Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Possibly the Trumpiest thing yet.

His Fraudulency wants to throw money at the Pentagon by hoovering out the bank accounts at State, the EPA, and other non-kinetic federal agencies.

And when I say "throw" I mean THROW; this projected budget is almost 10% higher than the final Obama Defense budget. We had an increase that big in the early Reagan years, and I might remind you that there was this thing called the "Cold War" back then and we needed to protect ourselves from the bear in the woods, as the kidz say nowadays. The most recent big DoD hikes were back in the early Bush era, when Dubya and Dick wanted new guns to overawe the heathen Afghans and Iraqis and, again, in their last year when they needed to spend some of that money they saved by not rescuing black people in New Orleans or something.

But setting aside OTHER numbnuts Republicans...that's a big sweet slug for the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.

Setting aside the ridiculous notion that what the U.S. really needs now is a bigger armed force the really Trumpy piece of this that that the proposed increase - about 50 billion - has no ground in actual delineated military need. There's no "plan" here outside "let's throw cash at the DoD" and we all know how well that works...

Let me throw something near to my heart out as an example.
The field artillery branch of the U.S. Army currently employs two primary 155mm gun systems; the M109 "Paladin" series self-propelled howitzer and the M777 towed howitzer. The M777 is a relatively recent design, but the M109 is on the last of a series of upgrades of a system that was designed in the 1960's. While neither is an exceptional design (and by that I mean neither exceptionally good nor bad; they're both fairly middle-of-the-road FA systems) it's worth noting this statistic:

M109A7 maximum range - conventional projo 18km, RAP (rocket-assisted) projo 30km
M777 maximum range - conventional projo 24km, base-bleed projo 30km, "Excalibur" (guided/enhanced range) projo 40km
G5 (South Africa towed cannon system) maximum range - conventional projo 30km, base-bleed projo 39km, V-LAP projo 50km
G6 (SA - SP cannon) maximum range - conventional projo 30km, Base bleed 39km, V-LAP: 52.5km, M9703A1: 67km

The G5 and G6 gun systems were designed in the Seventies...but they still outrange the most recent U.S. FA systems in all categories of projectiles.
This is not to say that the Army FA is some sort of Third World shitshow. But...the mech and armored divisions have been waiting for a new SP system since the Crusader (XM2001) was cancelled in the early Oughts. So if you wanted to throw some money at the Army the notion that the U.S. might spend some money on upgrading the SP FA system to at least the ability to shoot out as far as an almost-fifty-year-old South African system seems like a not-unreasonable idea.

But...will that happen?

Who the fuck knows?

After all...this is Trump. The guy seems to make decisions based on who licks him the most like a triple-scoop of butter-brickle. IMO it's entirely likely that some conman shrewder than he is will slip in and sell him on some Ronco potato-gun contraption that works about as well as the infamous "Sergeant York" antiaircraft system...

So it's not just a question of "do we really need to throw more money at guns?" although that's really a good question. The problem with THIS throw-money-at-guns gimmick is that it's no more well-thought-out than the goofy Muslim ban. It seems designed after the way the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq usta threw money at stuff; just fly in pallets of dollars and start spreading 'em around.

After all; what could go wrong?

And, worse...to pull this cash from State? Hell, Trump's own SecDef explained the arithmetic of that little transaction to the Congresscritters thusly:
"When Mattis was a four-star Marine general in charge of U.S. Central Command, he told a congressional committee, “If you cut the State Department’s budget, then you need to buy me more bullets.”

More and more it seems like every time these gomers do something it seems like - assuming that they've put any thought into it at all - they've studied the issue and cudgeled their brains as hard as possible to find the answer to the question "How would I do this if I were a fucking moron?"



  1. I'm not sure, either, but in all likelihood those monies will go to building weapons systems the Army and Marines don't want.
    Aircraft the Air Force and Navy don't want, but by God they're going to get it and they're going to like it.

    What would make me okay with this is if the poor sods who give up a portion of their youth were given pay raise.
    Other than that, I think Field Marshal Bannon has dreams of glory, and is jumping Mr Trump's legs to start laying the ground work for his upcoming splendid little war.

    1. I'd be more OK with it if I thought that it would go (as mike points out below) towards O&M or towards VA improvement for the guys currently in the system. That's what really bugs me about this, though, even beyond the bigger "do we REALLY need this?" question is the immense likelihood that this will end up as just a ginormous payoff to the MICC...

  2. A huge chunk of that money should be spent on O&M funds. Naval aviation has approx 50% of their aircraft down for maintenance - normal rate is ~20 to 25%. I would bet the AF has similar problems but are not broadcasting them. Training and exercises are below par for all services. I am wondering how base housing is faring?

    1. My understanding is that the USN is in the process of actively cannibalizing half their F/A-18 fleet to keep the other half operational.

      I don't know about the rest of the services, but I know the Army had a fairly substantial facilities upgrade in the Oughts and early Teens; the old billets I lived in at FBNC (the so-called "New Division" area along Bragg Blvd) were demo'ed and replaced with new starships...

    2. That's not so bad with the F/A-18C/D. They should be little more than worn-out advanced training and air policing planes by now.

      The F/A-18E/F and EA-18G are the planes that really count nowadays (>600 copies).

      AFAIK the maintenance backlog (drydock times especially) is so bad because deployments of ships had been extended often (up top 9 months patrol for a DDG) and budgets were too tight. One SSN is said to have lost its certification for diving for want of maintenance.

