Artillery in 2300AD
Copyright Peter Grining
Third Rio Plata War 2278
Near Argentine, Brazil, Uruguay border. Northern suburb of Los Conquistadores Metroplex
A single artillery piece fired the first round of the invasion of Brazil, with the round rising to an altitude of 4500 metres whilst only 10 km down range. The round tipped over and started its long glide. It would actually travel over Uruguay before arriving at its destination 6 minutes later, 150 km away. Wings deployed and the round turned into a reconnaissance drone. The drone switched on its camera and started transmitting on a directional datalink. It lasted 9 of its 30 minute endurance before being detected by Brazilian info-warriors and shot down. The 9 minutes was a lifetime on the 23rd century battlefield.
The crews had lived in each others stench for a week. The bunkers had been constructed in the aftermath of the last war. The battery of self propelled artillery pieces had been infiltrated in one by one. They had remained hidden under camouflaged covers in the ravine. As far as Brazilian intelligence had known the battery was located with the remainder of its battalion to the north of Los Conquistadores 120 km to the south west. The crews had manned the howitzers a hour before.
"Fire mission! Fire mission!", alerted the synthesised male voice as fire mission orders arrived at the fire direction centre carrier. The battery commander acknowledged the request with an innocent seeming email sent on a buried civilian fibre-optic cable. The battery commander looked over the request on the display. The ammunition type was available. She glanced at the weather display and smiled. The tactical map display showed the target was in range and the trajectory was outside civilian air lanes, so she pressed the commit button on the display.
"Fire Mission! Fire mission!", the male or female voice sounded in the six howitzers. The vehicle commanders pressed the acknowledge button on the display, scanned the order and pressed the commit button. The automated systems would do the rest.
Six howitzer barrels aligned towards the target and the electro-magnetic guns fired 1 round every 5 seconds. After firing 8 times the howitzers rose up on their skirts. They would be 15 km to the west, outside of enemy artillery range, before the first round dispensed.
The rounds climbed to 4500 metres and fired their supplementary rocket motors.
The orbiting Amazonsat-413 was a dual use civilian/military model, allowed under the Melbourne Accords. The Brazilian satellite would usually detect the thermal flare of a forest fire or rocket motor to within a 500 metre radius. Under the terms of the Accords, information had to pass through a dual use civilian/military control centre. The warning time from thermal flare to troops being warned was delayed to one minute as a result. In this instance, cloud cover would prevent any warning being passed. Cloud cover also blocked Brazilian IR air sensors. Ground sensors were limited by line of sight to 50 km in any case.
The Brazilian cavalry regiment was the blocking force between the border and the Alegrete Metroplex. The unit had tried to stay with doctrine and remain mobile. They had been in the field for five days and as with any unit in the field, they remained stationary for long periods of time.
After 3 minutes travel time the artillery rounds split into 3 groups to attack the two target sets.
The reconnaissance drone had detected the regiment's command post, which was well camouflaged and hardened, and a cavalry squadron in laager around 50 km apart. The first target set was the cavalry squadron with 12 rounds assigned. These were a mixture of 6 WASP, to catch any personnel outside the vehicles, and 6 anti-armour, each with two missiles. The anti-armour rounds impacted the laager area first to avoid the dust and debris thrown up by the WASP. The 12 missiles hit and destroyed 6 vehicles. The last WASP round impacted 10 seconds after the first missile.
The first of the munitions targeted against the command post, was a unitary HE with scene comparison guidance. The round’s timer, used since the last war to defeat the proximity fuse jammers, activated. The image of the ground was compared with a stored series of digital satellite photographs until a match was found. The process was repeated until impact. The rounds arrived to within 2 metres of the designated aim points. The hardened crystal earth penetration spike did its job until the round sensed a large enough air gap and detonated in the first bunker, killing everyone inside. The 8 guided HE arrived first were followed by 6 WASP rounds. The LIDAR fired the airbag system, dispensing the payload. The last of the rounds was a communications jammer, to further confuse the recovering cavalry regiment.
5 km in front of the forward cavalry squadron the remaining rounds landed. This last salvo consisted of 10 anti-armour mines each with a guided missile, 6 sensors and 6 anti-material mines, best described as reusable claymore mines. The 16 mines were controlled by 3 of the sensors, as rounds were expended the minefield literally healed itself, firing obscurant smoke to block enemy sensors then leaping to new positions. The remaining 3 sensors would lay dormant, recording all information for later down load. On command they would activate and be used by the invading Argentinean forces...
Fire mission! Fire mission!
Forward Observers (FO) are equipped with navigation equipment to determine where they are and target location equipment to determine where the target is. In theory all infantry can be equipped with such equipment. In practice commanders need to maintain tight control over fire mission assets. Private Bloggs calling down a battalion strike on a company of enemy infantry on his own initiative is not the way to conduct business.
The FO transmits the target type, deployment and location to a fire direction centre (FDC).
Task: To transmit a fire mission request quick-time: Difficult. Forward Observer. Instant.
