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"Planned Artillery Fire: How do you do it?" Topic


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13 May 2022 8:09 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Planed Artillery Fire How do you do it?" to "Planned Artillery Fire: How do you do it?"

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UshCha13 May 2022 12:56 p.m. PST

So you guys out there who regularly play large games, what tricks do you use to quickly set out planned artillery fire and how do you make sure that the fire you plan is realistic within the number of tubes and capacity of the vehicles in the batterys.

It took me a good while to work out given the tubes available, rates of fire and required fire density reconciling what I would like to do relative to what I was able to do. You guys must have a better system than me to work this out in a credible manner fast.
Just measuring the area you want and calculating the number of rounds for the type of fire takes a bit of time (this is the basic manual procedure). Then when that does not compute to the rounds stored in the vehicle(s) and the time you need it in and you end up going round in circles. You guys must have solved it as you play whole battles in a single evening. it took a good 20 min to work out what I could "afford" in terms of smoke and HE and what targets it would be effective on.

HMS Exeter13 May 2022 3:55 p.m. PST

I have to imagine this is an issue addressed by many extant rules systems. I'd specify the scope of the conflict you're envisioning; skirmish, company level, Bn level. etc., and invite recommendations for the rules set that best addresses the matter at that level.

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP13 May 2022 7:49 p.m. PST

Well, talking real world experience, I wouldn't worry about what the vehicles can carry when considering pre-planned missions. During the first Gulf War I was in a USMC artillery battery, towed. We had ammo trucks with us, or coming into our position, and a fork lift that dropped pallets of shells and powder next to the guns. We fired a LOT of ammo in 100 hours.

Major Mike14 May 2022 5:46 a.m. PST

Depends on which side and war you are playing as all countries are different. First you need a map of the playing area, second, (based on the rules system) you need to know how long it takes to limber up, make a single turn move, and deploy artillery. Then, figure a battery/battalion will fire no more than 3 fire missions before it displaces and you want to have only 1/3 of available artillery on the move at any time. Of course, if you wish to accept the risk of counterbattery fire, just sit in place and fire away.

The tough part is getting a player to plot on the map the target areas and the time that a mission will fire. Many players do not care to take on this chore, they just want to push lead and roll dice.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP14 May 2022 6:53 a.m. PST

It also matters scale of game. I know you play very tactical games where small differences between tank models are reflected. In my games with pre-plotted artillery fire, players are just given an amount of fire for each turn. So, 6 batteries of 105s on turn 3, for example. They then pick any spot on the map (artillery is all off board of course), and dictate how many tubes fire at that spot. they may choose fire blow or sustained, as usual in the rules. We just record the targets on a piece of paper or I mark them with a tree or piece of foliage.

UshCha14 May 2022 7:53 a.m. PST

Extra Crsipy how do you define the area you are impacting, clearly you can cover a big area with smoke, much less if you want HE on fighting positions? Also if you don't fire on turn 3 there will be more ammo next turn. Artillery does not generally have unlimited ammunition. Plus there is the burst vs sustained fire rate which is not insignificant.

Martin Rapier14 May 2022 8:32 a.m. PST

I think you are overthinking it and trying to do the artillery commander, infantry commander and quartermasters job all at once.

The amount of artillery available will be constrained by the type of operation, which in is constrained by the time available, forces available and objectives. e.g. the planning time for a WW2 brigade attack supported by the divisional artillery plus a heavy regiment from Corps was around 12 hours, then the time required to dump ammo, recce the start line, form up etc so the whole thing could take 24 hours before H Hour. Add in the artillery from the adjacent divisions and you add at least another 12 hours planning time, and if you've only got six hours to take the objective, that is too long, so you'll have less artillery.

Essentially, artillery generally fires concentrations, a weight of fire sufficient to neutralise the target for some time after the fire ends. For planning purposes, a stonk of 10-20 minutes will produce an hour of neutralisation, call it 15 minutes. Harrassing fire requires approx half the ammo but only produces temporary suppression, destructive fire requires vastly more ammo and is rarely cost effective.

In terms of fire effect, a Sov 18 gun 122mm battalion can neutralise an area 500m x 500m, an MLRS battery an entire 1km grid square(!), and a WW2 24 gun 25pdr field regiment an area 525 yards x 150 yards (a 'Stonk'). Exactly how many shells it takes varies by weapon system, but for a 25 pdr, it is 5 rounds a minute. Gunners are taught this stuff at Artillery School, and there are manuals.

So 15 minutes of fire at 5/rdpm (or 75 rounds per gun) will generate an hours neutralisation against targets in light field defences, so to neutralise the entire area of a regimental linear concentration requires 24 guns to fire 75 rounds each in total, or 1,800 rounds. A typical load, including the ready and reserve ammo was 200 rounds per gun, which means the Regiment can produce roughly three hours of neutralising fire (or six hours of harrassing fire). More ammo = more fire, but usually only in static ops. 400 rounds a day was common in the static phases in Northwest Europe.

