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Thread: Indirect Fire Support in Small Wars

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    Council Member Xenophon's Avatar
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    Default Indirect Fire Support in Small Wars

    I figured I'd start a thread for all things artillery and mortar with regards to small wars. Post articles and such as you find them.

    There are two great articles in the Gazette this month (Feb '10). Enhanced Artillery Battery Operations by LtCol Jonathan P. Dunne and Is the King Dead? by LtCol James C. Lewis. I can't link directly to them but the Gazette's website is here: http://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/ Definitely recommend them.

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    Useful blend of narrative and SOPs by SFC Jason Levy is at

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Battal...an.-a021420220

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    "www.thefreelibrary.com/Battalion+mortar+platoon+operations+in+afghanistan .-a021420220"

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Former Redleg

    I hold a deep afinity, appreciation, and respect for the Field Artillery. I have been on both the receiving end as well as the delivery end, I have been a fire supporter at Platoon through Brigade level, I have commanded a firing battery, and I am a member of the Order of St. Barbara.

    These are hard times for the field artillery.

    I do believe quite strongly that it would be criminally short-sighted to drive a stake through the heart of "The King of Battle" (a title earned, not bestowed by some poet) based upon an assessment drawn solely from the GWOT-driven, COIN-based operations of recent years.

    In COIN one is in a competition with the insurgent to earn the support of the populace. (and in FID one is working to assist the HN COIN force to regain the support of the populace). This does not create a huge role for artillery, that is really good at delivering massive death and destruction, but not so much at handling a populace with kid gloves as one deals rather surgically with the insurgent himself. A Pred armed with a hellfire is great for that. Allows that BN CDR from the comfort of his CP to PID the insurgent personnally that is pinning down his guys, and give the order and then watch the insurgent vaporize in a flash of fire.

    In conventional warfare between states, however, one is out to crush the will of the other fellow's populace to continue to support his war-like ways. For this, and for disrupting and defeating large military formations, there is no substitute for field artillery.

    Know the nature of the war you are in today to be sure; but also be wise enough to recognize that that does not somehow translate into the war you might be asked to wage tomorrow. America must reconstitute and re-train its artillery and armor forces to both deter, and defeat if necessary, the major threats to our nation. A right-sizing of our current ongoing FID operations will help make that feasible.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I do believe quite strongly that it would be criminally short-sighted to drive a stake through the heart of "The King of Battle" (a title earned, not bestowed by some poet) based upon an assessment drawn solely from the GWOT-driven, COIN-based operations of recent years.
    Amen, brother Bob. Some conclusions from my MsC work, about modern system regular warfare, is that the one thing you cannot skimp on, is good and effective artillery. Far more decisive than good tanks for example.

    These are hard times for the field artillery.
    ...and that is the fault of the artillery! What idiocy prevented them from being as relevant to fighting irregulars as regulars? In most armies the secondary role for the artillery is Infantry. Additionally there is a massive range of toys from GMLRS to UAVs that Artillery could bring to the pile.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I enjoyed reading the Enhanced Artillery Battery Operations article, but LtCol Dunne lost me when he proposed that 0802s serve as the Fire Support Officers for a company, vice the XO or Wpns Plt cmdr tasking to serve as a Fire Support Team ldr.

    What he did not address is where we would get our battalion fire support coordinators (typically assigned to the weapons company commander as a collateral duty). Although there are indeed courses for FSC training, 0302 Lts cut their teeth on fire support as a FiST ldr, and without that experience, by the time he becomes a weapons company commander, he would only be "book learned". Considerably greater investments would have to be made in his training, and that simply does not happen.

    Now, were he willing to pony up 0802 majors to every infantry battalion, I'd agree with his approach wholeheartedly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    In most armies the secondary role for the artillery is Infantry.
    As it is in NZ.
    I was in the 3rd Infantillery battalion in Timor which was based around artillery because we had run out of infantry battalions. It worked, but only just. The problem I think is mindset. And I think it is a hard one to overcome. Young testosterone heavy soldiers can be quite stubborn when it comes to swallowing pride regarding 'their' trade. I donít know how training can be designed better to overcome it. Many gunners were strongly opposed to this secondary role as a result of which they just didnít want to be there.
    That said, just as many took it on and performed their secondary role admirably.
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiwigrunt View Post
    The problem I think is mindset.
    Would it be worthwhile (or even feasible?) to combine the artillery and mortar specialites?

