Demigod of war
Not long ago, the Pentagon and the Iraqi Defense Ministry announced the completion of the liberation of Mosul from militants banned in Russia by the IG. The fighting for the city lasted for almost half a year, and artillery played an important role in the success of the coalition forces, as recognized by the US military department. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, this is the first case of such a massive use of howitzers and multiple-launch rocket systems by the US Army and Corps. Therefore, it makes sense to understand the work of the American artillery units and understand what tasks they solved and how effectively they acted.
Then they robbed ...
Before analyzing the fighting near Mosul, it is worth remembering how the artillery school developed in the US Armed Forces over the past 14 years. Since 2004, in the US armed forces, artillery has rapidly lost the title of "god of war." At the end of 2003, following the results of Operation Freedom to Iraq, the Pentagon published several scientific papers summarizing the latest combat experience. In particular, one of the conclusions stated that artillery was seriously losing in terms of speed of use. aviation and it is advisable to use artillery units to solve a limited range of tasks.
In particular, for the barrel artillery it was prescribed to carry out only a fire edging (motionless barrage fire around their positions, which did not allow the enemy to approach) and to conduct barrage fire. As a conclusion, it was recommended to reduce the number of artillery units in brigades.
The use of multiple rocket launchers should be only with high-precision missiles, in particular operational tactical ATACMS. At the same time, the fire of conventional unguided rockets, according to Pentagon experts, is already a thing of the past. The use of the latest HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems was highly appreciated. Before the start of the operation in Iraq, these systems were criticized for small (only six missiles) ammunition. But the report clearly indicated that the new MLRS are quite effective with high-precision missiles. It was proposed to withdraw multiple rocket launchers from the brigade level to corps and army artillery brigades.
In the middle of the 2000s, when the US Army switched to modular brigade tactical groups, the experts' conclusions were taken into account. In the three types of brigades — infantry, heavy, and Stryker, only one artillery division was envisaged, albeit a 18-gun.
For the infantry brigades and the Stryker brigades, light towed M-777 howitzers were chosen. These are unique artillery systems: with a caliber of 155 millimeters, the howitzer weighs just over four tons. For comparison: the 152 mm MSTA-B weighs about seven tons. M-777 easily folds up and becomes compact enough, it is easy to tow and can be transported by helicopter. In heavy teams that are currently renamed tank, provided for armored self-propelled howitzers M-109.
Divisions and batteries MLRS M270 and HIMARS were withdrawn from the state of brigades and even divisions. As indicated in the recommendations, they were handed over to brigade and army artillery teams.
At the same time, in the Marine Corps, they did not rush to follow the conclusions of Pentagon experts. The corps is traditionally considered to be parallel military forces at the expense of the lobby in Congress, the Senate and the government. Therefore, the command of the Marines always has its own, often opposite to the army view on the development of its patrimony.
True, as in the US Army, the Marine Corps decided to re-equip the more modern M-777. But the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has slowed this process. So, in the course of the assault on Mosul, the older and cumbersome M-198 howitzers were used, which were put into service in the 1979 year.
But the most serious blow to the artillery did not cut. From 2004, a large number of infantrymen were constantly required in Afghanistan and Iraq. They were needed for patrolling, mopping up the area, and serving at checkpoints. Due to the shortage of personnel in the rifle subunits, the engineer-sapper units, air defense units, and even tank crews re-trained in the infantry.
But the main "donor" for the infantry became gunners. The term “infantillery” even appeared in the US Army and the International Law Commission (from the words infantry - infantry and artillery - artillery). These are artillerymen who served as infantry units at the time of deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. However, due to limited opportunities, infantillery was used primarily at roadblocks. For example, in his memoirs of Level Zero Heroes, a fighter of the USMC says that for almost five years of service in artillery he participated in firing only a few times. All the rest of the time he was an infantillerist.
Aviation took the place of artillery in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the Pentagon nevertheless sent a small number of howitzers and RZSO. They were placed in special fortified stationary bases (in American terminology - fire bases, Fire Base or FB). Usually there was no more than one fire platoon. The bases were located so as to cover as much as possible the territory where the checkpoints and garrisons of the American troops were located.
It should be noted that among the armed forces of NATO, American gunners have never been considered particularly professional. For primacy in the level of training and ability to fire, mainly the gunners of France and Germany argued. As the experience of joint exercises and shooting has shown, even the British shot the Americans better. The situation with the American artillery infantillery can be classified by a well-known proverb: "We lived in poverty, and then we were robbed."
