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Military

AIRLAND BATTLE

FIRE SUPPORT


TOPIC: Massing of Artillery Assets

DISCUSSION: The Allies in North Africa in 1942 found that placing small field artillery units in support of small maneuver units gave the units a sense of security, but produced no results. Field artillery was effective only when massed (battalion or higher) and only when continued for some time because of the protective posture and mobility of the target. Typically, the control of massed fires was the responsibility of the division artillery.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Our current typical division artilleries are not well trained in massing the fires of the entire division artillery and supporting brigade on a given target. Our corps artillery units enjoy a greater problem. Within the time constraints present, training should focus on this issue.

TOPIC: Preparation for Artillery Direct Fire in Defense of Positions.

DISCUSSION: The Allies in North Africa in 1942 experienced heavy casualties from Axis units overrunning the artillery positions after penetrating the armor and infantry positions. Often, the Axis units would attack from the east at one time, from the west later, and from several directions simultaneously. At first, the Allies simply emphasized direct fire. Later, the Allies attached antitank hun units to the artillery battalions to increase the artillery's antitank ability. Our doctrine of the nonlinear battlefield is similar to the situation the Allies face in North Africa.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Artillery battalions should be equipped with LAW/MAW systems. Artillery units should practice direct fire. Since we do not have an antiarmor round for our howitzers, we need all the first-round accuracy we can acquire to make the best use of the capability we possess.

TOPIC: When the armor and infantry move, the field artillery must move with them.

DISCUSSION: The most useful technique is for the artillery to move in a formation with a pilot vehicle so that, immediately upon stopping, the artillery is in a position/formation to deliver fire in any direction and simultaneously defend the position from attacks from any direction. The Allies in North Africa in 1942 and units at NTC found that the armor and infantry would outdistance the artillery, unless the artillery moved with them. The artillery moved within 2 to 3 kms of the leading troops to provide responsive support. The armor and infantry provided some protection for the artillery. The whole group moved in what approximated a large box with the artillery in the center of the box and the armor and infantry as the sides. A battalion would move in a triangular formation with two batteries leading and one trailing, each battery 1 to 4 kms from the others.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Units must practice combined arms exercises on a brigade or larger scale with the artillery moving with the maneuver unit and providing masses fires as needed. Artillery units normally move in column, and they need practice to move effectively in a much more open formation. The open formation reduces air attack vulnerability, but increases command and control problems.

TOPIC: Less Sophisticated Gunnery Methods

DISCUSSION: The field artillery must be proficient in delivering fires using older, les sophisticated gunnery methods, such as observed firing chart, executive officer's high-burst registration, ranging round, and mark center of sector techniques. Because of the wide open areas with relatively no relief and many times no accurate maps, the Allies in North Africa found that the artillery had to use basic gunnery techniques to provide the necessary support. Our situation should be a little better with modern position determining and survey systems, coupled with automated computational devices, because equipment fails through exposure to heat, dust, sand, and enemy action.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Units should practice the basic gunnery techniques which we currently neglect, but which the Allies found important in 1942.

TOPIC: Direct Visual Observation.

DISCUSSION: Direct observation will detect and direct counterbattery fire on our artillery faster and in more quantity than any other technique. The Allies in North Africa found that observers could see the flash from artillery pieces at distances of 20 miles and the dust from firing pinpointed the artillery positions. Flash defilade positions and flash reducers were used almost all the time. The artillery also constructed blast aprons in front of each piece by pouring oil on the ground in front of the gun and laying a steel mesh about 1 inch over the oiled ground. Unless the enemy counterbattery radar capability has increased dramatically, the greatest enemy acquisition threat remains flash/sound ranging and HUMINT/observer acquisition. The North African techniques remain valid.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Artillery units should receive flash reducers with the basic ammunition load and use them in all missions. The units must practice digging in the howitzers (more bulldozers would help) and building blast aprons.

TOPIC: Use time and variable time-fuzed munitions to kill and point-detonating fuzed munitions to screen.

DISCUSSION: The Allies in North Africa and the Israelis found that point-detonating fuzed munitions very often buried themselves in the sand prior to bursting, drastically reducing the casualty producing effect, but the bursts raised large clouds of dust/sand which effectively screened units' movements. The air bursting munitions were more effective casualty producers.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Artillery units must prepare to use point- detonating high-explosive ammunition to screen unit movements hen smoke/white phosphorus ammunition is depleted.

TOPIC: Place more forward observers in infantry and armor units for more effective fire support.

DISCUSSION: Because of the relatively flat terrain and the advantage small increases in altitude give a unit, the Allies in North Africa found that the forward observer with the company commander often could see nothing and could not influence the battle. Their solution was to add another observer to the company. The additional observer to occupy an observation post to the rear of the company( many times a tower on a tracked vehicle) where he could see the overall battle and have good communications with the artillery unit. This arrangement gave the Allies a good communication link to the artillery and still kept a responsive observer with the company commander; the two teams were in constant communication. Additionally, the general support artillery units received more observer teams which set up in a particular sector to "weight" a given area and to "back up" the direct support observers.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: The COLT parties can act as did the general support observer teams in 1942, but we should add one more observer team and vehicle to each maneuver company and scout platoon.

TOPIC: If the artillery is not self-propelled, then the artillery needs tracked vehicles to tow the artillery pieces.

DISCUSSION: Because of the relative lack of trafficable country for wheeled artillery, the Allies in North Africa found that only by towing the artillery pieces with tracked vehicles could the artillery move at the same pace as the armor and infantry. Wheeled prime movers bogged down too often to be useful.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Make arrangements to provide tracked vehicles (M113/M548) to act as prime movers as needed.

TOPIC: Elaborate survey schemes are not feasible in desert warfare so artillery units must be able to rely on basic and hasty survey procedures.

DISCUSSION: Because of the wide open areas, and the distance involved, the Allies in North Africa found that survey could not keep pace with the artillery-firing batteries and target-acquisition agencies. Firing batteries had to rely on simultaneous observation, celestial observation, and executive officer high-burst registrations to provide accurate data for the firing position. We should have some advantages with our position-and direction-determining systems and distance measuring devices, but equipment is lost or fails to function for a variety of reasons in the desert, and the artillery unit must still act.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Units must become proficient in hasty survey techniques and in basic gunnery procedures such as the executive officer's high-burst registration.

TOPIC: Dust and sand attenuate laser range finders and designators.

DISCUSSION: An analysis after the Israeli wars showed that lasers lost much of their designed effectiveness in certain dust/sand conditions.

LESSON(S) LEARNED: Train units not to rely totally on the capabilities of the equipment, but to think rationally and use the equipment to the best of its capability. Use the lasers' capabilities when possible and common sense when necessary.

Table of Contents
AirLand Battle: Maneuver
AirLand Battle: Mobility/Countermobility/Survivability



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