Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Um, No


Angus has undertaken to give historical background to the Ukrainian artillery tactics we described last week.

I am sure his artillery history per se is excruciatingly correct, and beyond dispute, and you are unhesitatingly recommended to read the exposition given.

The problem, however, is that his explanation of how this current thing is not new, basically did a face plant.

Firstly, what he describes, a Time On Target (TOT):

Multiple guns in multiple batteries fire all their tubes at different times (based on flight time) such that all the rounds land on that single target nearly simultaneously, or at least, close enough as makes no difference. Infantry mortars and even air-to-ground munitions can be added, just for grins. Any way you do it, at any size, it's Hell, in a very small space.

Each battery of 6-8 guns fires their rounds the indicated number
 of seconds prior to the planned TOT.
Think "Whump...Whump......Whump.....Whump...Whump....."
Then all 30-40 of those shells impact within 1-2 seconds.
The only thing more awe-inspiring would be God's own
thunder from a lightning strike (or 40 of them in
a second or two, at one spot), but the devastation is
near identical for anything at that address.

Having participated in everything up to a regimental TOT, where every tube in the 10th or 11th Marines (90+ tubes, from 16 batteries with 6-8 towed and SP pieces each, at the time) dropped their shells from 105s, 155s, and 203s all on one specific given point within 1-2 seconds of each other, I will allow that they are properly glorious for everyone involved, other than anyone inhabiting said target. Which is rather the point.

They do that because artillery per each is inherently inaccurate, and thus an area weapon, fired like a shotgun. A TOT is like firing all the rounds in a single shotgun at once, at whatever poor SOBs are in that impact area.

That is NOT what Herr Oberst Reisner was describing in the linked video.

The Ukrainians spread those 6-8 gun batteries down to 1 or 2 tube sub-units, all linked on StarLink, and all using the GIS ARTA targeting program, (neither of which anyone had before) and each one picks an identified target, and shoots at it as soon as they're ready. Then they look at the update, and see what hasn't been waxed, and shoot at that, until there's nothing left to shoot at. Each sub-unit shoots when it wants, and then the guys (as we covered in an earlier ITC video) scamper in the rare case of counter-battery return fire, while other sub-units pick up the fight from a different position until there are no more Russians to shoot up, either from their destruction in smoking heaps, or their hasty retreat. Usually a couple of minutes either way.

Counter-battery fire is somewhere between pointless to impossible, both because Vlad's artillery counter-battery assets work as well as the rest of his Potemkin military to date, and because hitting 10, 20, 50 or more different single-tube targets would take hours, and require more artillery than there is in the entire Russian Army, and metric fucktons of ammo to splatter-fire an entire grid square just to take out one single tube, and 3-6 guys, plus a couple of dozen unfired rounds. If Vlad wants to try and use 500 rounds to kill one gun, even the Ukes (hell, even Ewok log and rock catapults) can play that game all week long, and twice on Sundays, from here to the next millenium, and come out ahead.

That looks like this:

Ukrainian artillery bushwhack ca. 2022
AKA: How To Erase An Enemy Regimental Task Force,
In 5 Minutes Or Less

The Ukes DGAF when rounds land on the multiple targets, nor are they synchronizing any attacks (which is the entire point of doing a TOT), nor are they having all tubes/weapons impact the same rough patch of real estate. Their only concern is that all visible targets get serviced as rapidly as possible. The whole point is to get first- or second-round direct hits.(Word To Your Mother: Until very recently, artillery doesn't GET first-round direct hits. Period.) They're inviting, via that GIS ARTA app, every single weapon system that can be brought to bear to hit anything and everything within their own range fan, which targets are also dispersed, and which is something nobody did with arty before now, including us, because now arty can drop a shell with accuracy rivalling that of tank cannon in direct fire, so that instead of shooting up a vehicle from a couple thousand yards, they're dropping heavy arty on a target from a dozen or more grid squares away. (Our preference to date is to do that with LGBs from aircraft.) 

It is exactly the company of long range snipers I described in the OP, rather than the historical artillery idea of a mob of musketeers doing a group mugging, which ain't nobody been able to do before now, and you can't "invent" that if you can't do it. This is why Edison gets credit for inventing the light bulb, and the Wright Brothers with inventing the airplane, because their versions worked, and which is why we don't give the credit to some nameless fantasizers who thought "Wouldn't it be great to light the room with electricity instead of fire?" or "Wouldn't it be cool to fly a heavier-than-air craft wherever you wanted?"

The Ukes are thus not doing anything like a TOT. So thanks for playing, but we know whereof we speak, from firsthand experience, and we know the difference between this, and a TOT. The two are worlds apart.