Meanwhile, since the start of hostilities against ISIS in Iraq, the Pentagon has noted the increased importance of artillery. Already in 2015, for the artillery units of the 18 US Airborne Corps, a new combat training program was introduced, according to which fire fringing, fixed defensive and concentrated fire were practiced - it was these types that proved to be the most effective against the caliphate.
The main active force of the IG is mobile, well-armed groups operating on vehicles. They suddenly came close to the Iraqi military, delivered quick blows and retreated. Other scary weapon - suicide bombers operating on jihad mobiles. Surprisingly, it was artillery that proved to be the most effective means against such threats. Shells and fragments are lethal for lightly armored pickups of militants. But to fight with armored "jihad-mobiles" was not so easy. Only concentrated artillery fire can stop them. To accurately hit the target, the suicide bomber should not maneuver at the final stage of the trajectory. He needs to move in a straight line with a maximum speed, otherwise he will be shot from infantry guns and grenade launchers. Accurate, focused artillery fire on the jihad-mobile path is guaranteed to destroy it. But in such a situation, it is important the interaction of barrage infantry units and artillerymen, as well as the skills and skills of the crews, gunners, commanders of firing units and senior officers on batteries. After all, the fire must be opened very quickly and almost without adjustment.
In the fight against "jihad-mobiles" can help unmanned aerial vehicles, which allow you to detect the target in advance and carry out the adjustment of the fire, but only if the battle is in open areas. In urban buildings, the BLA, as the experience of Mosul has shown, is practically useless.
The first in Iraq were the artillery of the Marine Corps. They acted on old howitzers M-198. Earlier, similar howitzers were transferred to Baghdad as military assistance. And in the 2014, the IG even captured several dozen of these guns. Later, the ILC launched more modern M-777 in Iraq.
In preparation for the assault on Mosul, the artillerymen of the 18 artillery brigade, which is part of the 18 th VDK, were sent to Iraq. From its composition several launchers of MLRS HIMARS were deployed. The artillery divisions of the 18 airborne and 82 airborne assault divisions strengthened the 101 brigade grouping. They acted on rotation.
In six months, at least six full-fledged divisions of the amphibious divisions passed through Iraq. These artillery units were equipped with the X-NUMX-mm M-155 howitzers. In the summer, soldiers from the 777 Mountain Division joined the paratroopers.
It is noteworthy that already in the winter of 2017, artillery divisions from the 1 Cavalry Division of the US Army appeared in Iraq. These units belonged to the division's tank brigades. And therefore they acted not on the M-777 light, but on the M-109 self-propelled howitzers.
There were two M-777 howitzers battalions from the Marine Corps and at least one on older M-198 howitzers. Also, according to some reports, the marines sent a HIMARS battery to Mosul.
At the first stage of the operation, the American artillery supported the offensive of the Iraqi military. The main task was the destruction of the fortifications, as well as the prevention of attacks of the fighting "tachanok" IG and "jihad-mobiles". In general, the American gunners coped with these tasks, although there were instances of breakthrough suicide drivers. In many ways, the situation on the approaches to the city was stabilized by the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
It should be noted that the American gunners fired from stationary, previously prepared and well-fortified positions and did not encounter return fire from the IS.
From the very beginning of the assault on Mosul, the American command actively engaged the MLRS HIMARS. Initially, they were used for strikes at command posts and militant depots with ATACMS missiles. But the situation began to change when the Iraqi military entered the city. A well-established combat control system in the conditions of urban development began to falter. The typical maneuver of the Iraqi troops in Mosul looked like this: American gunners organized fixed artillery fire on several threatened directions. Under his cover, the Iraqi military marched forward, knocked out the militants, consolidated. In the future, around the Iraqi positions created a fringing.
But the command of the IG easily guessed the maneuvers of the Iraqi military. Therefore, immediately after the Iraqis were consolidated, they were attacked by suicide bombers in jihad-mobiles. And in this situation, the American gunners did not show their best. The great losses among those who liberated the city are largely due to the sluggishness of covering artillery units. At the same time, the Iraqi military should not be blamed - although the Pentagon denies this, but American marchers acted as part of the special operations forces ("green berets" and "raiders" of the marines), as well as ordinary paratroopers and marines.
In the spring of 2017, for the first time, there were cases when the fire platoons of the MLRS HIMARS secretly moved forward close to ISIS positions and struck. In this case, not only corrected by GPS, but also conventional rockets were used. It is noteworthy that in one of the interviews, a representative of the headquarters of the operation “Enduring Freedom” noted the high effectiveness of conventional ammunition.
