Field artillery
Overview
 
Field artillery is a category of mobile artillery
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...

 used to support armies
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 in the field. These weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

s are specialized for mobility, tactical proficiency, long range, short range and extremely long range target engagement.

Until the early 20th century, field artillery were also known as foot artillery, for while the guns were pulled by beasts of burden
Working animal
A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide or service dogs, or they may be animals trained strictly to perform a job, such as logging elephants. They may also be used for milk, a...

 (often horses), the gun crew
Crew
A crew is a body or a class of people who work at a common activity, generally in a structured or hierarchical organization. A location in which a crew works is called a crewyard or a workyard...

s would usually march on foot, thus providing fire support
Fire support
Fire support is long-range firepower provided to a front-line military unit. Typically, fire support is provided by artillery or close air support , and is used to shape the battlefield or, more optimistically, define the battle...

 mainly to the infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Field artillery is a category of mobile artillery
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...

 used to support armies
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 in the field. These weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

s are specialized for mobility, tactical proficiency, long range, short range and extremely long range target engagement.

Until the early 20th century, field artillery were also known as foot artillery, for while the guns were pulled by beasts of burden
Working animal
A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated, that is kept by humans and trained to perform tasks. They may be close members of the family, such as guide or service dogs, or they may be animals trained strictly to perform a job, such as logging elephants. They may also be used for milk, a...

 (often horses), the gun crew
Crew
A crew is a body or a class of people who work at a common activity, generally in a structured or hierarchical organization. A location in which a crew works is called a crewyard or a workyard...

s would usually march on foot, thus providing fire support
Fire support
Fire support is long-range firepower provided to a front-line military unit. Typically, fire support is provided by artillery or close air support , and is used to shape the battlefield or, more optimistically, define the battle...

 mainly to the infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

. This was in contrast to horse artillery
Horse artillery
Horse artillery was a type of light, fast-moving and fast-firing artillery which provided highly mobile fire support to European and American armies from the 17th to the early 20th century...

, whose emphasis on speed while supporting cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 units necessitated lighter guns and crews riding on horseback.

Whereas horse artillery has been superseded by self-propelled artillery
Self-propelled artillery
Self-propelled artillery vehicles are combat vehicles armed with artillery. Within the term are covered self-propelled guns and rocket artillery...

, field artillery has survived to this day both in name and mission, albeit with motor vehicles towing the guns, carrying the crews and transporting the ammunition. Modern artillery has also advanced to rapidly deployable wheeled and tracked vehicles and precision delivered munitions capable of striking tarkets at ranges between 15 and 300 kilometers. There exists to date no other singularly effective all weather fires delivery system which rivals the modern field artillery.

Types

  • Field gun
    Field gun
    A field gun is an artillery piece. Originally the term referred to smaller guns that could accompany a field army on the march and when in combat could be moved about the battlefield in response to changing circumstances, as to opposed guns installed in a fort, or to siege cannon or mortars which...

    s - capable of long range fire
  • Gun howitzers - capable of high or low angle fire with a long barrel
  • Howitzer
    Howitzer
    A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

    s - capable of high angle fire
  • Infantry support gun
    Infantry support gun
    Infantry support guns are artillery weapons designed and used to increase fire power of infantry units they are intrinsic to, offering immediate tactical response to the needs of the unit's commanding officer. The designs are typically with short low velocity barrels, and light construction...

    s - directly support infantry units (mostly obsolete)
  • 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 - lightweight weapons that fire projectiles at an angle of over 45 degrees to the horizontal
  • Mountain gun
    Mountain gun
    Mountain guns are artillery pieces designed for use in mountain warfare and areas where usual wheeled transport is not possible. They are similar to infantry support guns, and are generally capable of being broken down into smaller loads .Due to their ability to be broken down into smaller...

    s - lightweight weapons that can be moved through difficult terrain
  • Multiple rocket launcher
    Multiple rocket launcher
    A multiple rocket launcher is a type of unguided rocket artillery system. Like other rocket artillery, multiple rocket launchers are less accurate and have a much lower rate of fire than batteries of traditional artillery guns...

    s - Mobile rocket artillery
    Rocket artillery
    Rocket artillery is a type of artillery equipped with rocket launchers instead of conventional guns or mortars.Types of rocket artillery pieces include multiple rocket launchers.-History:...

     Launchers

Early Modern era

Early artillery was unsuited to the battlefield, as the extremely massive pieces could not be moved except in areas that were already controlled by the combatant. Thus, their role was limited to such functions as breaking siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

s. Later, the first field artilleries came into function as metallurgy allowed thinner barrels to withstand the explosive forces without bursting. However, there was still a serious risk of the constant changes of the battlefield conspriring to leave behind slow-moving artillery units - either on the advance, or more dangerously, in retreat. In fact, many cavalry units became tasked with destroying artillery units as one of their main functions.

