2016/10/12

"Battery"

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The artillery has its own way of calling companies, similar to units that descended from cavalry in some countries A company of artillery is called "battery" (Batterie). It took decades to shed the traditional Abteilung (~detachment) and call a German artillery battalion a "Bataillon" instead. The (West) German artillery also needed two generations to finally incorporate WW2 lessons and admit that joint fire support teams (forward observers) should be versatile and call for artillery, mortar and close air support instead of the army having separate observers with different terminologies.
So there's ample evidence that a certain conservatism and tradition-orientation exists in the artillery, including the German artillery.

Technology and procedures challenge another tradition of the artillery, and this time it does to the very heart of it: 

Artillery guns (or multiple rocket launchers) used to be sited together in groups of 4-6 heavy weapons. Battles saw grande batteries from the 18th century onward, ad hoc concentrations where dozens if not hundreds of guns were sited together.

This is an obsolete approach. Such artillery concentrations create high value target areas and attract counterfires. There's no need for such grouping of guns any more anyway; as it was mostly done for economy. You needed less of the expensive radios, less land navigation effort (especially north finding) and less fire control personnel and equipment if you did all this for a battery instead of for every single gun.  Nowadays be have GPS/Galileo, inertial navigation systems, quality maps and radios are ubiquitous and relatively cheap.

Modern self-propelled guns are equipped with what they need to go into position to fire a mere minute or two after receiving a fire mission by radio. They can do so on their own, knowing where they are and which direction they're facing. They receive meteorological and fire mission data by radio and calculate their own fire solution by computer.


This finally begs the question: Why do we have batteries?

Nexter's Ceasar 2, 155 mm L/52 with autoloader
The tactical reason for batteries is gone. Whatever organisation the artillery should have should thus be based on administrative efficiency considerations. A modern SPG usually has a crew of 3-6 depending on type. A typical battery/company of six such guns would only have 18-36 (wo)men at the tip of the spear. That's rather a platoon. There's usually lots of overhead in such units beyond the SPG crews, but one could easily argue that an artillery battalion could or should look look this

HQ (with signallers)
  Meteorological and sensors company*
  Fires company** (including a small unit meant to scout future firing positions)
  Munitions company*** (with 15 ton 8x8 lorries)

I suppose such a reform could be used as a positive proof for a readiness to adapt to modern times by an artillery branch.

S O

*: "Sensors" should include artillery radar, acoustic triangulation sensors and tethered drones for muzzle flash triangulation. A good case could be laid out for having JFST and non-portable free-flying drones in a non-artillery unit directly under brigade HQ control, serving the HQ's, tanks', infantry's and artillery's thirst for information equally.
**:: SPG and MRL may be mixed. There's no reason to separate them any more. Even surface-to-air missiles could be employed by the company.
***: with PLS / MULTI /DROPS equipment. Meant to haul munitions from a corps logistics hub area and carry up to two days worth of munitions till needed. Then drop  the pallet next to a SPG and return to the hub. A very different mode of operation from the other units.
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17 comments:

  1. A single Fires Company?
    Not very efficient support-wise.

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    1. That statement implies a certain quantity of SPGs / MRLs in the fires company, which was not given.
      How many SPGs / MRLs in the fires company did you assume?

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    2. 6-8 organized in 2-4 platoons each. Each platoon can perform a fire mission.
      Basically, an artillery regiment per division. With each battalion tasked to support a regimental combat team.

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    3. So what's inefficient about support if you expect 12-32 firing systems in a fires company?

      A German arty battalion has 24 PzH 2000.

      Regimental combat teams are WW2 lingo, ever since only used by Marines and Commonwealth traditionalists. USMC RCTs are de facto brigades.

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    4. If you organize everything in a single company, then you have trouble peeling off units to support. Every firing system tasked to support should have at least a scouting team to take it to its spot, an ammo carrier and some redundancy (at least two tubes). Oh and a few extra bodies for security.
      So if you lump everything in a company you have:
      a) 2-4 scouting vehicles.
      b) 12-32 fire systems.
      c) 12-32 ammo carriers.
      d) 1-2 COs vehicles (optional)
      So you're looking at (potentially) up to 70 vehicles in a single company.

