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For the thrash metal band, see Artillery (band)

Historically, artillery refers to any engine used for the discharge of projectiles during war . The term also describes ground-based troops with the primary function of manning such weapons .

The word as used in the current context originated in the Middle Ages . Itcomes from the Old French atellier meaning "to arrange", and attillement meaning "equipment". From the 13th century an artillier referred to a builder of any war equipment, andfor the next 250 years the sense of the word "artillery" covered all forms of military weapons.

"Artillery" is a general term covering several varieties of large- calibre weapons ; currently these fire an explosive shell or rocket and are of such a size and weight as to require a specialized mount for firing and transport. Weapons covered by this term in themodern era include "tube" artillery such as the howitzer , cannon , mortar , and field gun and "rocket" artillery. Older engines like the catapult , onager , trebuchet and ballista are also artillerybut generally fired a solid shot.



The types of tube artillery are generally distinguished by their ballistic trajectory .Cannons (such as infantry support guns or the guns on anaval ship) are typically low-angle weapons designed for a direct-fire role. Mortars are high-angle weapons originally used to drop shells behind the walls of a city. Howitzers arecapable of both high- and low-angle fire. They are most often employed in an indirect-fire role.

Types of artillery:

  • field artillery -mobile weapons used to support armies in the field. Subcategories include:
    • infantry support guns - directly support infantry units(mostly obsolete)
    • mountain guns - lightweight weapons that can be moved through difficultterrain
    • mortars - lightweight weapons that fire projectiles at anangle of over 45 degrees to the horizontal
  • naval artillery -cannons mounted on warships and used either against other ships or in support of ground forces.
  • coastal artillery -Fixed-position weapons dedicated to defense of a particular location, usually a coast (e.g. the Atlantic Wall in WW 2 ) or harbor. Not needing to be mobile,coastal artillery can be much larger than equivalent field artillery pieces, giving them longer range and more destructive power.Since World War II, however, modern weapons and tactics have made them largely obsolete.
  • anti-aircraft artillery - weapons, usuallymobile, dedicated to attacking aircraft from the ground.

All forms of artillery require a propellant to fire the projectile at the target. A number of different configurations havebeen developed, each with varying characteristics. They include:

  • Tube fired - utilise the pressure of burnt propellant inside a barrel to force a projectile out of the mouth of the barrel.
    • Spin stabilised - Use helical grooves or ridges on the inside of the barrel to impart a rotation to the projectile as it istravelling in the barrel.
    • Fin stabilised - Use fins at the rear of the projectile in the airflow to maintain correct orientation.
    • Inverted tube - Some weapons have been built with the tube built into the projectile and fitted onto a rod fitted to thecarriage.
  • Recoilless - A tube fired weapon with a breech designed to perforate a bursting disk at firing, and permit a mass of burntpropellant gases with momentum equal to the projectile to exit from the rear of the barrel, to prevent recoil from affecting theweapon.
  • Rocket propelled - Tube or rail launched - A reaction propulsion system mounted to the projectile provides continuous thrustfor an initial period of the flight.
  • Rocket assist - A combination of tube fired and rocket propelled - uses a rocket motor in the base of the projectile toextend the range by about 30%.
  • Base bleed - Similar to a rocket assist projectile, uses a small pyrotechnic charge at the base of the projectile. The charge introduces sufficient combustion products into the low-pressure region behind thebase of the projectile responsible for a large proportion of the drag to substantially (> 30%) increase range. Like a rocketassist projectile, trajectory is changed to non-ballistic, which may complicate counter-battery location.

The term "artillery" has traditionally not been used for projectiles with internal guidance systems, even though someartillery units employ surface-to-surface missiles . Recent advances in terminalguidance systems for small munitions has allowed large calibre shells to be fitted with precision guidance fuses, blurring thisdistinction.

