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Lightweight Artillery---Procrastinating With The M101 Howitzer
AUTHOR Major U. T. Gabar
CSC 1988
                         EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
I.   Purpose: To review the operational and logistical
considerations for use of the M101 howiter and to analyze the
methodology for its use by combat forces in the future
II.  Problem: The Marine Corps currently employs three different
howitzers in a direct support role.  Much to the dismay of the
field artillery community, no one singular weapon is able to
satisfy the requirements of the Marine Corps in its likely threat
scenarios.  At the center of this dilemma are the M198 howitzer,
which is too big and bulky, and the M101 howitzer whose
usefulness seems to have been resurrected by capitalizing on the
M198's limitation.
III.  Data: The employment of the direct support artillery is a
controversial subject in the Marine Corps and its future appears
to be as uncertain today as it was a decade ago.  An overview of
how the Marine Corps organizes its artillery battalions to
respond to potential tactical situations provides a good
understanding of the problems faced in the field.  The M198 is
not living up to its expectations in an amphibious role because
it lacks mobility.  Even after the many steps taken to enhance
its effectiveness as a direct support weapon, considerations for
its employment are viewed with caution.  To counter these
limitations the Marine Corps puts more emphasis on use of the
M101 howitzer for missions requiring lightweight artillery.  But
continued use of this WW II vintage weapon is reluctantly
accepted as an interim solution only.  The M101 does not have the
range, or the capability to fire modern ammunition and this could
be a crucial disadvantage if it is employed against a force with
any resemblance of modern artillery.
IV.  Conclusions: The state of affairs for direct support
artillery is probably the best that can be expected with assets
presently available.  The employment of mix caliber batteries and
emphasis on continued use of the M101 should be an interim
solution only.  The M198 is the wrong choice for direct support
artillery.  What the Marine Corps lacks is a lightweight 155mm
howitzer that is mobile enough to support its amphibious mission.
Recommendations:  The Marine Corps must take active steps to
procure a lightweight, 155mm howitzer that is adaptable to the
amphibious mission and capable of being employed on the modern
battlefield against a Warsaw Pact force.
    Thesis Statement:  In meeting a compromise between employment
of lightweight artillery and the M198 howitzer, the M101 is an
overworked interim solution that is giving the Marine Corps a
false sense of security.
      I.  Marine Direct Support Artillery
          A. History of Weapon systems
          B. Organization of Artillery Regiments
     II.  Operational Overview
          A. Mission of Direct Support Artillery
          B. Role of the M198 Howitzer
          C. Methodology for use of the M101
     III. Analysis of the M101
          A. History since the M198 Adopted
          B. Operational and Logistical Considerations
    From the beginning, the procurement of the M198 howitzer, as
the Marine Corp's new direct support weapon, was met with mixed
comments in and out of the artillery community.(1:23)  Many
veterans were inspired by the addition of this most modern weapon
because it answered the long awaited call for extended range and
lethality.  Others were reluctant to readily accept such a
drastic change and vocalized their loyalty for the days of the
unsophisticated artillery systems.  Today the Marine Corps feels
much more confident with its direct support artillery chiefly
because of the utility of the M101 howitzer in its role as a
lightweight weapon.  Mobile, flexible and adaptable to fast
moving operations, the M101's usefulness has been resurrected by
capitalizing on the limitations of its successor, the M198.
    The decision to adopt the M198 was brought about by the U.S.
Army's decision to cease joint testing (with the Marine Corps) on
a lightweight 105mm howitzer which could fire at extended
ranges.(2:52)  The Army's primary concern was the threat of
having to dual with Warsaw pact forces as found in Europe.  With
the 155mm, M198 howitzer, U. S. forces felt the numerical
advantages of the Warsaw Pact forces could be neutralized by
increased range, greater lethality and state of the art
    This had a significant impact on the future of artillery and
the Marine Corps was left with two alternatives;  (1) keep the
M101 howitzer as a direct support weapon, and accept the
disadvantages of battling in the future with limited range and
ammunition, or (2) follow the trace of the Army and purchase the
M19B.  By virtue of its small size and limited budget, Marine
Corps artillery depends on Army research and development of
weapons, doctrine and equipment. (2:55-56)  Accordingly, it was
the decision of the Commandant to follow trace of the Army and
buy the M198.  Unbeknown to our leaders it was the beginning of
turmoil and uncertainty in our artillery community, and this
continues to this day.
