Advanced observers are the eyes of modern artillery and often use high-power optoelectronics and laser rangefinders. Today they are connected to data terminals that allow you to download fire calls in a given format.
As in many areas of military affairs, digitization changes the way artillery fire is controlled. Guns react faster to changing situations and quite possibly become less dependent on a complex network of headquarters, observers and spotters.
Since the advent of artillery, calculations have played a very important role, allowing for a more accurate impact on the enemy. They were needed even before the appearance of gunpowder. Say, the “commander” of the Byzantine catapult in the year of two hundred BC should have known and applied certain knowledge in the field of physics and mathematics, which, for example, it was not necessary for the infantrymen to know. The difficulty of defining firing solutions simply increased with the advent of the powder; according to Chinese sources, this happened in January 1132 in the Chinese province of Fujian. Since that very first use of a powder gun, the factors that influence accuracy and which should be taken into account when firing, by and large, have not changed: the angle of vertical guidance, powder charge and fuse equipment.
Around 1900, tactics for using artillery guns began to change gradually, from direct fire and firing attacks, when the calculations saw their goal, to fire at indirect fire or from closed positions, when the guns were positioned behind the forward positions. Since the gun crew numbers could no longer see the target, the detailed data on the target and its location must either be entered in advance in the firing task, or the advanced observer who saw the target should have transmitted information about it to the gun crew. Initially, fire control was carried out by visual signals, initially by signal flags, and later by telephone. The phone was quite enough in such positional hostilities, such as the trench warfare on the western front during the First World War, but not enough when maneuver was required. Wireline lines were also very often subject to cliffs, both from enemy fire and as a result of the movement of their own forces.
With each new stage in the development of artillery, the number of factors taken into account in fire control increased, and the requirements for the qualifications necessary for maintaining fire support increased. This concerned both gun crews and advanced observers. Determining the exact location of the target has become critical, and therefore the ability to read the map, the assessment of distance and direction have become essential skills. However, even an excellent possession of them did not guarantee against errors that could easily be made in the smoke, rumble and chaos of the leading edge. Now it became very important to know the position of the weapon, so much attention was paid to the intelligence position for its exact determination. It is not surprising, therefore, that during World War I, rigidly planned and scheduled fire support became generally accepted. This rather inflexible practice often did not reflect the changing needs of advanced forces. The appearance of tactical radio stations made it possible to increase the reaction speed of artillery guns to a change in the situation. Sighting due to the reception of a “lock-in target” became easier and even allowed the artillery to correct the fire from the plane. Simply put, the “grip fork” is used for range adjustment, with two shots being performed, one with a flight, the other with an undershoot. After seizing the fork, you can start shooting to kill, using the average values between the values of the shooting settings for the first and second shots, if they are not too different. If the plug is too large to go to fire to kill, the plug will be cut in half (half) until sufficient accuracy is achieved.
During World War II, it became common practice to include an observer in the process of controlling artillery fire. However, accurate determination of target position and range remained a challenge. Restrictions in determining the position quite seriously restrained the development of self-propelled artillery. Subsequently, the development and development of mechanical calculating devices simplified the calculation of data for tool guidance. They could be used, for example, in the fire control center of the division, which then transmitted data on the radio to the gun crews. So, by the 50 years of the last century, a tandem of gun crews and advanced observers was finally formed, which allowed artillery to reach a qualitatively new level.
After the invention of microprocessors in the 50s, their rapid penetration into all spheres of human activity, including defense, began. Looking at the rapid development of electronics in the 70s, gunners quickly appreciated the potential of using even the simplest electronic computers, which allow you to quickly obtain more accurate data for firing. A few years later, with the advent of inertial navigation systems (INS), it became possible to determine the position of the guns and targets even more accurately and faster. Typically, such a system consists of a computer and motion sensors and rotation angle for dead reckoning in order to determine the speed and / or location of the vehicle. However, the size and cost of these first systems limited their use in artillery instrumental reconnaissance groups and self-propelled artillery installations. Companies such as Sagem (now Safran Electronics and Defense) and Sperry (became part of Unisys and Honeywell), with extensive experience in the field of inertial systems for ships and aviationWe have worked hard to adapt this technology for ground use. Most of this activity was based on the early work of Charles Draper, a scientist and engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Nexter’s 155-mm self-propelled howitzer GCT-155 was one of the first artillery systems to integrate not only the ANN, but also many functions, including loading. The machine was adopted by the French army in 1977; Despite its relatively small calculation of four people, the howitzer could quickly take a position, shoot back and quickly withdraw from it, moving to the next.