Referee: Success results in the task taking no game time. A ‘Retry’ or ‘Check Determination’ results in the task taking 1 action. A ‘Mishap’ results in incorrect fire control co-ordinates being sent or the fire mission not being sent at all.
Based on the FO report, the FDC prioritise the fire mission based on other battlefield activity, artillery availability and so on. The FDC check other factors such as enemy satellite passes, weather, air traffic, location of artillery (missions will not be sent to artillery pieces passing hospitals in most 2300 armies):
Task: To process a fire mission quick-time: Difficult. Tactics. Instant.
Referee: Success results in the task taking no game time. A ‘Retry’ or ‘Check Determination’ results in the task taking 1 action. A ‘Mishap’ results in the mission not being sent or being sent to the wrong unit in the wrong location.
If the fire mission is approved by the FDC, it is sent to the artillery units selected to fire. The crew stop their vehicle, acknowledge and review the mission and commit the system.
For a stationary artillery piece, no game time is required.
For a moving artillery piece, 1 action (15 seconds) is required to stop and set up. Depending on the situation it may take more. For example, the artillery might fire form near a logistic base or be travelling over deep water.
In all cases, regardless of task roll results, the minimum time from fire mission being sent, being processed, being received and rounds fired is 15 seconds.
The artillery piece will then automatically burn the mission into the rounds memory, load the round and fire. This does not require the crew to anything, except monitor the system.
This takes no game time (factored into the time taken for the FDC to transmit data to the artillery piece) if the unit is stationary or 15 seconds if the unit is moving. Rounds will impact from around 60 to 420 seconds after firing. Missions are usually 30-60 seconds of firing before the artillery piece will displace. This gives a delay in firing of 30 to 45 seconds, 40-60 seconds of firing and 60 to 420 seconds time of flight. Combat units can expect rounds on target around 1.5 to 8 minutes after requesting fire.
Artillery can be fired to within:
For example our artillery has a range of 90 km, at 45 km range (50% range), the round can impact anywhere 72 km either side of the gun line. The gun line is the line form the barrel to the target.
This basically means the guns can fire missions against widely separated targets.
In 2300, fire is not adjusted, artillery fire is called.
2300 Artillery often fire a special mission called MRSI (Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact). With each target, up to 8 rounds can be fired, they impact within 5 seconds of each other. MRSI can be fired at targets with 30-60% of range.
Artillery units usually fire en masse, with the high rates of fire of 1 round every 5 seconds, battery fire is common. Small battery size is another result of this. Standard doctrine is to fire in battery (6 guns) or battalion level (18 guns), hence the target receives 48 or 144 rounds in 5 seconds.
Units will then emergency displace at top speed, they need to be at least 5 km away inside of 6 minutes to avoid counter-battery fire. Units will in fact displace 10-20 km before being available for a fire mission in around 6-8 minutes.
In effect a unit will fire by stoping moving, fire an 8 round MRSI, and start moving inside of a minute, with the average 6.5 minute relocate time for an effect rate of fire of 8 rounds in 7.5 minutes or 48 in an hour. In effect a call for fire from a battalion could potentially be delayed due to relocate time considerations. This is a key reason for maintaining close control over the allocation of fire missions by the FDC.
The tactical deployment
of the artillery on the ground is usually dispersed down to the battery
level operating with groups two or three pieces strong within the battery
area usually several kilometers square. The batteries usually have a
designated 'race-track' pattern of movement areas, firing positions
and re-supply points. The co-ordination of this 'race-track' with other
arms, especially logistics, aviation and hovermobile reserves, is a
major task for the artillery battalion and higher echelon Headquarters.
As was shown in the War of German Reunification artillery can be vulnerable
to rapid breakthrough by enemy forces, as normal artillery rounds are
not particularly effective against ground targets most artillery units
carry small numbers of special short-range ammo or clip-on ATGW missiles.
Deep Strike Complex: As Recce Strike with the range extended past 100 km. These would normally be tasked against strategic targets like high echelon HQ's and logistics key points.
Brigades can be formed consisting of long range artillery, attack
X-wings and C4ISTAR assets. The artillery is used to strike targets
near the frontline and open corridors for the X-wings by suppressing
and destroying enemy air defences. The X-wings would strike deep targets
and provide instant feedback on target status after the strike.
A standard artillery piece has somewhere between 60 and 80 rounds, enough for 7 or 8 of the MRSI fire missions, each with 8 rounds. Artillery pieces would require rearming every 1 or 2 hours. A battalion would require around 900 rounds an hour or 21600 in a day, this would weigh around 1296 tonnes.
If employed correctly artillery can literally tear apart any target on the battlefield. It does suffer a number of restrictions that prevent it from totally dominating battles.
TOF: 30 seconds to travel 30 km.
Logistics: Even with automated ammunition loading, 60-80 rounds would require 10 to 13 minutes to reload (10 seconds a round) fully. Normally artillery pieces fire half the on board capacity and rearm, taking 5 to 6 minutes to do so (basically doubling the relocate time from 6 to 12 minutes). In comparison to small volumes of direct fire munitions such as small arms, EM kinetic rounds, artillery fire is still the main user of ammunition of the 2300 battlefield.
