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Canadian Press: Canadian Artillery obsolete and inaccurate

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How much of this is accurate?

Reproduced under the Fair Dealings Provisions of the Copyright Act.

Canada worried aging stock of guns might lead to Afghan civilian casualties
15:05:24 EDT May 9, 2006
 
Soldiers work on the Canadian Army's new M-777 howitzers, deployed at Forward Operating Base Robinson in the Sangin district of Helmand, Afghanistan, in this mid-April 2006 photo. (CP PHOTO/Murray Brewster) 
MURRAY BREWSTER



KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - The former Liberal government scrambled last year to acquire new howitzers after the Canadian army's existing stock of heavy guns was shown to lack the accuracy, firepower and range needed for the desert expanse and mountainous creases of southern Afghanistan.

The roughly $42-million purchase of six brand new M-777 guns and ammunition was hastily approved last summer after the army could not guarantee that "collateral damage" or civilian casualties would be limited with its existing 105-mm artillery pieces.

In addition, a review determined the older weapons might not be able to protect widely scattered bases.

"The department should immediately direct resources towards the acquisition of a number of readily deployable 155-mm howitzers with an operational stock of precision ammunition," said a May 15, 2005, briefing note obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws.

A strategic plan drawn up in conjunction with the February 2005 budget envisioned the army tinkering with and perhaps digitizing its aging 105-mm guns. The thinking then was that new, highly accurate artillery would have to wait until at least 2012.

The army initially proposed buying 12 guns, which were designed for U.S. forces and built by BAE Systems Inc., the British maker of Canada's troubled submarine fleet. What the army ended up with were six howitzers, four of which were deployed overseas.

Since production is still ramping up on the new light-weight titanium weapons and to ensure they would have them for Afghanistan, the Defence Department purchased the howitzers directly from the U.S. Marine Corp. in a government-to-government military sale.

Unlike the navy's boats, the big guns have not given the army any mechanical problems, said Canada's top artillery officer in Kandahar.

"They've performed flawlessly," said Maj. Steve Gallagher, commander of A Battery, 1 Canadian Royal Horse Artillery.

"What the triple-seven gives us is extended range. It also gives us more accuracy than we've ever had before and that was the real crux of procuring the M-777 for this operation."

In a war where militants often hide among civilians in compounds and villages, the ability to be able to strike surgically at designated targets has been become militarily and political crucial. Both coalition commanders and the Afghan government are extremely sensitive to questions of the toll taken on innocent bystanders during a battle.

An Afghan-based website, www.Afghannews.net, claims to keep a running tally of civilian deaths since the U.S.-led invasion to oust the hardline Taliban rulers in 2001. But its figures of between 34,000 and 38,000 casualties cannot be accurately verified in a country where hearsay often passes for news in local villages.

The Canadian guns are currently firing standard 155-mm shells upwards of 20 kilometres, using a new high-tech electronic sighting system.

This fall, a new type of projectile named Excalibur will be available. The GPS-guided shell will allow gunners to hit targets within a 10-metre radius up to 40 kilometres away.

Since deploying in late January, the artillery has fired a number of times, occasionally in defence of a infantry position, such as the Gumbad platoon house in north Kandahar. But more often they're used in what is called a show of force, a demonstration of the firepower.

By lobbing the occasional round into empty fields, Canadian commanders accomplish the duel purpose of forcing the Taliban to think twice about attacking a target, but it also gets the attention of the local population.

"The power of these rounds, the explosion that they make kind of wakes people up," said Lieut. Andrew Nicholson, a gun commander at Forward Base Robinson.

"It's a great enforcing tool when we're trying to talk to the local elders and say, 'Hey we're here. Look, this is what we're capable of doing and if there are any bad guys, it could be a fairly rough day for them.' "



© The Canadian Press, 2006


 

muskrat89

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could not guarantee that "collateral damage" or civilian casualties would be limited with its existing 105-mm artillery pieces.

And what weapons system exists, that can "guarantee" limited collateral damage and/or civilian casualties?  ::)

It's like.. "OK, so peacekeeping is out, so maybe instead, we can we fight a war with no dangerous stuff...."

 

Sapper41

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I wonder if the same principle was applied to the mass acquisition of the C7A2 vs C-8A1?  By saying that the longer version is more accurate and therefore less likely to cause collaterial damage?
 

KevinB

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Sapper41 said:
I wonder if the same principle was applied to the mass acquisition of the C7A2 vs C-8A1?  By saying that the longer version is more accurate and therefore less likely to cause collaterial damage?

Nope - cost and the fact the RSM's wanted a weapon that could do drill (rifle drill - I would guess they knew about SMG drill...)

The difference is the Artillery issue was correct...
 

pbi

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Rather than carping about the article, we might want to admire the speed with which these excellent weapons were acquired (by the Liberals, no less...!) and the remarkable skills of our comrades in the Royal Regiment who mastered the new guns so quickly. I would have loved to have had a battery of these things backing us up in Croatia!

Cheers
 

Old Sweat

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No mention of cracked barrels, but that may have been peripheral to the range and accuracy factors.
 

JackD

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Is there any information out there on the plans for further purchases of said guns? What are the re-equipment plans for the artillery?
 

Gunnerlove

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Plans? S**t just happens, usually right after the guy who made the decision got re posted.