  3. Given that there are 6 Goldman Sachs alums in Cabinet, I predict that the money will be spent in such a fashion as to benefit the owners of the military industrial complex.

    That means giving as much money as possible to high tech gadgets and as little as possible to things like salaries and benefits.

    Maybe they can privatise a lot of things that the military does internally (and then spend a lot of that extra money on "incentives" to get the private sector to bid on no-risk contract with fat performance bonuses.

  4. He gets his facts wrong:

    "TRUMP: His budget plan will offer "one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history."

    THE FACTS: Three times in recent years, Congress raised defense budgets by larger percentages than the $54 billion, or 10 percent, increase that Trump proposes. The base defense budget grew by $41 billion, or 14.3 percent, in 2002; by $37 billion, or 11.3 percent, in 2003, and by $47 billion, or 10.9 percent, in 2008, according to Defense Department figures."

    Hat tip to Associated Press.

    1. FDChief - I was speaking of Trump's speech, not your post. He is the one that mis-stated.

  5. FDChief -

    Interesting link at Defense Tech. The M777 you mention is undergoing some possible engineering changes and testing at Picatinny and Yuma. They are adding six feet to the barrel. Saying it will double the range?


    Some concerns they mention:

    Tube whip? I don't know what that means but it doesn't sound good to my non-redleg ears.

    New RAP rounds. Good if they are precision guided, and at a lesser cost than the current PGMs.

    Super-charge projo?

    Blast overpressure?

    My concern: Sounds like major mobility and transport problems to me.

    1. Hmm. Interesting to me for a couple of reasons.

      1. That the push is on the towed rather than the SP system. That will make the gyrenes happy, but the only Army outfits that will benefit will be the light divisions, and them only indirectly through their Corps artillery. Not sure where 2ID fits in but I'm guessing they're in the same boat as the LIDs.

      2. The "tube whip" thing happens with any cannon; just like the article says, it's a reaction to the force of the projo and all cannons have some. The long barrel "should" create additional force (see the next point) and cause more movement but it sounds like it doesn't.

      3. My concern would be bore pressure near the breech. In order to drive the projo down the longer barrel you'd either have to increase the initial pressure at the breech or somehow either reduce the friction between the bore and the rotating band or attenuate the bore pressure so as to reduce the drop in pressure as the projo nears the muzzle. The "easiest" way to get the higher muzzle velocity would be to increase the energy of the propellant and, hence, the pressure within the bore and especially at the breech.

      That, in turn, will increase the wear and erosion in the bore. How much, I can't tell, but it will definitely shorten the life of the barrel if it does and more the higher the bore pressure becomes.

      3. AFAIK these RAP projos will not be guided. The guided projo is the M982 and it gets additional range out of having little fins that flattens out the descending branch - it more-or-less glides down from the max ord - and is vectored in on the target.

      4. Not sure what they mean by a "supercharged" projo. Possibly a "base-bleed" type round that increases range by decreasing drag.

      5. Any cannon generates a blast wave at the muzzle - a "muzzle blast" is the term you often hear, "blast overpressure" just sounds more scientific-y. In this case as the article notes, the increased pressure needed to push the projo out of the longer barrel generates a higher muzzle blast. One way to attenuate this is by fitting a sort of baffle on the end of the cannon, called a muzzle brake which directs some of the pressure wave to the side and rear (if enough can be directed to the rear it also helps reduce recoil, hence the term "muzzle brake". But...as noted, if you do that a LOT it tends to toss the gun crew around, so it's finding the right balance between too much and too little.

      6. In all honesty I don't see the added barrel length as a mobility issue. I could see it being a bit of a problem with fire direction; long barrels tend to be slightly "droopy" and that bend increases in hot weather; typically flat-trajectory cannon (like tank or antitank cannon) have sensors that tell the gunsight how much the barrel is sagging and compensate for it. I imagine that these cannon may get fitted with something like that that feeds data into the FDC's AFATADS through the cannon gun data unit.

      Still...have to wonder if this isn't largely a case of chasing a slow car that this dog can catch rather than the fast one - the big, expensive SP system that's now two generations out of date - that it can't...

    2. "a higher muzzle blast. One way to attenuate this is by fitting a sort of baffle on the end of the cannon, called a muzzle brake which directs some of the pressure wave to the side and rear"

      No, a muzzle brake makes the muzzle blast problem worse for the crew.
      It serves to mostly (IIRC up to 70%)= negate the recoil caused by propellant gasses leaving the barrel (total recoil = reactio to projectile acceleration and reactio to propellant acceleration). So essentially a muzzle brake allows for a more lightweight mechanism for absorbing the recoil force. Typically, it reduces the recoil length and thus allows for more powerful guns in AFV turrets and for a higher maximum elevation with full charge on towed howitzers.

      The downside is a worse concussion and deafening effect on the howitzer crew and often times also more dust thrown up. Muzzle brake designs may also interfere with discarding sabots (especially the baffle designs, not so much the pepperpot designs).

      6.) longer M777 barrel is a mobility issue because M777 isn't UH-60 portable with that extra weight any more. The whole M777 craze was about helicopter portability first and foremost. That's why they used expensive alloys.

    3. Sven...did you READ my comment?

      "...if enough can be directed to the rear it also helps reduce recoil, hence the term "muzzle brake". But...as noted, if you do that a LOT it tends to toss the gun crew around..."

      So, yes, if the brake is poorly designed it directs too much force back at the gun crew. FWIW, however, I've never seen that on an actual howitzer; the principles of design are pretty well established at this point and the force usually goes well out to the sides. Typically the downwards-facing aperture is smaller than the side and upwards-facing one so as to reduce the dust plume, as well.

