Counter-battery fire

Counter-battery fire (sometimes called counter-fire) is a battlefield military activity to defeat the enemy's indirect fire elements (guns, rocket launchers, artillery and mortars), including their target acquisition, command and control components. Counter-battery arrangements and responsibilities vary between nations but involve target acquisition, planning and control, and counter-fire. Counter-battery fire rose to prominence in World War I.

Counter-battery radar detects incoming indirect fire and calculates where it was fired from. That location data can be sent by a communications link to friendly forces, who can then fire on the enemy positions, hopefully before they can reposition (the "scoot" part of shoot-and-scoot tactics). Counter-RAM systems track incoming rocket, artillery, and mortar fire and attempt to intercept and destroy the projectiles or provide early warning to the target area.


Indirect fire was introduced so that artillery could fire from behind cover to reduce its exposure to enemy artillery by making itself more difficult to find. While armies were doing this, little thought was given to the need for counter-counter measures. Perhaps the only means of finding concealed guns was observation from kites or balloons. However, effective counter-battery fire needs far more than a single method of observation. Counter-battery (CB) fire emerged and developed extremely quickly during World War I.[1][2] Since that war, CB has continued to evolve, mainly due to improvements in technology.

The targets of CB fire are usually the enemy's guns, launchers and mortars, both the materiel and the men serving them. The formal NATO definition of the term counter-battery is "fire delivered for the purpose of destroying or neutralising the enemy's fire support system",[3] with the note that it may be proactive or reactive. This may be achieved by attacks on any part of the field artillery system. In some armies at some periods CB has been called 'counter-bombardment' and occasionally 'counter-mortar' has been handled separately.


There are four functions in the system for CB fire:

  • Target acquisition
  • CB Intelligence
  • CB fire control
  • CB fire units

Target acquisition

Target acquisition is the source of information for CB intelligence. It may produce accurate locations for enemy fire units or merely inputs to a more complex process for locating and assessing hostile artillery. At the end of World War I, the following were recognised as the principal sources of artillery intelligence,[4] this seems to be in descending order of usefulness:

  • Aeroplanes (i.e., visual observation)
  • Aeroplane photography
  • Survey sections (i.e., flash spotting)
  • Sound ranging sections
  • Balloon observation
  • Ground observers (artillery and 'intelligence posts of other arms')
  • Liaison officers (artillery at infantry brigade HQs, these obtained reports of enemy artillery activity)
  • Officers' patrols
  • Secret agents and epatries
  • Captured documents and prisoner's statements
  • Listening sets (i.e., monitoring enemy communications)
  • Intercepted wireless (by 'wireless compass stations')

Apart from balloons and officers' patrols, these sources continued to play their part in World War II, and their technology improved, although flash spotting became less useful as ranges increased and flashless (or low flash) propellants became widespread. A successor to officers' patrols had an isolated emergence in Italy when Canadian artillery observers were put ashore behind German lines and established themselves to observe gun positions.[5]

Sound ranging and flash spotting both required enemy guns to fire. Furthermore, others, such as radio direction finding and information from prisoners, are insufficiently precise to 'fix' a target for artillery attack. Information from others may not be received quickly and hence be out of date, the hostile battery having moved.

These methods were joined by radar in World War II; while this could detect a shell in flight the gun that fired it could not usually be seen and the shell's elliptical trajectory made it impossible to extrapolate backwards with the technology of that time. However, mortar bombs have a parabolic trajectory (as do guns firing in 'high angle') defined by a simple mathematical equation with two points on the parabolic curve. It was therefore possible to deduce a mortar's position by tracking its bomb and recording two points on its trajectory. Another method that emerged was crater examination, this could reveal the azimuth back to the hostile gun or mortar and study of fragments could reveal its type. However, while it was a useful source of information it was not sufficiently accurate to give a location for the firer.

