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Subject: Artillery Targeting Process
ArtyEngineer    3/16/2006 1:24:41 PM
This is predominantly a question for Neutraliser, Carl S and S-2 but I welcome contributions from anyone else who can. Basically what is the targeting process in any theater of operations, what are the lines of communication between the combined arms team? I know this is a very complex process. Do any of the US arty FM's go into this?
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neutralizer    RE:Artillery Targeting Process   3/17/2006 4:38:03 AM
I guess the short answer is it depends on the target. It probably also depends on the nature of operations and the ROE. Formal targeting procedures seem to be a relatively new phenomena in some armies, and probably only apply to some targets beyond the contact battle. Traditionally, in the view of the ABCA nations, and I think this view is reflected in the STANAG that followed the 1965 agreement, there were two systems of fire control. The US system was that observers requested fire from a 'cell' (or HQ) that had authority to direct guns under there control. The rest gave authority to those in a position to need it and could move this authority around. This involved fuzziness, but worked in practice, it meant fire units could be under control of several different authorities. For example an observer could always order the fire of his own battery, and selected 'observers' were given authority over larger groupings, eg BCs invariably had authority to fire their regiments against opportunity targets. The actual 'mechanics' of targeting were most highly developed for nuc wpns, where there was formal target analysis (at least in theory). There was less formality for other types of weapon although the introduciton of programs such as Superquickie 2 gave formality when they were used. Today, close targets are generally handled in the traditional way but depth targets are more likely to involve a targeting process, although the degree of time sensitivity is a factor. Targetting includes selecting the optimim means, which may not be artillery.
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Carl S    RE:Artillery Targeting Process   3/17/2006 7:40:32 AM
My knowledge effectively ceases from 1997. And, I was focused on the USMC. For Planning In the unit operations center, at any level the targeting cell consisted of the liasion officers from all the supporting arms. Artillery, air, Naval gunfire, mortars at the battalion or company. At the company level the observer would be the liasion, at higher levels there is the a appropriate size liasion team. The S/G3 or his second and the inteligence section are part of this. As planning starts the intel provides enemy know locations and the 3 provides the scheme of manuver/comanders intent. The target list is generated from these. This planning is a continual thing, refining the target list/program/schedules as needed until the last round is launched. The fire plans are automaticly passed to the next command level for review/approval/integration into the larger plan/modification. The communication knode is the Fire Support Coordinator in the unit ops center. The FSC handles the details of coordinating the fire plan. At the company level this would be the XO or weapon plt comander. Above it is a specific officer, who accumulates a clerical staff as the command level rises. The info concerning plan changes & current mission execution pass throug the liasions to the FSC. All information concering planning and mission execution is automaticly passed upwards to the next command level for review there. Communications links were traditionaly through wire for reliability. With radio each liasion used a seperate circut belonging to his particular supporting arms unit. Once the reliability and programing issues were resolved (they were wern't they?) computers speed up the administrative side of this. Orgainizing data and writing up complex fire plans became easier. And essential information was automaticly transmitted. But the computers did seem to reduce the number of people bumping about in the HQ tent, or the Fog of War. For imeadiate fire support missions the same system is involved, but the participation of all the parts is largely a review of after the fact. The senior comand levels can, through the FSC or the specific arms comand chian, kill a mission for good cause. The interest of the other players is if the new mission addresses any target concerning them then or later. Are there any specifics we are not addressing for you?
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Carl S    RE:Artillery Targeting Process   3/17/2006 7:45:52 AM
There are actually a shelf full of FM detailing this. (All probably five years obsolete). Cant recall the numbers, but they will likely have 'Fire Support Coordination' as part of the title. They primarily address the nuances at different command levels.
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AlbanyRifles    RE:Artillery Targeting Process   3/17/2006 10:18:55 AM
If an old Infantryman can add a little to this….. As a company commander, prior to a mission (lets say an attack on Objective FISH), I would receive the battalion operations order at an OPORD Brief. The battalion maneuver plan would be published along with the battalion and brigade fire plan….i.e., a listing and targeting of those known and expected enemy locations. These areas were preprogrammed into the supporting artillery system so as to speed up the process when fires were needed. Also, I would find out from the battalion fire support officer what any preplanned fires (artillery, air strikes, mortars, etc.) were. My fire support officer, a lieutenant from the supporting artillery battalion would then work with me when I developed my company scheme of maneuver. He would sit beside me and note when I wanted fires placed on a target/objective (i.e., smoke when crossing a dangerous obstacle; WP and HE on a far wood line to disrupt ATGM fires; VT and HE SQ on the objective area with FASCAM on the counter attack routes). All of this would get put into the entire fire planning process up through the division. Each target would have a reference number which could be shared across units. The idea was that preplanned fires could hit a target a lot quicker than ad hoc fires…i.e., the shell/fuze combos had been worked out along with the duration of fires and firing data for the guns themselves had already been worked out ahead of time.
