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Old 12-11-2008   #1
Distiller
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Default Netfires - Tube Artillery - MLRS

Been doubting the future of 155mm tube artillery for quite some time now. Think that the 120mm mortar on the one end, and MLRS on the other will take a considerable bite out of the 155's mission. Couple of thoughts below on how Netfires fits in:

M777 weight: 4400kg
Average Crew: 600kg
Typical pallet (45 shells, 60 MACS): about 2100kg (estimation)
Weight for one hour of sustained firing (@ 3 rounds/minute = 4 pallets): about 13500kg
Costs: USD3M for the M777, USD65k for a pallet of dumb ammo, USD80k for one Excalibur, USD260k for one hour of sustained dumb fire, or USD14M+ for one hour of Excalibur sustained fire (not including deployment and crew)
2D Mobility: MTVR
3D Mobility out: two CH-47 (gun, crew, ammo for one sustained hour)
3D Mobility back: one CH-47 hauling back gun and crew
Capabilities: traditional big boom shrapnel, cluster container, precision attack


Netfires CLU empty: 650kg
Netfires missile: 53kg
Loaded CLU: about 1450kg
Weight for one hour of firing (@ 3 rounds/minute = 12 CLU): about 17500kg
Costs: hard to say - Javelin USD75k, Hellfire USD60k, Spike USD5k, PAM shouldn't be more than USD20k per. CLU say USD350k per, USD4.2M for one hour sustained fire (not including deployment).
2D Mobility: MTVR with loader crane
3D Mobility out: three CH-47 (possibly with at small all-terrain forklift) to deploy the CLUs (CLUs for one sustained hour of firing); or six UH-60 with CLUs as ext load
3D Mobility back: one UH-60 with at least two guys to collect electronics packages
Capabilities: precision attack
Problem: sabotage, if unattended (same as with FCS' UGS)


That translates into:
# Role for 120mm Mortar: sustained (mostly suppressive) "dumb" big boom area shrapnel fire, short/medium range; precision mortar rounds will have a hard stand against PAM costwise, as with Excalibur only interesting if used sparingly
# Role for M777: sustained (mostly suppressive) "dumb" big boom area-shrapnelling, medium range, flexibly deployed; Excalibur cost effective only if not used more than ten times per hour or so (per battery)
# Role for Netfires: selective fire, precision attack, medium/long range, preferably road-deployed, optional unattended operation if airliftered to an unaccessible spot
# Role for MLRS++: massed technical targets, area targets, salvo assault, long range


Comments?
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Old 12-11-2008   #2
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155mm is better represented by systems like PzH2000, M109A6 or Caesar than by the specialty gun M777.

---

Let's wait for what happens about the DPICM / cluster / dumb submunitions / explosive cargo round ban in 2009.

Large calibres are less efficient for fragmentation effect per HE round weight than small calibres like 90-122mm and today also larger than necessary for guided munitions (which work fine in 120mm+ and probably already with 105mm+).

A loss of DPICM would badly degrade 155mm performance (and also 227mm performance) and might lead to smaller calibres at least for the towed gun role.

---

I expect MRLs to turn into missile weapons (guided & long range - both easier with rockets than with shells).

My expectation for Netfires (or whatever is its current name) is that it'll be cancelled to save money.

I'm not so sure about the future of guns - inertia will likely keep 155mm the premier calibre, even though that probably won't be optimal.

Motars will stay what they are - albeit more often mounted than before.
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Old 12-11-2008   #3
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Got my doubts about replacing the M777 - The King of Battle.

We've got Brits making them, Canadians buying them, and the Swedes (with their Iron Sled Bofors ) jealous of them.

Between the Excalibur guided projectile, the 777's reputation in Afghanistan, and the all too recognizable howitzer "report", she will never be replaced by a steel tube and grunts
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Old 12-11-2008   #4
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don't forget that 120mm mortars live at the BN level, which makes one of their key attributes "responsiveness". It can take a while to get 155mm rounds - or anything else - fired as an immediate suppression mission. But the S3 can grab the mike and get mortar rounds in flight inside of 2 minutes.
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Old 12-11-2008   #5
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Default Hmmm, responsive, but max range ?