They didn't invent all the components, but they synthesized those other things together into a coherent whole like no one has ever done with artillery, and when they do it well, they're erasing Russian units up to regimental level (1000-2000 guys, and all their equipment larger than a Toyota) in a few minutes.

We don't even do this now. (Nor, AFAIK, does anyone else. YET.) We drop a round, adjust, drop another round, adjust, and so on, and then fire for effect (i.e. drop a shit-ton of rounds on the last spot) once we're on the bullseye. If we had this level of artillery accuracy (which two words, to this point in history, were generally understood to be an oxymoron on the level of jumbo shrimp, government help, or military intelligence) in Iraq/A-stan, we would have deployed all our available arty assets in firebases, along with Predator drones to spot, and simply erased the Taliban and Iraqi insurgencies one shell at a time, with virtually zero risk, unless they tried to mob attack a FSB, and walked into interlocking fields of fire from miniguns.

Traditionally, artillery is a shotgun, fired by a blind man, and coached by someone nearby; the Uke concept of operation is using it as a sniper rifle, and it's kicking the shit out of Vlad's minions, over and over again. The observable secondary explosions after arty impacts on video after video are the proof of the pudding. Welcome to the Big League, rookies.

Anybody who still thinks this current employment is a TOT, or has been done before as-is, is free to specify who made it work like this, and explain why it isn't therefore the universal artillery tactical rule, instead of the exception, being some mythical number of decades old, for all artillery since whatever mythical invention date so specified, and how come it's become so devastating to the Russians, who should have known better, being formerly thought of as the world Subject Matter Experts on artillery usage in combat up until 1945, or even 1985.

This is like explaining that Moses and the Israelites really only escaped through a marsh a few inches deep, and then having to explain how that water level drowned all of Pharoah's pursuing army and charioteers.

Sorry, but that's how it works. It's theoretically possible that I got it all wrong, along with the Austrian Army's head of R and D, and that despite his PhD, and everything he used to illustrate the point, he's historically ignorant about his entire profession.

But that's not where I'd put my chips if the wheel was spinning.


Something else Angus gets right is this news:

Russia is bringing T-62 tanks out of mothballs to replace the loss of T-72s and T-80s, which indicates that

1) The Russians aren't "winning" for any value of that word other than either "Pyrhhic" or "Mariupolic", and

2) They're now being forced to rely on vehicles that the Israelis were bitch-slapping around the Middle East 50 years ago, because modern AT missiles ate their lunch. Which things were what made those T-62s obsolete in the first place.

They're more advanced than lawn tractors, but if you couldn't win with top-tier gear, you aren't going to get it done against the same Javelins and NLAWS that kicked your ass earlier by using machinery that was obsolete almost before Vlad was born.

This is annoying for the Ukrainian forces, but mainly only if they run out of Western-supplied AT missiles before Russia runs out of mothballed crap from the 1970s to throw at them.

If Russia gets down to pulling T-34s from WWII out of museum displays, dollars to donuts they'll be using them for advancing on the Kremlin, not the Donbas.

But if Russian troops keep attacking, and can sop up enough AT missiles faster than they can be replaced, they might start to outlast the Uke resistance, and start to get some traction. It's unlikely given their past performance, but the law of averages says they can't stay incompetent forever.

Their attack is going to become a scorched-earth offense, which is going to tear the hell out of all the formerly Russia-friendly areas they hold now, which is where the war is being fought to a slogging standstill.

Remember please that Russia has no stomach for this endless slog; only Putin does. Putin's gamble is that he can maintain his tenuous grip on power long enough to eke out something like a win (which bus left the depot on about February 26th of this year). His victory conditions are not Ukraine's, and they only have to continue to exist. If/when Putin gets whacked or dies, the Ukes have an excellent shot at evicting what's left of the Russian incompetent and unmotivated hordes out of Crimea and the eastern districts forever, and based on current performance, the blood feud is going to make de-Russification of the entire Ukraine a territorial imperative they'll pursue with gusto.

And then join NATO, just for spite, making Putin's failure absolute.


And for those that need this explained in explicit detail:
This means Ukraine's continued existence is now at the whim of the West, not Putin.
Putin hasn't been able to overcome them in three months of trying.
The West, OTOH, could make Ukraine's candle wink out with the snap of a finger.
Now you know the answer to "Who run Bartertown?"

And you also now know why Gondor didn't want to ask Rohan for help against Mordor.
The fear of "strings attached".
In the real world, "help" always comes with strings. Of steel.