    Eight years ago the M101 howitzer was the direct support
weapon of the Marine Corps.  Today three weapon systems fill that
role.  The M198 is fully accepted as the premier weapon of the
Marine Corps and the one that demonstrates the most capability.
Despite its limitations, it has and continues to deploy to every
clime and place.  Thus it is the preferred weapon for employment
on the modern battlefield.  The M114 is employed as a direct
support weapon in selected battalions.  It will be phased out of
the inventory when the Marine Corps completes the M198
purchase.(3)  Little is written into doctrine however about the
employment considerations of the M101, and there is little
consensus among Marines on its long term use.  The controversy
centers on whether the M101 is being retained until we become
more proficient at employing the M198?  Or are we willing to
accept the fact that the M101 will be with the Marine Corps until
a lightweight 155mm weapon is adopted?
    The purpose of this study is twofold: first to review the
operational and logistical considerations for past use of the
M101 howitzer since the M198 came on the scene.  Second, to
analyze the methodology for use of this weapon system by combat
forces in the near future.
    The M101 is a l05mm lightweight howitzer, introduced to U. S.
forces just after WWII.  It served as the Marine Corp's main
direct support weapon in Korea and Vietnam.  Its major advantages
are its lightweight, mobility and rapid rate of fire.  It is
limited by range, firepower and lack of ability to use modern
ammunition.  Since being replaced by the M198, a designated
number of the M101's have been retained in each artillery
regiment for contingency purposes.  The Corps no longer maintains
a T/E (table of equipment) and T/O (table of organization) for
the M101 howitzer battery.
    The M114 is a 155mm howitzer originally introduced to U. S.
forces in the post WWII era.  It was used as a general support
weapon until replaced by the M198.  Nicknamed the "Pig" because
of its stubby profile and weight, its chief limitation is range.
24 M114 howitzers are used in direct support battalions of the
10th and 11th Marine Regiments as an interim until purchase of
the M198 is completed.
    The M198 howitzer was originally developed as a general
support weapon and successor to the M114 towed howitzer.  When
adopted by the Marine Corps in the early 1980's to fill the
direct support and general support role it was viewed as the
weapon of the future.  Sophisticated yet simple to operate, the
M198 clearly stands out above its predecessors in the area of
range, lethality and ability to capitalize on modern ammunition.
Its achilles' heel is it's lack of mobility and maneuverability
caused by weight and bulkiness.  It is presently the main direct
support and towed general support weapon for the Marine Corps.
Click here to view image
    The Marine Corps has three active duty artillery regiments
with three direct support battalions each.  Battalions are
basically organized around the 3 by 8 gun concept (3 batteries of
8 guns each).  The weapons mix in each battalion is dictated by
    10th Marine Regiment is organized with three 155mm direct
support battalions in the 3 by 8 concept.  The M114s in the Third
battalion are retained until the Marine Corps completes its buy
of the M198.  Ten M101 howitzers are assigned to each battalion
for maintenance and operations as determined by the commander.
Click here to view image
    11th Marine Regiment is organized with two battalions with
the 3 by 8 concept and one battalion of 4 by 8 (includes battery
"G" 3/12).  The M114 howitzers are retained until the M198 buy is
completed.  First battalion is tasked with the West Pac
deployment and organizes its batteries with four M198s and four
M101s each.  Eight M198s are divided between two batteries for
maintenance.  Eight M114s are stored in level pack A.  Second and
Third battalions are organized with two M198 battaries and one
M114 battery each.  M101 howitzers are divided between the
batteries for maintenance.
