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22 February 2010

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Watcher

Sir, two articles on indirect fire, one on mortar systems and the other on artillery tubes. I think focusing on the difference in the purpose of, and employment of these systems might be the best place to start. To try and work Close Air Support (CAS) that comes from either US Air Force, Navy and USMC aircraft and Close Combat Attack (CCA) that is generally provided by US Army or USMC attack helicopters into the discussion would only serve to melt down a few minds.

http://www.smallwars.mcwl.usmc.mil/search/LessonsLearned/afghanistan/grau1.asp

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0IAV/is_3_98/ai_n45065751/?tag=content;col1

Medicine Man

I'm not a military anything, not even an enthusiast, but my understanding is close fire support is a crucial part of the US ground combat doctrine (force protection). A formation of ground troops encounter the enemy, engage them, and then call in fire support to do the real damage.

All things considered, isn't this the best way to use US firepower? Or at least a lot better, in terms of winning hearts-and-minds, than dropping bombs on targets identified by satellite?

The Twisted Genius

I fear I would end up talking out of my fourth point of contact if I tried to prepare an article on modern fire support, especially the weapons available to today's units. All I can guess is that what's available today is a lot more efficient and accurate than in my day.

I do recommend Watcher's second url on the employment of mortars by the 2/503 Infantry Battalion in Afghanistan as an example of what artists are capable of doing. The battalion commander obviously understood the value of organic indirect fire and, apparently, employed his mortar tubes well.

I would add the following principles of fire support taken from the Ranger Handbook. This is a pocket sized book prepared at Fort Benning that every NCO and junior officer I ever knew kept with them as an everyday reference manual.

• Consider what the commander wants to do.
• Plan early and continuously.
• Exploit all available targeting assets.
• Use all available lethal and nonlethal fire support means.
• Use the lowest echelon able to furnish effective support.
• Observe all fires.
• Use the most effective fire support asset available.
• Provide adequate fire support.
• Avoid unnecessary duplication.
• Provide for safety of friendly forces and installations.
• Provide for flexibility.
• Furnish the type of fire support requested.
• Consider the airspace.
• Provide rapid and effective coordination.
• Keep all fire support informed.

Tyler

Colonel, if you can give me a day or two I can write what you want. I was in a 60mm section in B Co, 1/501st PIR, and in a 60mm/120mm company mortar section in a Stryker battalion.

Cold War Zoomie

For those of us who haven't a clue about this stuff (like us SIGINT weenies), this is interesting reading from an historical perspective:

Field Artillery Journal 1932

FDRDemocrat

I am not sure how relevant the issue of the mechanics of close fire support is in this situation. Hitler could run rings around his generals in quoting the maximum fuel capacity of a V2 or the daily ammunition requirements of a Panzer battalion, but that did not make his political decisions any better.

And ROE are political questions, no? Not sure why the generals are blamed here, I imagine they are getting this from on high.

This is not new. During the early 1944 air campaign to prepare the Normandy landings in WW2, Allied air chieftains consulted with De Gaulle's people on the issue of French civilian casualties likely to result from heavy bombing of the French transportation system, e.g. railyards. The answer came back that thousands of French civilian deaths was a worthy price to pay to be rid of the German occupation. Cold comfort I suppose to the citizens of places like Caen, but there was a recognition that the decision needed to be run through political channels to be presented later as a legitimate use of force.

This is a hoop democracies jump through. The US and Afghan leadership have arrived at an accomodation on ROE. If we do not like the ROE, is it not proper to take it up with US and Afghan civilian leadership? Why blame McChrystal? Do we really think it is his proper role and that he has the clout to tell his civilian superiors to twist Karzai's arm until he lets him have what he wants for ROE?

We could probably overthrow Karzai tommorrow and put a malleable Afghan general in there who would give us the ROE we want. Not sure we come out ahead in that game.

Patrick Lang

FDR Democrat

You are merely logical. In fact, McChrystal is the author and force beyond these ROE. pl

Jose

In Mogadishu, Task Force Ranger was denied "heavy guns", because the politicos thought such a show of force would provoke a "reaction".

"Heavy guns" might have served as a deterrent and prevented the heavy response by the Somalis.

You never can win in these situations, but it appears "Stan the Man" hand's are tied by people who are not there taking fire.

GregB

The mortar the merrier.