UPDATE II: Color me shocked!, Angus is butthurt that his sup-par mis-explanation of what the Ukrainians are doing got taken to task in painstaking detail. I laid out the substance a successful counter-argument would need to provide, above. With the whole internet to drop a link to, if any such existed. But no. Instead, we get a pigeon playing chess: knock the pieces over, shit on the board, and pretend you won. Well-played.

The Ukrainians aren't doing a TOT, nor anything like it. 
They aren't using tactics from 75-100 years ago that nobody could ever make work. 
They're doing something in combat that hasn't been seen before, because they can, and making it work, like no one else has done, for the first time in military history. Having a metaphorical sword at one's throat makes people do things like that.

(And no, Angus, I let the nonsense slide, but we didn't widely disperse individual tubes; not in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, or any other place you could name. We don't do it now, either {Yet.}. And yet we have computers and GPS that would supposedly "make it easy". So why not? Because it would take 6-8 times as long just to lay the battery, and then you'd have to register each individual gun, just to know WTF you're hitting. But you don't know that, because you never had to lay a battery, or register a gun, and don't know what you don't know. And a TOT was and is multiple batteries, which were already dispersed, firing at a single target. Not single dispersed tubes from the same battery. It wasn't done to avoid counter-battery fire, it was done to provide a devastating effect on a single target, before people could dive for cover, so that instead of the first round, they got 30-50, or more, all at once, which is exactly NOT what the Ukrainians are doing in any way, shape, or form. 
They also aren't doing "shoot-and-scoot", which we did practice {it was SOP in the 1980s}. They're doing "shoot and take shelter in place while waiting to see if Ivan can even do counter-battery fire". Which lesson has been overwhelmingly, "No, he can't do that, and he can't even find his own ass with both hands and a map."} Not knowing any of this is why you should have stayed in your lane, or at least watched the Austrian Army video and learned a thing or two. You didn't set a clever trap; you simply don't know what you're taking about, but worse than that, you don't know what you don't know.)

And rather than shrug off the mistake, some people aren't happy until they aren't happy. Okay. Whatever floats your boat, chief, but you're still wrong, and now just being deliberately ignorant when corrected. This is what happens when apes read philosophy: they don't understand it. Best wishes with that plan going forward. 


Joe in PNG said...

It's as revolutionary as the introduction of the machine gun or ironclad battleship.

And hopefully we have our own current version of Admiral Fisher, General Mitchell or General Lejeune taking notes and working out his own version for our troops.

Andy said...

The era of smart arty.


Anonymous said...

The big issue here is Russias apparent inability to suppress the drones. I assume it’s easy for a first tier military to jam the video signals from COMMERCIAL drones, but not for Vlad’s 3rd world army. Blind the forward observers and the super-guided artillery doesn’t know where the tanks are.

And a top tier military can probably track where the drone commands are originating and put those counter fire batteries to good use. Or drop a JDAM on the controller from a stealth fighter that’s 50 miles out at 50,000 feet.

But this war is a strange mix of old-school 2-dimension trench warfare mixed with some 21st century tech.

Aesop said...

GIS ARTA lets everyone put targets on the map, so they'd have to suppress countless drones, from COTS to Bayraktar-2 monsters. Which would be as hard as doing counter-battery on 100 separated and dispersed artillery tubes.

If they weren't so incompetent and over-matched, they wouldn't be so incompetent and over-matched.

Quality has a quantity all its own.

Anonymous said...

The US (and hopefully NATO too) is sending several batteries (100 guns?) of 155mm Artillery to Ukraine. I hope they are also sending lots of the advanced Excalibur and Precision Guidance fuse/seeker units too.

Being cynical? This is a way to see how our new military equipment actually works. I remember some people claimed that was a major function of the Israeli Military in the 1970's.

I suppose you do not want to do a TOT when each gun unit is correcting their aim individually and need to see where their rounds are hitting? When I saw some of the Ukraine videos, I was wondering why the rounds impacting were doing it one or two at a time. I was wondering if it was incompetence? This explains it.


Aesop said...

The US is sending(sent) a bare three batteries of M777s.
At 6 guns per battery, that's only 18 guns, or one battalion. It's a drop in the bucket, overall, and only enough to support a simple regiment (a couple of thousand guys or so) in combat.

John Wilder said...

Decentralized combat with semi-autonomous units and a common goal with a unified, real-time, information system. Brilliant. Really. Napoleon had lines of troops because that's all he could command. von Clausewitz said it in On War - "A turning motion (i.e., changing what the army is doing-JW) is only justified under extreme circumstances." Why? Coordination and concentration of force was crucial to keep the lines from breaking.