      Good point on the airmobility, tho. I never even considered that the Army would try and make the M777 UH-60-portable. So, yes, if that was the plan and the longer barrel makes slingloading the cannon impractical then it does become an issue 1) in restrictive terrain such as Afghanistan, and 2) for outfits like the 101st and 82nd that depend more on airmobility as opposed to vehicle movement than the straight-leg infantry does.

    4. You didn't understand my addition. Your claim was that muzzle brakes attenuate muzzle blast, but they make it worse for the crew with any muzzle brake design. Muzzle brakes attenuate recoil instead.

      Even simple muzzle brakes that direct blast tot he sides only cause much more brain concussion and hearing issues for the crew than no muzzle brake at all.

      Most of Afghanistan is too high (and in summer too hot) for late series UH-60s to slingload M777. The army typically uses CH-47 for this anyway, it was just one of its all-too frequent stupid requirements to demand that M777 can be lifted by UH-60s.

  6. Rumor is that these funds will target readiness which would probably be the best way to spend the money. But of course, this is just Trump's dream budget and Congress will pass what it wants.

    Personally, I think we need to work on the demand side of the equation - optempo needs to be reduced.

    1. I'm not so sure, Andy; big piles of DoD cash tend to attract procurement programs like shit draws flies. That's what worries me about this. If Trump had asked his SecDef and his service chiefs for wish lists so he could play War Santa that would have been bad enough! But this is like waving a roll of cash at a hooker...

      The question of optempo is really one that should be asked aside from budgetary requests. IMO it makes no sense for the U.S. to spend as much time, money, and manhours chasing raggedy-ass muj around West Buttfuckistan unless there's a damn good case to be made for that as an achievable objective at a reasonable cost.

      But...given the "clash of civilizations" nonsense the people like Bannon and Gorka and Trump believe...that calculation will never happen...

  7. Presidential budget requests are just that - requests. Congress has never passed a President's budget so we don't really know what will actually happen.

    But this issue is really about readiness. I retired last November and I spent 23 years doing little else but deploying, preparing to deploy, or supporting people who were deployed. And I was spent the last 13 years in the reserve! Throwing some money at O&M and readiness is a band-aid (assuming that's what Trump wants), but what we really need to do is reduce our commitments. The sad reality is that no one in our political class really wants to do that.

    1. Whaaa..? Don't be silly, Andy. Congress used to pass budgets all the time; it's only now that we've had a bitterly divided political environment that when the federal government isn't a one-party system that we've had to go to the continuing resolution gimmick. Now that the GOP does control the whole nutroll I would anticipate a speedy approval for any Trump budget provided that His Fraudulency provides Ryan and McConnell with all the punitive shredding of the social "safety net" they lust after.

      IMO this request is unlikely to be aimed at operating expenses. For one thing, Trump probably doesn't know "what he wants", and I suspect what he DOES want, in his random Trumpian way, is bigly guns and other badass stuff like in the movies, his only real frame of reference.

      And while for you the "issue may be about readiness" really that's inside baseball. It's not just the "political class" that doesn't give a shit about how bushed you are. I hate to say this but We the People could give a flying fuck, too. We love to call you "heroes" and slap a magnet on our hatchback, but throw actual tax dollars at you, or, heaven forfend, consider that sending a small group of imperial legionaries running around the less-paved parts of the world chasing down small amorphous groups of ideological/political guerrillas may not be either the best way to use those legions OR the best way to prevent the imperial militarization of an ostensibly pacific democratic republic? Who the hell wants to actually THINK about that or do something different about it? Especially when all we hear is about how SCARY!!! those evil brown people are!

      Which, in turn, is why that this administration is somewhere between "unlikely" and "are you fucking kidding me?" to reduce those imperial adventures. Trump himself seems to have a Manichean worldview that sees his tangerine goodness as besieged by swarthy foes and his primary advisors, particularly Bannon, are positively loony on the subject. If you think that no one in "our political class" wants to slow the pursuit of said swarthy foes around the mountains of the FATA then you can safely treble that really-not-wanting-to-do-that for the Trumpkins. Fucking Bannon sees our farkling about the Middle East as the Apocalyptic Clash of Civilizations that we the White Christians must fight and win or perish.

      Somehow I reeeeeally don't see how that results in a reduced deployment schedule to Afghanistan. Just spitballin', mind...

  8. I wrote about the field artillery thing as well,
    but a comparison with South African arty is tricky:

    The special conditions (especially heat, but also jetstream etc) on South African artillery ranges were also exploited by German companies to "boost" the range record of their guns by 2-3 km.

    Most propellant s have different power depending on their temperature. The gun needs to be strong enough to withstand full charge pressures at high temperatures (210 K, fore example), so some of its potential won't be exploited at normal temperatures. Some propellants (such as surface coated double base propellant used by 120 mm DM 63) have almost temperature-independent pressures (and are thus relatively better at low temperatures).

    1. I'll see you South Africa and raise you YFC in August, Sven. Heat? Boyfuckinhowdy.

      One of the things we have to account for in fire direction is temperature of the propellant, but that's a relatively minor factor; significantly less so than, say, wind speed and direction, and more so if the gun crews are diligent about protecting their ready-use ammunition from the environment. I know that I used to bitch to my smoke (the NCO responsible for the line of steel) if he didn't beat on his gun chiefs to have their rounds properly tarped and sandbagged.

