Marines: February 7, 2001

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The Marines plan to build a new triad of artillery. The first leg will be the M777 lightweight 155mm towed howitzer, which will replace the much heavier M198 towed 155mm howitzer. (That howitzer is currently the only Marine heavy fire support system, other than aircraft or ships.) The second leg will be the HIMARS rocket artillery system, which is basically a rocket pack from an Army MLRS tracked launcher mounted on a heavy truck. (Both of these systems are also intended to be used with Army light and medium units.) The M777 will start replacing M198s in 2003. The HIMARS system will replace the M198s in two of the five reserve Marine artillery battalions starting in 2006. The third leg of the triad is to be the EFSS Expeditionary Fire Support System. This will be used by airmobile units, and should enter service in 2015. So far, nobody really knows what it will be (although a 120mm mortar is a serious possibility). Various contractors are promoting the idea of a mobile 120mm mortar on an LAV armored chassis, or a portable 120mm mortar with automatic controls. The LAV option is also being sought by the LAV battalions, which want an indirect fire system on their standard vehicle chassis. But besides new systems, the Marines really need to look into their artillery system. In a Marine rifle battalion, the commander of the weapons company wears a second hat as the Fire Support Coordinator. This is done as a manpower saving, but places a critical job in the hands of an officer who has one full-time job until the fighting starts and an entirely different job once the unit deploys into combat.Stephen V Cole

 


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