    Assuming that it's feasible, having a soldier roatate from a firing battery to a mortar platoon and then back again throughout his career might help with the mindset problem.

    Just speculating.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    I've always been very comfortable with out US Army construct of 11Cs (infantrymen who provide orgainc, hip-pocket indirect fires to the maneuver commander) and 13Bs (artillerymen who can pick up a rifle if need be, but are spciallized in Direct and General Support of Artillery fires.

    It is easy to say "anyone can be infantry" (harder to actually do, of course); but timely, accurate, coordinated field artillery fires from mulitple units across the battlefield is a skill that takes practice, practice, practice. Throw your gunners into the lines under the same conditions that would drive you to throw your cooks and clerks. Sending artillery battalions off to war to serve as infantry just to ease optempo, or to give every commander "his chance" is, IMO, short-sighted.

    (Oh, and maneuver commanders wisely guard their mortars jeaously. Weather and priorities may soon rob you of your air and arty support, but your mortars are right there with you, thick and thin. A mixing of specialites could alter the certainty of this command relationship; so Artillery commanders are respectfully told to "F-off" when they look too lovingly at a maneuver commander's mortars).
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    Would it be worthwhile (or even feasible?) to combine the artillery and mortar specialites?

    Assuming that it's feasible, having a soldier roatate from a firing battery to a mortar platoon and then back again throughout his career might help with the mindset problem.

    Just speculating.
    It is not desirable. A combined indirect fire support branch would lead to material standardization - unavoidably towards the more capable artillery. That would give greater range to organic fire support, which would thus most likely become centrally controlled and used for tasks such as counter-artillery fires and interdiction instead of fire support in combined arms battle.
    The maneuver units would in the end lose much (if not all) of their organic indirect fire support.

    It is necessary to keep artillery and mortars apart to preserve the combined arms capability of combat teams (brigades). That in itself doesn't suffice, though - as evidenced by the crappy brigade TO&E of the German army.



    I would address the mindset differently, and this has much to do with the division of teeth and tail in general.

    Earlier armies had warriors and a supporting attachment of traders, drivers, craftsmen, engineers, clerks and whores.
    That attachment was almost eradicated around 1800 and had a huge comeback (this time uniformed) during the 20th century (beginning with railroad troops).

    Today's non-line-of-sight combat troops are essentially the modern version of the traders, drivers, craftsmen, engineers and clerks known from history.
    It doesn't suffice to give them basic training and a uniform to make a real difference.
    You need to arm and train them properly to turn support troops into real soldiers. A six month basic training coupled with a full infantry armament (including mortars and AT weapons capable to take on average MBTs) plus alternative training periods (like staffs and artillery units training to be defensive infantry a month per year) might do the trick.

    This would be beneficial in many regards, including in times of crisis when the infantry and tank inventory might be depleted, nevertheless there would still be thousands of fighters left in a brigade.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Mortar Platoons in Northern Ireland, just re-rolled to rifle platoons. Artillery batteries became quasi-Infantry companies. It's not hard.
    Artillery can be good enough infantry for irregular warfare.
    Combat operations makes great demands on infantry, and thus requires some specialisation. Security operations can be done other supporting arms acting in the infantry role. - manning VCPs and OPs for example.

    Been done. Not hard.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    Would it be worthwhile (or even feasible?) to combine the artillery and mortar specialites?

    Assuming that it's feasible, having a soldier roatate from a firing battery to a mortar platoon and then back again throughout his career might help with the mindset problem.

    Just speculating.
    We have just gone the way of the Canadians. Our mortars have gone to artillery. I think this may even exacerbate the problem. Besides, I was in mortar platoon and most others were of course gunners. Most of them did not think much of our water pistols.