      I'm basing on what I know of the IDF. Which uses single-arms regiments (which are called brigades) in peacetime and organizes RCTs in combat.

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    5. No, you're following the old paradigm and didn't really understand what the article was about.

      There's absolutely no need to have ammo vehicles in the fires company. There's nothing impeding the cooperation between ammo vehicles and fires vehicles even while they're in different units.
      And frankly, I think of many more scouting vehicles (but I think of motorcycles). One might even think of permanently attaching a MP motorcyclist platoon to the fires company, so all those motorcyclists are useful for traffic control on administrative marches.

      The coordination of artillery happens through digitized fire control networks like ADLER. The units merely exist for administrative efficiency and leadership (morale, discipline).

      I divided the battalion into companies that are very different in nature when employed. This guides how the leadership has to work, what discipline and attitude is required and what proficiencies are required. It seems to be an efficient partition.

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    6. Unless you're talking about having way more ammo lorries than the current MTOE requires or a huge load on the SPGs themselves - I don't see it happening efficiently.

      The main ammo dump can be several hours away (factoring traffic, etc.) from the arty bn,
      so basically a resupply mission happens once daily and usually on schedule dictated by the logistics. During the several hours the ammo on hand can definitely run dry even with ammo carriers. Without them it will run dry much faster.

      Digitized fire control network is nice when it works, but when you have a peer enemy to contend with - you wan't lower tech backup. And this means accepting lower efficiency of artillery fire (more tubes per mission) and coming back to battery fire.

      Looking at the current structure of US FA battery, you have 6 SPGs, 6 tracked ammo carriers and 6(!) ammo lorries.
      PS
      An interesting link concerning the Crusader and ammo supply:
      http://g2mil.com/Arty.htm

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    7. It's much worse than that.

      Resupply missions don't happen once daily in mobile warfare, experience from the Gulf Wars indicates that munitions and fuel resupply can be expected to happen every 2nd day for manoeuvre units on average. The manoeuvre forces should thus CARRY three times the daily consumption of munitions and fuel immediately after receiving such a supply pulse.

      The daily shell consumption is widely expected to be about 200 rounds, but 300 rounds may be a safer guess. We can calculate with 800 shells per 3 days because of technical, accident and hostile fire attrition of the SPGs, though.

      Reloading a PzH 2000 is fairly quick - 12 minutes for 60 rounds. Done five times a day that's a mere one hour reloading per day, done by 2 of the 5 crewmen. Carlton Meyer was concerned about U.S. artillery equipment which is still stuck in the late 80's in this regard.

      A heavy lorry (15 ton) can carry 200 155 mm shells. This means four heavy lorries + at least one more for the (relatively light) propellant modules should be in the manoeuvre forces structure for every SPG if a dedicated munitions resupply vehicle is absent. The onboard munition supply of the SPG has little influence on this.

      A Bde with 20 SPGs would end up needing about 100 15 ton supply lorries. This is regardless of the unit structuring. This quantity is necessary for the 800 rounds/3 days stock.
      100 EPLS/PLS/DROPS/MULTI 15 ton lorries require 200 men, that's even with some overhead still within the confines of a company's definition. Company leadership would be relatively straightforward because marching/land navigation, loading/unloading by load system and evasion of threats are most of what the unit needs to master.

      Artillery can usually go to radio shadows (behind hills) and stay far "behind" to maintain radio communications in face of jamming. The only deep jamming platforms are aerial ones, and those can be countered fairly well. Ground-based jammers will be targeted by arty based on ESM triangulation, possibly by missiles such as ALAS or air power if the jammer is on the move.

      A return to batteries would not reduce the communications problem by much if at all. It would do nothing for supply efficiency or to lower supply demand.

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      Well, if anyone wants to understand my aversion to MRLs in manoeuvre formations, think about the poor mass and volume efficiency of rocket munitions compared to shells! The supply problems are mind boggling.

