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Fire Support: Priority Targets and Priority Missions

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I'm exploring open desert big scenarios (battalion up to brigade level), sort of Desert Storm against a better equipped foe, so it turns out that artillery is killer!

 

I have many doubts on how to make a coherent, believable and doctrine sound fire support setup for the player and would like to ask for help.

 

The scenario is heavily based on classic Desert Storm battles, where a US Armored Battalion Task Forces moves to contact against a "late 80s/early 90s" soviet equipped enemy, in prepared defensive positions, during very low visibility conditions and poor weather. The US Armored Battalion Task Force is subdivided into 3 company sized units while the Armored OPFOR Brigade is subdivided into multiple Battalion sized, soviet style, strong points. Although the enemy has far better equipment than the Iraqi forces of Desert Storm, conceptually for this scenario they are still limited to the same poor training, flawed decision making structure and limited intelligence capability.

 

How much Fire Support should be given to each side? How many deployable Target Reference Points? How many Priority Missions? How much ammunition?

 

How do I plan and work with TRPs in both the offense and defense? How should I plan, design and work with "pre-planned" on-call artillery support strategy in the defense?

 

Cheers

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This is Fister bait my man.  Coincidenty I've also been setting up the same type of scenario lately-- Desert Storm inspired, but against a better equipped foe.  There's a lot of good information out there on the layout of the Iraqi defenses!

 

So the first steps to determining how much fire support should be involved with your task force's operation will be to work backwards from corps, to division, to brigade to battalion.  Important note:  There are a ton of issues and timing considerations, at all echelons, that I won't address here, and anywhere below where I've made assumptions, bear in mind these assumptions are for made the sake of simplicity, not accuracy

 

Here's  the 7th Corps Oob for Desert Storm.  (MASSIVELY IMPORTANT NOTE:  The below image is for visualization only.  It is from Wikipedia and is of questionable accuracy.  It should be used to assist in visualizing the logic of the post beneath it only.  The omission of certain British Units has been known to cause offence on at least one confirmed occasion).


7thOOB.thumb.png.c4eb7e23fcbf563075f2fb464bebaa1c.png

 

7th Corps had essentially 5ish Divisions worth of Combat Power.  Each brigade, in each division, has one organic direct support field artillery battalion, that means by default, they're shooting for their own brigades and nobody else.  You can look up each FA battalion composition at the time, they'll all either be ~3 batteries of 6 guns each or 3 batteries of 8 guns each, for a total of 18-24 guns per battalion (the equivalent to an artillery regiment in some militaries). 

 

Next turn your attention to the field artillery brigades.  Here 7th Corps has 4 FA Brigades, their compositions vary but they amount to 8 howitzer battalions and 3 MLRS battalions.  The rocket and tube battalions in a FA bde can vary in size and composition, you can either look them up or simplify it for yourself and use the same values for the howitzers as you used for your direct support FA btlns.  The MLRS battalions will be between 18 and 27 launchers organized into either 2 or 3 batteries of 9 launchers per btln.  

 

Now you've established what your corps has to work with, it becomes a matter of imagining what each of your divisions are getting up to, and how each is best supported.  For simplicity sake lets decide the corps is attacking line abreast with 3 Divisions; 1st Armor, 1st Infantry, and 1st Armour (UK).  3rd Armor is being kept in reserve and will not require additional fire support.  1st Cav will be conducting reconaissance across the Corps' front and will not require additional Howitzer support, but will have MLRS priority.  Furthermore 1st Armour (UK) have made it abundantly clear that they are uncomfortable with being furnished close fire support from american howitzers (MLRS will still shoot counter-battery in support of 1st Armour (UK) but they will not have a requirement for additional howitzer support).  

 

Now lets make some more assumptions for simplicity sake.  During the period of your operation; MLRS will only be handling counter-battery across the corps' AOR, 1st Armor (US) and 1st Infantry will have the same fire support requirements, and your Battalion Task Force is a part of one of these Divisions.

 

By the numbers that means we'll be providing 1st Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division each an additional 4 FA btlns (howitzer).  Slowly we're working our way to your task force!  