    I’ve also read that there are fears (my memory is a bit vague on this) that the mortars may now well be used as a protection screen for the gun positions rather than being utilised solely for supporting the infantry.
    I agree with Fuchs and believe that light and medium mortars belong with the Infantry.
    Last edited by Kiwigrunt; 02-09-2010 at 10:14 AM. Reason: add paragraph
    Nothing that results in human progress is achieved with unanimous consent. (Christopher Columbus)

    All great truth passes through three stages: first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    (Arthur Schopenhauer)

    ONWARD

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    I agree that you would not want material standardization. But as long as you don't start combining mortar and howitzer units I don't think that would be much of a danger.

    As long as mortar platoons stay at battalion and mortar sections stay at company the fact that you have different types of infantry units - mech, Stryker, parachute, air assault, etc. - should be all the safeguard needed against material standardization. I doubt you would see heavy mortars start appearing in a light rifle company's mortar section or howitzers in a light infantry battalion's mortar platoon.

    I wasn't thinking that there should be a combined unit; just wondering if it would be benificial to have a single fire support MOS that would do a mortar tour for a few years, a howitzer tour for a few years, etc.

    I don't know enough about fire support systems to know how difficult it would be to be proficienct in going back and forth from tube to gun every few years.
    "Pick up a rifle and you change instantly from a subject to a citizen." - Jeff Cooper

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Today's non-line-of-sight combat troops are essentially the modern version of the traders, drivers, craftsmen, engineers and clerks known from history.
    It doesn't suffice to give them basic training and a uniform to make a real difference.
    You need to arm and train them properly to turn support troops into real soldiers. A six month basic training coupled with a full infantry armament (including mortars and AT weapons capable to take on average MBTs) plus alternative training periods (like staffs and artillery units training to be defensive infantry a month per year) might do the trick.

    This would be beneficial in many regards, including in times of crisis when the infantry and tank inventory might be depleted, nevertheless there would still be thousands of fighters left in a brigade.
    In line with your thoughts it seems to me that it would also be wise for the indirect fire support to train for direct fire support and AT fire. In WWII such skills were at a high premium. It seems also to have been that way in Korea and Vietnam, as some of the veterans on this board might confirm. The Yon Kippur war showed that SPH can still be forced to duke it out with tanks. When the first Lebanon war the greatly increased training time reserved for direct fire support paid seemingly off, aided by the unique circumstances (Siege of Beirut).

    As always it depends highly on the allotted training time.


    Firn

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I hold a deep afinity, appreciation, and respect for the Field Artillery. I have been on both the receiving end as well as the delivery end, I have been a fire supporter at Platoon through Brigade level, I have commanded a firing battery, and I am a member of the Order of St. Barbara.

    These are hard times for the field artillery.

    I do believe quite strongly that it would be criminally short-sighted to drive a stake through the heart of "The King of Battle" (a title earned, not bestowed by some poet) based upon an assessment drawn solely from the GWOT-driven, COIN-based operations of recent years.

    In COIN one is in a competition with the insurgent to earn the support of the populace. (and in FID one is working to assist the HN COIN force to regain the support of the populace). This does not create a huge role for artillery, that is really good at delivering massive death and destruction, but not so much at handling a populace with kid gloves as one deals rather surgically with the insurgent himself. A Pred armed with a hellfire is great for that. Allows that BN CDR from the comfort of his CP to PID the insurgent personnally that is pinning down his guys, and give the order and then watch the insurgent vaporize in a flash of fire.

    In conventional warfare between states, however, one is out to crush the will of the other fellow's populace to continue to support his war-like ways. For this, and for disrupting and defeating large military formations, there is no substitute for field artillery.

    Know the nature of the war you are in today to be sure; but also be wise enough to recognize that that does not somehow translate into the war you might be asked to wage tomorrow. America must reconstitute and re-train its artillery and armor forces to both deter, and defeat if necessary, the major threats to our nation. A right-sizing of our current ongoing FID operations will help make that feasible.
    Great post, Sir.

    As a current battery commander, I appreciate you recognizing the complexities of not only our missions in combat, but training for those missions, as well.

    My battery just fielded our Guns; we go to certify the sections next month and platoons in April. After that, we will transition to train for our mission(s) downrange. The men are fired up to smell some wolf pussy this spring; but not disheartened that they must train to be infantrymen, as well.

    The current state of the Field Artillery, in my opinion, is pretty strong. Our artillerymen understand (and have understood for a while now) that the Army needs us to be multi-functional and flexible.

