On February 11-12, 1950, three veterans of the Chinese Communist armies (39th, 40th, and the 66th) as well as three other North Korean corps kicked off the spring offensive of the Chinese Army in the fight against UN troops in Korea. The first assault hit on the green ROK Army 8th Division, which was assigned to US X Corps and sent out of the battlefield. The situation became more dire so X Corps was forced to retreat and regroup. The Chinese were advancing against the sole allies remaining within their reach, the 23rd Infantry Regimental Combat Team under the command of Major Paul Freeman, defending the high ground surrounding Chipyong-ni.
The morning of the 14th of February, 1st Lieutenant Lee Hartell was riding as an artillery “air observer” in a Cessna O-1, called the L-19 Bird Dog by the US Army. When it's February in Korea, there's not much greenery, so Hartell began to be concerned when he noticed patches of greenery along the river's bottoms and on the ridgelines along which the aircraft was. Hartell instructed the pilot to lower further so that he could get an eye. To his delight, or perhaps not, he saw packs animals and people moving about. Many had large clumps of trees tacked to their backpacks and fixed to the panniers carried by animals to conceal themselves (no discussion of camouflage would be complete without this footage. Hartell was looking over 4 Chinese divisions (119th, 120th, and 198th) just after their victory and moving to the south along their destination on the Main Supply Route for X Corps. Hartell demanded that it be fired in his battalion of artillery which was the 15th Field Artillery. As the size was apparent, the Division Artillery, about 72 tubes from the 2nd Infantry Division, joined the battle. The more they fired the greater the scope of the target was. Then, the entire artillery within X Corps was firing as quickly as was humanly possible. The last cannon fell over due to exhaustion; more than 5,000 Chinese soldiers were dead. Uncounted Chinese soldiers sank to die of their injuries or realized they had urgent work to attend elsewhere.
The Chinese were taught a gruesome lesson on the killing power that is American artillery.
The following day, things turned very bad because of the irresistible Chinese Tidal Wave when it struck the unmovable object of the Tomahawks from the 23rd RCT.
In the weeks following the Russian invasion, lots of videos appeared on social media showcasing the adventures of Ukrainian anti-tank teams. In the aftermath of Russian aggression, the Javelin anti-tank missile quickly became an internet-wide meme.
A study of the initial period of Putin's War conducted by the Royal United Services Institute has an extremely instructive quote from an interview conducted in the field. This quote is on Page 3 in the study.
A senior advisor for General Valerii Zaluzhnyi who is the commander for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, stated that anti-tank missiles had slowed the Russians
down; however, the thing that killed them was our artillery. That's the thing that broke their units.
The reason I'm writing this prelude is that a lot of individuals are making a huge claim about supplying Ukraine with top-quality aircraft and modern tanks. Of course, that will be great and I'm certain it will occur in the near future. But the war Ukraine is currently fighting is for the right weaponry to be provided, modern artillery and plenty of ammunition.
Ukraine began war with nearly 1,800 Soviet artillery pieces. A lot of them were damaged, and the majority had no trained gun crew. They had no meteorological tools, chronographs for guns, reliable counter battery radars, ammunition, nor myriad of other items that make artillery the king of Battle and the god of War.
Around 200 modern artillery guns were offered, and around half of them have been delivered. About a third are self-propelled guns, the remaining are towing. The majority are M-777, an excellent howitzer. More than 40 high-end multiple launchers have been pledged, and around half of them are situated in Ukraine. Over thirty counter battery radars are committed, and about half of them have been delivered. Around 180,000 rounds of the latest ammunition with 155mm diameter have been delivered too.
What is this all about, what is its significance, and how it's important to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine?
Russia has made only a small progress in its central fight for control of Ukraine. The battle is currently taking place in the western Donbas (read my analysis of the situation, 10 Days into Putin's “New Phase of Russia's Invasion of Ukraine The Battle is Making Minor advancements, but the clock is ticking). The character of combat is much more similar to Russian doctrine than the bold multi-pronged assault of February 24, which showed that the Russian Army did not have the skills, determination, or capability to implement the plans formulated by the General Staff. They've settled down to the classic Minnesota Viking offense of “one yard in a cloud of dust.”