William R. Cumming

Hey I was trained to lay a battery using sticks, same as Civil War. No Fire Direction Control Computers in my time. Have to plead ignorance. A Marine Gunnery Officer was the best instructor I had at my time at Ft. Sill in 67-68!

confusedponderer

FDR Democrats,

Cold comfort I suppose to the citizens of places like Caen, but there was a recognition that the decision needed to be run through political channels to be presented later as a legitimate use of force.
I seem to recall having read that during the fighting in Normandy it happened that French applauded the German Flak shooting down allied bombers, and the Germans weren't exactly popular in France. Indeed, and ironically, the occupiers were protecting them from the bombs, even though their presence was causal for the bombing itself. Odd, is it not?

FDRDemocrat

Colonel Lang -

But how much freedom does McChrystal really have to elaborate ROE? The Karzai government is a house of cards. Our NATO allies are edging out the door as we speak. What ROE would you propose instead?

alnval

Col. Lang:

I have no expertise in this area at all but I can't help but wonder whether the denial of artillery support isn't of a piece with the problems you've reported earlier related to the failure of company and battalion level officers to site and prepare defensive positions properly, and to otherwise incorporate bedrock lessons learned from previous conflicts?

JoeC

Having learned the hard way that the real world does not always behave the way one is taught at Fort Sill, the more experience calling fire the more accurate and effective such fire will be.

For those who have been in Afghanistan, I wonder how much experience those calling fire typically have today?? And whose job is this (calling artillery fire) in the typical patrol or operation setting?

Jose

Anybody know, why ROE denies indirect fire under combat conditions, but authorize drone attacks at anything that moves?

Patrick Lang

Jose

Apparently, McChrystal doesn't have either CIA or JSOC under very good control.

I guess we should mention that "indirect fire" means that in that mode the target can not be seen from the guns. This is as opposed to "direct fire" in which the target is visible from the guns.

WRC. Yes, you can fire field artillery and mortars in "direct fire." pl

William R. Cumming

Ah! Those wonderful flechetter rounds as you are protecting your battery from the final charge of the VC or NVA!

Wonder if still issued? Even mortars have been used as direct fire weapons.

Fred Strack

Can't help with this one,haveing spent my time on submarines. Torpedoes are not much use on a mountain, though I'm interested in reading what comes in. Always a learning experience here.

walrus

Col. Lang,

I know armour seems to be anathema in Afghanistan, but I keep wondering about the good old APDS round as "bunker buster"?

The British 20 pounder in the Centurion tank did this pretty well a few times in Vietnam. I'm not sure if it was the dart or the sabot that did the damage, but they "vibrated" the structures to bits without shrapnel(apart from the petals locking the dart to the Sabot) or much collateral damage.

Then of course you can always "upgrade" to HE if required.

As always, I guess the issue is whether the infantry can keep the RPG''s out of range, and of course there is no such thing as a stealthy tank.

Patrick Lang

MJ

"beehive?" Be still my heart. pl

Neil Richardson


Walrus:

"I know armour seems to be anathema in Afghanistan, but I keep wondering about the good old APDS round as "bunker buster"? The British 20 pounder in the Centurion tank did this pretty well a few times in Vietnam. I'm not sure if it was the dart or the sabot that did the damage, but they "vibrated" the structures to bits without shrapnel(apart from the petals locking the dart to the Sabot) or much collateral damage. Then of course you can always "upgrade" to HE if required."

To my knowledge, the preferred choice would be a HEAT round unless sabots are all you have. In any case a company team would have TOWs (IFVs or M1045, M1046, etc) which would be more effective against bunkers anyway in terms of direct fire support accompanying infantry.

"As always, I guess the issue is whether the infantry can keep the RPG''s out of range, and of course there is no such thing as a stealthy tank."

Indeed. As for RPGs, achieving mobility kill against M1A2s (that's just about the only threat they pose) is a lot tougher task than commonly assumed even without facing infantry support. There are techniques of scratching each other's back that a tank platoon practices from day one. As for Strykers, well... we shall have to see, but their early returns have been a lot better than I'd have expected. Mobile Gun System variant of Stryker has much lower noise signature.

Patrick Lang

Deteodoru

You do not set the agenda here. I do! pl

Patrick Lang

All

I should say that I relish strategic discussion as much as any of you, but as a field soldier as well as a denizen of the Pentagon, I can only say that we must win on the battlefield. To do less will merely encourage the Afghans to come out and collect our peoples' bodies. I think that Clausewitz would agree. pl

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