Actual artillery battle


There is often a huge difference between peacetime theory (+ practicing) and wartime reality. 

Armies are known to diverge from staying true to how war really is within three years after a war (= a not very widely used rule of thumb), and the gap between theory and reality is the greatest when much time has passed since theory was tested in battle, and new features were introduced.

Artillery as we knew it from the past about 30 years in the West appears to only remotely resemble what's going on in Ukraine. Our Western model of artillery in action was presumably proved to some degree during beating up Iraqi forces, but Eastern Europe doesn't appear to be bound by this evidence.


So what do I consider the Western model of artillery employment of the past 30 years? And what appears to go on in Ukraine (in red cursive)?

multiple rounds simultaneous impact for surprise effect lethality 

What is MRSI?

much use of DPICM (until the cluster munitions ban)

RU and UKR didn't ratify the ban, but DPICM employment is almost never seen on footage

DPICM is the primary anti-tank artillery munition

HE shells mess up AFVs by the hundreds, no footage of DPICM killing an AFV.

shoot & scoot to survive counterfires

even towed artillery pieces are in use at the front for months, no footage of shoot & scoot by SPGs

artillery shell purchases in the ten thousands

RU expends about 20,000 shells (and rockets) per day, supposedly has millions in storage

quality multifunctional fuses including RF proximity fusing for above-ground fusing for maximum lethality

RF PROX fusing never seen on footage, lots of craters from point-detonating shells, UKR troops largely survive in trenches without overhead cover

GPS and other navigation aids permit dispersed battery operations, guns can be alone in firing position

footage shows towed howitzers and non-improvised multiple rocket launchers always in battery formation

suppressive fires with HE shells support infantry and armour attacks

UKR: We have no munitions to spare for that.

Range is super important, let's enlarge the chamber volume and lengthen the barrel!

122 mm and 152 mm SPGs get busted alike, towed 152 / 155 mm guns survive for months, UKR uses unguided artillery with such precision that either the footage has an extreme selection bias or the fires weren't from far away. Only guided munitions appear to make good use of extreme range (Tochka-U, GUMLRS, possibly Excalibur)

smoke munitions provide concealment for troops movements on the battlefield

footage: Smoke? You mean burning wheat fields and grass?

mil spec hardware (including battlefield radios) and software older than some of its users used for fire support command control communications networks to digitally relay requests for fire to firing units

UKR: We got some apps running on civilian portable electronics and some American billionnaire gave us some cool satellite communications equipment that was meant for yachts and off-grid homes

RU: What are fire support command control communications networks

Russia considers artillery to be the king of the battlefield

RU: Look, we're almost as good at using artillery as in 1944! Pre-planned area fires and almost no responsiveness to infantry's calls for help.

Troops need to be trained for long and kept in active service for years to be effective.

UKR: We just mobilised a couple hundred thousand men and sent them to the front. That guy who  we sent to receive training on PzH 2000 in Germany is now hitting targets with it while sitting in it with beach sandals on his feet.

Artillery fights for supremacy by duelling artillery with radar-supported counterfires

Yeah, Russia loses about two arty pieces per day, but that's among many hundreds total and some kills were by air attack.

munitions are palletised and handled much with machinery (cranes and other load handling equipment mounted on logistic vehicles)

RU: Crane, yes, I recognise that reference. How does it relate to artillery? And what is load handling equipment?

In other words; save for HIMARS/GUMLRS we in European NATO could have our 1970's artillery arsenal in service and combine it with an app and consumer electronics and would be better-off than we're now. We kinda got the use of drones as flying artillery observation aircraft in WWI/WWII style right, but were not decisive enough to buy enough drones.

Most Western efforts on artillery of the last 30 to 40 years look like nonsensical circle jerking in retrospect. We neglected what's important (munitions quantity), overestimated the threat's quality and didn't go all in on what we actually got right.

You will not read that in publications of armed services in NATO, veterans' or reservists' associations, industry journals or the various milporn journals.



P.S.: Maybe someone knows footage that does not adhere to what I wrote here. I can only write on basis of what I've seen as I'm a one man show.