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    8. I'm pretty sure that the 100 lorries will require a humongous amount of support - fuel and maintenance wise. I'd say 1:10 ratio of fuel trucks and 1:20 maintenance vehicles looks about right, so the munitions company becomes even more of a beast.
      And using your calculus - detaching a single tube for a fire mission means detaching the tube, the attendant munitions lorries (5) and the scout teams. 7 vehicles, 8 if the SPG is tracked and goes by a different route from the lorries. Not very efficient - especially if you consider the increased load on the road network from all the small convoys from each detached SPG to the Corps ammo dump. Larger convoys should be more efficient on a per ton basis (I have no cite for that - gut feeling).
      I argue that a battalion level ammo dump would be more efficient. Said ammo dump would be fed from the Corps level by the lorries and thence by the tracked ammo carriers to the guns (assuming SPGs are tracked).
      The munitions lorries should be divided between battalion and corps, so as to keep the Bn manageable and allow a more efficient use of the lorries (not all the divisions in the corps have the same optempo and require the 200 rounds/day).

      Furthermore, I argue that detaching single SPGs is not a good military practice (sending fairly junior NCOs to liase with different units, no backup in case of technical fault etc.) The unit to be detached should have more than one tube, tracked ammo carriers and scout team (and possibly munitions lorries and fuel truck if needed). All this should be commanded by an officer. The vehicle (and their mission) diversity requires a not-too-junior officer. No matter how you call this detachment, it's still a battery by any other name.

      MRL have their place - and that place is usually as a corps-level asset.

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    9. I don't see why you think attaching support to a freely moving SPG would be necessary. There's no need for lorries to follow an SPG around for 2-3 days.
      The laden lorries stay with the Bde train element, benefiting of its common security effort. At times individual lorries are sent to their individual drop off point, and after dropping their pallet they return to Corps logistics hub to get a new munitions pallet.
      Individual SPGs arrive at the drop off point one after another and refill within minutes without bunching up.

      Likewise, there's no need for arty route and location scouts to be attached to individual SPGs. They - like the SPGs - get their area of operations assigned and reconnoitre the routes and locations, reporting their findings to a network so the SPG leaders know their surroundings.
      The SPGs would double as pickets for the Bde train element, capable of killing an armoured recce vehicle on first shot at up to ~2 km range and often providing overwatch for each other (leap frogging with hundreds of metres of spacing). This, of course, heavily favourites turret SPGs rather than Caesar 2, Archer etc..

      Also, lorry maintenance would not be organic to the arty Bn. The repair workshop would be part of the Bde's logistics and support Bn, and repairs would preferably be done back at the Corps log hub.

      There's also no need for ONE Bn supply dump - that would only attract HE.

      You're thinking way too much towards rigid associations and attachments. I'm thinking rather about association with areas and about networks here.

      We agree on the MRLs at least, though temporar attachment to battalion battlegroups is appropriate for MRLs with thermobaric short range munitions mission and MRLs with air defence role belong to a Bde as well. Traditional HE or DPICM hurling MRLs should be corps assets, though.

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  2. The word "battery" is not only a technical (fire control, surveying ... etc are technical) or administrative convenience, but a tactical one. In essence, battery implies the guns within it are to be used "as-one", regardless of their geographical dispersion, against one target.

    This quickly cuts away a lot of marginal choices for the commander, leaving time to ponder the merits of major options. For example, I am an artillery battalion commander supporting a brigade. In the current scheme, I have 3 "batteries" of six guns each. In your scheme, I have 18 guns.

    In the current scheme, I can quickly summarize how I can help the brigade. In essence, I can hit three targets at once, no more, so the brigade should quickly decide which are the three they most want hit. If he comes back with a demand for me to hit some target with only two guns, I can easily justify my reluctance to comply and in fact he probably won't even ask.

    In your scheme, we are swamped with a maze of options, many of which are at best marginal improvements over the current doctrine and many more are just plain marginal. For example, now I can hit Target A with 7 guns x 5 rounds = 35 rnds and Target B with 5x7=35, but are these significant improvements on just hitting both with 6x6=36? Probably not, but I'm now obliged to consider these marginal variants. I'll also have to justify why I can't hit Target A & B with only 5 guns each so I can put two guns on Target Z for a "harassing" fire. Probably that's not a good idea because 2 guns are not really that effective and we're better off first servicing Target A and B before massing a blow at Target Z, but thanks to the loss of fixed firing units I'm now forced to defend this in long form which consumes time I can probably use elsewhere.