They claim the Russian artillery is reverting to the way we observed the Eastern Front in 1944-1945. The main focus for Russian artillery is that which is visible from frontlines. The increasing use of MANPADS has stopped Russian drones from operating over their Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA). Without drones, and with what seems to be only a small amount of electronic warfare capability, Russian artillery can't hit targets far beyond the lines. Instead, the Russians are invading regions with artillery and taking care to move in a cautious manner and ensuring that they stay within the range of resupply. This kind of maneuver is slow and is unlikely to create the necessary conditions needed for an advance of significant magnitude.
The artillery, as well as other material delivered into Ukraine from the West will provide Ukraine superiority over Russia in many areas.
M-777 155mm ultra-lightweight howitzer, beware of the towed portion. It was developed to be utilized by the USMC and the 82d Airborne as well as the 101st Airborne, where weight is a major issue. The gun will be able to identify its own position and calculate the best firing method to hit a goal.
The AN/TPQ-36 Counter Battery Radar System. The system detects the mortar and artillery fire that is coming in 15 miles from the scene. When the bullet clears the mask or appears above the clutter of the surface at the horizon, the Q-36 will calculate the location of origin and the point of impact less than 10m. It is able to be connected directly to the firing batteries and perform counter-fire missions against enemy artillery prior to when the first shot is fired.
Ukrainian forces are re-embarked from the unit and sent off to different countries across Europe to be trained. We're using the time-tested method introduced into the country from the United States by Baron von Steuben which is to “train the trainer.” We don't train complete teams for each gun, we are training individuals who will return to show other soldiers how to operate the gun. The United States and Canada are offering training in Germany for gun crews that are using the M-777. France and Germany are providing instruction at various places. Initial classes for the M777 and Q-36 have been completed and the new classes are currently being taught.
I suspect this is occurring all over the Ukrainian Army as their operations are much slower than it was just two weeks ago.
One thing that stands out in the videos on social media of artillery strikes is that neither side employs any other fuze, aside from points detonating (PD). A PD is activated when it is struck by something, such as dirt. It's an inefficient fuze with two primary functions within the US Army. If you are targeting bunkers or infantry, the PD is a fuze that causes the shell to blast below the ground, and it can cause cave-ins to earthworks due to the force of the blast. If your enemy is near your position, PD lets you bring artillery to “DANGER CLOSE” while minimizing the possibility of wounds from fragmentation to your troops. For troops operating in open terrain or in vehicles with thin skins or moving armor, the best fuze can be a proximity fuze known as “PROX.” Proximity fuzes have sensors that can detect something solid and then explode at a set size. The resultant shower of high-speed steel fragments does the harm. They kill unarmored vehicles and take antennas off and smash optics of armored vehicles. The same as PROX are another variant called Variable time Super-Quick (VT Super Quick). This is where a mechanical timer creates an air burst, or it is programmed to trigger the blast upon hitting.
It is expected that the additions of PROX and VT Super Quick to the arsenal of Ukraine's artillery will make the guns even more dangerous.
Although we don't know for sure, there's the possibility that some of the artillery ammunition could be guided by GPS M-982 Excalibur ammunition. Excalibur can strike targets up to 40 miles away, with +2 meters accuracy.
Ukraine has had huge success with its Turkish Baykar Bayraktar TB2 drone and jury-rigging low-cost drones that carry munitions. In the near future, Ukraine will be equipped with a better system. The country is in the process of purchasing the precursor to the MQ-1 Predator, which is the MQ-1C Gray Eagle.
A final note.
Artillery kills on the battlefield and the Ukrainians are skilled and making use of their artillery with maximum effectiveness. However, the guns are old and ammunition is not reliable and is in short supply.
The artillery assistance that Ukraine's partners provide is far more than just the delivery of guns. In reality, Ukraine receives top quality guns as well as the ammunition, training, and ISR assistance needed to transform it into a deadly weapon that can drive Russians from where they aren't welcome and return to where they belong.