    I continue to tell my men one thing: We might not be the best infantry company in the brigade, but we are sure as #### going to be the best firing battery. Truth be told, I stole that line from an old battalion commander of mine, but I love it because itís the truth.

    There is no doubt that the core competency of our Officers, NCOs and Soldiers has degraded over the past eight years. Frankly, we donít get to shoot as often as we would like or as often as we need to. But there just isnít time. Not if we are going to train for everything that we are asked to do.

    And every day, another wealth of knowledge in the form of a CSM, 1SG or SFC retires. That knowledge is lost forever. Our young NCOs and officers have a lot on their plate and have had for some time. I am confident in their ability, but I somewhat fear the day that we are asked to be the Field Artillerymen that we were on September 10, 2001. In my opinion, we arenít thereÖbut we can be.

    However, it should be recognized that our branch is now full of seasoned officers and NCOs that have been asked to do everything, and in most cases, done it quite well. What we lack in technical ability, we make up for in tenacity, confident decision making and maturity.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Default Artillery in COIN

    I've seen some interesting dynamics here in Baghdad with regards to using IDF or trying to at least. The unit replaced pushed hard to fire ground burst illum missions to "discourage" insurgents from conducting ISF attacks on US bases. Even though all the ground owners argued against it, including their FSOs, the Brigade won and started conducting ground burst illum missions on the fringes of Baghdad, in areas where no historical points of origin occurred! The results: two burned down farms, and one animal killed due to a falling canister. Prior to these missions, there hadn't been any IDF attacks in a while. Immediately following, several US bases took incoming.

    Seems to me we tried bringing a knife (or a flare) to a gunfight and lost. We are still trying to conduct consequence management from those missions a few weeks ago. Yes, the artillery got to fire. No, it had no deterrent effect on the enemy and managed to piss everyone off.

    I am all for the devastating effects of artillery and nothing warms this Scout's heart like a GLMLRS strike. That being said, the application of indirect, be it mortars or artillery, needs to be tied to an effect the ground owner both needs and wants. Otherwise, we are just wasting both ordnance and wasta.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rifleman View Post
    Would it be worthwhile (or even feasible?) to combine the artillery and mortar specialites?

    Assuming that it's feasible, having a soldier roatate from a firing battery to a mortar platoon and then back again throughout his career might help with the mindset problem.

    Just speculating.
    As an ex 11C, I have a strong opinion on this one. One, nobody enlists to be an 11C. Nearly everyone in the job feels they were screwed out of the 11B job. Two, the only part of the job that requires more then say, 8-16 hours of training is FDC. One does not touch a plotting board or ballistic computer after AIT until one becomes an E5 minimum. Why not do away with the MOS. 11B's can be rotated into (and out of) the mortar section, increasing line platoons knowledge of mortar abilities and limitations and increasing retention. Fire support school or infantry FDC school would be an E4 promotable school that would almost ensure promotion to E5 to lead a mortar squad or work in an FDC section. win/win.
    Reed
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'd agree with that except I believe that the 11B MOS has too many requirements now

    Get 'em to bring back the 11M and 11H...
    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    ...One does not touch a plotting board or ballistic computer after AIT until one becomes an E5 minimum.
    If you say so, I'm sure it's true but back in the 1947-1977 period that was not the case at all. Most 81 and 4.2 FDC types were PFCs or Sp4s and they were all pretty good. Biggest problem was that the best plotting board operator got to work 90% of the fire missions.
    Fire support school or infantry FDC school would be an E4 promotable school that would almost ensure promotion to E5 to lead a mortar squad or work in an FDC section. win/win.
    That'd work even if you retained the 11C...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Get 'em to bring back the 11M and 11H...
    Nope...19M (bradley operator) and 19H/D (anti armour scout/crewman). Dismounts can be 11B. 11H only makes sense if they had more anti-tank infantry weapons then we currently use. I would bring back 11D (infantry scout) instead of poaching the line doggies for there best soldiers.
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

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    Ok, speaking from my ignorant Navy/Air Force perspective:

    Why not a "fire support" MOS trained to do all the different arty fires as well as fixed and rotary wing?

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