Most armies abandoned flash spotting in the 1950s. However, several new target acquisition technologies emerged. These included:

  • UAVs, about 1960 an Unmanned Air Vehicle, the SD-1, entered artillery service. This early UAV used wet film photography by day or night, had short range and short endurance. However, being under artillery control they were responsive to CB needs, which was just as well because other forms of air reconnaissance were becoming less available and were not notably timely. Other UAVs, including drones (flying a programmed course) duly emerged, including the ability to transmit imagery in real-time.
  • Next, in the 1970s Hughes Aircraft developed the US Firefinder RADAR system and created the algorithms that could extrapolate a gun's position from a segment of an elliptic trajectory. It's likely the Soviet Union created similar algorithms.
  • Non-communications ELINT, which can detect and locate radars, including those used by artillery is an often overlooked source.
  • A few armies established artillery observation patrol units to operate in likely artillery deployment areas behind the enemy's forward units.
  • On the modern battlefield various radars are able to detect vehicles or stationary guns on the ground, although this is far from a perfect information source. Look-down radar from high altitude aircraft are able to detect vehicles over a very wide range, but are unable to determine what type of vehicles they are and are susceptible to radar reflectors and similar countermeasures. The information is useful but requires further sources of information to accurately determine which contacts are the target. Millimeter wave radar (such as the AH-64 Apache's Longbow Radar) are able to very accurately detect the types of vehicles observed but are much shorter ranged.
  • The arrival of highly networked combat systems allows for data from multiple sources to be cross referenced very quickly. As a result, modern counter battery fire is generally as a result of a wide array of different possible information sources working together to provide targets in close to real time.
  • Sound ranging systems have also evolved with newer technology, such as Hostile Artillery Locating (HALO) and similar systems developed in other countries.

CB Intelligence

CB Intelligence applies the intelligence cycle and principles to CB. It uses information about hostile artillery from all sources to maintain detailed records and apply specialist techniques that exploit the nature of artillery fire to produce:

  • Intelligence about hostile artillery positions
  • The enemy artillery order of battle
  • Intelligence about hostile artillery activity and deployment and assessments of its wider implications

CB Intelligence is usually combined with CB fire control (see below), although intelligence purists recognise this is not good practice and the two were separate in the British forces in France in World War I. In both World Wars CB intelligence and CB control were found to be most effective when they were at corps level. However, the final year of World War 2 showed that the counter mortar battle was really one for brigade level. Since that war CB has tended to move to lower levels and in some armies has grown into a wider deep supporting fire organisation.

CB fire control

It does not always make tactical sense to attack hostile batteries the moment they are located. This is magnified by the challenges of targeting hostile batteries. There are many factors, and their significance depends on the circumstances. The first issue, for targeting, is that it is difficult to 'knock-out' a battery, although smart munitions against SP guns may change this. As the quoted definition states 'Destroy' is one possibility, another is "neutralization", to render the battery temporarily ineffective or unusable, including by suppressing it or forcing it to move. However, "suppression" only lasts while CB fire is falling and if a hostile battery moves then it has to be found again. Sometimes it is best just to record the location of the hostile battery and leave it for later.

An additional issue for the use of counter battery fire is the finite artillery resources available for use in a given situation.

CB fire units

The final aspect of the CB equation is having available CB fire units and appropriate munitions. Typically these are general supporting fire units, but direct supporting fire units are also used if they are available and not fully occupied by their primary role. With conventional HE shells it may require the concentrated fire of 5–10 batteries to deal effectively with one hostile battery. Hence the attraction multi-rocket launchers such as MLRS able to deliver a heavy and concentrated attack from relatively few launchers.


Counter-measures to CB fire have emerged throughout history. These include:

  • Digging in. In World War I, even heavy artillery was dug-in with several feet of overhead protection. Even today North Korean artillery is widely thought to be resistant to CB fire because of its deeply entrenched positions. More generally precision munitions have decreased the value of digging.
  • Encasing guns in armour. Fully armoured self-propelled guns were introduced to provide protection against conventional HE (High Explosive) fire.
  • Shoot-and-scoot tactics, in which a self-propelled artillery vehicle or towed gun fires a single round or salvo and immediately begins moving. Shoot-and-scoot tactics were first used in World War II by Soviet Katyusha rocket launchers.
  • Spreading-out. Increasing the dispersion of guns in a position has been aided by computers for technical fire control. Introduction of guns with self-survey and orientation has led to the concept of "gun manoeuvre areas" where the troops, platoons or sections of a battery keep moving around, although it is questionable how sustainable this is.
  • Concealment. While firing guns cannot escape sound-ranging and radar detection, concealment and deception can reduce the likelihood of discovery from other methods.
  • Counter-battery fire, being prepared to reply to enemy counter-battery fire with counter-battery fire of your own.
  • Human shields. The practice of embedding artillery assets within a civilian population to discourage enemy counter-battery fire, based on the assumption that a counter-battery strike would damage and destroy civilian infrastructures as well as killing innocent non-combatants.