Meanwhile, the militants identified areas where the artillery could not effectively cover the Iraqis, and began using them to attack and concentrate their troops. At the headquarters of the operation there was a question about increasing the mobility of artillery. Fire units to effectively support the advancing troops need to maneuver, leave the fortifications, take advantageous positions and open fire. That is how the whole assault of the French gunners acted.
But the first maneuvering experience was unsuccessful - the American artillerymen did not work fast enough, they turned around for a long time, shot, and then gathered for a long time. Such slowness allowed to detect their positions and strike back. In February, the IG militants were able to catch the American fire platoon. According to some reports, these were the gunners of the 82 division, according to others - the marines. The position was fired from mortars and grenade launchers, and although there were no losses, some of the equipment was seriously damaged. There were wounded.
Therefore, soon the artillerymen of the 1 Cavalry Division in self-propelled armored howitzers M-109 appeared in Iraq. Initially, these units were used outside the fixed protected positions. Later the cavalrymen became the first and only artillerymen to enter the city. Divisions on the M-777 until the end of the assault on Mosul operated from firing bases around the city.
They moved to the new positions of the M-777 subdivision only after they were fully prepared and strengthened, and the movement itself was covered by Iraqi armored vehicles and military helicopters.
The firing units of the ILC were more aggressive. They moved to the area, independently created positions with the help of sandbags and fired. Such positions worked a little more than a day, while usually the fire platoon operated on M-777 or M-198. Gunners covered up a company of infantry or marines. True, the KMP artillery began to fight aggressively at the final stage of the assault in the summer of this year.
In Mosul itself, the Iraqi military immediately began to build firing bases on which M-109 howitzers were deployed. The bases were repeatedly subjected to mortar fire, but thanks to the self-propelled gun armor their calculations were not affected. It is noteworthy that along with the American self-propelled guns and Iraqi acted. The Pentagon transferred several dozen M-109 to Baghdad in 2012 – 2013.
Without active support from the artillery, the Iraqi military could hardly have taken Mosul - in fact, American shells and missiles were making their way. And now during the assault on Rakka, the KMP artillery is very actively involved.
It should be noted that the “Enduring Freedom” headquarters was well aware that hundreds or even thousands of shells were fired at residential buildings where there were people, and if you look at the pictures of Mosul after the assault, we see the lunar landscape at the site of entire regions.
What colleagues say "partners"
For six months of fighting in Mosul, quite a lot of commercials with the combat work of American gunners got into the Internet. To evaluate the actions of the calculations of the firing units of the US Army and the ILC, recorded on one of the videos about the storming of Mosul, the newspaper "Military Industrial Complex" asked the current Russian artillery officers. The video was https://youtu.be/mDkT7TMy6Oo and https://youtu.be/Ag6ubWn-0EU
“Americans can be commended for good firing positions. They are well protected, there are shelters for personnel and ammunition. At the same time, the positions do not interfere with the calculation, - the commander of the artillery battery of one of the art brigades noted. - Also, the gunners are very disciplined: they work in body armor, helmets, glasses and gloves. Not the slightest indulgence. Our people are gradually trying to get rid of everything that prevents them, and if they do not control, they will work on positions in shorts and T-shirts. But the American gunners are shooting from the hands very badly. Calculating seven people is a lot. Formally, there are eight fighters on MSTA-B, but we get around four or five. And for Americans, the calculation is chaotically torn, it is not clear who has what responsibilities. Half of the staff is generally idle, while the rest is unclear what he is doing. The question arises: why after every shot to clean the barrel? M-777 is considered an instrument of the future, but it does not even have the mechanization to send a normal projectile. Projectile send banniki, which are followed by cleaning the trunk. After the projectile has already been sent, the calculation begins some tricky manipulations, and with shouts. What they do is difficult to understand. But all these manipulations take a lot of time and lead to unnecessary expenditure of physical strength. Therefore, the Americans are shooting very slowly. During the time they were working, we would have already turned from the march, shot out and began to prepare for departure. ”
The work of the M-109 crews did not impress the Russian gunners either:
Very low shooting mechanization. What is happening on the video, to put it mildly, is puzzling, - explained the commander of the self-propelled artillery battalion of one of the motorized rifle brigades. - In Russian howitzers, even in the old 2C1, everything is much more automated. And the Americans almost everything is done at the expense of the physical strength of the calculation. Affection causes some device that performs the role of rammer. The number of the calculation must be put projectile, send his hands into the barrel. Then get this strange mechanism, once again send the projectile. Then do the same with the charge. Then the Americans lay the capsule, and their stock in the hunting cartridge case is suspended in the fighting compartment. How they did not lose him is a mystery. Shoots calculation very slowly. And this is understandable: with such a technique you will not make it faster.
- Pavel Ivanov