After looking at the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia Artillery is considered as the “God of War” of modern warfare. So what was the difference between artillery tactics of World War II and on the Ukrainian battlefield?
Special operations in Ukraine have become “artillery confrontation”, on some occasions Russian army fired 50,000-70,000 rounds in a single day, and the Ukrainian army also had 5-6 thousand shells, as if back to the middle of the last century. Of course, now there is a fundamental change in artillery tactics, and a large number of reconnaissance drones, artillery reconnaissance and positioning radars are used.
As of 2008, according to various sources, up to 2.5 million tons of missiles and artillery shells were stored in the warehouses of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. A 152 mm shell weighing about 45 kg. Many shells need to be recycled and Disposal of used ammunition often triggers explosions. Ukraine itself has no military factories, and artillery shells are basically preserved from the former Soviet era.
Therefore, the ammunition used in Ukraine now, basically sent by NATO, the scale of the supply is huge, and it is now impossible to calculate. The vast majority of Soviet-made artillery weapons and ammunition came from warehouses in former Warsaw Pact countries. In addition, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany purchased from “third world” countries at low prices and transferred them to Ukraine.
In the 2014-2021 Battle of Donbas, 60-120 mm caliber mortars were heavily used. Under the conditions of trench warfare in Donbas, the command of the Ukrainian armed forces has developed its own extremely effective “guerrilla artillery” tactics. Usually, the battalion commander commands the mortar platoon, with the AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher. Reconnaissance of the target is carried out in advance with the help of the drone, during which the scout determines not only the target of the strike but also the location of the future firing position. Then army strike with artillery and eliminate the target.
From the summer of 2022, the main strike force of the artillery of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is the 155 mm long-range howitzer supplied by NATO specially M777. By early August 2022, about 90 155mm towed M777 howitzers were shipped from the United States to Ukraine. There are also about 20 or more howitzers supplied by other NATO countries.
The M777 howitzer has many adavantages over USSR artillery, light weight, easy to handle, great accuracy. The M777 high-explosive fragment shell has a range of 24.7 km and an additional range of 40 km, even USA secretly guided M982 Excalibur shell.
In order to prevent the computerised firing control system from falling into Russian hands, the Americans reportedlyin delivery of the M777 howitzer without computerize firing system. At least 36 of these howitzers had been destroyed by the end of August.
In early May, Ukraine received 12 French self-propelled 155 mm Caesar howitzers, and a month later six more. The 155 mm Caesar howitzer was mounted on a 6X6 wheeled chassis and weighed 18 tons with bulletproof armor. The standard projectile has a range of 41 km, and a maximum range of 49 km, and carries 18 rounds of ammunition. Unexpectedly, in less than a month after deliver, the Russians captured two Caesar howitzers and also destroyed few of them.
British Defence Minister Ben Wallace, speaking in the British Parliament, announced that the United Kingdom was about to deliver to Ukraine 20 155 mm M109 self-propelled howitzers, 36 105 mm light towed guns L119, 1600 anti-tank weapons, anti-artillery radar systems, more than 50,000 pieces of Soviet ammunition for current Ukrainian artillery, and unmanned aerial vehicles, etc.
In addition, Germany, Poland, Italy and other NATO countries provided additional artillery systems.
Russian media often reported on the inadequate preparation, hasty mobilization, and unfamiliarity of the artillery system of Ukrainian artillery. This is not entirely true. About 400,000 Ukrainian soldiers have participated in actual combat in the past eight years. Suppose that one-fifth of them also served in the artillery. Then in the Ukrainian armed forces, there are about 80,000 experienced gunners. In addition, in 2022, thousands of Ukrainian artillerymen were sent to training grounds in Germany, Britain, Poland, and even Estonia for intensive training.
However, the tactics of artillery in this Russian-Ukrainian conflict are very different from those of the first and second world wars and all local wars from Korea to Syria. There is no information on the engineering training of artillery positions. Previous artillery systems were placed in trenches with a large amount of logs and even concrete for protection.
In the 2022 Russian-Ukrainian conflict, there are no trenches and no fixed positions, usually an artillery company or a single gun randomly fires a few shells, and within 2 minutes it will have to urgently change position so the enemy will get its position.
Some generals have said that shooting without a clear target is a waste of artillery shells. But now that both sides have started using drones to adjust artillery accuracy, it’s not a reconnaissance front like World War II. The reaction time from the detection of the target to its destruction is reduced by an order of magnitude. Coupled with the heavy use of artillery reconnaissance radar, it can detect the opposing shell at any time and calculate the coordinates of the launcher or artillery system.
In the summer of 2022, Germany announced that it was about to deliver a COBRA anti-artillery radar to Ukraine. The range of shells detected in a sector of 90º -40 km can detect up to 40 targets in 2 minutes. As of August 2022, there are 5 sets of cobras in service in Germany, sending a set of radars to Ukraine, which wants to conduct combat tests in combat conditions.
Finally, despite the use of Western artillery systems in Ukraine, Russian artillery was definitely superior to the Ukrainian armed forces during special operations.