So, in game terms, if we are using half hour turns (which I use for brigade level actions) a regiment has six turns worth of fire. If 15 minute turns, then 12 turns worth of fire, and that is what the players get to play with.

OK, so we know how much fire a regiment generates and over what area. Now for an op. Our brigade attack is supported by three field and one medium regiment, according the Manual for Commanders Royal Artillery (1956), typically all three field regiments would be allocated to a barrage (a series of lifting linear concentrations) minus one battery per assault battalion for targets of opportunity. The medium regiment would be used for CB fire.

Seven batteries can stonk an area 1225 yards wide and 150 yards deep with neutralising fire, which is plenty to cover the entire front of two battalions advancing with two companies up each with two platoons up (300 yards per company, 150 yards per platoon).

The real question is, what is the manyouvre plan what are the infantry objectives, when are they supposed to get there? How far is it from the start line to the forward defended localities? If a 5 minute stonk produces 15 minutes of suppression after the fire lifts, is that enough time for them to clear the objective? You've got three hours of neutralisation to play with, so it is time to sit down and do the hard work of planning the force, space and distance stuff about where you want your guys to be at particular times, and tell the gunners where to shoot and for how long to achieve that.

You can fire as much arty as you like, but it isn't going to produce significant long term effects once the fire lifts unless the infantry and armour actually occupy the ground and clear the positions.

Obviously for more skirmishy stuff, you are probably only dealing with a battery or two, whereas for really big set piece ops you may have thousands of guns firing hundreds of thousands of rounds and some abstraction is necessary.

Sorry, bit of a ramble, but I enjoy the planning stuff.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP14 May 2022 12:25 p.m. PST

@UshCha

The pre-planned is part of the scenario. The rules I use define the area based on the amount of firing. And while you can cancel pre-planned, you don't get it later.

But in my games 1" = 100 yards and a stand is a half company (Fistful of TOWs 3).

Regular artillery has an "availability" roll which may mena there are limited tubes or limited ammo. the result is the same.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP14 May 2022 5:36 p.m. PST

UshCha,
The Russians have the best information for making calculations: link

You probably already have this one: PDF link

Some WWII examples: link

My opinion: for a pre-planned mission you can have the time and material to get almost any result. However, in a game you should only be firing suppression/neutralization missions.

In an ideal situation the pre-planned barrage lifts for a "rolling barrage" as soon as the first assault wave arrives. If the barrage is timed and the advance is held up the front line defenders will have time to rally and emerge from their shelters to effectively engage the attackers. If timed correctly and the barrage was effective the defenders should be overrunning the defenders as or before they emerge from their shelters. That's the main effect I like to model.

As the main barrage lifts and rolls ahead of the advance the attackers would them drop mortars and direct fire to make the enemy think the barrage has not lifted and keep their heads down.

Personally, I would use a high degree of abstraction unless you are playing "Artillery Commander" and that's the detail you want to portray.

If you are the main attack force you now in advance what you have and would have priority.

In WWII the Russians would sometimes lift the barrage of an area 500m wide while the flanks continued and send tanks and infantry riders through the gap and overrun the defenders.

There are some Russian artillery calculators out there on the internet.

Wolfhag

UshCha15 May 2022 11:36 p.m. PST

Martin, Wolfhag. Thats great, seems like there is no quick way. Given a limit of how many guns (which is proably never enough) and ammo not always in plentiful supply, the hard slog is woking out whay you need i.e. how much, how long and where. There seems no easy way of doingt this.

As for being an Artillery commander, this is not really covering the Artillery commander but the general working out with the Artillery commander what he can have and how he builds his plan for the battle overall.

To me big battles that are just more figures on the table or worse the same figure pretending to be more real world figure misses the point. If you want to be a decent genral you need to be addressing the bigger picture like how do you ration the artillery, not everybody gets what they want.

I assumed the pick up games had nailed this more effectively but it would seem not, they just make extreemly crude approximations that deterct from the higher levels being addressed.

So the answer is ther is no quick way, planning takes time and effort, still the real world insights in this thread have been a treat for me. Thancks to all concerned.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2022 1:18 p.m. PST

"There seems no easy way of doing this".

Given computers, modern communications, and proper training, it should actually be quite easy to do with modern forces, since the beginning/middle of the Cold War.

No doubt, the USA developed this out of WWII and the Korean War, and improved their ability to do so considerably during the Vietnam War.

"Batteries/Battalions, execute Fireplan Beta vs. grid coordinates…….. for x minutes – open sheaf/closed sheaf……".

I'm sure the US forces, and most likely other well-trained units of NATO, e.g. the British and West Germans, have the ability to just make a few statements, some quick calculations to bring down a world of hurt onto the enemy in short order.