Touché !
The 120 teams are quick and get to 6 clicks... The 155 to 24 clicks, albeit slower

You can Run but you'll only die tired !

Quote:
Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
don't forget that 120mm mortars live at the BN level, which makes one of their key attributes "responsiveness". It can take a while to get 155mm rounds - or anything else - fired as an immediate suppression mission. But the S3 can grab the mike and get mortar rounds in flight inside of 2 minutes.
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Old 12-11-2008   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
don't forget that 120mm mortars live at the BN level, which makes one of their key attributes "responsiveness". It can take a while to get 155mm rounds - or anything else - fired as an immediate suppression mission. But the S3 can grab the mike and get mortar rounds in flight inside of 2 minutes.
Which is why I feel that PGMM's for the 120 (even 81 and 60's for that matter) would have great real world utility, and cost less then excaliber rounds. The negative is that 120's have limited self sustainmant ability compared to an arty battery.
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Old 12-11-2008   #7
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Default Hate to be dense but I don't understand what this means:

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...The negative is that 120's have limited self sustainmant ability compared to an arty battery.
Do you mean in logistic support?
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Old 12-11-2008   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
Do you mean in logistic support?
Did I not just get done telling you to read what mean and not what I write?
Yes I mean logistic support, especially ammo resupply. Of course I was an 81mm mortar man and the 120 is vehicle based so they may have a more robust logistical support.
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Old 12-11-2008   #9
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Reed,

A little sarcasm is OK, but a more thorough response from the beginning would have precluded what you have concluded to be obvious.

Not all of us were Eleven Charlies.

Thanks in advance for your consideration while posting herein.

Regards, Stan

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Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
Did I not just get done telling you to read what mean and not what I write?
Yes I mean logistic support, especially ammo resupply. Of course I was an 81mm mortar man and the 120 is vehicle based so they may have a more robust logistical support.
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Old 12-11-2008   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stan View Post
Reed,

A little sarcasm is OK, but a more thorough response from the beginning would have precluded what you have concluded to be obvious questions.

Not all of us were Eleven Charlies.

Thanks in advance for your consideration while posting herein.

Regards, Stan
No precluding on my part Stan, I was dinging myself on that post. The sarcasm was in referance to joke I made to Ken a few minutes ago on another post. I agree that my military terminology needs some refresher work.
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Old 12-11-2008   #11
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Default The value of options

So, as a former 120 section sergeant in the cav, I posit that there is a home for each of these options. The 155 has an ability to drop some heavy heat from a fixed position, therefore giving it the ability to mass rounds and then pump them down range, especially in a FOB against an enemy without counterbattery.

Conversely, the heavier rocket artilllery at the above Brigade level provides heavy rounds against specific targets outside the range of the 120 or 155. Cost makes them a high-profile system, and really limits their usage to critical targets, and only used by folks with birds and stars, thus keeping it out of reach of the platoon, company, and battalion.

The 120, to Brant's point in the Infantry and the Cav are key tools to the lower echelons. In the Cav they are hip pocket close to the troop commander, and enable troops quick suppressive fires to assist the scouts keep from exposing their direct fire assets. Unfortunately, most RSTA/Cav troops have only two guns making it tougher to maneuver them. It is impossible to split the section and have security on the move, but it also means that during a route reconnaisance, the 1064 mortar carrier has to constantly be running like hell, emplacing and then running again, while the scouts and tanks outpace them. Further, it is harder to mass fires or do coordinated illumination missions with the two gun section as the resulting rounds pushed out are lower in count. Further, without a separate command vehicle in the heavy mortar section, coordination of vehicles, fires planning and fire direction computation is really an exercise in mental and physical gymnastics as the squad leader jumps into the drivers seat with the MBC and the section sergeant tries not to get in the way.

