Question for the Cold War (1980s) gunners

#1
Hi chaps

One for the old n bold gunners...

How long did a typical fire mission last back in the good old days in BAOR? :)

You know, the old "Fire Mission, Grid 123456, enemy in woods, neutralise now" sort of thing.

I'm reading up on the Soviets during the cold war era and they had everything down to a set formula - such and such a target requires X rounds per hectare for N minutes for supression, increase rounds by X times 2 or minutes by 5 for destruction.

Did we do something similar?

TIA
 
#4
You should perhaps include the mortars because they used the same procedures.
I have known mortar platoon blokes over the years - they just liked dropping bombs down the tube and enjoying the resulting bang...I won't get a sensible answer from any of them ;-)

In any case, gunners always like telling us how good they are (or were in this case)...
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
#6
A view from the pointy end.

I wouldn't expect first round down in under a couple of minutes. After corrections, I wouldn't hold my breath for fire for effect in under 5.

But it wasn't for real. Scorpions didn't do Med Man so it was only ever a radio exercise involving me and the BC (who was in reality probably my own FHQ anyway because there was no arty element playing) and I was always told "Not observed send corrections" so that everyone got some practice.
 
#7
Prior to some big exercise, I remember that we were issued with a wiz wheel on which you dialled the target info ie: type, size and what you wanted to do, nearly always neutralise. You then read off the number of rounds to order (varied between 105 and 155). This was for exercise play but our UTO, who had had some part in designing it, told us that it represented actual target effect
 
#8
Hi chaps

One for the old n bold gunners...

How long did a typical fire mission last back in the good old days in BAOR? :)

You know, the old "Fire Mission, Grid 123456, enemy in woods, neutralise now" sort of thing.

I'm reading up on the Soviets during the cold war era and they had everything down to a set formula - such and such a target requires X rounds per hectare for N minutes for supression, increase rounds by X times 2 or minutes by 5 for destruction.

Did we do something similar?

TIA

There was such a FFE table for typical WP targets, although I've long forgotten the details.

Mind you, I seriously doubt that we ever had more than about 50 rounds per gun even available from mob stocks in BAOR. It'd probably have all been shot off on the first fire mission.

For "proper" war rates, the last time we delivered those was in WW2. George C Blackburn's books are eye-opening. IIRC he recounts having 1,000 rounds per (25 lb-er) gun delivered for just one fire programme in support of an attack.

 
#9
There was such a FFE table for typical WP targets, although I've long forgotten the details.

Mind you, I seriously doubt that we ever had more than about 50 rounds per gun even available from mob stocks in BAOR. It'd probably have all been shot off on the first fire mission.

For "proper" war rates, the last time we delivered those was in WW2. George C Blackburn's books are eye-opening. IIRC he recounts having 1,000 rounds per (25 lb-er) gun delivered for just one fire programme in support of an attack.

Christ. No wonder we needed DROPS!
 
#10
4(T) has reminded me that there was a study in the 80s, BAS RARS rings a bell, which found that the accepted DAER was light by a factor of two. Sheldrake Spear in 84 or 85 practised ammo re-supply to confirm that we could actually shift the amounts needed without more trucks and truckees. I remember it as very hard work but one of the most enjoyable exercises I did
 
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#11
From a mortar point of view, and arty would be similar, that's a difficult question to answer, complicated by available ammunition and the need to relocate as soon as possible after the first round in order to avoid retaliatory fire.
From a prepared mortar line, it would take about two to three minutes from the fire mission being sent over the radio to the first round landing (recording the order, plotting, issuing commands, sight adjustment, firing and time of flight). But it would miss. Another two minutes for a bold bracketing correction. Which would also miss. Another two minutes for the final correction which would also have a minute's worth of fire. From start to finish, 8 minutes with a bit of luck. Then the mortars would be unavailable for the next half hour as they moved to a different location (though there'd probably be another mortar section available to pick up the slack if need's be).

This time isn't appreciated by a lot of people. Many's the time an OC has heard me say "Fire!" (for the initial round) and led his men straight off into the attack, oblivious to the fact that there isn't yet a round in the air. DSs then take delight at the MFC hastily calling for "Check Fire" followed by the sight of a corporal bollocking a major.
Thankfully, we never had an occasion where we mixed live ammunition and live troops. (Nearly did once, but that would have been a bloodbath for an entirely different reason).
 
#12
May I ask some questions as a complete outsider? Apologies in advance if any of them are stupid. Firstly, how much warning could you realistically have expected of a Soviet attack? Secondly, how much live artillery and or mortar ammunition could have reasonably been stored against such an attack? I presume you couldn't simply have stacked the ammunition out in the open in all weathers next to the guns or mortars. Therefore I should think you'd have had to have kept it in storage and it would thus have to be unpacked and prepared for firing? Would you have been working from Fire Plans or would you have had to react to the situation as it developed?

