Tag Archives: army

Counterbattery!

We’re used to seeing clips and stories of artillery pummeling enemy fortifications or troops. Goodness knows we’ve shown more than a few ourselves.

But one of the major roles of artillery is attacking an enemy’s artillery. This counter artillery role is known as counterbattery (even when engaging formations larger than a battery).

In the days of the American Civil War, counterbattery was directed visually. But in the era of breechloaded guns with smokeless powder and explosive shells firing from over the horizon, locating enemy batteries was infinitely more difficult.

Forward observers could spot some mortar and light artillery batteries. And there were acoustical detection devices. In fact, from about 1916 well into the 1950s, sound location, or MASINT (Measure And Signature INTelligence)  was the primary means of locating enemy firing batteries. By measuring the difference in the Time of Arrival (TOA) of a gun blast along a baseline of sensors, the enemy location could be triangulated. Similarly, lines of bearing from multiple points could point to an enemy battery. Calculating the firing point could take as little as three minutes.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of World War II, the US Army was just staring to explore the possibilities of using radar to control anti-aircraft fire. The first Army radars operated with frequencies in the meter range. That was relatively adequate for long range search, but for precise control of gunfire, it was rather disappointing. When the British shared the discovery of the cavity magnetron, the US was able to very quickly develop centimetric wavelength radars. One in particular, the SCR-584, was extremely effective. Not only was it very precise, it was quite versatile as well. It could act as a search radar out to respectable ranges, as much as 35 miles. Incredibly, given the infancy of radar development, it was capable of automatically tracking targets within about 18 miles.

The SCR-584 was so fundamentally sound, during the development of the M1 90mm Anti-Aircraft gun it was intended to work with, the radar was used to confirm the ballistic profiles of the shells fired from the gun. Ballistic tables were normally devised by computers- that is, hundreds of women with slide rules- mathematically. By confirming the calculations with empirical observation provided by the SCR-584, the complete tables were validated more quickly than normally possible. That is, the 584 was precise enough to track a 90mm shell in flight. By measuring the range and angle from the mount to the shell over a handful of times during the flight of the shell, the ballistic parabola could be derived.

It didn’t take long for some bright operators to realized that if you could determine the ballistics of an outgoing shell, you could also determine the ballistics of an incoming shell. And with a map and a little math, you could plot the parabola back to its point of origin, that is, the enemy firing battery.

Having discovered that radars could be used to track artillery fire, it wasn’t long before the service sought out a radar optimized for the mission. Nor was the US Army the only force to develop a dedicated counterbattery radar. Today, almost every army has at least some counterbattery radar capability.

For the past 30 years or so, the US Army and Marines have fielded the TPQ-36 and TPQ-37 Firefinder radars in the Target Acquisition Batteries of their artillery units. Recently, the Army has also fielded the TPQ-46 Lighweight Counter Mortar Radar. While the Q-46 does calculate the firing point of enemy radars, it’s primarily used to warn troops of incoming mortar and rocket fire. It can also cue the Counter Rocket Artillery Mortar (C-RAM) system to intercept mortar rounds.

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Army in the Pacific adopts new style of deployment – Pacific – Stripes

The Army in the Pacific is starting a new deployment concept this week that sends soldiers out into the region for multiple exercises and longer stays in foreign countries that are intended to reassure partner nations and develop closer relationships as the United States continues its “rebalance” to the Pacific.

Developed out of Fort Shafter, “Pacific Pathways” also is a new Army strategy to stay relevant as large occupational land forces that are costly and slow to mobilize become less viable.

About 550 soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team out of Washington state and supporting units are heading to Indonesia for the exercise Garuda Shield in the first iteration of Pacific Pathways, the Army said.

The soldiers will utilize nine Stryker armored vehicles and eight helicopters.

About 500 other 2nd Stryker and supporting soldiers will head to Malaysia with 11 Stryker vehicles and three helicopters for the exercise Keris Strike, which overlaps with the Indonesia training.

The first group of 550 soldiers and others will then leapfrog over to Japan for Orient Shield, the Army said.

via Army in the Pacific adopts new style of deployment – Pacific – Stripes.

My tour in the 25th ID meant I was part of US Army Pacific. And at that time, there was a fairly regular schedule of international training exercises with a wide variety of nations throughout the Pacific. Team Spirit was the biggest, partnering the US Army with the Republic of Korea. Generally, in addition to the 2nd Infantry Division stationed in Korea, at least a brigade from the 25th ID would deploy for the exercise, in addition to various Air Force, Navy and Marine units. Other major exercises included Cobra Gold with Thailand, and various smaller, usually battalion sized deployments to Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Given that there were 9 Infantry battalions in the division, a soldier could expect to only participate in one or two major deployments of about one month in a year. That reduced the burden of a high operational tempo and spread the benefits of training exercises across all the units of the division.

That didn’t count the availability of the 7th and 9th Infantry Divisions to send troops on their own training deployments.

During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army had a crushing operational tempo, with some soldiers spending half their enlistments deployed overseas to a war zone. The risks of battle are bad enough, but the disruption to any chance at a semblance of a family life drive many of the best and brightest out the door. And somewhat obviously, the longer a soldier stayed in, the longer they could anticipate being deployed.

So I’m not entirely sure the 550 or so troops are going to be thrilled to deploy on a series of back to back training missions overseas, away from their homes and families, when they might reasonably point out that other troops might be available to take of month of training of their own.

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Gama Goat

We’re a touch under the weather today, so content is kinda thin.

