Surface Forces: March 2, 2004


During the 2003 war in Iraq, an Australian frigate (the HMAS Anzac) engaged in the first use of naval gunfire by an Australian ship since the Vietnam war. Seven times, British Royal Marines Commandoes called on the HMAS Anzac to use it's 5 inch (127mm) gun to hit Iraqi units that were resisting. Often, it only took a few shells to cause the Iraqis to surrender. Over forty of the 70 pound shells were fired over two days. The Anzacs Mk 45 Mod 2 gun has a range of 20 kilometers, although the Anzac was a lot closer than that (about four kilometers) to its targets along the al Faw peninsula. The Mk 45 is something of a standard for ships carrying a 5 inch gun. The entire gun system weighs 25 tons, and needs a gun crew of six sailors, although only one is needed to actually operate the gun. The turret is fully automated, with the magazine below (carrying up to 500 rounds). The turret is also is also water tight and climate controlled. The gun crew spends a lot of time maintaining the turret and the ammunition supply system below deck. The only real competition for the Mk 45 is the Italian firm OTO Melara, which produces a 5 inch gun that fires the same ammo as the Mk 45 and basically offers the weapon to the same customers.

Overall, Australian warships fired seventy 5 inch shells during the same period. The naval gunfire was essential to keeping the British casualties down and clearing Iraqi forces out of the area quickly. Air power could have done the jobs just as well, but during the first two days of the war, the bombers were needed inland. The marines had their own artillery with them as well, which fired over 3,000 rounds. 


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