    All this has a high chance of leading to less instead of greater tactical efficiency, which is why the traditional subunits are still in play.

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    1. All of what you described has been obsolete for many years, gone with the introduction of digitized artillery fire control.
      http://www.taranis.esg.de/wp-content/uploads/ADLER-III_A-TARANIS-Battlefield-Solution_english.pdf
      The software even provides you with a recommendation for what to allocate to a fire mission. There's no reason whatsoever why such a system couldn't handle individual vehicles as well as batteries.
      You could still form batteries by subordinating several SPGs to a selected SPG leader, so they simply follow him around.

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  3. I'm thinking of control on the road network in the rear. Many small units moving there are difficult to control, especially since not every vehicle is hooked up to the network. Oh every lorry MAY have a locating beacon, but putting a terminal on every vehicle? So if there's a breakthrough or infiltration - the enemy can create lots of chaos.

    A single SPG can't be a picket. Not enough manpower, wrong siting for listening and observation. The only data it will provide when it runs into an enemy is a loss of transmission.

    The scout teams are not for route navigation, but rather for selecting the proper sites, taking into consideration things that cannot be read from a map. Ease of access, security, etc.

    I repeat, in the same key as the maintenance is not organic to the Bn, there's no need for all of the lorries to be organic to the bn. 100 HEMTTs (or their equivalents) is a LOT.

    Ammo drop of points necessitate security and control and it's fairly manpower intensive, to the tune of a squad per point. And reloading takes time. More than 15 minutes, in any case.

    Hmm. Associating artillery with areas, not units is will work in a static situation (on the defense, or stability operations) but I'm not sure how it will work out when maneuvering.

    In the end, what's the benefit of consolidating all of the SPGs into a single "fires" battery? You save about four officer slots (2 COs and 2 XOs), maybe some NCOs (depending on how much loggy/maintenance the original battery had)?

    Oh and the absence of tracked ammo carriers bugs me. Why? The M548 is cheap and can carry (I think) ~80 rounds and it can follow a tracked SPG anywhere, unlike the HEMTT.

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    1. I'm not thinking of main supply routes here - dispersed road marches are a thing in logistics, with minimum convoy sizes (3 vehicles). Again, this requires one to think about areas and routes, not about units.
      OPFOR breakthrough, infiltration and stay-behind forces always create chaos and havoc. There's by definition not enough personnel to prevent this.

      Scout teams are necessary for route recce because they need to determine which bridges can support an almost 58 ton PzH 2000, and where SPGs can ford small rivers. In addition to firing sites (which don't need to be reconnoitered much because of modern navigation systems) you need to check for hideouts (farm barns and factory/workshop halls mostly, for example) and drop-off points.

      The lorries that serve the "all times" munitions resupply needs of the Arty Bn should be organic to it, for optimised training. Peak munitions demand (450 rounds per day and gun are not unreasonable) can be satisfied by using some of the Logistics Bn's lorries which can switch from fuel to munitions transportation on demand.
      There's no point in assigning all supply lorries to the Logistics Bn if you know that 40% of them will be busy with arty munitions anyway. It's better to train the core supply capacity to be best at munitions supply.

      I already mentioned that reloading a PzH takes 12 minutes, not 15. The actual feeding of the munition is even much quicker than that.

      A munitions pallet is merely a lifeless object - no need for dedicated security. You drop it off, and there's either a SPG already, on overwatch or it will arrive few minutes later. Losing a pallet of shells to sabotage once in a while doesn't matter much.
      Security is in great demand everywhere, and always short in supply. I'd rather provide security for a platoon of signallers than for a lifeless pallet of supply.