 

Now let's say you've committed to the 1st Infantry Division.  Your total fire support for the division is 3 direct support howitzer battalions (1 for each brigade) and 4 howitzer battalions (assigned from corps to division artillery) for a total of 7.  

 

Lets continue to make assumptions.  Your division will be attacking with 2 brigades forward and one kept in reserve, with the two attacking brigades having equal fire support requirements.  The direct support artillery btlns of each brigade will not be supporting across brigade lines, so cross them off the list of available support now. 

 

As it stands now, your brigade has 1 howitzer direct support battalion, and division has 4 howitzer battalions to support 2 attacking brigades with equal fire support requirements.  

 

We inch closer to determining the nature and composition of the support available to your Task Force.  And more assumptions must be made.  

 

At this point you can either A) keep those 4 battalions under division centralized control (furnish general support to the attacking brigades across the division frontage) or B) decentralized control, subordinating them to the attacking brigades (direct support reinforcing).

 

Whichever you decide to go with depends on the division frontage, ease of command and control, requirements for massing, logistics etc).  We've already decided both brigades have equal fire support requirements so weighting the attack of a particular brigade will not play a factor.  

 

There are risks, advantages, and disadvantages to both centralized and decentralized control and you can use combinations of the two.

 

Let's continue to make simple assumptions.  Let's decide division is having trouble executing effective control over the gaggles of howitzers, and decides it'd be wisest to divide the remaining division artillery and subordinate them to the brigades.  

 

Your brigade has now received two howitzer battalions from division, in addition to your original direct support howitzer battalion bringing the brigade's fire support capability up to a whopping 3 battalions.  

 

Now your brigade has three maneuver battalions, 2/16 Infantry, 3/37 Armor and 4/37 Armor.  Lets decide you'll be attacking with two Battalion Task Forces and one in reserve, and assume both attacking task forces will have the same fire support requirements.

 

For our purposes lets decide to provide each battalion task force one howitzer battalion in direct support each, with the last remaining howitzer battalion being reserved for general support of the brigade and to cover periods of movement by the other two howitzer battalions.  The goal of this configuration will be to maintain at least three immediately available batteries to each attacking task force at any given time.  

 

It's taken a while to get here but through our assumptions, abstractions, and simplifications in this scenario that leaves your Task Force with 3 full batteries of (6 to 😎 howitzers committed to the close fight ready to support your Task Force Commander's plan, in whatever fashion you designate.  In addition to these three batteries you have your battalion mortars, divided into one or two sections, totaling 4 to 6 tubes.  

 

At this point you'll want to decide whether your batteries and mortars will be split, or kept whole.  For simplicity sake we'll say you keep the batteries together, and subdivide your mortars into two sections.  That leaves you with 5 Fire Support providers.  You'll want to give each FS provider a target to lay on in the form of a deployable priority target reference point.  If you'll be travelling a great distance, or the attack will be conducted over multiple lengthy phases, you might want to consider adding more priority TRPs to represent the establishment of new priority targets associated with the different phases, because the player only gets one chance to place these.  Where and why these get placed should be up to the player, their scheme of maneuver, objectives, intent etc.

 

You've developed your blufor fire support allotment, configuration of your units, and provided priority TRPs.  Next comes Ammo.  

 

Without laying out the logistics requirements and artillery re-supply tactics behind the effort, I think it's reasonable to provide enough ammo for each battery to receive 1 to 3 complete on-board ammo replenishments.  If each howitzer carries ~40 rounds that means ~80-160 rounds per gun.  

 

Now I can talk all night if you don't stop me about what happens at task force and below, this is where the magic happens, and we haven't even gotten to the topic of defense.  At the moment I'll point you to the old 1991 print FM 6-20-20, which is a relatively simple to understand fm on Fire Support at battalion and below.  Let me know what additional questions you have and maybe we'll carry on from there! 

Edited by Breakthrough7

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Hi Breakthrough

 

The ORBAT that you have posted, is this supposed to be an accurate reflection or is it a modded ORBAT for your scenario??

 

The reason I ask is you have 1UK Armoured Div listed with two Mech/Armd Inf Brigades and some of the tank units rerolled into Recce or even not listed.

