Elevation (ballistics)
For other senses of this word, see Elevation (disambiguation)
Elevation (disambiguation)
Elevation is the height of a geographic location above mean sea levelElevation may also refer to:*Elevation , the lifting of consecrated bread and wine in Mass...


In ballistics
Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

, the elevation is the angle
In geometry, an angle is the figure formed by two rays sharing a common endpoint, called the vertex of the angle.Angles are usually presumed to be in a Euclidean plane with the circle taken for standard with regard to direction. In fact, an angle is frequently viewed as a measure of an circular arc...

  between the horizontal
Horizontal plane
In geometry, physics, astronomy, geography, and related sciences, a plane is said to be horizontal at a given point if it is perpendicular to the gradient of the gravity field at that point— in other words, if apparent gravity makes a plumb bob hang perpendicular to the plane at that point.In...

Plane (mathematics)
In mathematics, a plane is a flat, two-dimensional surface. A plane is the two dimensional analogue of a point , a line and a space...

 and the direction of the barrel of a gun
A gun is a muzzle or breech-loaded projectile-firing weapon. There are various definitions depending on the nation and branch of service. A "gun" may be distinguished from other firearms in being a crew-served weapon such as a howitzer or mortar, as opposed to a small arm like a rifle or pistol,...

, mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 or heavy artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. Originally, elevation was a linear measure of how high the gunners had to physically lift the muzzle
Muzzle (firearm)
The muzzle of a firearm is the end of the barrel from which the projectile will exit.Precise machining of the muzzle is crucial to accuracy, because it is the last point of contact between the barrel and the projectile...

 of a gun up from the gun carriage to hit targets at a certain distance.

Pre-WWI and WWI

Though firearms were relatively easy to fire back then, artillery was not. Before and during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the only way to effectively fire artillery was plotting points on a plane.

Most artillery units seldom employed their cannons in small numbers. Instead of using pin-point artillery firing they used old means of "fire for effect" using artillery en masse. This tactic was employed successfully by past armies.

But changes have been made since past wars and in World War I, artillery was more accurate than before, although not as accurate as modern artillery guns. The tactics of artillery from previous wars were carried on, and still had similar success. Warships and battleships also carried large caliber guns that needed to be elevated to certain degrees to accurately hit targets, and they also had the similar drawbacks of land artillery.

WWII and beyond

As time passed on, more accurate artillery guns were made, and they came in different varieties. Small artillery pieces were used as mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

s, medium sized artillery guns became tank gun
Tank gun
A tank gun is the main armament of a tank. Modern tank guns are large-caliber high-velocity guns, capable of firing kinetic energy penetrators, high explosive anti-tank rounds, and in some cases guided missiles. Anti-aircraft guns can also be mounted to tanks.-Overview:Tank guns are a specific...

s, and the largest artillery guns became long range land batteries
Artillery battery
In military organizations, an artillery battery is a unit of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles so grouped in order to facilitate better battlefield communication and command and control, as well as to provide dispersion for its constituent gunnery crews and their systems...

 and battleship armaments.

With the introduction of better tanks in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, elevation was once again a problem for tank gunners, which had to aim through the Gunner's Auxiliary Sights (GAS) or even through iron sight
Iron sight
Iron sights are a system of shaped alignment markers used as a sighting device to assist in the aiming of a device such as a firearm, crossbow, or telescope, and exclude the use of optics as in telescopic sights or reflector sights...

s. Though the problem was not that evident as tanks fired rounds at a higher velocity
In physics, velocity is speed in a given direction. Speed describes only how fast an object is moving, whereas velocity gives both the speed and direction of the object's motion. To have a constant velocity, an object must have a constant speed and motion in a constant direction. Constant ...

 than normal artillery, making aiming less of a hassle.

As with World War I, World War II artillery was almost like its old counterpart. But in the war came the introduction of the FCS or the fire-control system
Fire-control system
A fire-control system is a number of components working together, usually a gun data computer, a director, and radar, which is designed to assist a weapon system in hitting its target. It performs the same task as a human gunner firing a weapon, but attempts to do so faster and more...

, which made firing artillery accurately easier.

With the advancements in the 21st century, it has become easy to determine how much elevation a gun needed to hit a target. The laser rangefinder is a modern component of FCS, and can accurately determine the range of the target, thereby calculating how much elevation the gun needs, making modern day guns highly accurate.
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