Artillery: July 20, 2001


While the U.S. Army's breakthrough "laser tag" revolutionized combat training in the 1980s, it had one long term bad effect. Infantry and armor units aren't calling in much artillery support anymore. It took over a decade for this bad habit to develop. The cause was the inability for the laser tag system to accurately reproduce artillery fire. As a result, battalions going through the large training centers got into the habit of not calling for artillery as much as before. These exercises were very close to actual combat, mainly because of the realism introduced by the laser. But this realism worked best with direct fire weapons, not indirect fire like artillery. Artillery fire was replicated in the exercises, but crudely. It proved a lot easier just to fight on without it. But there was another factor at work. Just as this type of training was introduced, so was a new doctrine for the army (AirLand Battle) and longer range artillery weapons (the MLRS rocket system.) The artillery saw that the new doctrine called for hitting the enemy at greater distances, before the foe reached our own troops. The air force was also in on this, and was not unhappy about giving up the tricky (and dangerous) close air support. Moreover, the army was introducing more helicopter gunships for close support. Now nearly twenty years later, people began to notice, "what happened to the close artillery support?" What, indeed. No word yet on whether the infantry and armor will get their close support back. In future battles, they will find that this kind of artillery support is still needed. 


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