artillery units on the battlefield and requirements for improved responsiveness, technical fire direction normally is conducted by the battery FDC. The battalion FDC does the following:

  • Provides tactical fire direction (how to attack a target).

  • Monitors all fire nets.

  • Provides technical fire direction assistance to battery FDCs; for example, fire plan firing data and fire direction backup.

c. Firing Unit. The firing unit serves as the "brawn" of the system. It consists of the firing unit headquarters and the firing sections. The normal function of the firing section is to deliver fires as directed by the FDC. See the FM 6-20 series for a discussion of the fire support system, TC 6-40 and TC 6-40A for a discussion of field artillery (FA) fire direction, and FM 6-50 for a detailed discussion of the cannon battery.



a. System Responsiveness. In addition to gunnery, the fire support system consists of target acquisition, weapons and munitions, and command and control. To be an effective force in battle, fire support must be responsive to the needs of our maneuver forces. Procedures must be streamlined to minimize the time lag between target acquisition and effects on the target. Unnecessary delay can result in a failure to have adequate effects on the target. Responsiveness can be achieved if we do the following:

  • Plan fire support requirements in advance.

  • Streamline the call for fire.

  • Limit radio transmissions on fire nets to time-sensitive, mission-essential traffic only.

b. Effect on Target. The ability of the fire support system to place effective fires on a target will depend, in part, on the method of fire and type of ammunition selected to attack the target. Maximum effect can be achieved through accurate initial fires and massed fires.

    (1) Accurate Initial Fires. Accurate initial fires (surprise fires) inflict the greatest number of casualties. The observer must strive for first-round fire for effect (FFE) or make a one-round adjustment if adjustment is necessary. Figure 1-2 compares effect achieved to length of adjustment.


    (2) Massed Fires. Massing all available fires normally enables us to inflict maximum effect on a target with a minimum expenditure of ammunition. It also reduces our vulnerability to enemy target acquisition (TA) devices. Failure to mass fires gives the enemy time to react and seek protection. Figure 1-3 compares massed fire and successive volley ammunition expenditures to get equivalent effect. Massed fires of three battalions firing one round are more effective against soft targets than one battalion firing the same total number of rounds in successive volleys. This is because of the minimum time lag between volley impacts. Massed fires ensure maximum effect in attacking targets that can easily change their posture category; for example, a soft target (personnel in the open) can easily become a hard target (personnel with overhead cover). Massed fires do not necessarily provide increased effectiveness against hard targets, because volume of fire is more critical than round impact timing.


    (3) Proper Munitions. In attacking a target, the shell-fuze combination selected must be capable of producing desired results against the most vulnerable part of the target; for example, the gun crew versus the gun. Failure to select proper shell-fuze combinations will result in an excessive expenditure of ammunition and a reduction in effects on target. Figure 1-4 compares ammunition expenditures and relative effects.

    (4) Law of War Considerations. In addition to the above tactical considerations, the selection of targets, munitions, and techniques of fire must comply with the Geneva and Hague Conventions regarding prohibited targets and tactics. The FIST personnel must ensure that the target they select is a legal target and that they use lawful tactics. An example is a battalion of 155-mm howitzers firing improved conventional munitions (ICM) to neutralize a sniper or an armored personnel carrier (APC) in a heavily populated town. This not only is a waste of firepower but also may violate the rule of proportionality and the prohibition of unnecessary suffering in the law of war.


a. The accuracy of calls for fire depends on the actions and capabilities of forward observers (FOs) and company fire support officers (FSOs) and the accuracy of fire support plans.

b. Error-free self-location and precise target location are ideals for which the forward observer must strive. First-round FFE on a target of opportunity and immediate and effective suppression of enemy direct fire systems are musts if the supported maneuver unit is to accomplish its mission. Moreover, accurate location of planned targets is imperative to effective execution of a fire support plan. Accurate location of planned targets is possible only if the enemy is under actual observation by a forward observer or other targeting asset. Fire support may be indirect fire-but it must be directed!


c. Achievement of these goals is primarily situation-dependent. Accuracy of FA fires also depends to a great extent on the skill and experience of the observer who calls for fire and the equipment he uses for self-location and target location.

d. The traditional forward observer, equipped with a map, compass, and binoculars, can expect a mean target location error of about 500 meters. This is not enough for reliable first-round FFE or target suppression; it is no better than it was in World War II. Lengthy adjustments of fire are required to move the rounds onto the target. This wastes time and ammunition and gives the enemy a chance to take cover or leave the area.

e. Attainable accuracy for modern observer teams (FISTs, COLTs, and AFSOs), equipped with electronic and optical devices such as laser range finders and position-locating systems, is considerably improved. When properly used by trained and qualified observers, these devices enable the observer to attain first-round accuracy never before possible; but they have inherent hazardous characteristics. Lasers are not eye-safe and can inflict severe eye injuries. Thus, their use in training environments is severely restricted. Even in an actual conflict, care must be taken to prevent injuring unprotected friendly troops. Eye-safe laser range finders for use in training areas are currently under development and will be fielded when available. Appendix A provides additional information on laser-equipped systems.

Lasers have inherently hazardous characteristics. Current lasers are not eye-safe and can inflict severe eye injury.

f. Forward observer teams, especially the force fire support coordinator (FSCOORD) (company or task force FSO), must ensure the maneuver commander recognizes limitations on attainable accuracy of indirect fire systems and considers these capabilities and limitations when developing his scheme of maneuver.


a. The maneuver commander has the responsibility to ensure that fire support is thoroughly integrated into his scheme of maneuver. When he develops his plan of attack or defensive framework, the FSO, as fire support coordinator, must be at his side. Likewise, when the platoon leader makes his reconnaissance, the platoon FO is with him every step of the way. Before the battle starts, the maneuver leader must assign actions to the company FSO and the FO to ensure they are carried out during the battle. For example, he must clearly assign individual responsibility for firing planned targets.

b. The maneuver commander and his FSCOORD should remember that if a task is not specifically assigned to an individual, everyone will tend to believe it is someone else's responsibility and the task will never be carried out. For example, simply assigning responsibility for firing on a planned target is not enough. The criteria for shooting must be made clear, and provisions must be made to ensure the responsible FO or FSO will indeed be able to carry out the task. As a minimum, in a defensive situation, specific guidance is needed to answer these questions regarding planned targets:

  • Should the observer call for fire when only one enemy vehicle is near the target, or should he shoot only at platoon-sized enemy formations?

  • Is the platoon FO to stay close to the platoon leader even in conditions of obscuration, or should he go elsewhere to be in a better position to observe the target?

  • If the observer is authorized or required to be elsewhere, how and when is he to get there?

  • Who will cover the assigned sector and targets if the assigned FO team does not make it to the assigned position?

  • Does the observer have adequate communications, and how will they be tested?

These example considerations are by no means exhaustive. The maneuver commander should remember that the FIST members are assigned down to the platoon level. He must use them before and during the battle.

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