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19 hours ago, Breakthrough7 said:

Without laying out the logistics requirements and artillery re-supply tactics behind the effort, I think it's reasonable to provide enough ammo for each battery to receive 1 to 3 complete on-board ammo replenishments.  If each howitzer carries ~40 rounds that means ~80-160 rounds per gun.  

 

Now I can talk all night if you don't stop me about what happens at task force and below, this is where the magic happens, and we haven't even gotten to the topic of defense.  At the moment I'll point you to the old 1991 print FM 6-20-20, which is a relatively simple to understand fm on Fire Support at battalion and below.  Let me know what additional questions you have and maybe we'll carry on from there! 

80-160 per gun,

Damn it...on any exercise I have been, my company rarely got ANY rounds alloted in planning...best case was a few mortar FM in our support 😒

 

Its that moment when you lay out your genius plan and requests for fire support...and the FO attached to you just says "Nah, can't do that"

Edited by Grenny

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I was invited to Grafenwöhr some time around 2003 to make the sound recordings of missile launches and other gunfire. Day one, I'm with the Americans for TOW launch recordings.

"Hiya, great to meet you, let's move out. There'll be plenty of recording opportunity. The unit's in Iraq, so we're shooting all training missiles so that next year when they'll be back, they won't cut the allotment for training. We've got only eight hours, and 160 missiles to fire with two vehicles. It's going to be a bit hectic, but hopefully you'll find at least one undisturbed recording."

 

The next day I meet the company commander of a German PzGren company and he beams with joy as we shake hands. "Man, I'm soo lucky! I've been granted two Milans, can you believe it? So, I can shoot one at day, and one during the night combat phase! Hey... this is great news! Why the sour face?"

 

Then we wept.

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the iraqi artillery is much less likely to be on call, it is pre-registered to hit assumed routes against an attacker attempting to negotiate the typical defensive setup of a minefield then a sand berm, perhaps another minefield, then the static positions behind that- it worked reasonably well against iran, in 1991 what little was available was very in accurate and sparse

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@Grenny  Budgetary maybe?  It's probably important to mention that in the west we've all seen the artillery reduction across the board since the Gulf War and there are cascading effects from that.  Also probably important to point out that not every Fister (FO) is created equally. 

On my first deployment, my Fire Support Officer was so worthless that I had to do everything myself, coordination, freqs, callsigns, fire support plans, brief to the commander, shower the S3 with gifts and praise, bribe the gun bunnies, basically piece everything together myself far in advance (He'll be a battalion commander soon!)  An unfortunate side-effect of at least the American FIST organization is that the most senior member of a Company level FIST (the FSO, a 2nd or 1st Lt.) is usually one of the least experienced members of the FIST, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was true elsewhere.  

Edited by Breakthrough7

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25 minutes ago, Breakthrough7 said:

@Grenny  Budgetary maybe?  It's probably important to mention that in the west we've all seen the artillery reduction across the board since the Gulf War and there are cascading effects from that.  Also probably important to point out that not every Fister (FO) is created equally. 

On my first deployment, my Fire Support Officer was so worthless that I had to do everything myself, coordination, freqs, callsigns, fire support plans, brief to the commander, shower the S3 with gifts and praise, bribe the gun bunnies, basically piece everything together myself far in advance (He'll be a battalion commander soon!)  An unfortunate side-effect of at least the American FIST organization is that the most senior member of a Company level FIST (the FSO, a 2nd or 1st Lt.) is usually one of the least experienced members of the FIST, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was true elsewhere.  

Here is an old cold war training video.

It shows planning and execution of fire support at brigade and BN level.

In one scene you see the briefing of the Brigade Artillery officer to his FSO's...and one FSO is given 80 rounds(in total!!), to support  PzGrenBN 102.

 

 

Edited by Grenny

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So first video...brigade briefing.

this video is the briefing of the brigade art. officer to the FSOs

 

 

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@Grenny  We could argue about optimal ammo expenditures all day but you work with what you've got, and what you manage to coordinate ahead of time, the further ahead the better!  Look into the actual expenditures during Desert Storm and OIF 1! 

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3 minutes ago, Breakthrough7 said:

@Grenny  We could argue about optimal ammo expenditures all day but you work with what you've got, and what you manage to coordinate ahead of time, the further ahead the better!  Look into the actual expenditures during Desert Storm and OIF 1! 