Only with a number of further inventions (such as the limber, hitched to the trail of a wheeled artillery piece equipped with trunnion
Trunnion
A trunnion is a cylindrical protrusion used as a mounting and/or pivoting point. In a cannon, the trunnions are two projections cast just forward of the centre of mass of the cannon and fixed to a two-wheeled movable gun carriage...

s), did the concept of field artillery really take off.

20th Century

Before the first World War, field artillery batteries generally fired directly at visible targets measured in distances of meters and yards. Today, modern field batteries measure targets in kilometers and miles and often do not directly engage the enemy with observed direct fire
Direct fire
Direct fire refers to the launching of a projectile directly at a target on a relatively flat trajectory. The firing weapon must have a sighting device and an unobstructed line of sight to the target, which means no objects or friendly units can be between it and the target...

. This hundredfold increase in the range of artillery guns in the 20th century has been the result of development of rifled cannons, improvements in propellants, better communications between observer and gunner and technical improvements in gunnery
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,...

 computational abilities.

Most field artillery situations require indirect fire
Indirect fire
Indirect fire means aiming and firing a projectile in a high trajectory without relying on a direct line of sight between the gun and its target, as in the case of direct fire...

 due to weather, terrain, night-time conditions, distance or other obstacles. These gunners can also rely upon a trained artillery observer
Artillery observer
A military artillery observer or spotter is responsible for directing artillery fire and close air support onto enemy positions. Because artillery is an indirect fire weapon system, the guns are rarely in line-of-sight of their target, often located tens of miles away...

, also called a forward observer who sees the target, relays the coordinates of the target to their fire direction center which, in turn translates those coordinates into: a left-right aiming direction; an elevation angle; a calculated number of bags of propellant and finally a fuze with a determined waiting time before exploding, (if necessary) to be set, which is then mated to the artillery projectile now ready to be fired.

Field artillery team

Modern field artillery (Post-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...

) has two distinct parts: some forward observers (or FOs), and the batteries. Each battery is divided into the fire direction center (FDC) and the actual guns themselves.

The FOs sit forward where they can see the targets and call fire upon them. They signal the FDC of the battery, who calculate the gun settings, tell the guns, who then fire. The FO observes the fall of shot and sends correcting signals.

The batteries are many kilometres behind the FEBA, so one might hope well away from enemy infantry. They pick a "convenient" location where they can sit for some while and do multiple firemissions before needing to relocate.

In normal operations the FOs locate targets and signal them to the FDCs.

They can also calculate "defensive fire" tasks. These are pre-planned missions, typically just in front of or upon ones own positions. Because the calculations have already been done, the fire can be called down very quickly when it is needed. Dropping fire just in front of ones positions aims to suppress an attack. If ones postion has to be abandoned then fire can be dropped upon that location to prevent the enemy from consolidating their position.

FO (Forward Observer)

Because artillery is an indirect fire
Indirect fire
Indirect fire means aiming and firing a projectile in a high trajectory without relying on a direct line of sight between the gun and its target, as in the case of direct fire...

 weapon, the forward observer must take up a position where he can observe the target using tools such as binoculars
Binoculars
Binoculars, field glasses or binocular telescopes are a pair of identical or mirror-symmetrical telescopes mounted side-by-side and aligned to point accurately in the same direction, allowing the viewer to use both eyes when viewing distant objects...

 and laser rangefinders and call back fire missions on his radio/telephone.

The FO usually sits on the ground in cover, from which he can see the enemy. However he may also be airborne, which was the original use of aircraft in WWI. He must take great care not to be observed by the enemy, especially if in a static position. Once they find his location they can take offensive action against him; this is not only bad for him but also for the ability of the battery to lay fire.

Using a standardized format, the FO sends map ref. and bearing to target, a brief target description, a recommended munition to use, and any special instructions such as "danger close" (the warning that friendly troops are within 600 meters of the target when using artillery, requiring extra precision from the guns).

The FO and the battery iteratively "walk" the fire onto the target. The FDC signals the FO that they have fired and the FO knows to observe fall of shot. He then signals corrections. These are normally of the form of left/right of the bearing line and distance along it, for example "right 50 add 100" (distance in metres). When the fire is good enough the FO signals "target on, fire for effect".

If the mission requires "walking fire"
Walking fire
Walking your fire is a technique used by operators of certain types of weapons to engage a target without the use of a targeting device. The practice is most closely associated with automatic firearms, such as machine guns, but is also used by indirect-fire weapons, such as mortars and some other...

 he may continue sending correction orders.

