Lessons Learned from Combined Training with Polish Artillery and Forward Observers.
Lessons Learned from Combined Training with Polish Artillery and Forward Observers.
“The speed, accuracy and devastating power of American Artillery won confidence and admiration from the troops it supported and inspirited fear and respect in their enemy” – GEN (Ret.) Dwight D. Eisenhower
From September 2019 to May 2020, Cobra Battery, 3rd Battalion 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division was deployed to Torun, Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Cobra Battery spent numerous days in the field training with their counterparts from the 23rd Polish Artillery Regiment (23 ŚLĄSKI PUŁK ARTYLERII), the Central Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Group and the Polish Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Commando training units. Cobra Battery strived to consistently integrate TACPs and Commando’s JTAC trainees into every live fire exercise executed, overtime building trust and confidence in our ability to provide timely and accurate fires in support of our allies. Although our cultures and training may be different, the mission of the Artillerymen is alike throughout the partnered nations. However, how each nation accomplishes this mission differ in processes and procedures.
One of the many differences noted between the United States Artillery and the Polish Artillery is the weapon systems that each nation uses and the unit’s composition. 3-16 FA currently utilizes the M109A6 Paladin. The Paladin is an American 155mm turreted self-propelled howitzer, first introduced in the early 1960s. The Paladin is the most common indirect fire support weapon utilized by maneuver brigades in armored and mechanized infantry divisions. It has a crew of four, which consists of a gunner, a loader, the vehicle commander, and the driver. Comparatively, the 23rd Polish Artillery Regiment utilizes several different types of artillery pieces to include the wheeled Self Propelled Howitzer 152mm Delo Automobilni Nabijene Automaticky (DANA) and the wheeled 122mm WR-40 Langusta rocket launcher.
Developed in the 1970 in the former Czechoslovakia, the DANA is a well-known and utilized system in the Polish, Czech, Georgian, Libyan and Slovakian Militaries. Most recently, the DANA has undergone multiple upgrades since being commissioned, to include the installation of the TOPAZ fire control system, RRC9500 radios, FONET digital intercom systems, and the TALIN 5000 land navigation suite. With the ability to be easily and cheaply maintained, the DANA boasts a maximum effective range of 28km and an operational range of 600 km.
The 122mm WR-40 Langusta is a Polish wheeled self-propelled multiple rocket launcher developed in 2010. Equipped with similar upgrades to the DANA, the Langusta was developed to assist in a deep fight against the adversaries. With its main goal to overpower the artillery systems of a near peer threat, the Langusta can fire its full salvo (40 rounds) of 122.4mm high explosive (HE) rockets at a maximum range of 42 kilometers in just 20 seconds. With an emplacement time of three minutes and a displacement time of two minutes, it has the ability to shoot and then displace before receiving counterbattery fires.
Behind these two artillery pieces are well-integrated processes and systems. The fully automated TOPAZ fire control system paired with the FlyEye UAV and the LIWIEC radar, is a very unique and responsive “brain” for Polish artillery operations. The FlyEye UAV acts as the sensor, capable of designating the target and adjusting fire solutions quickly and accurately. The LIWIEC radar system is capable of tracking the origin and impact while providing accurate and responsive counter-battery fires. The fully automated system utilized by Polish Artillery units is very effective and has been in operation since 2010. Currently, TOPAZ is incompatible with Artillery System Cooperation Activities (ASCA) software, preventing the digital link between the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS), which presented a challenge for the US forces attempting to integrate into the Polish targeting processes.
The Polish Artillery operates at a Battalion level, with all fire missions centralized at the Regimental Tactical Operations Center (TOC). Generally, the smallest firing element is the Battalion, consisting of six DANA cannons and six WR-40 Langusta rocket launchers. Every mission executed is with massing fires in mind, where desire effects is to overpower the threat with sheer volume and mass. A call for fire consists of: Type of Fire, target description, grid, and large segmented target area. The Battalion Fire Direction Center (FDC) is run by the Fire Direction Non-commissioned Officer, Fire Direction Officer, the S3 Officer, and RTO Officer. This is all done from a box truck that is located between the guns and the Tactical Operation Center. Understanding how the Polish artillery processes and systems work helped the Battery integrate into the host nations artillery operations.
From 18 to 22 November 2020, Cobra Battery participated in the 23rd Polish Artillery Regiments tactical exercise “NAWAŁA-19”. Soldiers of the Cobra Battery Fire Direction Center learned how to integrate into 23rd Artillery Regiment’s defenses and targeting processes.
During the exercise Cobra Battery operated decentralized. The Battery FDC was co-located at the Regimental TOC, with a small element was set up inside the TOC to receive call for fire missions from the Polish observers. Fire missions would be relayed to the FDC and input into the AFATDS, allowing a digital fire mission to be sent to the gunline. Critical to this process was the Polish LNO translating the call for fire from the observers. Generally, an officer position in the Polish Army, the LNO is responsible for coordinating, synchronizing, and translating between the two organizations. With the help of the LNO, the Battery stayed abreast of the Polish tactical scenario and the unit’s targeting cycle, ready to provide fires when called upon.
The Polish observers have been trained on NATO Call for Fire protocol utilizing the JFIRE FM 3-09.32 (a pocket sized guide of procedures for call for fire, CAS, and naval gunfire. It provides tactics for joint operations between attack helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft performing integrated battlefield operations.) At first, the language barrier proved to be problematic but through steady exposure, meeting the observers, and building rapport through rehearsals, the two units were able to bridge the gap and decrease the amount of time between target observation and effects on target.
2ABCT’s organic observers were geographically dispersed between five European countries, not always available to observe for the firing batteries due to mobility requirement. Most of the time firing batteries had to rely on local Polish observers: either TACPs from Polish Air Force Units or Commando’s in training from multiple regions in Poland.
One of the units Cobra Battery worked frequently was the TACP Central Group led by Air Force TACP CPL Chris. CPL Chris was no stranger to working with Americans, having worked with the US Army during multiple deployments to Afghanistan. CPL Chris was able to bring soldiers from the Cobra Battery FDC to the observation post familiarizing with basics of calling for fire and teach the techniques of observing artillery. The Polish primary observation instrument is the Vector 21 which is a true binocular rangefinder. The Vector 21 has range capability of five meters to twelve thousand meters. The Vector 21 emits a 1,550 nm laser that provides the observer with a distance and direction in the display, making it easier to call for a polar fire mission. While not only teaching 2nd Platoon Fire Direction Center the basics of call for fire, he was also teaching fifteen of his own soldiers on how to call for fire and observe artillery impacts. They were able to observe low and high angle fire missions, adjust fire missions, fire for effect and time on target missions. This afforded a great opportunity for soldiers from the FDC to better understand the problems that observers face while also being able to show the systems and processes of the FDC to the Polish.
The opportunity to learn from and teach our NATO allies proved to be invaluable and a great experience for the soldiers of Cobra Battery. The professionalism of the 23rd Polish Artillery Regiment led by COL Grzegorz Potrzuski, the TACP Central Group and Commando JTACS was unparalleled. The openness and patience showed by both organizations, further strengthen the working bonds between each other, build shared understanding and confidence in the respective equipment and processes.
King of Battle! “Ultima ratio regum”
Authors: CPT Mariah Husheena, commander of Cobra Battery, 3-16 FA and 1LT Kyle Downing, Fire Direction Officer of 2nd Platoon, Cobra Battery, 3-16 FA.