Of course there are many potential target "nodes" in the field artillery system, including those dedicated to finding hostile artillery. Attacking these may significantly blind the enemy's CB capability—counter-countermeasures.

See also


  1. ^ Peter Chasseaud
  2. ^ Farndale pp. 333-335
  3. ^ NATO
  4. ^ pp. 160-71, McNaughton
  5. ^ Colonel GWL Nicholson, The Gunners of Canada, History of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery Vol 2, McClelland & Stewart Ltd, Toronto/Montral, 1972, pg 240


  • General Sir Martin Farndale History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery - Western Front 1914-18
  • Maj Gen AGL McNaughton The Development of Artillery in the Great War, Canadian Defence Quarterly Vol 6 No 2, January 1929
  • Peter Chasseaud Artillery's Astrologers: A History of British Survey and Mapping on the Western Front, 1914-1918
  • NATO AAP-6 NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions
2A36 Giatsint-B

The 2A36 Giatsint-B is a Soviet/Russian towed 152 mm field gun which entered service in 1975. The 2A36 is designed to suppress and destroy enemy manpower and equipment. It is also suitable for counter-battery fire. The gun can be used in various weather conditions and has been tested in temperatures ranging from −50 °C to 50 °C. The gun is in use in Russia, a number of CIS countries, Finland, and Iraq. It was also used by the Lebanese Army to fire into the heavily fortified Nahr el-Bared refugee camp during the conflict there. Lebanon possibly acquired some in a major arms shipment from Iraq shortly before the end of the Lebanese Civil War.

30 cm Raketenwerfer 56

The 30 cm Raketenwerfer 56 was a German multiple rocket launcher used in the Second World War. It served with units of the Nebeltruppen, the German equivalent of the U.S. Army's Chemical Corps. Just as the Chemical Corps had responsibility for poison gas and smoke weapons that were used instead to deliver high-explosives during the war so did the Nebeltruppen. The name "Nebelwerfer" is best translated as "Smoke Mortar". 694 saw service from 1944–45 in all theaters except Norway.

AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder radar

Hughes AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder Weapon Locating System is a mobile radar system developed in the late 1970s by Hughes Aircraft Company, achieving Initial Operational Capability in 1980 and full deployment in 1984. Currently manufactured by ThalesRaytheonSystems, the system is a long-range version of “weapon-locating radar,” designed to detect and track incoming artillery and rocket fire to determine the point of origin for counter-battery fire. It is currently in service at brigade and higher levels in the United States Army and by other countries. The radar is trailer-mounted and towed by a 2⅓-ton truck. A typical AN/TPQ-37 system consists of the Antenna-Transceiver Group, Command Shelter and 60 kW Generator.


Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.

In its earliest sense, the word artillery referred to any group of soldiers primarily armed with some form of manufactured weapon or armor. Since the introduction of gunpowder and cannon, the word "artillery" has largely meant cannon, and in contemporary usage, it usually refers to shell-firing guns, howitzers, mortars, and rocket artillery. In common speech, the word artillery is often used to refer to individual devices, along with their accessories and fittings, although these assemblages are more properly called "equipment". However, there is no generally recognized generic term for a gun, howitzer, mortar, and so forth: the United States uses "artillery piece", but most English-speaking armies use "gun" and "mortar". The projectiles fired are typically either "shot" (if solid) or "shell" (if not). "Shell" is a widely used generic term for a projectile, which is a component of munitions.