      Now one thing I DON'T know is how much the actual bore pressure changes based on propellant temperature...but, again, based on my experience with the computed variation in mean point of impact it seems to be relatively minor compared to other factors such as the meteorological data and variations in actual compared to estimated ground elevation...

    2. http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.de/2017/03/scdb-propellant.html

      Meteorological data and ground elevation can be influential, but they're so for all guns. What matters is that all types of modern howitzers appear to get a maximum range boost (AFAIK from hot temperature and jet stream) when tested on South African shooting ranges.
      Their polar jet stream can reach 500 kph ~ 170 m/s.

    3. "Their polar jet stream can reach 500 kph ~ 170 m/s"

      Umm...yeah. At something like 9-12km AGL

      But...the max ord for a typical 155mm projo at an elevation of something like 1200 mils (i.e. close to the maximum high elevation) is about 4km.

      So the idea that this range is because the projo is getting up into the jet stream is...a leetle hard to buy.

    4. 3,980 m maximum ordinate at 1280.7 mil elevation, FM 6-40 chapter 7 figure 7-16 table G.
      Problem is; that table is for charge 4G, not for maximum charge (charge 8). The maximum range with charge 4G is a mere 8,000 m.

      Canadian field manual B-GL-306-006/FP-001 volume 6, ballistics and ammunition, page 73:
      "Consider the M109A2/A3, firing high angle, charge 8 at a range of 12 000 metres. In this example, the projectile would reach an altitude of 10 000 metres (maximum ordinate)."

      M109A3 was the version with a mere 18,100 m maximum range, and it still gets up to 10,000 m maximum ordinate.
      The context of the discussion here was ~52cal 155 mm with about twice that range.

      So if you are a product manager for an arty piece or shell and want to create a press release and favourable Jane's entry by setting a higher maximum range you should shoot with maximum pressure (maximum and hot propellant) and exploit a strong favourable jet stream. High altitude would help, too, but there are few high altitude arty firing ranges available.

    5. Hmm. Okay. I can see how you COULD do that...why you'd want to fire a HA mission at Ch8 would be my question. But you COULD do it, if your intent was to hang a round into the jet stream...

  9. Chief,
    u mention Corps arty.
    where do u find theatre and corps wiring diagrams or organizational charts.
    i need these all the time, but don't seem to ever get my hands on them.
    i'm speaking as a friend.
    this is a fine and well thought out article BUTTTT when some one reads the his fraud thing , this has a real dampening of your powder charge.
    you could say the same thing, and probably better without the emotional words.
    i for one am not a trump type, but he's definitely not fraudulent. face up to it - he's the elected potus.how is this fraudulent?
    but see my point- your attack words detract from your logical essay.
    spoken as a friend.
    jim hruska

    1. I'd have to scurry around to see if I can find something online, jim. In this case it's based on my experience working in a light infantry division. The LIDs don't have any assigned FA assets heavier than 105mm; a LID DIVARTY has three 105mm (M119A1) battalions. Typically the 155mm GS/GSR assets for the light division are up at Corps; as I recall XVIII Abn Corps had at least one 155mm (198th FA, if I recall correctly) battalion that was typically attached to the 82d. I would assume that similar conditions exist for the other light infantry divisions simply because otherwise they're going to be badly outgunned in anything but a box fight...

      And the reference here is to the original gimmicked Presidency, that of Rutherford (or, as he was often called "Rutherfraud") Hayes who, like Trump, lost the popular vote by a significant margin but was installed by a crafty Electoral College gimmick. So Trump is the "elected" President if you ignore the fact that the Electoral College has, somehow, managed to finagle the popular vote now twice in 16 years. And in both cases in favor of the GOP. Whoodthunkit..?

      And the point is just that; to attack the "legitimacy" of this presidency. This joker is gonna act like he got a mandate even though his constituency is a minority plurality of voters and an even smaller minority of the overall population. He's and his GOP pals are going to do their best to rip apart the New Deal America that you and I grew up in.

      And that's worst than a crime. That's a vastly stupid mistake. And it's only possible because you and me have lived so long in the shadow of FDR's purchase of social peace through old age pensions and unionization and neutering the rentier class through taxation and then the slow cleanup of our air and water and food through regulation. And that's not even counting the Progressives' killing of the old open Grant- and Harding-type corruption through emoluments and other "good government" legislation.

      We swim in that world like water because we've forgotten what a hell of a fucked up place the US of 1899 was for those of us not in the Rockefeller or Carnagie families. But His Fraudulency and his Congressional pals want to take us back there and will, if they can assemble the political throw-weight to do just that.

      So consider all thses "attack words" just that; my attack on a coterie of malefactors that intend to destroy the America I grew up in and replace it with a New Gilded Age rife with corporate malfeasance as well as elected officials openly on the grift, a sort of Panama with better pavement. I'm sorry you don't see this the same way, but it doesn't change my anger and frustration with what my "fellow citizens" have done to make my country a meaner, poorer, dirtier, less equitable place for my kids to grow to adulthood in. Hence my relentlessness in attacking those I see as working towards that end.

      Spoken, also, as a friend.

    2. And in case you're wondering...I have been equally ruthless towards the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, that retreated in fear of Reagan towards becoming "republicans lite". In what is increasingly an openly-oligarchic America we need those DNC types like we need a hole in the head.

      Their malign influence on the lives of everyday Americans is only less than the GOP in degree rather than in design.

      But as far as helping impoverish and subjugate the mass of Americans the DNC is just sour milk. The Trumpkins are the strychnine straight from the jug...