The FO may be called upon to direct fire for CAS
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

 and/or Naval GunFire in addition to Field Artillery based howitzer and Infantry based mortar units.

The US Army Field Manual describing the duties and responsibilities is FM 6-30, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Observed Fire.

FDC (Fire Direction Center)

Typically, there is one FDC for a battery
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...

 of six guns, in a light division. In a typical heavy division configuration, there exist two FDC elements capable of operating two four gun sections, also known as a split battery. The FDC computes firing data, fire direction, for the guns. The process consists of determining the precise target location based on the observer's location if needed, then computing range and direction to the target from the guns' location. These data can be computed manually, using special protractors and slide rules with precomputed firing data. Corrections can be added for conditions such as a difference between target and howitzer altitudes, propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, and even the curvature and rotation of the Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. In most cases, some corrections are omitted, sacrificing accuracy for speed. In recent decades, FDCs have become computerized, allowing for much faster and more accurate computation of firing data. The FDC at the battalion level is responsible for recording friendly and enemy positions, tracking available battery munitions, and determining the optimal response for engaging a target identified by the FO.

CP

In most Artillery Batteries the Command Post or CP controls the firing of the guns. It is usually located at the battery center so as to be able to communicate easily with the guns. The CP should be well camouflaged, but the CPO (Command Post Officer) should be able to see all the guns with ease. Gun markers are sometimes placed in front of the CP to remind the CPO which gun is in which position. The CPO is assisted by two "Acks" - or assistants - who operate the fire data computers. The GPO (Gun Position Officer) and CPO work at the plotter to ensure that the data calculated by the Acks is accurate and safe. The CP signaller is contact with the OP, or Observation Post, where the FOO, or Forward Observer Officer, works with the OP team to identify targets and call-back fire data. In recent years, headset radios have become common for communication between the CPO and gun detachment commanders.

Guns

The final piece of the puzzle is the "gun line" itself. The FDC will transmit a warning order to the guns, followed by orders specifying the type of ammunition and fuze setting, bearing, elevation, and the method of adjustment or orders for fire for effect (FFE). Elevation (vertical direction) and bearing orders are specified in mils, and any special instructions, such as to wait for the observer's command to fire relayed through the FDC. The crews load the howitzers and traverse and elevate the barrel to the required point, using either hand cranks (usually on towed guns) or hydraulics
Hydraulics
Hydraulics is a topic in applied science and engineering dealing with the mechanical properties of liquids. Fluid mechanics provides the theoretical foundation for hydraulics, which focuses on the engineering uses of fluid properties. In fluid power, hydraulics is used for the generation, control,...

 (on self-propelled models).

Counter Battery
Counter-battery fire
Counter-battery fire is a type of mission assigned to military artillery forces, which are given the task of locating and firing upon enemy artillery.-Background:...

 

The enemy guns are a threat so one must attempt to remove them.
Most of the time they are too far back for the infantry to engage, so it is left for the artillery.

They locate the enemy batteries and fire to remove them.

The battery uses a variety of techniques to calculate the position of the enemy battery, then can lay fire upon it. If one is lucky one can get an FO into position; either on the ground or in the air. Or one can use
Counter-battery radar
Counter-battery radar
A counter-battery radar detects artillery projectiles fired by one or more guns, howitzers, mortars and rocket launchers and from their trajectories locates the position on the ground of the gun, etc., that fired it. Alternatively, or in addition, it may determine where the projectile will land...

 to locate their guns.

The radar watches the shell's flight and calculates the trajectory. This set of points will include the point on the ground from which the shell originated; i.e. from where it was fired. This location can be passed to the battery commandpost as a firemission.

Counter-counter Battery

To defend against counter battery fire there are two points of attack: either remove the enemy's ability to observe or make his observations irrelevant/obsolete.

To remove the ability to observe one must attack the observation assets. Because most counter-battery radar is active, the location can be determined electronically from listening to their beams. If one suspects ones position is being observed by a covert FO then a mission, either artillery or infantry, will be raised to deal with this threat.

Alternatively one can choose to make their observations obsolete by repeatedly moving the guns: hence self-propelled guns
Self-propelled gun
A self-propelled gun is form of self-propelled artillery, and in modern use is usually used to refer to artillery pieces such as howitzers....

.

Ordinary towed guns can take a while to emplace and re-limber and are not armoured, so they are vulnerable to counter battery fire and take a while to engage when at a new location.

SP guns don't suffer from these restrictions. They can drive up, drop their trails, fire and move on. Because of their armour they are less vulnerable to counter-battery fire. But note that this armour is light by comparison to that of a tank, so it only protects from light fire (MGs) and splinter.

