Artillery: February 13, 2003


The U.S. Marine Corps is reconsidering it's use of artillery. A quarter century ago, as the Cold War raged, the marines decided that they should get more heavily involved in a potential European war against invading Soviet armies. Aside from retraining to fight a more heavily equipped foe, it meant adding more tanks and heavier artillery to marine units. More tank battalions was no problem, but artillery was another matter. Up to that point, the marines still used a lot of 105mm artillery. This caliber had been abandoned by the American army, and most European armies, for the harder hitting 155mm guns. The marines began to replace a lot of their lighter 105mm artillery with 155mm guns. Currently, they have some 300 105mm howitzers and nearly 700 155mm guns. Now, with the Cold War over and the marines on call to quickly move into out of the way places (like Afghanistan), lighter guns like the 105mm are seen as more useful. But the marines have come to appreciate the longer range of their lightweight 155mm howitzers. It is being suggested that new 105mm "long tube" (longer range) howitzers be bought so that the marines would have lighter guns (and lighter ammo), and a longer range. This is opposed by many marine artillerymen who want to buy the HIMARS (the army long range MLRS rockets, mounted on trucks instead of tracked vehicles). The big complaint against HIMARS is that it is yet another weapon system to take care of, and uses much more expensive ammunition. The marines work on a very tight budget, and this situation has sparked a major debate about just how useful various types of artillery will be in future marine battlefields. 


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