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S-2    RE:Artillery Targeting Process   3/17/2006 11:31:52 AM
My knowledge base is degrading rapidly. Both Carl S. and A.R. have added valuable points of which I generally concur. Some thoughts- 1.) At the manuever brigade level, the official FSCOORD is the D.S. Arty Bn. Cdr. He rarely fills this role with the exception of participation in major offensive ops. His role was routinely filled by the Bde. FSO (Artillery O-4 slot). Manuever battalion/company fires were planned by the infantry/combined arms manuever commander and his FSO, and coordinated by that FSO to support the scheme of manuever. 2.) Commander's Intent (particularly in a planned attack)is paramount at each level of manuever command, as it generally provides the guidance necessary to drive the supporting fire plan. 3.) At brigade/division level, guidance really begins with the allocation of resources and restrictions imposed upon their use, i.e.- direct support, reinforcing, general support-reinforcing, and general support. Depending upon the allocation and definition/restrictions of these fires (usually from the DIVARTY/Corps ARTY CDR)would, to a great extent, determine the availability of both tubes and rounds to be expended in support of the manuever scheme. Clearly, a responsibility resided in the DIVARTY/CORPS ARTY commanders to allocate resources based upon THEIR manuever commanders overall intent. 3.) Mortar fires were (with rare exception) not considered at the manuever brigade level and up. In some cases of which I'm aware, they should-and could have been more closely integrated/coordinated by brigade FSOs and S-3s, but were too often ignored either because of the eagerness or complexity of integrating close air, helicopter gunship, or Corps Arty support. Instead, mortar fires were routinely dismissed as the rifle company/battalion commander's "hip-pocket" artillery. That was fine for those commanders, and certainly eased the coordination process at the brigade level, but it largely left out the most numerous and responsive fires in the brigade sector from all schedules of fires, target lists, and programs that were planned at brigade or higher. Of course, propriety of those fires was assumed by the infantry commanders, and woe be any arty fireplanner who tried to integrate mortar fires in a brigade fireplan. I can remember a painful episode where a manuever brigade S-3 made plain to me, following a tongue-lashing to him by a rifle battalion commander AND his own brigade commander for daring to include that rifle battalion's mortars in a fireplan designed to support THEIR attack! Go figure-silly me (it STILL pisses me off). 4.) Ammo- The best laid plans of mice and men remain vulnerable to the whims (just kidding, A.R.) of the log crowd. We could NEVER find enough rounds to satisfy the manuever commanders intent on various targets, i.e., suppress, neutralize, destroy, etc. Smoke, in particular, was always an issue. This led to negotiations/modifications in the fireplan, but oftentimes led to great opportunities to "educate" (I can see old grunt, A.R. Ambush, Horsesoldier and others rolling their eyes)the manuever side with the benefits AND limitations of support. 5.) Flawless dissemination and execution of plans did not occur. I cannot recall ever when some target wasn't missed in a fire plan. Somewhere in the ether between the manuever bde. staff and the gun section, the ball would be dropped. Murphy. Count on it. 6.) I know of one instance of an army artillery officer firing NGF. He was a Tgt. Acq. plt. leader in Lebanon in 1983-84, using the very new TPSQ-37 in direct support of the New Jersey. Other than that, we didn't- and prayed for a marine arty officer somewhere near if we would be forced to do so. Carl would be the man on integrating NGF to a manuever fireplan, if anybody. 7.) My experience with helicopter gunship is nil, from a planning perspective. I only participated in planning them on two air assaults, and then only indirectly as I was involved in planning a SEAD schedule to facilitate their ingress/egress to the objective LZ. In fact, their targets never made it into the artillery target list, nor our fire plan. This was a mistake. I guess it was assumed that if the SEAD program went poorly, there'd be no need to worry about suppressing targets on the immediate objective/LZ. 8.) This may sound awful, but FM 6-20, 30, and 40 were my only "fire-planning references" other than commander's guidance, and I'm unaware of doctrinal publications that address the issue in more detailed terms. Frankly, I'm fine with that, if it is so. The aforementioned pubs nicely delineate the technical requirements for the artillery battalion/battery, while leaving the requisite space for the artistry of coordinating fires. There were some guys who "got it", and others who didn't, to include many artillery officers. Combined fires integration, planning, coordination, and execution was great "fun", as it allowed for imaginative thinking.