The downside to SP guns is that they tend to be a) have a lighter gun b) less accurate. Which is the most important advantage/restriction depends on how mobile a battle that is being fought.

Parent battalion and US Army brigade/USMC regimental FDCs

FDCs also exist in the next higher parent battalion that "owns" 2-4 artillery batteries. Once again, an FDC exists at the US Army brigade or USMC regimetal level that "owns" the battalions. These higher level FDCs monitor the fire missions of their subordinate units and will coordinate the use of multiple batteries or even multiple battalions in what is called a battalion or brigade/regimental mission. In training and wartime exercises, as many as 72 guns from 3 battalions may all be coordinated to put "steel on the target" in what is called a "brigade/regimental time on target" or brigade/regimental TOT for short. The rule is "silence is consent," meaning that if the lower unit does not hear a "cancel the mission" (don't shoot) or even a "check firing" (cease firing) order from the higher monitoring unit, then the mission goes on. Higher level units monitor their subordinate unit's missions both for active as well as passive purposes. Higher level units also may get involved to coordinate artillery fire across fire support coordination boundaries (often parallel lines on maps) where one unit can not fire into without permission from higher and/or adjacent units that "own" the territory.

Quotes

  • "Ultima ratio regum" English: "The final argument of kings" - Louis XIV's inscription on French artillery
  • "Do not forget your dogs of war, your big guns, which are the most-to-be respected arguments of the rights of kings." - Frederick II of Prussia
    Frederick II of Prussia
    Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

  • "The artillery lends honor to that which would otherwise be a vulgar brawl." - Frederick II of Prussia
    Frederick II of Prussia
    Frederick II was a King in Prussia and a King of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty. In his role as a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire, he was also Elector of Brandenburg. He was in personal union the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel...

  • "God is on the side with the best artillery." - Napoleon I of France
    Napoleon I
    Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

  • "The first shot is for the Devil, the second for God, and only the third for the King." - Napoleon I
    Napoleon I
    Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

  • "The best generals are those who have served in the artillery." - Napoleon I
    Napoleon I
    Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

  • "I do not have to tell you who won the war. You know, the artillery did." - General George S. Patton, Jr.
  • "Brother, your best friend ain't your Momma, it's the Field Artillery." - A sign at Fort Benning
    Fort Benning
    Fort Benning is a United States Army post located southeast of the city of Columbus in Muscogee and Chattahoochee counties in Georgia and Russell County, Alabama...

    , US Infantry School
  • "The Guns, thank God, the Guns." - Rudyard Kipling
    Rudyard Kipling
    Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

  • "Renown awaits the commander who first restores artillery to its prime importance on the battlefield." - Sir Winston Churchill
    Winston Churchill
    Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

  • "Artillery is the god of war." Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...


Major artillery battles

  • First battle of Panipat
    First battle of Panipat
    The first battle of Panipat took place in Northern India, and marked the beginning of the Mughal Empire. This was one of the earliest battles involving gunpowder firearms and field artillery.-Details:...

  • Battle of Malvern Hill
    Battle of Malvern Hill
    The Battle of Malvern Hill, also known as the Battle of Poindexter's Farm, took place on July 1, 1862, in Henrico County, Virginia, on the seventh and last day of the Seven Days Battles of the American Civil War. Gen. Robert E. Lee launched a series of disjointed assaults on the nearly impregnable...

  • Battle of the Somme
  • Battle of Vimy Ridge
    Battle of Vimy Ridge
    The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military engagement fought primarily as part of the Battle of Arras, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, during the First World War. The main combatants were the Canadian Corps, of four divisions, against three divisions of the German Sixth Army...

  • Third Battle of Ypres
  • Battle of Tali-Ihantala
    Battle of Tali-Ihantala
    The Battle of Tali-Ihantala was part of the Continuation War , which occurred during World War II. The battle was fought between Finnish forces—using war material provided by Germany—and Soviet forces...

  • Siege of Dien Bien Phu

See also

  • Field Artillery Branch (United States)
  • Field Artillery in the American Civil War
    Field Artillery in the American Civil War
    Field artillery in the American Civil War refers to the important artillery weapons, equipment, and practices used by the Artillery branch to support the infantry and cavalry forces in the field. It does not include siege artillery, use of artillery in fixed fortifications, or coastal or naval...

  • Field artillery team
    Field artillery team
    In the land-based field artillery, the field artillery team is organized to direct and control indirect artillery fire on the battlefield. Since World War I, to conduct indirect artillery fire, three distinct components have evolved in this organization: the forward observer , the fire direction...

  • Field artillery of Sweden (late 17th -- early 18th century)
  • List of artillery
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