C4I warfare: At the extended ranges, excellent C4ISTAR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) is required. The best method is satellite surveillance, this can not cover all areas suffering from being widely tasked and having line of sight considerations. Air surveillance is probably the next best asset, however also suffering from LOS issues. Ground sensors are important, not the least as they are widely available to all forces and especially with ground troops can not easily be deceived as to ground truth. With the excellent computers of the era, the communications are vital. In fighting against the ISTAR we have the deception efforts, including but not limited to decoys, false and misleading C4I traffic, jamming and so on. In regards to artillery and C4I these actions are greatly simplified, and until C4I rules are worked out are ignored for game purposes. Eventually this will include deception warfare, DAS (Defensive Aid Suite), APS (Active Protection Systems) and more extensive C4I rules.
Counter-artillery: Whatever the method of artillery fire some sort of signature results. Older style artillery with modular explosive charges leave a visual and thermal flare, EM guns a localised EM pulse, rockets a large thermal plume and so on. This is a good thing from a balanced game side, without some method of detecting firing artillery. Artillery and targets must move often and fast to avoid being destroyed. This probably more than any other thing lead to the widespread use of hover vehicles of 2300 AD. Once the rounds have been fired they are can be detected by radar and IR sensors. For this reason artillery rounds employ non-ballistic trajectories, consist of low reflectivity materials. Larger rockets and missiles usually employ stages that are dropped as the propellant is used to reduce the reflected signature.
Counter-artillery was called counter-battery up until the mid 22nd century.
Infantry FO kit
Gyro-stabilised binoculars fitted with laser designator/rangefinder, linked to a computer and communications.
Vehicle FO kit
Mast mounted visual sensor, radar with laser designator/rangefinder. The system consists of two optical sensor heads separated by 60 cm. In visual conditions the system can range targets without requiring the laser rangefinder. The Vehicle includes a more extensive communications, computer with display system. The Vehicle FO can be used as a FDC for a small number of systems (4-8 artillery pieces). The mast system can be mounted on a tripod and remoted to the vehicle or a C4ISR system.
Infantry FDC kit
More extensive communications lined to computer with larger display. One fire control request may be transmitted to 4-8 artillery pieces (a battery) in a 15 second action.
Vehicle FDC kit
The FDC vehicle has more extensive communications and displays. 4 to 8 fire control requests may be transmitted to 16-64 artillery pieces (a battalion) in a 15 second action.
The mobile mortar can fire on the move. It can keep up with the units it is supporting and is mounted on an appropriate vehicle. Range is around 13 km unassisted and 20 km assisted.
Standard tube artillery using binary propellant. Range is 80-100 km unassisted and 110-150km assisted.
Performance of mass driver artillery is similar to Binary artillery. However EM artillery has ease of resupply, only requiring rounds and not binary propellant.
Multiple Rocket Launchers. These have the advantage of high rate of fire, increasing survivability. These have the disadvantages of high rate of fire, expending the on board munitions inside of 30-60 seconds.
These are still used, but are not called counter-battery radars. Air defence has grown to detect and target all things, including space craft in low orbit and artillery rounds. They are more properly air search radars, usually fitted to airships for rear area and high performance aircraft for missions closer to the battlefield.
These are also fitted to aircraft, satellites and ground sensors.
Mainly used for close range detection, usable range 30 km. Used to detect enemy artillery firing, X-wing and supersonic aircraft.
Usable range around 30 km. Used to detect enemy artillery firing and own artillery impacting.
Used to detect mass driver artillery firing. A LOS sensor, fitted to aircraft or satellites, monitors the EM spectrum for any spikes.
Geostationary satellites must contend with detecting thermal flares from fires, industrial complexes, ground vehicles and aircraft. Usually they detect all heat signatures, downloading ones that are more likely artillery round motors, based on spectrograph readings. Low altitude satellites are passed this data and can pinpoint a signature to within 500 metres. 24 satellites in low earth orbit would pass over a region separated by half hour intervals.
The fire control procedure is based on what is planned for the Crusader SP howitzer, the firing times and time of flight (TOF) is based on real world rounds. If anything they under state the case.
Artillery TOF is:
Artillery rockets do 30 km in 30 seconds or 1000 mps.
The systems on the drawing boards are pretty much 2nd Gen, so increase the ranges, speeds etc by 50% to 3rd Gen then 100% for 2300 level.
In the Merc:2000 setting inertial/GPS rounds will be introduced for HE, ICM, SMart and penetrator rounds. CEP with GPS is 10 metres! Current muzzle velocity is 950 mps (3 km/5 seconds), this is expected to increase to 1150 mps (2010, 3.6 km/5 seconds) and 1500 (2020, 4.7 km/5 seconds). Future rounds should increase range to 80 km. The 1150 mps rounds probably around 48.8 km for normal, 65.4 km for VLAP. The 1500 mps types 63.3 km, with VLAP to 85.3 km.