Around the same years, two more developments had a positive effect on the development of artillery. The first one is the Hughes AN / TSQ-129 PLRS Positioning and Reporting System, a system of ultra high frequency terrestrial stations (from 300 MHz to 3 GHz). The development of the system was carried out in the interests of the US Marine Corps, and after it was completed, it entered into service not only the Corps, but also the US Army, where it was operated in the 80-e and 90-e years. Although AN / TSQ-129 PLRS later replaced the satellite global positioning system (GPS), at that time it was able to meet the needs of the military in accurately determining the coordinates of objects in real time. The second key event in the field of artillery fire control was the emergence of range-finding systems using a laser. The laser range finder, which was a portable or tripod-mounted device, at the touch of a button provided real-time measurement of the distance to the target with meter accuracy. The combination of the exact position of the observer, the azimuth and the distance to the target made it possible to determine and report the coordinates of the targets with unprecedented accuracy. The representative of the artillery training center of the American Army noted in this connection that the implementation of these technologies formed the basis of many of the possibilities that modern artillery provides today using more advanced systems.
The self-propelled howitzer GCT-15S was one of the first artillery systems, in which much attention was paid to automating the process of firing, including the use of inertial navigation, positioning, course counting and an electronic ballistic computer
The digital revolution that followed, which began in 90's with the rapid spread of the global Internet and personal computers, today offers systems that are smaller in size, have more memory, better performance and lower cost than previous generation fire control computers. This further changed the methods of controlling artillery and firing. The main advantage is that the digitization process allowed more extensive use of computer power, since modern computers are more reliable than their predecessors, they are easier to carry, they are also easier to install on a gun or car. The latest technology can also be networked to transfer data from one device to another, which increases the level of situational awareness of the calculation of the instrument and the command post. Where once fire guidance was a matter of a divisional or battery command post, today one or a couple of guns can accomplish the fire mission independently, faster, with equal or greater impact on the target.
The advanced observer or artillery spotter is the point of reference from which an effective indirect fire begins to support ground maneuver or defense. The foremost observer is the eyes of guns. And modern systems of advanced observation, figuratively speaking, reduce the interpupillary distance to a minimum. Such systems as the GonioLight family from Safran, which is produced by its Vectronix division, provide the advanced observer with azimuth and target coordinates using an integrated digital magnetic compass. A Safran spokesperson noted that “GonioLight can be equipped with an image converter (image intensifier) or a thermal imager (from the family of popular handheld thermal imagers from Safran JIM), it detects objects at a distance of 25 km and identifies them at a distance of 12 km. A new device with a built-in GPS receiver determines the coordinates of the object with an accuracy of 5 meters. It is quite portable for tactical use, the weight depending on the configuration ranges from 8 to 20 kg. "
Meanwhile, Vinghog's LP10TL Target Locator and FOI2000 Forward Observation System offer similar capabilities. A Vinghog spokesperson said that “They provide accurate and reliable target designation for day and night operations, including the management of artillery, mortars and naval guns, as well as surveillance and reconnaissance.” SENOP's LISA system takes a different approach. This manual device for target designation and surveillance for round-the-clock use weighs only three kilograms. It has a direct optical channel for daytime use, an uncooled thermal imager for night conditions, a laser rangefinder, a digital magnetic compass, a camera and GPS. The detection range of the main combat tank is about 6 km.
Detection of a target and gathering information about it is only the first step in the delivery of artillery shells to the target. These data still have to get into the guidance system and into the guns on a tactical digital network. The TLDHS (Target Location, Designation and Hand-off System) target coordinate system from Stauder Technologies, which is in service with the US Marine Corps, demonstrates the benefits that can be gained by integrating these capabilities. The TLDHS allows infantrymen to determine the location of targets, indicate their exact GPS coordinates and, via protected digital communications, call for direct aviation support, support for land and / or ship artillery. The system includes a laser range finder, a video receiver and a tactical radio station. Using such a system, the observer / gunner also gets the opportunity to determine their own coordinates, accompany the targets, specify the coordinates for inertial-guided munitions, and generate requests for fire support. Through a combat communications network, the system sends calls of artillery fire or direct air support in the specified format without the need to send a voice message.
The Marine Corps continues to further improve the TLDHS system by developing the 2.0 version. According to the project manager TLDHS V.2, "Infantrymen with a new version will receive a lightweight device that can provide a real-time picture of where their enemy positions are and transfer target data for fire support." The TLDHS V.2 system uses commercial ready-made smartphones, which reduces the overall weight of the system. He also noted that "the system automatically generates the coordinates of the targets determined by the infantrymen, and digitizes information into a map application installed in smartphones, which eliminates the manual entry of information."
Such an application for sending digital messages and transmitting information about targets in a specific digital format speeds up the process of calling for a call to fire, eliminates possible misunderstandings and ensures that the request is received even in the conditions of electronic suppression and jamming. Information can also be sent simultaneously to several guns, which are able to respond with the greatest effectiveness due to their proximity to the target, which allows them to assess the obtained task in advance and be ready to open fire. Deployment of the TLDHS 2.0 system in the divisions of the Corps began last year.