By association, artillery may also refer to the arm of service that customarily operates such engines. In some armies, one arm has operated field, coastal, anti-aircraft artillery and anti-tank artillery, in others these have been separate arms and in some nations coastal has been a naval or marine responsibility. In the 20th century technology based target acquisition devices, such as radar, and systems, such as sound ranging and flash spotting, emerged to acquire targets, primarily for artillery. These are usually operated by one or more of the artillery arms. The widespread adoption of indirect fire in the early 20th century introduced the need for specialist data for field artillery, notably survey and meteorological, in some armies provision of these are the responsibility of the artillery arm.

Artillery originated for use against ground targets—against infantry, cavalry and other artillery. An early specialist development was coastal artillery for use against enemy ships. The early 20th century saw the development of a new class of artillery for use against aircraft: anti-aircraft guns.

Artillery is arguably the most lethal form of land-based armament currently employed, and has been since at least the early Industrial Revolution. The majority of combat deaths in the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, and World War II were caused by artillery. In 1944, Joseph Stalin said in a speech that artillery was "the God of War".

Artillery sound ranging

In land warfare, artillery sound ranging is a method of determining the coordinates of a hostile battery using data derived from the sound of its guns (or mortar or rockets) firing. The same methods can also be used to direct artillery fire at a position with known coordinates.

It is an application of sound (or acoustic) location, which is location of the source of sounds that may originate in the air, on the ground or on or below the water's surface. Sound ranging was one of three methods of locating hostile artillery that rapidly developed in World War I. The others were aerial reconnaissance (visual and photographic) and flash spotting.

A sound ranger used aural and stop-watch methods which first emerged before World War I. Stop-watch methods involved spotting a gun firing, measuring the bearing to it and the length of time it took the sound to arrive. Aural methods typically involved a person listening to a pair of microphones a few kilometres apart and measuring the time between the sound arriving at the microphones. This method appears to have been used by the Germans throughout that war, but was quickly discarded as ineffective by the western allies, who developed scientific methods of sound ranging whose descendants are still used.

The basis of scientific sound ranging is to use pairs of microphones to produce a bearing to the source of the sound. The intersection of these bearings gives the location of the battery. The bearings are derived from the differences in the time of arrival at the microphones.


The BMD-20 (GRAU designation 8U33) was a 200 mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL) created by the Soviet Union.

Blockade of Wonsan

The Blockade of Wonsan, or the Siege of Wonsan, from February 16, 1951 to July 27, 1953, during the Korean War, was the longest naval blockade in modern history, lasting 861 days. UN naval forces, primarily from the United States, successfully kept the strategically important city of Wonsan from being used by the North Korean Navy.The blockade diverted communist troops from the front line. North Korean artillery fired at the American fleet was mostly ineffective, and the city was heavily damaged by UN naval aircraft and warships.

Counter-battery radar

A counter-battery radar (alternatively weapon tracking radar) is a radar system that detects artillery projectiles fired by one or more guns, howitzers, mortars or rocket launchers and, from their trajectories, locates the position on the ground of the weapon that fired it. Such radars are a subclass of the wider class of target acquisition radars.

Early counter-battery radars were generally used against mortars, whose lofted trajectories were highly symmetrical and allowed easy calculation of the launcher's location. Starting in the 1970s, digital computers with improved calculation capabilities allowed more complex trajectories of long-range artillery to also be determined. Normally, these radars would be attached to friendly artillery units or their support units, allowing them to quickly arrange counter-battery fire.With the aid of modern communications systems, the information from a single radar can be rapidly disseminated over long distances. This allows the radar to notify multiple batteries as well as provide early warning to the friendly targets. Modern counter-battery radar can locate hostile batteries up to about 50 km away depending on the radar's capabilities and the terrain and weather. Some counter-battery radars can also be used to track the fire of friendly artillery and calculate corrections to adjust its fire onto a particular place, but this is usually a secondary mission objective.Radar is the most recently developed means of locating hostile artillery. The emergence of indirect fire in World War I saw the development of sound ranging, flash spotting and air reconnaissance, both visual and photographic. Radars, like sound ranging and flash spotting, require hostile guns, etc., to fire before they can be located.

