Artillery Returns to the Battlefield in the War against ISIL

Amid Russian air and cruise missile strikes, civilian casualties, proposed no-fly zones, air-to-air shoot-downs, and new surface-to-air missiles in Syria, relatively few news stories have discussed the introduction of Russian artillery into the theater. Though the introduction of artillery may seem less significant than aerial attacks, remember that Napoleon observed: “With artillery, war is made.” By reintroducing artillery to Syria to support combined arms operations, the Russians may have revealed something about the war they and the Syrians envision. Together with increased air attacks, the Syrians and their Russian advisors seek to revitalize combined arms forces, and artillery is critical to their vision of such forces. Artillery is particularly important for offensive operations, providing a continuous presence that current Russian air deployments cannot sustain. The Syrian ground forces are now taking and holding ground, fighting urban and village battles where they must, but posing a threat of encirclement and maneuver where they can.

Source: Artillery Returns to the Battlefield in the War against ISIL

James Quinlivan’s piece is long, but quite interesting regarding the devolution of the Syrian Arab Army from its past Soviet style formation, and trying to reintegrate combined arms today.

Artillery is obviously useful for killing the enemy. Let’s talk a bit about the Russian historical use of artillery.  Artillery properly used (and the Russians are past masters at the  art) imposes a heavy penalty on the enemy  whenever he masses his forces. Whenever a force concentrates, it becomes an attractive target. When it disperses, it is harder to kill with artillery.

But dispersal means that force cannot bring the totality of its combat power to bear on an objective. That means that artillery can provide your own maneuver forces the opportunity to mass at a time and place of your choosing to be decisive at the objective.

Whether Russian artillery support for the Syrian Arab Army can achieve this in Syria remains to be seen. But they’ve certainly made some  progress already.

4 thoughts on “Artillery Returns to the Battlefield in the War against ISIL”

  1. I can remember getting some orientation in the Army with the statement that artillery kills far more than any other arm

  2. Remember Lebenon in the 80’s. Those Druze where deadly with a 105’s up in those hills. Question is how proficient is Daesh at small unit infantry tactics? SUT is probably it’s only viable workaround to Syrian Russian combined arms. I imagine IS forces just don’t have the resources or depth of strength to go head to head material wise. I’m not seeing much in the way of SOP SUT from them. At least not in the western style. The Kurds seem to reliably hand them their arses if they have enough ammo supply, so that tells you something.

  3. It is certainly cheaper and quicker than air strikes. Not as long range, of course. I am a little puzzled why we don’t seem to have supplied the Afghans and Iraqis with more artillery and heavy mortars instead of relying on American CAS for everything. After all, we aren’t going to be there forever and they need to learn to support themselves.

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