Artillery in its simplest form is firepower. Firepower that suppresses, neutralises, and destroys the enemy. Conceptually, artillery operates as a system consisting of a sensor, a firing platform, and command and control. The components of this system work together to maximise the effect firepower has on the battlefield. In the Australian Army, artillery is broken into three streams: field artillery, air defence, and surveillance and target acquisition (STA).
Field artillery provides a distinct advantage to the combined arms team: the ability for dispersed firing platforms to sustain engage with stand-off from its targets. Whilst field artillery does not manoeuvre, it can manoeuvre its fires rapidly to anywhere within its range. Coordination centres can quickly re-task and re-group different fire units to attack the same target. Fire units can be tasked to engage multiple targets. The attack of targets in isolation by artillery can degrade the enemy, but when fire is massed at critical locations and times in the battle is when artillery is most devastating. When integrated into the combined arms team is when artillery is most effective, as sustained and massed fires allows for freedom of manoeuvre and considerable degradation of the enemy’s capabilities simultaneously.
Into the future, Land 8113 provides a significant step forward with the acquisition of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). The field artillery will not only be capable of providing manoeuvre forces with close fire support but with HIMARS will also be able to engage deep targets with desolation to shape the enemy’s actions, degrade and destroy high pay off targets, and prevent interference with our own operations. This will give the combined arms team a considerable increase in its lethality and reach, and allows for greater freedom of manoeuvre.
Where field artillery provides support to manoeuvre forces in the face of land based threats, air defence provides protection against a critical vulnerability of the combined arms team: air and missile threats. Somewhat neglected in the past, air defence needs to be capable and lethal against modern air and missile threats. The acquisition of the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) and Air 6502 into the future, will provide the combined arms team considerable improvements in its protection against air and missile threats. Not only do the improvements in the Australian Army’s air defence capability reduce vulnerability, it also allows land forces to shape and effect the air domain.
STA has evolved from its origin of locating artillery, focused on detecting enemy hostile batteries for counter battery, to a capability that can acquire and surveil a broad range of targets. The acquisition of UAVs allows artillery sensors to loiter in the air free from interference of land systems and gain far greater command of the ground and range of observation of targets and locations. This then allows for subsequent attack by any arm, not only artillery. Akin to field artillery, the range and ability to re-task STA platforms gives reach of observation with the added benefit of provided an unpiloted system in uncleared areas, minimising risk of casualties.
Together, the streams of artillery provide lethality and range to the combined arms team with its sensors and firing platforms. It is also flexible, allowing the linking between multiple sensors and attack systems inclusive and exclusive of artillery platforms to best affect the enemy and support the combined arms team.