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S-2    RE:Artillery Targeting Process   3/17/2006 11:48:36 AM
Another thought. No matter how much artillerymen try; in the end, the targeting process gets driven by the manuever commander, who at each level is senior to the FSCOORD. This is appropiate. Nonetheless, there remain decisions affected by the technical qualities or limitations of fire support that require a strong-willed and competent artillery officer able to effectively highlight and influence the proceedings. This friction is often discussed in artillery circles, usually as a source of frustration. I've yet to imagine a procedural solution that would alleviate this issue, and imagine that, like log and intel, it remains inherant to the "advise and consent" role of staff. At least I wasn't branched chemical. Those poor guys really had it tough.
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ArtyEngineer    RE:Artillery Targeting Process   3/17/2006 12:02:25 PM
Thanks guys, all good stuff. Reason I asked the question is that we are about to start fielding M777A1 howitzers with Digital Fire Control, this will just be a basic aiming, locating and nav system for the weapon. However Block 2 of the software is going to so much more. Each howitzer will have on board ballistic computation capabilites. Each howitzer is going be in constant communication with the "Battlefield Managers" as targets are identified and loaded into the system the weapon will compute all possible firing solutions for all munitions available to that howitzer. All this will happen in the background to the howitzer section chief. He will simply have access to a set of fire orders to engage any target within range as they become available. We are bringing Arty kicking and screaming inot the 21st Century. I have some really cool stuff such as Chief Of Section Heads UP display showing him all data pertinant to his howitzer. I am trying to get a handle on how this will fit with existing processes, who talks to who, who has the final decision to give the gunline permissio to fire. BAE, Raytheon, GD and a few others are all working very closely regarding the "Network Centric" Battlefield, and as a participent in the discussion and briefings its important that I have an understanding of exactly how the process works.
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S-2    RE:Artillery Targeting Process/ArtyEngineer Reply   3/17/2006 12:37:06 PM
Well, I was always taught- and taught, that the section chief has permission to load and fire upon receipt of QE, unless otherwise restricted by "do not load/at my command" in the fire command. I'm dinosauristically frightened by removing human interface through the transmission process of converting targets into fire commands. I LIKE safety "Ts" at the guns. I LIKE hearing "check" or "hold" in the FDC. I LIKE graphics such as NFAs and FSCLs clearly displayed at each level up/down the targeting system. I fear artillery commanders, from section chief to DIVARTY who don't know what's being fired, nor why. Understand, before I sound too anachronistic, I believe that fire plans, and the processing of targets REALLY demands the full absorption of commander's intent. This means the ability to intercede and alter fires as ultimately only compatible to intent-not plan. It means the active interface at staff level with the manuever scheme, as it is being executed- not planned. It means the company and battalion FSOs at the D.S. artillery battalion level keeping the FDCs in the manuever loop during the execution phase of fires. Some unit over-runs an objective too quickly and, at a minimum, ammunition is needlessly expended. At the max- a disaster on the objective. I'm not the only one who's raised these issues as we've increasingly digitized our fires over the last twenty years, and I KNOW there are solutions that can resolve these matters. I fear, however, that the technology is rapidly outpacing our abilities to see, absorb, collate, and truly know this real time information. The issues that I highlight were present "back in the day", and more so now-if the information flow to each level exceeds the capacity to manage and influence. I envision tubes loading, being elevated and traversed, and fired-while everybody from gunner through btry. FDO/X.O. trying to match the mission fired to some printout to know what it is that they ust shot, nevermind BDA from the observer. Inevitable and solvable, I know- but frightening to this dinosaur nonetheless.
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ArtyEngineer    RE:Artillery Targeting Process/ArtyEngineer Reply   3/17/2006 12:55:11 PM
I have the exact same concerns, specifically regarding the "control" aspect of the process, as you said the receipt of the fire orders has been the go ahead to fire when ready unless otherwise stated, however in the not too distant future all possible fire orders will be available at the weapon upon identification of a target!!!! The ability of "the man in the loop" to keep up with the flow of data available to him is rapidly reaching its limit.
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ArtyEngineer    RE:Artillery Targeting Process/ArtyEngineer Reply   3/17/2006 1:05:46 PM
As its St Paddy day I am off on a "Drunken Rampage" for the weekend, wish me luck. Then its off up to 29 Palms to investigate a howitzer which is shooting long/short randomly yet still passes Fire Control Alignment Checks, next week will be fun.
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