  1. >Maybe someone knows footage that does not adhere to what I wrote here

    UKR, Smart

    1. I knew one video of SMArt 155 in action. Even with two such vudeos it's quantitatively insignificant next to the documented carnage on AFVs by HE rounds.

    2. Well, cluster munition is very "toxic" weapon (information war, see Bucha case and 122mm 3Sh1 artillery rounds). Maybe soldiers have orders "No cameras".

  2. Russia and China will learn their lessons from this for their planned next invasions. What would this be and how do we prepare to deter the next clash?

    1. The PRC is known to have inferior military technology compared to Russia, save for modestly complicated items such as cars and radios. Another exception are their anti-ship quasi-ballistic missiles, Russians don't invest in that. The Chinese almost certainly do now understand that they have a long way to go for war readiness. They must also consider that the West showed willingness to cut important economic ties to sanction aggression.
      In short; Chinese and Russians need more allies and more time for the next great war. Russia may be finished, maybe at most able to close the case of Georgia. The Chinese will need more friends than just Russia and Pakistan.

    2. India is the big prize in alliances. Russia's value other than tech and resources, is that they already got the Indians into the SCO.
      China is in a military reform they want to finish by 2027. They do massive investments into the world's largest computation complexes in order to overtake the US in all key technologies by 2035.

    3. https://www.reuters.com/world/india/india-worlds-biggest-buyer-russian-arms-looks-diversify-suppliers-2022-05-18/

    4. India is diversifying, because Russia has supply problems due to the sanctions. Thats not the same as ditching the Russia ties and switching camps, because in the end they want to go domestic and Russia at least was a partner in the development of the domestic Indian arms industry.

  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_Crisis_of_1915

  4. You should read the reports RUSI puts out Sven, they are very good and are based on interviews with people actually in command.

    Some tidbits:

    "some artillery batteries have been detected as being split up into dispersed subunits. This is partly due to artillery shortages at the BTG and brigade level, with pairs of, or individual, guns fulfilling a support function that should be the task of a full battery. However, some of this dispersion is due to the use of mobile fire units supported by UAVs to attack key Ukrainian targets."


    "According to Ukrainian artillery crews, Russian artillery is generally able to bring accurate artillery fire down on targets 3 to 5 minutes after UAV reconnaissance has identified them, but if a target is identified with EW direction finding, acousti rceconnaissance or counterbattery artillery radar, it will take Russian artillery approximately half an hour to bring inaccurate
    artillery fire to bear. "


    1. I saw the report before - it's where my "20,000 shells per day" figure came from.

      I don't think there's any conflict with what I wrote here, Rettaw. Moreover, Orlan-10 appear to be in very short supply and thus rather the exception than the rule in artillery battle.
      Maybe the Russians use more arty dispersion than I wrote about here, but incomplete arty batteries aren't dispersion IMO. I saw no second source confirming that the Russians did split up batteries (splitting into half batteries was common in WW2 already). It runs against their shortage of officers (& highly qualified personnel in general) and their most likely existing shortage of fire control equipment.

  5. "According to Ukrainian artillery crews, Russian artillery is generally able to bring accurate artillery fire down on targets 3 to 5 minutes after UAV reconnaissance has identified them"

    How does this contradict the the fact that modern SP artillery is usually not longer in the firing position after 3 minutes?

  6. "The PRC is known to have inferior military technology compared to Russia"
    LOL. No. You are talking about a country who is producing 4 different fighters with AESA radars and a stealth fighter. Type 055, Type 052D, DF-17, Type 003, Type 039C, HQ-19, PL-10, PL-15, HJ-10, HJ-12, J-20, J-16, KJ-500 are all significantly superior to their Russian counterparts. China's massive satellite surveillance network and heavy use of unmanned systems are good examples too. What Russians have better than Chinese are nuclear submarines and VLRSAMs. Russian light arms are competitive too but I'd give that to the Chinese too. I'd like to mention Russia's T-14 too but it is mostly a failed project.

    1. People still aren't aware of the fact that almost any kind of technological advantage of the west is already plain and simply lost. Having a technology is not just about design and marketing. You actually have to make it yourself.

  7. RU: we have time - you don't.