See this PDF that popped up – Section 5.5 (I imagine there may be others that are even more detailed):

PDF link

No doubt, Soviet/WARPAC nations during the Cold War could do the same back in the day. Seems like the Russians may be a bit more challenged to do that sort of thing now though, even though they do rely heavily on artillery support for their forces to wipe out cities and the opposition in other areas.

The planning for the US forces even includes the amount of food and water needed on hand for their troops for 21 days, in addition to average daily artillery round expenditures, etc.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2022 1:21 p.m. PST

I had an idea for scenario design that each side is in a posture that reflects the amount of time for planning and stockpiling ammo. A planned assault, hasty assault, meeting engagement, planned defense, prepared defense or recon in force.

A unit in a planned posture can get support from 2-3 levels above them for good planning. Hasty posture 1-2 levels above for limited planning. A meeting engagement can only use support from their unit. A recon in force one level above.

More planning means a greater chance of more support, attachments, intel and artillery fire.

Wolfhag

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2022 1:21 p.m. PST

"There seems no easy way of doing this".

Given computers, modern communications, and proper training, it should actually be quite easy to do with modern forces, since the beginning/middle of the Cold War.

No doubt, the USA developed this out of WWII and the Korean War, and improved their ability to do so considerably during the Vietnam War.

"Batteries/Battalions, execute Fireplan Beta vs. grid coordinates…….. for x minutes – open sheaf/closed sheaf……".

I'm sure the US forces, and most likely other well-trained units of NATO, e.g. the British and West Germans, have the ability to just make a few statements, some quick calculations to bring down a world of hurt onto the enemy in short order.

See this PDF that popped up – Section 5.5 (I imagine there may be others that are even more detailed):

PDF link

No doubt, Soviet/WARPAC nations during the Cold War could do the same back in the day. Seems like the Russians may be a bit more challenged to do that sort of thing now though, even though they do rely heavily on artillery support for their forces to wipe out cities and the opposition in other areas.

The planning for the US forces even includes the amount of food and water needed on hand for their troops for 21 days, in addition to average daily artillery round expenditures, etc., and includes other considerations like weather, terrain, night attacks, and other issues too.

UshCha17 May 2022 1:38 a.m. PST

To be honest the calculation bit is not the issue, its how to best optimise the use of the avaiable resources.

We have styalised our use of ammunition to cover (for our period) an ammount of ammunition sufficent to supress a platoon of infantry. That we call a stonk a "naughty" as its not the WW2 defention of the word, but it seemed a fun name. Now the number of rounds needed to get thet fire density varies between calibers but you can defoine rate of fire and areas for any wepon using an approximate universal parameter.

As an example to suppress jusy infantry moveing in the open takes aboiut 8 r=unds of 81mm mortar fire oe two rounsd from 155mm artillery piec.

For refrence see the US morter platoon manual which has much of the data we used for mortars.

The problem is how to make best use of that fire availability, the creative bit.

Even in our wargames not all the data you would like is available. You may not know where the enemy is precisely and perhaps not even how much or what quality of protection he has. Therfore you have to make a plan. Possibly just on a map of the battlefield. As always to use the phrase "There is always more than one way to skin a cat". So in the end in my long planning job I took the battlefield as laid out, with what I knew of the enemy amd laid out lots of diffrent options on what I could do with thw avaibale resources. Hitting everything as if it was superbly protected for as long as my wildest dreams could imagine was nowhere near possible. So it become for the resources I have, what to obscure, what just to put enough down to suppress infantry from moving through it, to hitting likely spots where infantry is probably in fighting position. Ans possible not having enough for everything, a proper commanders task. Creativeity can be hell ;-).

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP17 May 2022 3:55 a.m. PST

To be honest the calculation bit is not the issue, its how to best optimize the use of the available resources.

That's always going to be the situation. Factors that come into play are SigInt intercepts and recon to ID targets and then you prioritize.

If there are likely location of enemy units the artillery unit can assign a TRP for it and be able to hit it quickly when identified or when you make contact.

As an example to suppress just infantry moving in the open takes about 8 rounds of 81mm mortar fire or two rounds from 155mm artillery piece.

Yes, but it's tricky calling in artillery on moving units because, well, they are moving. How does the FO know where they will be in 2+ minutes it takes to call in the target coordinates, the FDC to set everything up and then the TOF for the round to get there. If you fire single spotter rounds if the enemy is smart they'll start moving in a different direction. You could call in an immediate FFE in a large barrage area but that could waste ammo and may have no effect on a small unit or patrol.

For mortars it's most effective to call in a barrage of 5-10 rounds with a slight adjustment between each round to create an X-pattern over the target that will force the infantry to hit the deck. The FO can then call in adjustments for the next barrage now that the target has stopped.

I've actually modeled this in my games.

Calling in barrages on likely locations before an assault begins would be a waste of ammo, especially if you cannot observe the results.

Wolfhag

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