2022 is a different time. It is no wonder that China is developing tech to zap Elon's sats. The only problem? There will be thousands and thousands of them - very difficult to shoot individually. EMP yourself to take them out? Then there are thousands more comin' round the bend to fill in the holes.

Lots to consider here.

Sig Leupold said...

Aesop, I went to the link you provided and McThag seemed a tad butt-hurt.
Well, too bad.
I'm a former artillery officer. FAOBC grad Dec1995. Got a graduation certificate ...somewhere.
Been active duty 16+ years, then transferred to the Nasty Girls to make LTC.
(there was some fuckery afoot in 2015 when a certain Senator stipulated the Army had to buy more tanks manufactured in his district and the Army brass was forced to cut cut 50,000 troops to afford more tanks they neither wanted not needed. Long story)
In any case, no longer an Artillery officer. Medical now. Short detour through Ordance corps in between.
I am HORRIFIED at the quality of internet know-it-all-ism being displayed about this war in Ukraine.
But instead of calling these internet know-it-alls out, I just roll my eyes and stop reading their sites.
With the notable exception of YOUR site, which I make a point of reading daily.
I've been lurking and reading for YEARS until your post about the Austrian Colonel and Ukrainian Arty.
Spot on, and I watched the whole video (thanks to auto-translate) and agree with his conclusions.
No, McThag does NOT get it. I mean a ToT is a thing.
specifically, a parlor trick down for auidiences at Fort Sill.
Not something done on a regular basis in actual combat.
But it does demonstrate all of the fire direction skills needed to win in combat. Calculating the ToT time-of-flights, then coordinating separate units to fore not at the same time, but at the RIGHT time so everyone's shells land simultaneously.
Combat: different story. No audience except the target. And you kill them as fast as you can.
Yes, what the Ukes are doing is unprecedented, but also just a logical application of 21st century communication networks to the problem of connecting the FO to the FDC, except it's enormously more efficient.

All in all, great website you've got. Please keep posting, it keeps me sane.

Aesop said...

Angus knows what he knows very well indeed. If I wanted advice about tanks or armor tactics, or miscellaneous weapons arcana regarding all manner of small arms, as a gamer, he's researched the minutiae more than I care to, and I happily defer.

The trouble for him comes when he doesn't know what he doesn't know, and then pontificates right off the cliff.

He doesn't know artillery inside and out, he doesn't know the tactics nor operational arcana, and he hasn't fired a dozen TOTs.

I have.

And Herr Oberst Doktor Reisner knows whereof he speaks, which was why I linked the vid in the first place. If someone had watched that before jumping on his horse and charging off in all directions, he'd have less egg to wipe off his face now.

Merde dure.

Sig Leupold said...

Herr Oberst Doktor Reisner clearly is a SME.

As for all the internet analysis of this war, I cannot find any worse example than the post of Z-man entitled "The Rocks of War".

If you have a couple hours to kill, you might want to do a proper fisking of this article. Could be humorous. You have a talent for that.

Now, don't get me wrong; Z-man is a great source when you want to read about the intellectual history of modern politics, particularly "conservatism". I read his site daily too.

But, OMG, he knows nothing about warfare. If you can make it through the article, I think you'll agree.

I've noticed a similar effect (?) over at Founding Questions, by Severian.

It seems, if'n you'll forgive me speculating, that internet bloggers who hate/despise Biden and his regime and supporters assume that his allies (The Ukes, Zelensky, etc) must ALSO be their enemies, and thus they feel obligated to support Putin and the Russians and play some kind of Devil's Advocate for the Russian/Putin perspective??


But, in any case, the analysis is just SO BAD it could make for interesting reading if you tore it apart. Just a friendly suggestion.

Aesop said...

Z-man is tough sledding at the best of times, and I don't mean in an intellectual way.
And I just ate.

Maybe when I'm bored enough...

Steve the Boomer said...

Y'know what inspires fear in me? If the .mil posting here are right, it means the US military has absolutely no idea what to do with modern technology. I mean, if they are still using tactics the the VC pounded the crap out of, and even some goat herders armed with Krags could beat...

Aesop said...

Generally, Steve, the .mil would enjoy getting modern technology. Usually by the time something, anything, from rifles to radar, works its way through the pipeline and makes its way to the troops, it's already 10-20 years old, or more. When the F-119 Stealth fighter got deployed in the late 1980s, it had been in the development pipeline since the early 1970s. That's typical.

But they also don't usually get gifted with usage of an entire satellite system for free, and they aren't able to utilize a homebrew computer program in mere weeks.