Click here to view image
    12th Marines is organized with three battalions in the 3 by 8
concept.  First battalion, located in Hawaii, has three M198
batteries.  Eight M101 howitzers are tasked to the batteries for
maintenance and operations as needed.  Second and Third
battalions have three and two batteries respectively, of eight
guns each ("G" 3/12 is in the West Pac rotation with 1st
battalion 11th Marines)
Click here to view image
    The challenge for direct support artillery in a tactical
scenario is to keep pace with it's maneuver element and answer
calls for fire in a timely manner.  It matters not to the Marine
on the ground what unit is proving the support or what type of
weapon it is being fired from.  Today the artillery commander
must task organize his units and weapons mix if he is to provide
the maximum amount of fire support.  In consideration of the
potential battlefield environments the Marine Corps could be
drawn into, the fire support must be flexible, mobile and most of
all responsive if it is to satisfy the needs of the supported
    There is little doubt the M198 is a devastating weapon and
can meet the challenges required of the modern day artillery
cannon.  If the weapon has any distinct tactical limitations, it
is its large size and weight.  Its employment in the amphibious
mode over the beach takes time and its air mobility is limited
because the CH53E is the only helocopter in the Marine Corp's
inventory capable of lifting it.  The Marine Corps was aware of
this when it adopted the M198 and it was prepared to make
adjustments and live with its shortcomings. (5:53-59)  A lot of
those efforts paved the way for a new prime mover for the
howitzer to aid in mobility, a forklift for intra-battery
maneuverability and special modifications for deployment onboard
Military Airlift Command (MAC) aircraft.  In spite of the above
special considerations the M198 continues to be viewed with
caution.  From an operational standpoint the artillery is
characterized as a burden during the initial stages of amphibious
operations, and for the first time Marines have difficulty
employing its towed direct support artillery in other than ideal
    The Marine Corps has toyed with countering the limitations of
the M198 for many years, and almost without exception it sees the
solution to its dilemma as a lightweight howitzer capable of
firing 155mm ammunition at extended ranges.  Consequently, when
faced with a task not compatible to the M198, range and firepower
are sacrificed and eventually, the Marine Corps succumbs to
employing the lightweight l05mm, M101 howitzer.
    When the M101 lost its role as the Marine Corp's direct
support weapon, many were unclear about how to retire the
weapon.  Some saw it being completely phased out of the inventory
as soon as the M198 was fielded.  Others wanted to keep a
battalion of M10l's mainly for amphibious purposes.  Still others
wanted to keep them in an inactive pool to be drawn out and
employed as the tactical mission would dictate.  What exists
today are the fruits of many changing philosophies from the top,
and trial and error by Marines in the field.
    It is becoming clearer to the artillery community and to our
infantry counterparts that the considerations for employing the
M101 are taking on a greater tactical significance than
anticipated years ago. (6:44)  Those employment considerations
will differ in each Marine regiment; however, a few variables
appear to remain constant: Fleet Commanders now require a
standard artillery weapon package for all Special Operations
Capable Marine Expeditionary Units (SOCMEU); the M101 is given
favorable consideration for helicopter employment because of its
lightweight and the Corps paucity of CH53Es to lift the M198; and
in other than SOCMEU deployments, the artillery mix is catered to
provide the best support for the expected mission or
contingency. (3)
    Today the M101 howitzer is the utility weapon of the Marine
Corps.  With limited range and lethality notwithstanding, its
lightweight, maneuverability and rapid rate of fire increases its
appeal as a weapon system adaptable to any type of conflict.
    In the amphibious mode, Marines attempt to get artillery over
the beach early to provide a rapid buildup of firepower for the
maneuver units.  The effectiveness of the M198 in the direct
support role is severely restricted in this arena because a
greater effort is needed to transport a battery ashore in the
landing craft presently available.  Once ashore an auxiliary
mover is necessary to provide area mobility for the howitzer in
the absence of its prime mover. (7:27)  Consequently, these
limitations are clear reasons the maneuver commander is retaining
the option to use the M101 howitzer.  Numerous studies have been
done on the M198's amphibious adaptability and emphasis continues
to be placed on ways to get it over the beach in a more
expeditious manner.  The bottom line; however, is that the M101
remains a valid and quick-fix alternative.
    The versatility of helicopter transportable artillery adds
depth to the battlefield and enhances the ability to support fast
moving situations.  The artillery fires are curtailed during this
period however, because they cannot fire just prior to moving,
while on the move and for a short while after arriving at the new
destination.  Therefore, this concept requires coordination and
significant helicopter assets to move the personnel, howitzers,
ammunition and miscellaneous equipment in an expeditious manner.
    In an air transportable scenario, the M101 is relied upon
heavily because of its lightweight and ability to be transported
internally or externally by the CH53 series helocopter.  Because
it weights one-third of the M198 it can be inserted and extracted
in a fraction of the time.  SOCMEU units put emphasis on the M101
for consideration in non-combatant evacution operations (NEO) and
artillery raids.  Current practices in an amphibious assault
recognize the M101 as the most likely helo transportable entity,
with the M198 platoon coming into action across the beach as time
permits and the situation develops. (8)
    Ground mobility is probably the single most significant
limitation that plaques the M198 and enhances the use of the
M101.  Mobility considers movement over terrain and the
maneuverability of the weapon in the battery position.  Though
these factors have not demonstrated a reason not to employ the
M198, when speed and time are critical the M101 appears to retain
its position as being readily available for employment in
scenarios not conducive to a heavy towed weapon.
