Artillery: Direct Fire Makes a Comeback



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.