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Artillery: Marine Gunners Get Their Mojo Back
   Next Article → AIR DEFENSE: Awesome Aegis Ascendant

October 5, 2009: The U.S. Marines, like the U.S. Army, has been putting their artillery units through intensive training, so that they can get back to using their 155mm howitzers again. For some veteran artillerymen, they are firing their 155mm guns for the first time in four or five years, now that they are being sent to Afghanistan instead of Iraq. The marines are putting over 4,000 artillerymen through the training, and sending several of their 43 firing batteries (each with six M777 155mm towed artillery pieces) to Afghanistan.

In 2004, when the counter-terrorism campaign began in Iraq, it was quickly realized that artillery units were not needed much. Smart bombs were far more accurate and effective. There was a GPS guided artillery shell in the works (Excalibur) but it did not show up until 2007. So in the meantime, most army and marine artillery units were temporarily converted to light infantry, and performed security and counter-terrorism tasks. At the same time, many Cold War era artillery units back in the United States were disbanded, made obsolete with the arrival of GPS guided shells and MLRS rockets.

While the Excalibur proved useful in Iraq, it didn't increase the workload of the few 155mm howitzers that were being used there. But Afghanistan was a different story, with the troops spread over a much larger area. This was the kind of situation that the new M777 towed 155mm howitzer was made for. So the army and marine artillery battalions attached to combat brigades are again training on their howitzers, and preparing to operate as artillerymen again, in Afghanistan.

Four years ago, Canada brought six M777 155mm towed artillery pieces to Afghanistan when they realized that the older 105mm guns were not up to the task. The older 105mm howitzers lacked the accuracy and firepower needed. The 105mm shells weighed 33 pounds, versus the 90 pound 155mm ones. The M777s were needed in a hurry, so Canada got them from the U.S. Marine Corps, which has used the weapon for nearly a decade. Canada also got the new GPS guided 155mm Excalibur shell two years ago. Excalibur makes 155mm shells as accurate as smart bombs, and is considered necessary when artillery is used in proximity to civilians. Excalibur also reduces the number of shells used. The Excalibur also doubles the M777 range, to 40 kilometers, without losing any accuracy.

The M777 is a British design and, at four tons, is the lightest 155mm towed howitzer ever fielded. A lightweight 105mm howitzer weighs about two tons. M777 Fire control is handled by computerized system that allows faster response time and more accurate shooting. The Canadians have found the M777 accurate and reliable. In addition to hitting enemy troops, the Canadians have also found the M777 an effective negotiating tool. When discussing relationships with local tribal leaders, Canadian commanders have sometimes had an M777 put a shell in a nearby field or hill side, on command, to demonstrate what the Canadians have at their disposal. Afghans understand that sort of thing. 

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Dave_in_Pa       10/5/2009 10:28:24 AM
There's a Wiki article with some more info about the Excalibur at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M982_Excalibur
 
 
This very high speed photo shows the first combat use of the Excalibur shell in Iraq in 2007, with an Excalibur shell just a few meters overhead from the terrorist safe house it's about to obliterate.  (Hopefully, the terrorists were also obliterated.)
 
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cwDeici       10/5/2009 3:34:27 PM
Too bad these crews will be sitting unused more than necessary until RoE goes back to pseudo-sane levels.
 
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esmoore5       10/5/2009 5:46:39 PM
 
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ArtyEngineer       10/5/2009 6:55:28 PM

KMW is also trying to sell their self-propelled 155mm gun to the pentagon.  See:
link

Im at theAUSAshow and will be going over to have a good poke around this beasty tomorrow.
 
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blkfoot    Terrrozing the Terrorist   10/5/2009 8:01:51 PM
I've heard that Liberal Warriors Inc (owned and operated by the Obama Family) has developed a new projectile for the M777 155mm towed howitzer.
 
Basically it's a Huge paint ball made from a eco-friendly matterial that will bio-degrade after splatting on it's intended target.
 
It really does tick-off the Taliban once they get clobbered by a Baby Blue or Hot Lip Red round..and boy do they get the message...Yeah boy, if the US was really serious this could have been a Flaming Orange round so you Taliban better watch your P's and Q's!
 
Oh, and the ROE....*&^$#%$@(^%$*#@^!!!!!
 
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OldGunner    OldGunner   10/5/2009 11:37:34 PM
I doubt the Marines will ever purchase an SP howitzer in any caliber.  They are a light infantry force.  If I were ever to suggest an all-around SP weapon for the Marines, I'd go with a breech-loading 120mm mortar in a turret on an M113.  You'd have direct and indirect fire capabilities in a tracked, amphibious vehicle and you could add a machinegun/MK19s easily.  Almost becomes very light armor that can be lifted by a CH53.
 
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esmoore5       10/6/2009 2:51:55 AM

I doubt the Marines will ever purchase an SP howitzer in any caliber.  They are a light infantry force.  If I were ever to suggest an all-around SP weapon for the Marines, I'd go with a breech-loading 120mm mortar in a turret on an M113.  You'd have direct and indirect fire capabilities in a tracked, amphibious vehicle and you could add a machinegun/MK19s easily.  Almost becomes very light armor that can be lifted by a CH53.

The USMC is already fielding the Internally Transportable Vehicle and Expeditionary Fire Support System. See: http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2009/07/marine_itv_070509w/ Though it's more of a vehicle for towing a mortar, rather than a true SP mortar system. There have also been test firings of a LAV-3-based 105mm howitzer. See: http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/1262.html Though I'm not sure if the Marines would be interested in something like that.
 
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LB    Probably Not   10/6/2009 5:56:24 AM
The USMC has in the past operated SP 155mm, 175mm guns, and 8inch howitzers.  They would be well served now with long range artillery to supplement the M777 whether towed or SP.  The M777 39cal has a range of 24km and 30 with assisted round vs 30km and 40+km for 52 cal.  The K9 and PzH2000 have fired rounds (BB +RAP) to 56+ km.  The USN 155mm 62 cal AGS fired a guided (GPS + INS) round to 109km in 2005.  The history of long range Marine artillery in Vietnam demonstrates the utility of heavy artillery in support of Marines.
 
The USMC is not a light infantry force.  They are a medium weight expeditionary force that typically fields the heaviest reinforced infantry battalions around.  A USMC rifle battalion has almost 1,000 men before attachments and contains large weapons platoons in each of it's rifle companies as well the weapons company.  A BLT as part of a MEU typically deploys with an attached artillery battery, recon platoon, armored recon plat, tank plat, amtrac plat (15 AAV-7), engineer plat with earthmovers, etc.  It's probably the most powerful general purpose battalion sized infantry force on the planet.  I believe a US Army light infantry battalion has about 560 men with about half the mortars of a USMC rifle batt.
 
This aside if the Corp wanted a 120mm it would make more sense to mount it on the LAV as a turreted 120mm system has already been mounted on a Piranha or cross train the 155mm artillery battery assigned to the BLT to operate a 120mm so perhaps they could operate 4 155mm and 4 120mm if desired instead of the assigned 6 155mm.  That said when an infantry battalion has it's own artillery battery the need for heavy mortars (the weapons company has 8 81mm) seems limited to specific situations of questionable frequency.  YMMV.
 
I doubt the Marines will ever purchase an SP howitzer in any caliber.  They are a light infantry force.  If I were ever to suggest an all-around SP weapon for the Marines, I'd go with a breech-loading 120mm mortar in a turret on an M113.  You'd have direct and indirect fire capabilities in a tracked, amphibious vehicle and you could add a machinegun/MK19s easily.  Almost becomes very light armor that can be lifted by a CH53.

 
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