Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


For the thrash metal band, see Artillery (band)

Historically, artillery refers to any engine used for the discharge of projectiles during war. The term also describes ground-based troopss with the primary function of manning such weapons.

The word as used in the current context originated in the Middle Ages. It comes from the Old French atellier meaning "to arrange", and attillement meaning "equipment". From the 13th century an artillier referred to a builder of any war equipment, and for the next 250 years the sense of the word "artillery" covered all forms of military weapons.

"Artillery" is a general term covering several varieties of large-calibre weapons; currently these fire an explosive shell or rocket and are of such a size and weight as to require a specialized mount for firing and transport. Weapons covered by this term in the modern era include "tube" artillery such as the howitzer, cannon, mortar, and field gun and "rocket" artillery. Older engines like the catapult, onager, trebuchet and ballista are also artillery but generally fired a solid shot.

Table of contents
1 Types
2 Roles of the Artillery
3 The Field Artillery Team
4 Artillery Radars
5 Quotations
6 See also


The types of tube artillery are generally distinguished by their ballistic trajectory. Cannons (such as infantry support guns or the guns on a naval ship) are typically low-angle weapons designed for a direct-fire role. Mortarss are high-angle weapons originally used to drop shells behind the walls of a city. Howitzers are capable of both high- and low-angle fire. They are most often employed in an indirect-fire role.

Types of artillery:

All forms of artillery require a propellant to fire the projectile at the target. A number of different configurations have been developed, each with varying characteristics. They include: The term "artillery" has traditionally not been used for projectiles with internal guidance systems, even though some artillery units employ surface-to-surface missiles. Recent advances in terminal guidance systems for small munitions has allowed large calibre shells to be fitted with precision guidance fuses, blurring this distinction.

Roles of the Artillery

Depending on the calibre of the weapons, artillery is used in a variety of roles. Mortarss fire relatively short range and small-calibre projectiles in a high arc against targets that cannot be reached by low-angle (less than 45 degrees) fire, such as troops on the reverse slope of a hillside. Modern mortarss, because of their lighter weight and simpler, more transportable design, are usually organic to infantry and armor units, allowing greater responsiveness and negating their shorter range.

Howitzers are longer ranged weapons that generally fire in a flatter arc - the target is seldom in view of the firer. Howitzers are generally used in direct support of infantry and armor, where the guns of a battery or even a battalion will be massed to fire simultaneously onto a single point or area target.

Modern field artillery falls into two categories: towed and self-propelled. As the name implies, towed artillery has a prime mover, usually a jeep or truck, to move the piece, crew, and ammunition around. Self-propelled howitzers are permanently mounted on a carriage or vehicle with room for the crew and ammunition and capable of moving independently in order to move quickly from one firing position to another - to both support the fluid nature of modern combat and to avoid 'counter-battery fire'.

The Field Artillery Team

Modern field artillery (Post-World War I) has three distinct parts: the forward observer (or FO), the fire direction center (FDC) and the actual howitzers themselves. Because artillery is an indirect fire weapon, the forward observer must take up a position where he can observer the enemy using tools such as binoculars and laser range finders and designators and call back fire missions on his radio. This position can be anywere from a few thousand meters to 20-30 km distant from the guns. Using a standardized format, the FO sends either an exact target location or the position relative to his own location, a brief target description, a recommended munition to use, and any special instructions such as "danger close" (the warning that friendly troops are within 600 meters of the target, requiring extra precision from the guns). The FO does not talk to the guns directly - he deals solely with the FDC.

Typically, there is one FDC for a battery of six guns. The FDC computes firing data for the guns. The process consists of determining the precise target location based off of the observer's location if needed, then computing range and direction to the target from the guns' location. This data can be computed manually, using special protractors and slide rules with precomputed firing data. Corrections can be added for conditions such as a difference between target and howitzer altitudes, propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, and even the curvature and rotation of the Earth. In most cases, some corrections are omitted, sacrificing accuracy for speed. In recent decades, FDCs have become computerized, allowing for much faster and more accurate computation of firing data.

The final piece of the puzzle is the "gun line" itself. The FDC will transmit the fire order to the howitzers, specifying the number of volleys, a particular shell and fuze combination, the specific charge, a deflection (horizontal direction) and quadrant elevation (vertical direction) both specified in mils, and any special instuctions, such as to wait for the observer's command to fire relayed through the FDC. The crews load the howitzers and traverse and elevate the tube to the required point, using either hand cranks (usually on towed guns) or use hydraulics (on self-propelled models).

Artillery Radars

Radar has had a major impact on artillery. Coupled to computers it can accurately track a projectile in flight back to its firing point. This can be used as targeting information for 'counter-battery fire' - artillery bombardment of an enemy artillery site. Radar improves the ability to return fire quickly and accurately. This greatly increases the all-weather flexibility of modern artillery. The rise in counter-battery abilities drove the field artillery to adopt 'shoot-and-scoot' tactics emphasizing constant maneuver within an designated position area, usually from hide point to firing point and back again. This has required reliance on sometimes temperamental technology and increased the cost of modern field artillery systems.


See also