In wartime the Allies might well have got up 1,000 rounds or more per gun (and I wouldn't doubt that they did), but surely that would all be quickly used up? My last question would be, if the Soviets had decided to attack, they would surely have very quietly and stealthily brought forward vast stocks of all kinds of ammo, from ball for the rifles to battlefield nukes even? The idea being to loose one short but massive barrage behind which would have emerged their tanks and Infantry? That at least was what Victor Suvorov posited would have happened.
 
#13
how much warning could you realistically have expected of a Soviet attack?
Depends on the nature of the attack. Heliborne, maybe a minute from seeing the helicopters to them touching down. Not all bad news, though. There'd be places where you'd expect them to land and these areas would have been pre-defined as targets with all the calculations done. Probably expect to get bombs on the ground at the same time as the first helicopters land.

Of course, they may not land where you expected them to which means you've wasted a quarter of your ammunition. That's the chance you take.
 
#14
4(T) has reminded me that there was a study in the 80s, BAS RARS rings a bell, which found that the accepted DAER was light by a factor of two. Sheldrake Spear in 84 or 85 practised ammo re-supply to confirm that we could actually shift the amounts needed without more trucks and truckees. I remember it as very hard work but one of the most enjoyable exercises I did
BASRARS was in the '70's. Battlefield Attrition Study (equipments)/ Review of Ammunition Rates and Scales. And for the non-believers - we had a helluva lot of ammunition stored. In BAOR, 5 days Daily Ammunition Expenditure Rate (DAER)expenditure at intense rates was held on wheels at First and Second Echelon. The Gunners had 3.5 days worth as arty ammo is heavy and bulky. Ammunition was also held on wheels by the Composite Maintenance Group. There were also Divisional Ammunition storage areas, the Corps Reserves ( Complete Surprise Battalion) and the Base stocks held in the Rear Combat Zone. Not to mention the extensive stocks held by the US in Europe and the UK. And the UK depots would also be outloading during Transition to War (TTW).

Par example as an ATO I was responsible for the de-pinning, cleaning and re-pinning the fuzes on 80,000 81mm Illum bombs. (Some genius had included the wonder metal Cadmium as a pin coating). We had lots of ammo and lots of Depots to store it in.
 
#15
how much warning could you realistically have expected of a Soviet attack?
Depends on the nature of the attack. Heliborne, maybe a minute from seeing the helicopters to them touching down. Not all bad news, though. There'd be places where you'd expect them to land and these areas would have been pre-defined as targets with all the calculations done. Probably expect to get bombs on the ground at the same time as the first helicopters land.

Of course, they may not land where you expected them to which means you've wasted a quarter of your ammunition. That's the chance you take.
 
#16
Depends on the nature of the attack. Heliborne, maybe a minute from seeing the helicopters to them touching down. Not all bad news, though. There'd be places where you'd expect them to land and these areas would have been pre-defined as targets with all the calculations done. Probably expect to get bombs on the ground at the same time as the first helicopters land.

Of course, they may not land where you expected them to which means you've wasted a quarter of your ammunition. That's the chance you take.
IPB was always a good study day
 
#17
Par example as an ATO I was responsible for the de-pinning, cleaning and re-pinning the fuzes on 80,000 81mm Illum bombs. (Some genius had included the wonder metal Cadmium as a pin coating). We had lots of ammo and lots of Depots to store it in.
It kept you busy and no doubt like most soldiers you'd only have got up to something naughty if left to your own devices... ;-)
 
#18
It kept you busy and no doubt like most soldiers you'd only have got up to something naughty if left to your own devices... ;-)
I did anyway but it actually gave me an appreciation of ammunition processing times and how to produce an effective and relevant Repair Instruction.
 
#19
May I ask some questions as a complete outsider? Apologies in advance if any of them are stupid. Firstly, how much warning could you realistically have expected of a Soviet attack? Secondly, how much live artillery and or mortar ammunition could have reasonably been stored against such an attack? I presume you couldn't simply have stacked the ammunition out in the open in all weathers next to the guns or mortars. Therefore I should think you'd have had to have kept it in storage and it would thus have to be unpacked and prepared for firing? Would you have been working from Fire Plans or would you have had to react to the situation as it developed?

In wartime the Allies might well have got up 1,000 rounds or more per gun (and I wouldn't doubt that they did), but surely that would all be quickly used up? My last question would be, if the Soviets had decided to attack, they would surely have very quietly and stealthily brought forward vast stocks of all kinds of ammo, from ball for the rifles to battlefield nukes even? The idea being to loose one short but massive barrage behind which would have emerged their tanks and Infantry? That at least was what Victor Suvorov posited would have happened.

