Artillery: August 8, 2002


In Afghanistan, Army units left their artillery home and relied on helicopters and fighters to provide their supporting fires. This proved less than ideal, as it was harder to coordinate this type of support, each supporting aircraft had far less ammunition than an artillery battalion, and delays often resulted when there were not enough aircraft circling a given battlefield. Cannon artillery has been "discovered" to be the only fire support system available 24 hours a day in all weather. Some enemy positions were so spread out that a single GPS-guided bomb could not destroy them, and no one foxhole was worth an expensive bomb. The troops did have their own unit mortars, but these had limited range and ammunition. Had the towed 105mm howitzers been available during Operation Anaconda, they could have put the al Qaeda mortars (which caused most of the US casualties) out of action. The troops from the 82nd Airborne (which replaced the 101st as troops rotated) were advised to take their howitzers with them. The new 60mm mortars carried by light units (used in combat for effectively the first time) were proven to be highly useful within their limitations. They are, basically, great big grenade throwers rather than true artillery. --Stephen V Cole


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