I'm not arguing that...I just see the divergence of our cold war plannings...and what might realy have been needed

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Note that the 80 rounds allotment is presented as "normal"; this was an official training video (if on the introductory side), and there's no mention that this is unusually sparse due to "circumstances", the commander doesn't raise an eyebrow.

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2 minutes ago, Ssnake said:

Note that the 80 rounds allotment is presented as "normal"; this was an official training video (if on the introductory side), and there's no mention that this is unusually sparse due to "circumstances", the commander doesn't raise an eyebrow.

My absolute favourite scene if the when the BN commander explains his request for support to the FUO(engl. FSO), and the FUO replies: We can do everytrhing you want. ...See that smug smile in the face of the BN commander 🤣  (second video, minute 4:25 to 5:45)

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3 minutes ago, Breakthrough7 said:

I think we should also take a moment to admire the Paul Bunyan beard and bouncy effortless hair of the guy in the first video.

the beardy guy is the brigade artillerie officer, ...

Edited by Grenny

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5 minutes ago, Breakthrough7 said:

I think we should also take a moment to admire the Paul Bunyan beard and bouncy effortless hair of the guy in the first video.

PS.: There are 2 more videos.

They show the coms and procedures for direct fire support.

Note how enemy arty is shown as harmless puffs why own artillery looks impressive.

 

Just one nice point: Second video, minute 9:48, the only correct reply possible when some yells: "fire mission, direct fire..."

 

 

 

 

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18 minutes ago, Grenny said:

Just one nice point: Second video, minute 9:48, the only correct reply possible when some yells: "fire mission, direct fire..."

What's the German phrase for Run Away?

These are pretty good videos, I just wish I could understand German.  I think I caught a "recht" in one of them, which I recall from the trains in Berlin means right.  My forum handle is actually a hat tip Georg Bruchmüller (Durchbruchmüller).

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4 minutes ago, Breakthrough7 said:

What's the German phrase for Run Away?

...

Ok, thats a correct reaction...

The reply the gunner was giving was a simple: "Scheiße"

 

Thumbs up for the gun CO giving lengthy fire commands when enemy tanks are 600 away 😎

Edited by Grenny

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Here's some additional information for reference.  Image 1 is an account I've posted before from Boyd Dastrup's 'Artillery Strong' of 7th Corps' preparatory bombardment in support of breaching operations on Feb 24 1991.  350 artillery pieces fired 11,000 155mm rounds and 414 MLRS rockets in 30 minutes.  I'd have to figure out how many of those 350 artillery pieces were howitzers and how many were rockets to get an exact number, but I bet it'd work out to roughly a full on-board load per system in half an hour-- That was just the preparatory bombardment, it then goes on to say that when the "assault force moved forward to conduct the breach, there was no break in field artillery fire between the preparation and and the fires in support of the movement."

image0.jpeg.e53f5fc2b750f1eaa66d82283224b1d0.jpeg

And image 2 and 3 are from a nice table of historical ammunition expenditure from JBA Bailey's 'Field Artillery and Firepower.'  Notable is the final value in the table which budgets 300 rounds per gun per day in 1984 in an imagined European scenario.  

image3.thumb.jpeg.6a5835617192f63e8a625ae49e96c89b.jpeg

------------------------------------------------

image2.thumb.jpeg.b02d55581b3cec66cbc729541833bdd7.jpeg

Edited by Breakthrough7

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@IrishHussar  Obviously that goes without saying.  Not sure that's relevant to this discussion either.  I feel like I was pretty clear when I said I was using it for "illustrative purposes" and again "basically a graphical training aid."

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Hi again

not wanting to distract from your post that is why I removed my last post. However an incorrect post like yours, which does not include the names of units which took part in this campaign can cause offence. Specifically to those that served in the omitted units.

Just saying

 

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@IrishHussar  "However an incorrect post like yours"  Okay killer, If it'd make life easier on you, I can edit my original post to specify in bold block letters, that this Desert Storm Wikipedia OOB shouldn't be taken as gospel but rather considered a visual aid and ancillary to the actual topic.  

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