    Tailoring the M101 to fit the mission does not come without
problems.  There is no T/O or T/E for the M101 battery.
Consequently the maintenance requirements and personal to support
their upkeep are absorbed from some other function.  What each
Marine regiment has today with its M101 compliment averages an
extra battalion of artillery weapons.  Realizing that there are
only three direct support battalions per regiment, the extra
M10ls equate to almost 35% more weapons to support without
structure.  The regimental commander is able to balance the
allocation of weapons between the battalions as needed, however
the logistic, operational and training requirements are added
burdens to an already demanding profession.
    Recent guidance by the Fleet Commanders have directed
SOCMEU's to deploy with (4) M101 and (4) M198 howitzers.(3)  This
is another form of complicating the issue.  The eight gun battery
concept in the 3 by 8 battalions was adopted to capitalize on the
advantages of the M198 and employ the battery autonomously in
two, four gun platoons.  With the directed weapons mix for SOCMEU
units, the 8 gun battery loses its effectiveness when employed as
a cohesive unit because it utilizes weapons of different calibers
and ranges.(3)  A second concern is the ability to maintain parts
and collateral material for the supply support of the mix caliber
batteries.  The M101 has proven very dependable and trouble free
in the past, but it is also very old, and all weapons will
evidentually require repair, especially optics which are not
interchangeable between the two weapons.
    A major concern for the amphibious force is the maintenance
of artillery ammunition ships carry for contingencies.  There are
dozens of different shell, fuze, primer and powder combinations
that can be made of the artillery lform (landing force operations
readiness material) ammunition.  None except selected fuzes are
interchangeable between the semi-fixed 105mm and the 155mm
rounds.  It is naive to think the ships Combat Cargo Officer or
First Lieutenant will be able to get the right combination out of
the ships ammunition storage holes and provide distribution for
the designated weapon in a timely manner.  Additionally what we
practice as 15 days of basic ammo allowance will either be
reduced, or the lform capacity increased to double its current
load and carry 15 days each for the 105mm and 155mm   Either way,
we have further complicated an already difficult task.
    The technical fire direction requirements for the mix caliber
battery increase insurmmountably with the howitzer mix,
commensurate with the degree to which both weapons are employed
at the same time.  It matters not whether they fire at the same
target; because the tools used to compute fire direction data for
105mm and 155mm ammunition are not interchangable.  Accordingly,
what is needed to support this evolution is the equivalent of a
second fire direction center.
    Maintaining training proficiency with three different direct
support weapons presents some unique problems for our Marines in
the field.  The current organization of each regiment and
considerations for operational commitments provides sufficient
opportunity to cause most batteries to train as a unit on these
weapon systems.  It is readily accepted that all cannoneers in
the field are, by now, familiar with the M198.  Officers and
enlisted personnel new to the field are introduced to the basics
at Fort Sill, OK., and this training is built upon after arriving
at their first command.  In the case of the M114 and M101
howitzers the orientation and training for their use is either
the responsibility of the direct support battalion they fall
under or the regiment will provide some form of organized
schooling. (3)  In all three regiments, the most valuable
familiarization training with the M101 is gained while supporting
administrative requirements such as aerial observer shoots,
tactical air coordination packages(TACP) and fire support
coordination exercises.
    The state of Marine artillery today revolves around
optimizing the employment of direct support howitzers in support
of infantry units.  With proper credit to commanders in the
field, we have unequivocally maximized our current assets to
respond to most potential threat scenarios.  Because the Marine
Corps is a small service it has traditional been forced to do the
best with what is available.
    In looking at lightweight artillery from the context of the
progress made in the last decade and some definitive direction
for the future it would appear we are merely marking time.  It is
readily recognized that the M101 howitzer presents more validity
and concern now than it did eight ago when we first announced the
decision to replace it with the M198.  However, that the M101 is
still active in the fleet today is only for lack of a larger
caliber lightweight weapon system.  The 155mm is clearly the
weapon of the future, but there are too many missed opportunities
for its employment because our current version (the M198) is too
big.  For that reason the Marine Corps is lapsing to older days
when employment of artillery was quick, simple and flexible.  In
fact we seem to stretch the limitations of the M101 and make it
appear to be able to do almost anything.  Unfortunately, its most
notable contribution, neutralizing the limitations of the M198
howitzer, is starting to provide artillerymen a false sense of
security.  The M101 has performed admirably for combat units in
the past, but it will be of limited value today aganist any type
of sophisticated threat.