    3. And, lastly, Jim...although I have tried to make some practical points in this post at bottom the inspiration is my fury at the incompetence and frustration with what I see as the toxic ideology of this Administration. I'm NOT "nonpartisan". This isn't an appeal to pure reason; this is me the commie liberal traitor shouting my opinion. Why pretend otherwise? If I'm gonna go to the bottom it might as well be with colors nailed to the mast.

  10. Chief,
    if u r not using 'PURE REASON" then u r in a very indefensible position.

    1. Ridiculous, jim. All human thought, whether it's pure contemplation, disputation, friendly discussion, or idle mental masturbation, includes a huge variety of influences. Find me someone who claims that their intellectual or moral positions are based on the cold ratiocination of untrammeled "reason" and you've found me an absolute bullshitter.

      "Pure reason" is like absolute zero; an intellectual conceit seldom, if ever, seen in actuality. I don't know if you think you argue from "pure reason" but I'm fairly sure you don't. I KNOW I don't. My politics, my prejudices, my likes and dislikes, my personal relationships...all of them influence what I think and believe...and say.

      Now...I'm willing to buy that the degree to which those influence both the premise(s) and direction of my arguments may affect both how valid the arguments are and how legitimate you (or any other reader) consider those premises and that direction to be.

      But "indefensible"? Nonsense. That presumes that any and all arguments that include emotional, political, social, etc are indefensible and, since NO argument in human history has proceeded from "pure reason", this ALL arguments are indefensible.

    2. And I should note that we should have learned from Dubya that when scrutinizing these wingnut fantasies assuming "pure reason" is usually a mistake.

      We gave the Bushies the benefit of the doubt and they turned out to be mendacious and self-deluded fools.

      Here we know that Five-deferment Donnie is a profoundly ignorant fabulist surrounded by whackjobs like Bannon. Their character, or lack of same, is critical to assessing their words and deeds. Our subjective assessment of them is as or more important than trying to "pure reason" our way through their actions. So using terms that make clear that assessment is central to.my argument here.

  11. Chief and SO -

    When will HIMARS type systems replace long tube artillery? ATACMS has a longer range now than they can ever get from the M777 even if you double or triple the barrel length.

    Why not stick to 105s and mortars for Direct Support missions?

    1. A SPH can fire three smoke rounds on call and is immediately available for the next fire mission.
      A HIMARS would shoot two smoke rocket (if they existed AND loaded at all), and then there would still be 4 cells in the pod left, so the HIMARS would either be stuck with only 4 smoke rockets till it uses them up (what if there's an urgent need for more than 4 or an urgent need for HE?) or spends minutes to load another pod.

      I'm astonished that companies like Leonardo are trying to create 155 mm fin-stabilised PGM for 70-80 km range. I expected rockets to have a long-range PGM monopoly, provide very powerful short range warheads (TOS-1 style) and deliver area fires (classic MRL). Instead, MRLs and SPGs compete for both area fires and PGMs.


    2. Completely with Sven on this; the two types of systems have very different capabilities and shortcomings. I very much doubt that we'll see a future where there is no more cannon artillery.

    3. SO - Nice link, thanks!

      FDChief & SO -

      I'm not saying replace all cannon artillery. Keep the 155 capability as is. But I am wondering why try to extend the range of the M777 when you already have a system with 70km range and PGM warheads.

      ATACMS with its IRBM range will be phased out for a much smaller system:


      As for the concerns on smoke rounds vs HE: that would seem to be easily solvable.

    4. I think the concern is or being outranged by peer foe systems, Mike. I'm not sure that the intention is to get that extreme long (~70km) range but to get the standard projo to go further, so US guns will be comparable to potential Russian or PRC systems.

      And cannon artillery does have capabilities that rocket systems lack. So giving the cannon more range, providing it doesn't cost too much in other capabilities, is a net positive...

    5. "But I am wondering why try to extend the range of the M777 when you already have a system with 70km range and PGM warheads."

      The M777 is an idiotic idea for the medium/Stryker BCT.
      M777 in light (infantry/airborne) BCT is a weapon system for a rather frugal logistics environment. Multiple rocket launchers have extremely bulky munition compared to the munition's effect and range (rocket propulsion is inefficient compared to guns).

      The logistics of doing all long range fires from HIMARS would be terrible for a light BCT. You would force them to not shoot anything farther than 30 km than PGMs.

      I myself pounded at the M777's obsolete range and fire mission responsiveness (too limited traverse), but the worst thing about it is that there's still no "light" SPG in the light and medium BCTs.

      The South Africans offered their G7 gun as a SPG on Stryker. There were trials in the U.S., and the gun proved to be very low dispersion and good range. Its 105 mm preformed fragments rounds are about as lethal as the old 155 mm HE frag.



      In the end, NIH seems to have struck. And the bureaucracy didn't want to admit that the entire hyped M777 development was bullshit and a successor needed a few years after the M777's introduction already.

      "And cannon artillery does have capabilities that rocket systems lack."

      The rear slope issue can be solved with PGM munitions, though. Much better than nose/drag rings (which MLRS lacks AFAIK, and that's quite an issue with such pre-packaged rocket pods).

    6. No systems duel in a vacuum - they work as part of combined team. I was under the impression that the current tube artillery had the range to provide effective direct support, and that the longer-range/weight of fire requirements for general support reinforcing fires was now the domain of rockets. So while a Russian/PRC gun might outrange the equivalent American gun, that edge was offset by rockets. I then just assumed that since that function was already filled, it wasn't worth the opportunity costs to invest in longer-range tube artillery. Or am I making the classic "ass-u-me" mistake?

