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Artillery: Direct Fire Makes a Comeback
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January 15, 2008: Israel and the United States have been using artillery for direct fire (shooting at something the gun crew can see, using a sight similar to a sniper scope) more frequently of late. This is often more effective than indirect fire (where the crew calculates where the shell will land when fired at a target they cannot see.) This practice was common during World War II, especially for taking out bunkers, or for fighting in cities. But after World War II, it was discouraged, because it exposed the artillery to more enemy fire. Tanks were seen as more suitable for this kind of work. But the artillery, especially the 155mm howitzers [VIDEO], packed a bigger punch than tank guns. During Vietnam, the U.S. often used self-propelled artillery for direct fire, despite the doctrine that advised otherwise. But many veterans remembered the effectiveness of direct fire from towed and self-propelled artillery.


While the doctrine discouraged direct fire, U.S. artillery was always equipped with a sight for direct fire. This was there for emergencies, when the enemy troops were visible to the gun crews.  Eight years ago, a U.S. Army artillery sergeant developed an electronic night sight for his units towed 155mm howitzers. The U.S. Marine Corps frequently used their M198 and M777 towed 155mm howitzers for direct fire, day and night. Army airborne units also use these towed guns. The guns usually hit targets  over a thousand meters away, keeping the crews relatively safe from enemy fire.


The increasing use of artillery for direct fire has led to units outside combat zones, training for this. The crews like this. Indirect fire is all work, and never seeing what the shells do. Direct fire provides instant feedback.



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ker       1/15/2008 3:42:41 PM
Are some trends in war fighting reversing?  As combat opponents relative resources/capacity as compared to U.S. forces decline doctrines that were needed in a clash with the Warsaw Pact become much less needed or even wasteful? 

(I know that trends continue until they stop.  So wile we need to adjust to these possible changes we also need to hedge or insure ourselves against the risk that an enemy could escape the trend.)

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StudentofConflict       1/16/2008 2:52:32 AM
Maybe the doctrine was over-cautious in the first place ker, the Russians always included artillery direct fire in their doctrine, with simple cheap SPGs like the 2S1/S0-122...
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justbill       1/16/2008 6:01:48 AM
The U.S. and Israel aren't the only ones using direct fire. The Russians (no surprise here) have been doing it all along. There are photos floating around the 'net of WW2 era D-44 85mm field guns firing DF in Chetchnya.
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ker       1/20/2008 9:42:13 PM

Maybe the doctrine was over-cautious in the first place ker, the Russians always included artillery direct fire in their doctrine, with simple cheap SPGs like the 2S1/S0-122...

Some times it's tempting to do it the hard way.
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Sabre       1/21/2008 3:32:11 AM
I think that US doctrine was over-cautious because it was written for fighting the Soviet tank hordes - any Soviet tank, even the T-55, has accurate enough fire control and a flat-trajectory cannon, so a tank could clean out a whole battery of M109's in short order, and the RPGs and AT missiles carried by Soviet infantry wouldn't be any picnic either.
The M109 is a big, easy target to hit...

At the same time, it is just silly that howitzers don't have good sights and fire-control systems for direct fire, on the off-chance that they might need it (we already have a laser and optical sights for each gun, anyway, they just need to be hooked together with a fire solution on the gun's FCS computer)...

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ker       1/22/2008 11:56:06 AM
I was thinking that the different attitude towards losses in the American and Soviet forces might factor in.
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Nasty German Idiot       1/22/2008 3:34:41 PM
Can you hear the screams of joy when the "target" is destroyed :)">" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355">
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neutralizer       1/23/2008 2:45:13 AM
I think its an assumption of heroic proportions to think that it ever went away. 
In some armies direct fire (and not just anti tank) has always been part of the training of gunners, its part of the basic skill set in at least some armies.  Furthermore some armies, eg UK and I think at least Canada and Australia, have done live firing direct fire each year, its a good activity for a bit of competition between guns because its about the only time the guys firing the guns get to see the effects, glorified rifle shooting really but always popular as a training activity. 
The Germans equipped PzH2000 with a LRF.  More recently UK has equipped every L118 105mm with a handheld LRF and given a waiver to allow the APS system to compute direct fire trajectories out to 6km, the gun is layed on the target using the direct fire telescope.  I assume the Canadians are doing the same thing with M777, although they may not have the latest APS upgrade.
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