 

3rd Horseman

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Most of the time it is not the gun but the projectile and the FOO that determine the collateral damage. Good FOOs with the right weapon (projectile) determine the amount of death and damage to civilians and structures, that being said...nice gun and well done to the guns for getting sorted on the new system so fast.

EDIT: added

We had 155mm guns backing us up in Bosnia in 95 and we used them. Same issue was driven home about collateral damage which was hard to limit due to the urban nature of the targets and fighting. With few exceptions such as the hospital and the schnell imbis attacks we were very effective in keeping collateral damage to a minimum.
 

paracowboy

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3rd Horseman said:
Most of the time it is not the gun but the projectile and the FOO that determine the collateral damage. Good FOOs with the right weapon (projectile) determine the amount of death and damage to civilians and structures,
well, I don't care how good a rifleman you are, if your barrel is shot out, it's shot out, and you ain't a-gonna hit whatcher aimin' at. Principle remains the same if'n yer a-shootin' a twenny-two er yer a-shootin' a 155. FOO ain't nuthin' but a dude onna hill, an' he kin cerrect all he likes, but ifn' thet ol' gun ain't a-hittin' the same spot ever' dang time, he cain't hardly call nuthin', now kin he?

And well done to everyone involved in getting the new systems to our Herbies so efficiently.
And a big well done to the Herbies who mastered it so fast.
 

3rd Horseman

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Para,

    I don't know any gunners that would allowe a shot out barrel to fire in support of troops. They are I suppose the same as Inf if the barrel is worn then you get a new one. As a side note it takes allot of firing to shoot out a gun barrel. When guns are procurred spare barrels are also purchased for the eventuality of a failed barrel. I don't know if the triple 7s came with spare barrels but I would suspect they did.
 

muskrat89

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Gun history books record the number, and type of rounds fired, and at what charge. They can help predict when a barrel will "wear out". Obviously some failures cannot be predicted.
 

paracowboy

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3rd Horseman said:
Para,

    I don't know any gunners that would allowe a shot out barrel to fire in support of troops. They are I suppose the same as Inf if the barrel is worn then you get a new one. As a side note it takes allot of firing to shoot out a gun barrel. When guns are procurred spare barrels are also purchased for the eventuality of a failed barrel. I don't know if the triple 7s came with spare barrels but I would suspect they did.
that was just me being whimsical, and using an outrageous example to remind you that, limited as my Arty knowledge is, even I know that there are far more factors involved in calling a round in accurately than just the FOO. In other words, deflating your ego a bit. The post I responded to sounded juuuuuust a wee bit pompous. And that draws out me puckish side, dinnae y'know, laddie.
 

3rd Horseman

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Para,

  Pompus...me thinks not.
Given that gunners don't fire from shot out guns then the accuracy issue and how it relates to collateral damage is almost entirely in the hands of the FOO and the selection of projectile for task. Could I be accused of shining a well deserved light on the skills of those FOOs out there doing the job in in A stan well then yes sheriff I am  guilty.
 

paracowboy

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3rd Horseman said:
Could I be accused of shining a well deserved light on the skills of those FOOs out there doing the job in in A stan well then yes sheriff I am  guilty.
no, you have a history of over-inflating your service. It can certainly be concluded that you were seeking yet another opportunity to mention how you conducted "Deep Combat Penetration Ops" or whatever the hell you called it, and how your skills are vastly superior to the JTF, blah blah blah. And, it in fact was.
 

3rd Horseman

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paracowboy said:
"Deep Combat Penetration Ops" or whatever the hell you called it, {I was discussing deep ops} and how your skills are vastly superior to the JTF, {this I never said nor eluded to}


No need to sling mud, your comments are at best inappropriate and completely not in keeping with the discussion of accuracy and collateral damage...may we continue?
 

Michael OLeary

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Perhaps it was in reference to this very first post of yours:

3rd Horseman said:
What a long read,  I don't know what JTF2 do now but I know what they did when I was in and worked as a special ops guy (Combat non JTF2), Which they were not!( then they were just SWAT) Today may be different but I will share a little laugh I got when I was doing a relief in place with an innocent naive air guy on a mountain top in YUGO (he was also special ops and not JTF2). As we did our handover he pointed out two guys that he referred to as tagging along with him and appeared to be really good campers and I should allow them to stay as they were "really good campers" I refused as they were not trained to do my deep battle special ops role and sent them packing with pouty faces. For the rest of my tour I had the distinct displeasure of having these two and others hovering around my veh just before a task asking (begging) me to take them to my operations, as usual I refused. I hope this sheds any light on how little they did and how the true special ops activities on tour were done by everday well trained soldiers all those rumours you heard could probably be confirmed by normal ever day soldiers who did uncommon actions as odered but were never part of JTF2 just looked like they were.
I for one am a little pissed at some rumours I have heard about my operations being credited to JTF2 or shall I say "Good Campers"
 

3rd Horseman

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The story is true. In retro spect I could have worded it better, no disrespect was or is intended to the current JTF2. I will admit that my emotion got the best of me when I posted that before as I was upset that some works that were conducted by others was credited to JTF2 in books and literature of the day. How many times do I have to say the story is true but I delivered it poorly. I apologize to any JTF2 guys post 95 that took offence. Is that enough said yet?
 

Scott

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The problem I have with it is that you go around shitting on people for slinging mud and making inappropriate comments when, in fact, they were simply responding to what you ,yourself, wrote. Is that pretty clear?

So you worded it poorly, then you can understand why someone may have responded poorly. This ain't rocket science.

 
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