    7. That's what I thought.
      The industry begs to differ


      155 mm & 80 km with GPS/SAL guidance!

    8. The U.S. version of airborne troops are really in a very odd position; terrific strategic mobility, ridiculously poor tactical mobility and light armament, and the U.S. Army has had to use a bunch of kind of bizarre expedients to make even what heavy weaponry the airborne units have work. Perfect example; hanging on to the M551 Sheridan for the light armor unit in the 82nd long after that dog was 86ed everywhere else.

      As I mentioned to Jim above, pretty much everyone knows that U.S. airborne troops lack organic firepower; any deployment other than a mass tactical jump is assumed to include artillery attachments to provide that combat power.

      All that was very not-reassuring to a line company trooper back in the day. Trust me on that one...

  12. Mike,
    the DS/GS/GSR question requires a few finer points.
    is the supported unit Mech,light,armor,sof etc.

  13. SO & FDChief -

    I am a fan of towed artillery. The SPG enthusiasts claim they can shoot and scoot faster, probably true but I have seen trained gun crews move towed artillery damned fast. They also claim SPGs have armor protection for the crew, but that armor is minimal. They claim SPGs have greater mobility, but they cannot be lifted by helicopter, plus with an SPG you risk losing the gun because of an broken oil pump, or a clogged fuel filter, or a thrown track, or a hundred other reasons. As for transportability can they even get more than one of those beasts into a C17? How many AMC sorties are needed to airlift a single SPG battery with full loadout? I would bet that an equivalent towed battery would require 25 or 33% of the airlift needed for the SPGs.

    That said, there is a valid argument to have SPGs with armored divisions. Keep them there and nowhere else IMHO.

    1. Towed SPGs usually have a severe fault (save for 122mm D-30/2A18 and practically no other still relevant piece); their traverse is limited to about 60°. Past that limited traverse one needs to lift the legs and turn the gun around with lots of manpower (155 mm piece like M777 approx 6-9 men). That takes approx. 2 minutes (figure from M777, provided by developer on Eurosatory trade fair, so rather too low than too high).
      These are two minutes that you don't get back. 2 minutes in which the firefight you were meant to assist has been concluded already, or stationary targets got moving again.

      2 minutes may be optimistic for an average. The crew gets tired, it may be cold, the spades may be in frozen ground, wheels or spades may be stuck in other ways.

      2 minutes is also a guarantee that the team cannot defend itself against a suddenly appearing light armoured recce vehicle. The battery might get shot up where even a M109 battery would have solved the crisis with a single direct HE shot.

      Towed howitzers also badly lag behind in rate of fire these days.

      I think the very minimum are truck-mounted 105 mm SPGs. The lightest ones (such as Hawkeye) for "airborne" regiments, and the heavier more elaborate ones (such as the South African turret I mentioned) for high cruise speed (wheeled) battalion battlegroups.

      about Hawkeye:

    2. SO -

      Two minutes is a small price to pay for the huge increase in tactical and global mobility.

      Regarding the limited traverse, the gunlines I have seen were arcs and not straight lines.

    3. Imagine this scenario:

      The OPFOR infantry is aware of the accuracy and deadliness of arty and limits firefights to 4 minutes before it breaks contact by running to closed terrain behind lots of smoke, leaving behind mines to deter pursuit. Its doctrine, guns and munitions load are optimised to do maximum damage within 4 minutes.

      Our mortars and arty has recognised this and become so fit that it can bring to bear effective fires within 3 minutes (impact, not shot) from SPGs and SP mortars.
      Now you're bringing some 155 mm split trail howitzer to the fight and claim that 2 more minutes reaction time outside of the preferred 60° arc don't really matter.

      Besides, I don't give a shit about "global mobility". It's not required for alliance defence. Preposition stuff on Iceland if need be, no other place should require any such kind of mobility for alliance defence. Air-lifted forces are rarely important anyway because they are hopeless against a less restricted regular army in quantity, supply throughput, direct firepower, indirect firepower, protected mobility and usually also regarding mounted mobility in general.

      The tactical mobility of towed arty pieces is better than that of SPGs only in mountainous terrains, but nowadays howitzers have such high performance you can provide support fires in mountains with guns in the valleys.

    4. The 105mm M119A1 system I worked with in the ORARNG works on a turntable-type baseplate. It allows for very rapid shifts in the arc of fire. The problem comes in re-orienting the gunsight and reacquiring the aiming stakes. I'm not sure whether the GPS units in the AFATADS system allow the cannon to do this automatically; if so, a 6400-mil arc within seconds is surely possible.

      But I am unsure of how the instrumentation on the towed artillery systems works - after my time - and it may not be as integrated as I suspect.

      And the 155mm cannons, both the older M198 and the M777 - are NOT as easy to move through a large deflection change. In that Sven is correct; it's minutes, and that's not acceptable in a non-conventional-war setting where almost all effective fires are not preplanned.

      FWIW, standard for 105mm batteries in the early Oughts was 1.5 minutes for initial round, 3 minutes for FFE for on-call missions...

    5. I haven't seen any post-WW2 turntable (Arbel platform etc.) gun designs at calibres greater than 105 mm IIRC. They sure were used for long-range arty (German 15 cm cannons, for example) and even quite light arty (25 pdr, for example), but seem to have fallen out of use.

      The small turntables as used by M119 are quite similar to the pivot rest of the M777 anyway. The spades may AFAIK still be dug into the ground after lower register high charge firing.
      Recovering the turntable after much high angle fire is about as quick and fun as with 120 mm mortars' baseplates.