The Nexter CAESAR self-propelled howitzer of the 155 mm caliber of the French army is equipped with an on-board digital fire control system FAST-HIT, an initial velocity radar and a ring laser gyro with GPS
Computing and networking in digital format also changed the process of firing. The AFATDS (Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System), an advanced tactical data transfer system for field artillery from Raytheon, is an operational fire support control system that automatically provides for the planning, coordination, control and execution of fire missions. It matches fire support requests, prioritizes targets, and analyzes using the latest situation data. AFATDS can recommend the highest priority fire assets and coordinate direct fire support, naval artillery fire, as well as the operation of several batteries simultaneously. The newest version of AFATDS V6 will be fully digitized in accordance with the modernization contract won by Liedos at the end of 2016. AFATDS is in service with the Australian and American armies, as well as the US Marine Corps. It is compatible with all the operational fire support systems of NATO countries, including the German Army’s Taranis ADLER system, the British Army’s BATES (Battlefeld Artillery Information System) system, the French Army’s Thales ATLAS system, and the Kongsberg ODIN fire control system of the Norwegian Army.
Currently, the process of automation of self-propelled artillery systems. The latest German self-propelled howitzer PzH-2000 developed by Krauss-Mafei Wegmann and Rheinmetall was designed from the very beginning as a completely autonomous system. Fire control is handled by the on-board computer MICMOS developed by EADS / Hensoldt. In automatic mode, the PzH-2000 howitzer armament performs all tasks without calculating intervention, using an onboard navigation system, communications and ballistic calculations. The PzH-2000 howitzer can shoot three shots in 10 seconds and can fire at MRSI Multi-Round Simultaneous Impact for more fire impact on the target (“Flurry of Fire” - shooting mode, when several shells fired from one cannon at different angles, at the same time reach the goal). The necessary adjustments to the fire mission are determined and monitored by the system without the intervention of any of the two crew members.
This combination of integrated computerized fire control and the automation of all gun functions is currently in widespread use. The Archer self-propelled howitzer from BAE Systems is also fully automated and can operate as an autonomous system with its own ammunition replenishment and maintenance equipment. The magazine's automatic loader, built-in navigation system, automatic tool control and a digital computer allow the calculation of their four people to make the first shot in less than 30 seconds after the stop. The howitzer can make three shots in 15 seconds, and in MRSI mode before 6 shots; All functions are performed without the participation of the calculation automatically.
Thanks to the development of electronics, onboard electronic ballistic computers and digital fire control systems are now available for both towed guns and self-propelled platforms. The US Army developed the TAD (Towed Artillery Digitalisation - Digitization of Towed Artillery) system for its 155-mm self-propelled howitzer BAE Systems M-777A2. The head of the TAD program in the US Army noted that it “is based around a navigation system with ring laser gyros. It performs all the functions previously assigned to the divisional fire control center, and transfers them to each weapon. ”
The integrated fire control system IFCS (Integrated Fire Control System) from MAS Zengrange provides, according to its data, “full-fledged integration capabilities of reconnaissance and firing means”. A flexible autonomous IFCS system can be deployed at a divisional command post or directly on a weapon system. It not only performs all ballistic calculations, but also accepts the fire mission directly from the advanced observer, allowing to improve the responsiveness of the response and eliminate duplication of personnel functions. The growing capabilities of digital systems regarding the wide distribution of not only data but also images provide additional advantages when requesting and monitoring fire support. This allows observers, commanders, and fire support centers to exchange images of maps, targets, and target areas with other means of observation, such as drones. In this case, you can get a more accurate assessment of the goal, since all interested parties have the same information and can come to a common understanding of the situation on the battlefield, and respond accordingly.
The PzH-2000 howitzer, with a smaller number of calculations, responds faster to the fire calls with a greater impact on the target. This is achieved by maximizing workflow automation.
Digitization of the process of fire guidance and control and the introduction of network communications allow an increase in the level of interaction between the advanced observer and gun crew. Modern computers with their capacities help to return the fire support process back to a separate artillery system. This allows you to exclude a number of stages and levels in the process of firing, which more than ever increases the speed of response. In addition, the ability to share the entire shooting process, from requesting a fire to responding, makes it possible to also monitor and coordinate it both by commanders of higher echelons and by neighboring units. As can be seen from the article, the use of operational fire support systems, such as ATLAS, ODIN and AFATDS, simplifies the process of firing by working almost in real time.
The increased efficiency offered by digital fire will not only shorten the response time and increase the level of impact on the target, but also make it possible to distribute artillery systems using them as independent elements. Now a smaller number of guns can deliver equivalent or greater firepower faster and with less risk. As they say, back to basics - the technologies once again unite the instrument and the advanced observer.
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