A brief and rough overview:

If you mean a full attack by the group of soviet forces onto NATO Germany, then I think its now generally assumed that there'd be days or weeks of advance notice. Apart from the rising political tensions, it would take a massive logistic operation to get either Warsaw Pact or NATO forces up to fighting readiness. You are talking about motorways nose-to-tail full of HGVs, with those convoys extending for hundreds of km. NATO's biggest-ever exercise - Lionheart - only involved about half of the available land forces, and yet it took up to a week to get some units into position.

Hiding vehicles and ammo is a serious problem in a modern war - surveillance systems are a lot more capable than the WW2 equivalent of a quick overflight by a photorecce fighter. There would have been no chance of the soviets ever achieving a secret mass mobilisation and pre-dumping operation.

"First line" ammunition is stored on gun limbers - the vehicles actually in the various batteries and fire units. When engaged in firing, ammunition is unboxed and laid out/stacked on the firing point. For an arty piece, the shells and charges have to be close at hand to meet any fire order, and rapid rates of fire. Ammo'd be typically covered from the weather by a tarpaulin, but most types are fairly weatherproof anyway.

Second line ammunition (limited quantity) usually held on QM vehicles belonging to the same unit. These replenish from forward ammunition points, where ammo would typically be brought forward by RCT or similar on 10-tonne trucks - or similar, depending upon unit and army.

Arty ammo logistics would have dominated the vehicle movement plan, with POL and other munitions taking up relatively less resource.

Sufficient ammo for the likely task is prepared. Bear in mind that, in a NATO vs WP setting, arty units would likely have to move frequently and rapidly - so much ammo would have to remain on vehicles. The DROPs system was brought in to deal with the problem of having to dump large quantities of ammo, and then to pick it up and bug out as well. In WW2, ammo sometimes had to be abandoned or blown if it could not be picked up in time.

Most formation would have predetermined fireplans. As NATO in Europe was to fight a mostly defensive war, those fireplans would typically have lots of DF targets. As the situation changes, the arty commanders' job is/was to prepare fresh target lists and fireplans. Of course, fire was always on-call anyway, so tactical emergencies would simply be dealt with ad hoc.
 

AfghanAndy

On ROPS
On ROPs
#20
A brief and rough overview:

If you mean a full attack by the group of soviet forces onto NATO Germany, then I think its now generally assumed that there'd be days or weeks of advance notice. Apart from the rising political tensions, it would take a massive logistic operation to get either Warsaw Pact or NATO forces up to fighting readiness. You are talking about motorways nose-to-tail full of HGVs, with those convoys extending for hundreds of km. NATO's biggest-ever exercise - Lionheart - only involved about half of the available land forces, and yet it took up to a week to get some units into position.

Hiding vehicles and ammo is a serious problem in a modern war - surveillance systems are a lot more capable than the WW2 equivalent of a quick overflight by a photorecce fighter. There would have been no chance of the soviets ever achieving a secret mass mobilisation and pre-dumping operation.

"First line" ammunition is stored on gun limbers - the vehicles actually in the various batteries and fire units. When engaged in firing, ammunition is unboxed and laid out/stacked on the firing point. For an arty piece, the shells and charges have to be close at hand to meet any fire order, and rapid rates of fire. Ammo'd be typically covered from the weather by a tarpaulin, but most types are fairly weatherproof anyway.

Second line ammunition (limited quantity) usually held on QM vehicles belonging to the same unit. These replenish from forward ammunition points, where ammo would typically be brought forward by RCT or similar on 10-tonne trucks - or similar, depending upon unit and army.

Arty ammo logistics would have dominated the vehicle movement plan, with POL and other munitions taking up relatively less resource.

Sufficient ammo for the likely task is prepared. Bear in mind that, in a NATO vs WP setting, arty units would likely have to move frequently and rapidly - so much ammo would have to remain on vehicles. The DROPs system was brought in to deal with the problem of having to dump large quantities of ammo, and then to pick it up and bug out as well. In WW2, ammo sometimes had to be abandoned or blown if it could not be picked up in time.

Most formation would have predetermined fireplans. As NATO in Europe was to fight a mostly defensive war, those fireplans would typically have lots of DF targets. As the situation changes, the arty commanders' job is/was to prepare fresh target lists and fireplans. Of course, fire was always on-call anyway, so tactical emergencies would simply be dealt with ad hoc.
I always thought the biggest risk was the 18 or so divisions based in striking distance of the border always by kept at 110% size rolling out ignore their barracks and turning left instead of right with no warning.

As you say though, there would've been some degree build up.

Speaking to guys who there, many eeasalised they're chances of survival were slim. The Paras were told that when they were in Denmark they'd cease to exist as a fighting unit afterward 24 hours. My old INT/Wo used to tell me his job was to erect their special aerials just above the tree canopy and report back on what they heard, but thy too were expected to be gone within the first 24 hours.
 

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