  14. F -

    Your reasoning is solid IMHO.

  15. SO -

    I am not dissing all SPGs. They have a place in armored divisions. And perhaps at Corps or Army level. They have no place with light infantry, airborne, or Marine units. And not even for regular infantry divisions even though those are currently all mostly mounted in APCs.

    Your reasoning on the 60 degree traverse is valid. However, every howitzer battery I ever saw whether in Viet-Nam or in training areas stateside did NOT emplace their guns in a straight line, a la Napoleon or BGen Henry J Hunt at Cemetery Ridge. The batteries I am familiar with emplaced them in a curve or arc instead of a line. So any one or two of the six guns could cover different angles than the others, except of course from directly behind. And on remote fire bases they emplaced in a full circle covering all directions. Plus long range fires are also available from HIMARS with a 360 degree traverse. As ‘F’ said above: ”No systems duel in a vacuum - they work as part of combined team.”

    Prepositioning of armor units with SPGs has been going on for decades now. But even that supposes that you know where they will be needed. May work fine for you if you have a crystal ball or are only concerned with a specific area. As for alliance defence, the best option IMHO is a flanking offensive. In any case those airlifted forces, however unimportant you may deem them, are critical until follow-on forces are available.

    My opining on tactical mobility is thus: SPG have greater tactical mobility in theory. But in the real world, when they break down due to hundreds of possibilities you have then lost that gun. On the contrary with towed artillery, you only need hook it up to a different prime mover. Plus the fact that SPGs are too heavy for helolift. As for deploying SPGs to mountain valleys, I suspect that would be a form of suicide.

    1. SO -

      How fast can an SPG crew replace a track? How fast can a tank retriever replace an SPG engine block? etc etc

    2. Modern tracked AFV's powerpacks can be replaced within 30 minutes if a suitable crane (such as on a R&R vehicle) or a substitute such as a sufficiently strong steel structure to support winch operation is available. Pre-Bradley chassis M109 may take much longer, but M109 is not modern.

      Tracked AFVs that have lost a track can in emergencies be towed away before replacing the track, even by non-specialised vehicles.

      "The batteries I am familiar with emplaced them in a curve or arc instead of a line."

      This would reduce the angle at which the unit could bring its full firepower to bear on short notice even further. BTW, modern arty doesn't necessarily use any gun formation any more. Guns can be dispersed thanks to modern accurate navigation systems (GPS/Galileo and quality INS) and still converge their fires on a single point at a single time.

      "And on remote fire bases they emplaced in a full circle covering all directions"

      That's vastly less efficient than having a 360° traverse guns such as a D-30 or a turreted SPG such as PzH 2000 which was used at Kunduz in that firebase role.
      You got used to suboptimal workarounds.

      "Plus the fact that SPGs are too heavy for helolift."

      As I argued before, there's very little reason to depend on helo lift for arty even in mountains. Munition supply is a bitch anyway. A single M777 could easily chew go through more than 10 tons of ammo in a day, even 20 tons are feasible. It's much easier to use high performance guns shooting from valleys. Mountain arty had its raison d'être when it was important for direct fire and regular howitzers had difficulty reaching past mountains because their max range was less than 12 km. Today no gun crew would survive that against competent opposition.
      Those 'overwatch' 105 mm gun positions from Afghanistan are irrelevant to European warfare. Even Chobham generation MBTs got busted in Syria and Yemen while on overwatch duty!

    3. "As for deploying SPGs to mountain valleys, I suspect that would be a form of suicide."

      Not if their fires go over a ridgeline. The true problem could be overcrowding of valleys, but a battery or two wouldn't necessarily make it any worse. After all, they could use slopes which supply vehicles would naturally avoid.

    4. S O -

      I suppose you and I will never agree on this.

      I am more interested in your opinions on the potential future of rocket artillery.

    5. I think the interesting developments in MRL are

      (1) Iskander/ATACMS-like rockets, likely "<300 km" versions for export and "<500 km" versions for own use. These connect arty and air war planning.

      (2) TOS-1/TOS-1A approach of well-protected platform with short range thermobaric rounds that defeat fortifications. Germany had similar stuff in WW2.

      (3) I also expect a revival of smaller MRL calibres because of the cluster munitions ban.
      The path dependency, conventional warfare disinterest of 1995-2014 and inertia have kept us stuck at ~227 mm MLRS, but it's not optimal. Smaller calibres are more weight and volume efficient with unitary HE than large ones if the range isn't too extreme for the smaller calibre.

      For corps arty I think the Taiwanese got it about right with Ray Ting 2000. We should use a 15 ton 8x8 truck and a twin MRL pod launcher installed on a PLS/DROPS/EPLS/MULTI pallet. The cabin gets standard bulletproof armour package (<2 tons).

      For manoeuvre brigades I suppose the standard family of 'frontline' AFVs should serve as basis for a twin pod launcher. For Germany this would be Puma, I suppose. For the U.S. it would be Bradley since the U.S.Army cannot develop and bring into service all-new AFVs any more.

      Both would share munitions of different calibres that fit in different pods. HE rocket pods should offer manual access to the rocket noses so drag rings can be added and fuses exchanged. Drag rings make MUCH sense unless trajectory correcting fuses are used (those have extensible drag rings to correct most of the range error).

      The brigade/manoeuvre arty should occasionally and additionally use large thermobaric rounds, and the long range/corps arty should occasionally and additionally use those 299/499 km missiles.