The 1-1/4 ton M561 Gama Goat was a very high mobility tactical vehicle issued to maneuver units to replace the Korean War era M37 truck. In addition to being used to haul general cargo, it served as an 81mm mortar carrier, an ambulance, and to carry S-250 communications shelters.  Powered by a two-stroke diesel engine, it was astonishingly loud. It was also incredibly uncomfortable to ride in, at least in the back  cargo portion. My first unit in Hawaii had Goats when I arrived, and I spent more time than I care to remember being shuttled around in one. Its replacement, the Humvee, might have slightly less off road mobility, but it was far, far more comfortable, and oh so much quieter to ride in.

Edit- I forgot, the spelling is Gama, not Gamma

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Fort Columbia- An Endicott Period Fort

You may have heard me mention Fort Casey on Whidbey Island. Fort Casey was one of many seacoast artillery installations built during the “Endicott period” around the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.

The series of forts erected varied in numbers and types of batteries installed, and in number and size of guns, as well. But they were also all built to virtually identical layouts, at least as far as individual gun emplacements. Further, the rest of each fort featured virtually identical officers quarters, barracks, messing facilities and other support structures.  Working from common components, if you will, helped speed up construction.

There are on the West Coast really only five major port areas that call for significant defenses: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the Columbia River, and Puget Sound. Each of these areas became home to several Endicott period fortifications. Ft. Casey was one of a trio of major seacoast artillery forts guarding Puget Sound, with other smaller batteries in support throughout the Sound.

Similarly, at the mouth of the Columbia River, three major seacoast forts stood guard. Ft. Stevens, Ft. Canby, and Ft. Columbia.  Stevens and Canby were rebuilt as Endicott forts upon older obsolete works. Ft. Columbia was new construction. All three forts are now part of the state and national parks systems in Oregon and Washington.

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Pyros

Every Army Brigade Combat Team has an organic small drone capability for intelligence and situational awareness. These are smaller than the famous Predator and Reaper drones, and are currently unarmed.

But much as computers and cell phones have gotten smaller while greatly increasing their capabilities, defense contractors are seeing guidance kits and fuzing systems shrink while becoming ever more capable. And that means, there exists the possibility of deploying very small, yet extremely accurate, munitions from relatively small drones.

Raytheon is one company looking at fielding such a capability. Its Pyros small tactical munition could give small drones like the RQ-7B the ability to quickly strike time-critical high value targets. The small warhead also limits collateral damage.

The advanced warhead of Pyros uses an advanced semi-active laser seeker to precisely engage targets while significantly reducing the risk of collateral damage.

There are three choices for guiding the weapon to the target: GPS coordinates, inertial navigation or laser designation. To maximize kinetic effects and lethality, there are also three options for engaging the target: height-of-burst, point-of-impact or fuze-delay detonation.

Other companies such as General Dynamics are developing guided weapons based on 81mm mortar rounds.

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Bergdahl Lawyers Up

Via This Ain’t Hell, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, Bowe Bergdahl has engaged the services of Eugene Fidell to represent him during the investigation surrounding the circumstances of his capture.

Mr. Fidell has been a full-time lecturer at Yale for the past five years, and he served in the US Coast Guard. He is the co-founder of the National Institute of Military Justice and heads the committee on military justice for the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War.

While investigators have not yet spoken with Bergdahl, that is expected to happen “sometime in the near future,” says Wayne Hall, a spokesman for the Army.

Mr. Fidell is apparently taking the case pro bono.

While I personally believe that Bergdahl intended to desert his post, he is, like every other American, entitled to due process, and competent representation. One strongly suspects Mr. Fidell will give Bergdahl the same advice every competent attorney stresses to their client- don’t speak.

I’d like to see Bergdahl nuked for his crimes, but it’s more important to my mind that the military follow the rule of law that it exists to protect, preserve and defend.

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Bergdahl to report for duty.

SGT Bowe Bergdahl, since his return to US control after years of captivity in Afghanistan, has been a patient in a military treatment facility, undergoing reintegration. Apparently, that reintegration process is near completion, and Bergdahl will soon be reporting for duty with a troop unit.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has finished undergoing medical care and counseling at an Army hospital in San Antonio and could return to an Army unit on a Texas post as early as Monday, a defense official tells CNN.

Bergdahl was held captive by militants for five years before he was released in May in exchange for five senior Taliban members held by the U.S. military. He has always maintained his active duty status. He cannot retire from the service or be discharged until the investigation concerning his disappearance and captivity in Afghanistan is complete.

For about three weeks, Bergdahl has been an outpatient at the San Antonio hospital, and military officials have interviewed him about his time in captivity.

Bergdahl is set to take a job at Fort Sam Houston, the Army post in San Antonio, according to an Army statement Monday. He will return to “regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission,” the statement said.

Since Bergdahl was an infantryman, and there are no Infantry units at Ft. Sam, I suspect he’s going to be placed at a desk in a headquarters unit somewhere on post, with the primary duty of answering the phone. That’s actually fairly common for people who are otherwise not capable of performing a full range of military duties.  I’m curious about the two troops assigned to be his minders. I’m sure they’re just thrilled to be given that chance to excel.

Aggiesprite suspects there might just be  a whiff of politics involved with the ongoing investigation surrounding the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure from his post in Afghanistan. I don’t know anything about MG Dahl, the investigating officer. I do know that to date, none of the other soldiers that were there have been reinterviewed.  And as I said in the comments at Aggie’s, I strongly suspect Big Army hopes this will fade from the headlines, and the Army can quietly discharge Bergdahl into obscurity.

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