I read an article today speculating that due to emplacement times being “too long”, that the need to be more mobile on today’s battlefield due to counter battery fire, would mean that towed artillery was likely on the way out to be replaced with self propelled artillery.
Being a former Red Leg with some experience, albeit only with Mech units, and having been retired now for more than 20 years, I can’t help but think that this is a pretty short sighted position given that we still have airborne and air assault units which need to have their own dedicated fire support, and that light howitzers capable of being transported and delivered for these units are still needed.
Is there (or SHOULD there be) a requirement that guns for these units be SP, or is the story of the death of towed artillery greatly exaggerated?
There was a rather spirited debate on the archived site about four years ago on this very subject. I was actually taking the 40 level artillery course at the time. Another artillery “expert” on here claimed that towed artillery was on its way out as well. I posted several signs on the base with weight limits FAR below what a Paladin weighs. And this was not a third world country or some ancient Eastern European village. There was some other nonsense as well about a wheeled SPG possible high siding at the top of a hill. On a ROAD no less. A pretty entertaining thread for its BS value alone if you can find it.
I also made the same point about towed howitzers being air transportable.
They worked in northern Iraq in ‘03. My team lobbied for a combat jump simply because we couldn’t leave the wire without all of Northern Iraq knowing about it right away. Of. course the idea was quashed.
Towed artillery is like main battle tanks; everyone says they’re obsolete in the era of precision guided munitions and drones, but there will always be a need for the “Thirteen Bravos” and “Eight-Elevens” in the future.
If you can put a howitzer atop a hill to put fire on an enemy position, there will always be a need for towed howitzers, both in the 105mm and 155mm variety.
For our final field problem in the 40 level course, they gave us several howitzers, and only enough men to crew two of them. And I believe we only had one or two Humvees. At any rate, it was impossible to defend all of the sectors that they wanted to using conventional means. That’s when I came up with the idea of sacrificing the howitzers after a fire mission and just unassing the position with another one already attached to the Humvee.
The instructors were suitably impressed. One of them said that’s why it was fun to have an SF guy in the class.
Sometimes you just have to think on your feet and be able to pivot according to the conditions on the ground. You Did well; without enough manpower to fully operate those pieces, it would’ve been better to pop WP into the breeches and unass the AO with whatever you can move.
Conditions on the ground will always dictate the mission.
I would only add that what forces in the field have a need for, and what congress/high-ranking military decision-makers decide we need to get rid of in favor of newer, sexier (more expensive!) toys are not always the same thing. I’m career Air Force, so F-111 and A-10 are some examples dear to my own heart.
Unless there is a drastic shift in how we operate (like USMC getting rid of all tanks), towed arty isn’t going anywhere. It is still the best type for supporting light troops and is sometimes the only pieces that can get into certain areas.
Yes, I read some of these essays, Op-Eds, and reports about SPH vs. towed artillery and the demise of the MBT and the CVN aircraft carrier. These topics pop up every now and then with the advent of new long-range precision fires weapon systems.
There will always be a need for towed artillery for air assault and airborne units as someone here said, and the U.S. Marine Corps is just that with their CH-53 Sea Stallions and King Stallions.
I think most people don’t realize just how many 155mm M777s the U.S.M.C. has…481…and the U.S. service branches have 999 M777s. That “en masse” is a LOT of towed artillery and there isn’t a drone system around that can attack so many.
Some (enemy) trucks can fire 50-60 drones in a swarm, but one has to remember that each drone and loitering munition requires a pilot to guide and navigate. Does the enemy have 50-60 soldiers with controllers piloting all the drones and munitions at once? Probably not. At best, there may be 2-6 drone pilots at once controlling fired drones or munitions in the air whereas a M777 crew can fire two rounds per minute and four rounds maximum per minute. It will take a drone and loitering munition a few to dozens of minutes to fly to the target so the towed howitzer would have done some fired shell damage before it was even discovered and counterattacked. And that doesn’t include the anti-drone portable systems that NATO is fielding.
No 155mm SPH has been made light enough for sling-load by a rotorcraft.
Yeah…that’s because the U.S. has no option regarding medium and light tanks…the M1A2SEP being the only heavy main battle tank around until the M10 Booker came to be. The USMC M1A1s were getting to outdated and too heavy to keep up with the expeditionary maneuver force, not to mention that they overload the LCAC hovercrafts until the new U.S. Navy SSC hovercrafts are fielded. Only now have the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy started constructing new landing crafts that can transport a M1A2SEP with some tonnage to spare.
I asked at a Marine webinar if the USMC will consider a heavier caliber than 30mm and the general online said that in urban warfare, a caliber larger than 30mm is required (which is the largest caliber the USMC will field so far). So he said that there needs to be a study and evaluation on larger calibers than 30mm, but he didn’t elaborate. So perhaps 40-50mm or even 105mm M10 Booker might be considered by the USMC. I asked the U.S. Army if the USMC was invited to the M10 Booker testing, eval, and trails, and the U.S. Army Public Affairs spokesperson said, “No.” So I asked General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) and the spokesperson said that GDLS can convert the M10 Bookers for the USMC if asked by the Marines.
Getting rid of USMC M1A1 MBTs was the recently retired USMC Commandant General David H. Berger’s Force Design 2030 plan. It is now General Eric Smith who is in the hospital recovering from a medical emergency so acting USMC Commandant is Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl. The concept for Force Design 2030 may change with the new Commandants so perhaps some form of heavy firepower may return to the Corps. Recall, it’s not so much the MBT that was removed from the USMC…it’s the tracked vehicles that were removed (M1A1 and AAVs) as the USMC is now most an all-wheel ground combat force…and that doesn’t include UGVs.
But this is off-topic to the post of towed artillery…
No one had a solution period. The instructors gave us a Kobayashi Maru scenario to see what we would do. They were actually quite surprised. We ended up leaving two guns in place while we displaced to other firing points. But as we had the breeches (not simulated by the way) the guns could be used by us again should the situation change, but not by the enemy.
However, some people said it’s not really the M777, but takes components from the M777 and strips it. So it’s not as if the U.S. Army can plunk an original M777 on a FMTV and say it’s “good to go.”
“Brutus” was tested and fired by the U.S. Army and then the budget crunches and Continuing Resolutions affected plans. The U.S. Army’s wheeled SPH Competition happened and then faded from media attention with no clear winner announced or made public.
An USMC CH-53K “King Stallion” can max lift 36,000 lbs. “Brutus” weighs in at 29.620 lbs. BUT, the CH-53K can lift 27,000 lbs and fly 110 nautical miles (203 km/126 mi). So perhaps CH-53K can fly closer to 100 miles with “Brutus.” But you need to haul the ammo for “Brutus” though too…
As I suspected, the authors of the article I read seem to misunderstand the problem. In their view “towed” artillery is of “suspect viability” because of a perceived increased vulnerability to counter battery fire, because in their view, the pieces cannot be displaced quickly enough after firing to avoid incoming return fire.
The ability or inability to quickly displace a towed piece certainly does NOT appear to be an issue, and I really never believed that it was.
The real issue affecting the viability of towed artillery is the need to provide organic indirect fire support to light units, specifically airborne and air assault, as well as amphibious assault units such as the USMC.
To the extent that a towed piece is no less difficult to move so as to affect survivability compared to any other type of artillery piece, the ability to PROVIDE and DELIVER an artillery platform that best suits the delivery and employment capabilities of those units will probably ensure that towed artillery ain’t going anywhere, anytime soon.