      Area assignments can and need be updated in mobile warfare, but even in mobile warfare the phases of actual movement are but a few hours per day. Some SPGs could be attached to manoeuvre Bns, but they too would need to spread out by at least 2 km due to inefficiency if not impossibility of SPG indirect fires at very short ranges (well under 2 km).

      I didn't write that SPGs would be the ONLY pickets (see my old post on defensive reconnaissance for example), but it sure is a secondary utility of turreted SPGs that they can kill any OPFOR vehicle or bunch of stragglers with first shot. They must not be with the brigade's supply train element anyway, for this would attract fires to it.

      M548 and the like were a solution for slow low munition capacity SPGs. PzH 2000 carries 60 rounds instead of the M109's up to 39. Mil Spec 8x8 lorries such as MAN HX series with protected cab can go about as close to SPGs as an M548 can.
      2 additional tracked vehicles such as the obsolete M548 would necessitate an additional tank transporter. A tracked resupply vehicle that keeps up with PzH 2000 mobility (M548 does not) would cost more than € 4 million that are better spent on good munition stocks and field exercises. High capacity tracked resupply vehicles such as K10 that can keep up with PzH 2000 would also require one tank transporter each.

      Tracked resupply vehicles are also maintenance nightmares and fuel inefficient compared to 8x8 lorries. Furthermore, they aren't compatible with large shell pallets or containers (for DROPS/MULTI/PLS/EPLS).

      The benefit of consolidating into single themed companies is indeed for efficiency of leadership and administration. Compared to 2 Fires Coy one would save CO, XO, Coy senior NCO ("Spieß"), 1-2 administration junior NCOs and 2 office enlisted personnel. That's half a million € or so (depending on country) saved annually in favour of spares, fuel and extra munition stocks.
      The Fires Bn could still compete with another identical Fires Bns nearby (see my recent post on garrison clusters) to drive up proficiency and provoke innovation.

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  4. Ok. Checked out the videos of the PzH2000 resupply and colour me impressed. I can believe the 12 minutes.

    And now we can see how technology and the area of operations affects organization - I was keeping in mind the M109/M548/HEMTT combo in the Middle East (few rivers, lots of hills that can't be judged reliably from maps)

    While I agree on the training angle, but if we're talking re-supply once every two days - won't every lorry have about 24 hours "off"? I can't see any resupply mission taking more than 24 hours (and more like 12).

    Concerning manpower - I'd like to note that you'll need larger platoons to maintain the ratio for officer jobs and better grade NCOs as tube commanders (they operate independently more). The cost benefit analysis will vary from country to country.

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    1. Resupply every 2nd day means that lorries that dumped their cargo get to return to Corps log hub in small packages if possible.

      Alternatively, a battalion battlegroup in isolation (on a raid, for example) might be without such a trickling of tiny lorry convoy back and forth for 2-3 days.
      The two-day resupply interval was an observation during 2003 OIF, for example. That was a modestly rapid advance with minor harassment of the main supply route.

      It's still fine to hope for a near-continuous flow of supplies, but expectation should be once per 2 days and planning should be for 3 days so with some rationing you could last 4 days without new deliveries till you collapse once under pressure.

      An independently acting PzH2000 would likely have a Feldwebel/staff sergeant as commander, considering the rank inflation since the early 90's. That's the lowest senior NCO rank (requires passing a 2nd NCO course) in Germany. The two lowest NCO ranks Uffz/StUffz are rarely trusted with such independence any more.
      And frankly, platoons would serve little more purpose than oversight in the fires Coy; they would have no tactical meaning there.

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  5. For everyone since it was discussed so much in comments:

    How to reload a Panzerhaubitze 2000
    https://youtu.be/dl6JeocRsNc?t=7m05s
    One shell is taken in by the robotic system every 11-14 seconds.

    Propellant modules need to be loaded as well.
    10 minute per reloading is reasonable assuming that the SPG will often not have fired all of its shells yet (it makes no sense to wait with taking in new supply only because of four smoke shells left in the magazine, for example).

    The munition is taken from a large pallet (not the tiny 8 shell pallets used by the U.S.Army) that can be robotically loaded and dropped by 8x8 15 ton MAN lorries ("MULTI").

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