Conversely, the larger mortar platoon with 4 guns and 2 command tracks and a supply truck (this info might be dated) enables splitting into three gun sections, which enables one to maneuver, while the other is still emplaced, making a movement to contact with immediate suppression a reality. These guys can run a broad spectrum of missions, which you will never receive through a request to division for artillery, when working at the company level. Further, the ability to have an FPF for the battalion front brings the shooters a warm and fuzzy feeling when bad things otherwise abound.

Therefore, I submit that the home for the 155 can remain, the MLRS systems will always be in vogue because they are sexy to watch, but when you really want to lay some waste up close and personal, there is no better way than through the 120 mortar, with some kick ass fire direction control. My only recommendation to the current Table of Organization and Equipment would be to equip the two gun cav troop with a command vehicle (M113A3 or M577) in the mortar section to enable better fires planning, and better integration into the troop C2 cell under the XO. (if you want to know why the XO's 577 is a bad place, I will tell you later.) Assign the crew as the E-7, an E-5 FDC guy and an E-3 driver.

The last thing I might mention is the Future Combat Systems, Rocket in a Box which provides a modular, easily deployable rocket which fires on demand, from a box. I don't know enough about it, but everything I have read seems to make this another sexy product which replaces already fine pieces of equipment. However, I might have said the same things about UAVs, but they pretty much do some great work.
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Last edited by Jason Port; 12-11-2008 at 09:00 PM. Reason: Rocket in a box comments
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Old 12-11-2008   #12
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Default They do; the 120 requires transport and support vehicles

Quote:
Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
Did I not just get done telling you to read what mean and not what I write?
Yes I mean logistic support, especially ammo resupply. Of course I was an 81mm mortar man and the 120 is vehicle based so they may have a more robust logistical support.
and they are in the 120 Platoon itself and in the HHC Support Platoon. Poor Rifle Companies don't have that luxury -- though they did when we had the Mule (this one LINK and not this one LINK). Those put the M-Gator to shame.
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Old 12-11-2008   #13
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Old 12-11-2008   #14
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Let's bring out the real guns
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Old 12-11-2008   #15
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Default Mine's bigger than yours...

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Old 12-11-2008   #16
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Eight inches of love right there boy...

I think the 155mm towed howitzer still has a place as do most heavy artillery pieces. Despite the talk about precision munitions, there is a real value in suppression, and that takes massing fires. It might not happen often in COIN, but for mechanized/maneuver warfare, I'd want to have some medium and heavy tubes behind me and making life miserable for the blokes in front of me.
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Old 12-11-2008   #17
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Default Got those also...

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Eight inches of love right there boy...
Shorter tube with muzzle brake.

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Old 12-12-2008   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
don't forget that 120mm mortars live at the BN level, which makes one of their key attributes "responsiveness". It can take a while to get 155mm rounds - or anything else - fired as an immediate suppression mission. But the S3 can grab the mike and get mortar rounds in flight inside of 2 minutes.
Yes, but one of the Netfires ideas is to have a couple distributed in the ops area and give the ground troops direct access, e.g. via relay-UAVs. Should be as fast as a Dragon Fire II mortar (or comparable system), but with longer range. Btw, Dragon Fire II without ammo is said to have the same weight as a Netfires CLU.

@ towed mortars for cavalry: Funny idea. Luckily these days there are vehicle mounted alternatives like AMOS and NEMO (not to forget Nona and Vena), and the mentioned future Dragon Fire II.

Last edited by Distiller; 12-12-2008 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 12-12-2008   #19
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Mine's the most sophistimacated.....
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Old 12-12-2008   #20
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Quote:
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That translates into:
# Role for 120mm Mortar: sustained (mostly suppressive) "dumb" big boom area shrapnel fire, short/medium range; precision mortar rounds will have a hard stand against PAM costwise, as with Excalibur only interesting if used sparingly
FOG missiles like Spike also change the equation, as do cheap and effective 70 and 122mm GPS guided rockets.
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