Artillery: September 3, 2004

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The U.S. Army is apparently looking for exotic solutions to the problem of mortar attacks in Iraq, which currently causes about eight percent of all casualties. The mortar attacks are also the main weapon used against American bases, where the troops like to relax, not dive for cover. Current equipment and tactics are not able to kill many of the Iraqi mortar teams. The attackers know that their location can be quickly spotted using American, or British, counterbattery radars. So they fire from the backs of pickup trucks, or from a residential area. This way, the counterbattery fire (usually from 155mm artillery) will either miss them (as the truck speeds away), or not be used because of the risk to nearby civilians. Those mortar crews that have taken a mortar out of a car, out in a rural area, set it up, fired a few rounds, and then hauled the mortar back into the car, have found that it is often a bit too slow. The artillery often gets them. Or even a nearby helicopter or gunship.

The army is not saying much, expect that they are looking into a number of alternative technologies during a 90 day effort to develop a better way to deal with the mortar attacks. It is known that there are a limited number of mortar teams. When some of these crew have been hit, and killed, the attacks stop in that area, sometimes for good, sometimes only until a new mortar crew can be recruited. So anything that would take out a few more of these mortar crews, would make life a lot easier for coalition troops. The army is apparently looking into using some of the technology currently found in systems like the Phalanx. This 20mm weapon system is on U.S. Navy ships, and, when turned on, automatically finds, fires on and destroys any high speed missiles headed for the ship. Phalanx has been around for several decades and is mature (it really, really works, and is reliable.) How would this work? Would a Phalanx type system be mounted in an aircraft? Or placed on a tower? No one knows at the moment, but the army has declared that it is hard at work on something new that will solve the problem.

 


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