Monday, January 16, 2006

The End of the Barrage

For the longest time, fire support gave you a choice of fairly precise tube artillery that took some time to put metal on target and inaccurate rockets that put lots of metal on an area in a short time. We relied on tube artillery while the Soviets and others like rockets, too.

With MLRS we finally entered the rocket barrage race and found them quite useful to hit enemy artillery pieces before they could move and with a beaten zone large enough to compensate for inaccuracy.

Well, the rocket barrage is now history:

The U.S. is no longer buying unguided rockets for its 227mm MLRS multiple rocket system. All future purchases will be guided rockets. The primary guided rocket is the M30, carrying a 200 pound high explosive warhead, and using GPS for navigation. That means that at maximum range (over 60 kilometers), each rocket will still land within 10-20 feet of the aiming point. This gives MLRS the same accuracy as JDAM bombs. With the 60 kilometer range, one MLRS vehicle (carrying twelve rockets) or a HIMARS truck (carrying six rockets) can provide smart bomb accuracy for any troops within range. The smaller (200 pound) warhead is often preferred, particularly for urban fighting (where adjacent buildings may contain civilians.)

This is why we don't need so many independent artillery brigades and why we are converting lots of them to other more-needed units.

Losing divisional artillery able to support any subordinate brigade as our Army moves toward brigades instead of divisions as the basic unit isn't a big deal if the brigade's own organic artillery can deliver precise firepower and is augmented by air power.

This will have a tremendous impact on supply, too, when mountains of artillery shells and rockets don't need to be manufactured and moved to the theater and then forwarded to link up with artillery units for re-supply.

And given the preference our troops have shown for JDAMs delivered by the pilots over less accurate artillery, this is a wise move if the Red Legs want to keep their jobs.

This is really an amazing development.