Roles of the Artillery

Depending on the calibre of the weapons, artillery is used in a variety of roles. Mortars fire relatively short range and small-calibre projectiles in a high arc against targets that cannotbe reached by low-angle (less than 45 degrees) fire, such as troops on the reverse slope of a hillside. Modern mortars , because of their lighter weight and simpler, more transportabledesign, are usually organic to infantry and armor units, allowing greater responsiveness and negating their shorter range.

Howitzers are longer ranged weapons that generally fire in a flatter arc - the target is seldom in view of the firer.Howitzers are generally used in direct support of infantry and armor, where the guns of a battery or even a battalion will be massed to firesimultaneously onto a single point or area target.

Modern field artillery falls into two categories: towed and self-propelled. As the name implies, towed artillery has a primemover, usually a jeep or truck , to move the piece,crew, and ammunition around. Self-propelled howitzers are permanently mounted on a carriage or vehicle with room for the crew andammunition and capable of moving independently in order to move quickly from one firing position to another - to both support thefluid nature of modern combat and to avoid 'counter-battery fire'.

The Field Artillery Team

Modern field artillery (Post- World War I ) has three distinct parts: theforward observer (or FO), the fire direction center (FDC) and the actual howitzers themselves. Because artillery is an indirect fire weapon, the forward observer must take up a position where he canobserve the enemy using tools such as binoculars and laser range finders anddesignators and call back fire missions on his radio. This position can be anywhere from a few thousand meters to 20-30 kmdistant from the guns. Using a standardized format, the FO sends either an exact target location or the position relative to hisown location, a brief target description, a recommended munition to use, and any special instructions such as "danger close" (thewarning that friendly troops are within 600 meters of the target, requiring extra precision from the guns). The FO does not talkto the guns directly - he deals solely with the FDC.

Typically, there is one FDC for a battery of six guns. The FDCcomputes firing data for the guns. The process consists of determining the precise target location based off of the observer'slocation if needed, then computing range and direction to the target from the guns' location. This data can be computed manually,using special protractors and slide rules with precomputed firing data. Corrections can be added for conditions such as adifference between target and howitzer altitudes, propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, and even the curvature androtation of the Earth . In most cases, some corrections are omitted, sacrificing accuracyfor speed. In recent decades, FDCs have become computerized, allowing for much faster and more accurate computation of firingdata.

The final piece of the puzzle is the "gun line" itself. The FDC will transmit the fire order to the howitzers, specifying thenumber of volleys, a particular shell and fuze combination, the specific charge , a deflection (horizontal direction) and quadrant elevation (vertical direction) bothspecified in mils , and any special instructions, such as to wait for the observer's commandto fire relayed through the FDC. The crews load the howitzers and traverse and elevate the tube to the required point, usingeither hand cranks (usually on towed guns) or use hydraulics (on self-propelledmodels).

Artillery Radars

Radar has had a major impact on artillery. Coupled to computers it can accurately track a projectile in flight back to its firing point. This can be used as targetinginformation for 'counter-battery fire' - artillery bombardment of an enemy artillery site. Radar improves the ability to returnfire quickly and accurately. This greatly increases the all-weather flexibility of modern artillery. The rise in counter-batteryabilities drove the field artillery to adopt 'shoot-and-scoot' tactics emphasizing constant maneuver within an designatedposition area, usually from hide point to firing point and back again. This has required reliance on sometimes temperamentaltechnology and increased the cost of modern field artillery systems.


  • God fights on the side with the best artillery. - Napoleon Bonaparte
  • I do not have to tell you who won the war. You know, the artillery did. - Gen George S. Patton
  • "Our artillery . . . The Germans feared it almost more than anything we had." - Ernie Pyle "Brave Men", 1944
  • Artillery is the god of war. - Stalin
  • "Contrary to popular belief, we at artillery command do not believe we're God. We merely borrowed his "Smite" button." -Anonymous

See also

artilleyr, weapons, artilley, guns, atillery, target, artillrey, support, artilleri, modern, , firing, atrillery, battery, artlilery, war, artillery, barrel, artillry, point, artilery, position, aritllery, calibre, ratillery, low, artiller, counter, artilelry, types, artllery, generally, rtillery, term, arillery, self

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