      All MRL should be able to elevate to high angles (70° or more) and tolerate the associated backblast. This would allow for the use of pods with surface-to-air missiles without wasting too much missile range with a poor launch angle. A common launcher for both field arty and air defence arty would make it easier to tolerate uneven attrition rates, so maybe air defence forces should use the MRL pallets.

      Finally, it should be possible to manually reload rocket pods, even if they were normally prepackaged 'wooden munitions'. A certain loss of accuracy with 2nd and later shots from same pod is acceptable, for the reloading would mostly for PGMs. PGMs are often fired alone, so a pod of 6 missiles might end up having but one missile left in the pod. That's a dilemma if there might soon be a great demand for PGM fires.

      We should also pay more attention to artillery-deployed radio and GLONASS jammers. They allow for some tactical tricks, and it should be much better to deploy them by rocket than by 155 mm (there are some expendable jammers for 122-155 mm calibres in service).

      other than this:

    6. SO –

      On #1 that is in the works as a follow on system to ATACMS. Probably won’t be fully operational for a couple of years. The anti-ship version of the Naval SM-6 already has that range and some of the same contractors are involved I believe.

      Your #2 should not be that hard to adapt from existing Hellfire thermobarics. But you would want to adapt the single shot ability you mentioned. I am not smart on thermobaric weapons, but why would you want to put a full load of six (or 24 in the case of TOS) on the same target? Unless you incorporate a dispersion capability?

      I definitely agree with #3. Smaller and precision guided. You could even perhaps use a derivative of the SMAW thermobaric warhead (83mm). I do wonder though what range you could get with the smaller calibers?

      Corps artillery? I am not familiar with the Ray Ting 2000. But I like the pallet you mention if that means it could be craned onto another prime mover if needed when an engine breaks down.

      Maneuver brigades? I believe there was a single pod launcher planned for the GCV program or maybe its predecessor? But it was cancelled along with the bigger program. I don’t see why they could not mount a pod on the Bradley in the interim.

      GLONASS jammers? For sure, and why not make it capable of jamming Galileo also, with an ON/OFF switch?

    7. #1
      I disregard the ATACMS follow-on project LRPF mostly. It's going to be overpriced. ATACMS already has appalling prices that rival and exceed some real cruise missiles.
      Useful munition designs that NATO countries could use are more likely to come from Israel, India, South Korea or Turkey. All of these developed guided SRBMs in the past. Taiwan shouldn't be ruled out either.

      mike, do you know the palletised load system (PLS)? You don't need to "crane" pallet onto a PLS vehicle, that's the whole point of PLS.

      Many targets are area targets because the targets are concealed. It's worth firing 80 large thermobaric rounds if this knocks out a platoon that's in an important and resilient position (such as overhead covered foxholes and trenches or simply basements).

      Not all MRL HE should be precision-guided. Have a look at SPACIDO. I suppose this is more often the best choice than the PGM approach.


      And as a European I see no utility in jamming Galileo. We can switch the satellites off if needed or reprogram them to encrypt the time code.

  16. Against competent foes using modern sensors, it does not take very long to locate gun positions after they have fired. Towed guns are inherently vulnerable to counter-battery fire.

    1. True Ael! However there are counter-measures to counter-battery fire other than fully armored SPGs.

  17. S O -

    As I said above I am no expert on thermobarics. But I read somewhere they have the most destructive force of any known explosive other than nukes. Plus their consumption of oxygen makes them deadly against the fortifications and basements you mentioned. So I guess I do not understand why you would need 80 rounds from something like a 220mm TOS round to take out a platoon?

    The SPACIDO projectiles you mentioned sound good. But the only accuracy data I found on the web for them says they increase firing precision by a factor of five. What does that mean exactly compared to a conventional 155mm round with a CEP of 267 meters at max range? And how does that compare to the Excalibur round with a CEP of six meters? Plus they sound expensive, granted not as expensive as an Excalibur but are they comparable in expense to the PGK fuses added to conventional projos? Can they be adapted to rockets?

    1. The real battle lethality of arty is much smaller than its potential. 80 heavy thermobaric rockets to take out one platoon is very efficient, particularly if one doesn't know its exact fighting positions. A MRL crew would kill more than its equivalent of opposing troops per salvo - that's an extreme lethality.

      Thermobaric munitions mix with and consume the air's oxygen to get an oxidiser. Conventional explosives carry their own oxidiser and have thus less energetic potential.
      The explosion of a mixture cloud is less concentrated and thus the overpressure wave lasts longer, which is particularly destructive against structures, but also more effective around corners than conventional blast.
      One problem with thermobarics is that the effect depends a bit on atmospheric conditions (AFAIK high air humidity is not good, for example).

      155 mm howitzers have no meaningful CEP metric. CEP makes sense only with approx. circular dispersions. Artillery has much greater dispersion in range than direction (see graphic on my link). SPACIDO reduces the range dispersion approx. to the deflection dispersion, so 155 mm HE rounds would mostly impact somewhere in a 50x50 m area after 40 km of flight, which is fantastic with frag effect reaching out to about 50 m radius against infantry targets.

      Excalibur is super-expensive and effectively only sensible against stationary high value vehicles (tanks, radars, command posts).

      Trajectory correction munitions have first been introduced to rockets because that's actually easier than with spin stabilised shells and you get the extra benefit of drag ring effect that's important for MRLs (much reduced minimum firing range and/or better angle of descent for better effect).

  18. Given that there are 6 Goldman Sachs alums in Cabinet, I predict that the money will be spent in such a fashion as to benefit the owners of the military industrial complex.