    It is likely the next commitment for Marines could involve a
scenario where the M101 will go into action quickly.  In an
amphibious operation we would rely on it to provide that initial
firepower ashore and buy time until the M198 can be bought into
action.  I submit that if we come up against any type of modern
army we should be willing to accept the possible loss of that
critical initial confrontation.  In an era when Soviet and other
surrogate forces are continually upgrading and increasing its
artillery weapons systems, the Marine Corps is favoring a WWII
vintage weapon with limited range and lethality.
    Increasing the utilization of the M198 will not provide
relief to the situation.  It was originally developed as a
general support weapon and in that role it is a class act.  But
when employed in a direct support role it is not as versatile and
just cannot satisfy our needs for mobility and flexibility.  No
amount of modifications, enhancements or argumentation by other
weapons can correct this.  It is a good land weapon and appears
to be readily adaptable to the defense.  But as an amphibious
force in readiness--the mission of Marine combat troops is
synonymous with offensive type actions.  Accordingly, we should
be fitted with a weapon that supports that concept.
    There is only one universally accepted solution to the
dilemma faced in the artillery community and that is to procure a
howitzer designed exclusively for Marine use.  Oddly enough this
is similar to the task we abandoned eight years ago when we were
sucked into the purchase of the M198.  The direction taken must
lead to a lightweight (10-11,000lbs) 155mm weapon, capable of
achieving ranges in excess of 18,000m (w/o rap) and be readily
adaptable to an amphibious mission. We should work with, but not
rely on the Army in the development of this weapon.  The
precedence has already been set in the purchase of the LAV
(landing assault vehicle) and the AAV (amphibious assault
    In his 1986 posture statement the Commandant of the Marine
Corps gave praise to his modernization program and the plans to
replace "every single weapon system within the Marine
division--from pistol to the main battle tank--in a
decade."(9:27)  I would submit his replacement of the new general
support weapon is already complete because the M198 is enjoying
much success in that role.  What we await is a sign that his
intent included a new direct support weapon.
1.  Hamilton, Robert E., Lieutenent Colonel, USMC.  "155mm
        Howitzer Won't Do Job. " Marine Corps Gazette, (september
        1979), 23-24.
2.  Moore, Richard H., Lieutenant Colonel, USMC, Weeks, Larry L.,
        Major, USMC and Morga, Dennis A., Captain, USMC.  "Why
        The Marine Corps is Adopting a New Howitzer." Marine
        CorpsGazette, (April, 1979), 51-59.
3.  Commanding Officer of 10th, 11th, and 12th Marine Regiments.
        Response to Questionaire on M101 and M114 Howitzer
        Utilization. (Febuary 1988).
4.  Foss, Christopher F., et al., Janes's Armour and Artillery
        1986-87, 7th ed.  london: Jane's publishing company
        limited, 1986, pp673-680
5.  Moore, Richard H., Lieutenant Colonel, USMC, Weeks, Larry L.,
        Major, USMC and Morga, Dennis A., Captain, USMC.
        "Learning to Live with the M198 Howitzer. " Marine Corps
        Gazette, (july, 1980) 53-59.
6.  Schwamberger, Carl W., First Lieutenant, USMC.  "Light
        Artillery for the Corps."  Marine Corps Gazette. (April,
7.  Palm, Leslie M., Major, USMC.  "The M198 Howitzer as a Direct
        Support Weapon During Amphibious Operations."  thesis
        U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.  Fort
        Levenworth, 1980.
8.  Zinser Lawrence R. Lieutenant Colonel, USMC.  Personal
        interview about employment of artillery in SOUMEU's,
        Quantico, March 11, 1988.
9.  Kelly, Paul X., General, USMC "Statement on Posture, Plans,
        Programs for Fiscal Years 1988 Through 1992."  Marine
        Corps Gazette (April 1987), 18-35
10. Funk, Robert C., Major, USMC.  "M198: Good Weapon-Wrong
        Choice."  Marine Corps Gazette, (june 1986) 25-26.
11. Galen, Colonel, nom de plume  "In Matching Mobility and
        Firepower, the Marines Moved Out, the Army Moved Paper."
        Armed Forces Journal International, (May 1986) 32-33.
12. Glasgow Jr., J. P., Major, USMC.  "Marine Artillery-A New
        Perspective."  Marine Corps Gazette, (April 1981), 55-59

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