Direct fire

Direct fire refers to the launching of a projectile directly at a target within the line-of-sight of the firer. The firing weapon must have a sighting device and an unobstructed view to the target, which means no objects or friendly units can be between it and the target. A weapon engaged in direct fire exposes itself to return fire from the target.This is in contrast to indirect fire, which refers to firing a projectile on a ballistic trajectory or delivering munitions by guided or unguided missiles. Indirect fire does not need a direct line of sight to the target because the shots are normally directed by a forward observer. As such, indirect fire weapons can shoot over obstacles or friendly units and the weapons can be concealed from counter-battery fire.

Field artillery

Field artillery is a category of mobile artillery used to support armies in the field. These weapons are specialized for mobility, tactical proficiency, short range, long range, and extremely long range target engagement.

Until the early 20th century, field artillery were also known as foot artillery, for while the guns were pulled by beasts of burden (often horses), the gun crews would usually march on foot, thus providing fire support mainly to the infantry. This was in contrast to horse artillery, whose emphasis on speed while supporting cavalry units necessitated lighter guns and crews riding on horseback.

Whereas horse artillery has been superseded by self-propelled artillery, field artillery has survived to this day both in name and mission, albeit with motor vehicles towing the guns, carrying the crews and transporting the ammunition. Modern artillery has also advanced to rapidly deployable wheeled and tracked vehicles and precision delivered munitions capable of striking targets at ranges between 15 and 300 kilometers.

G6 howitzer

The G6, sometimes denoted as the G6 Rhino, is a South African mine-protected self-propelled howitzer. It was developed as a turreted, self-propelled variant of the G5 howitzer series, mating the gun to a six-wheeled armoured chassis. Design work on the G6 began in the late 1970s to replace the obsolescent Sexton being retired from service with the artillery regiments of the South African Army. Serial production commenced between 1988 and 1999.At the time of its introduction, the G6 was considered one of the most mobile self-propelled howitzers in service. Its chassis was engineered to be mine-resistant and blastproof, allowing it to survive multiple TM-46 detonations during trials. The G6 was conceived as a wheeled rather than a tracked vehicle for this purpose, as well as to allow it to deploy long distances by road without consuming excessive quantities of fuel or requiring a tank transporter.G6s entered service during the last two years of the South African Border War, frequently shelling positions held by the People's Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) during the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. Their ability to bombard a target and change positions rapidly in less than two minutes, with minimal preparation, greatly reduced the threat posed by retaliatory Angolan air raids and counter-battery fire. A number of G6s were subsequently manufactured for export and purchased by Abu Dhabi and Oman. Export models included a specialist anti-aircraft variant with a GEC-Marconi Marksman turret and twin-barrelled 35mm autocannon.Chile briefly produced the G6 under licence as the CC-SP-45, although this arrangement was later terminated after the system was not adopted by that country's armed forces. Iraq also manufactured its own domestic variant of the G6 as the Al Majnoon with technical assistance from Canadian artillery engineer Gerald Bull, which later evolved into the much larger and more sophisticated Al Fao.


Graye-sur-Mer is a commune in the Calvados department (14) in the Normandy region, la Basse-Normandie, in northwestern France, 1.1 km from Courseulles-sur-Mer, and 3.4 km from Sainte-Croix-sur-Mer.The commune probably acquired its name from an old landed estate in its vicinity owned by a knight subordinate to William the Conqueror, Anchetil de Greye.

Katyusha rocket launcher

The Katyusha multiple rocket launcher (Russian: Катю́ша, IPA: [kɐˈtʲuʂə] (listen)) is a type of rocket artillery first built and fielded by the Soviet Union in World War II. Multiple rocket launchers such as these deliver explosives to a target area more quickly than conventional artillery, but with lower accuracy and requiring a longer time to reload. They are fragile compared to artillery guns, but are inexpensive, easy to produce, and usable on any chassis. The Katyushas of World War II, the first self-propelled artillery mass-produced by the Soviet Union, were usually mounted on ordinary trucks. This mobility gave the Katyusha, and other self-propelled artillery, another advantage: being able to deliver a large blow all at once, and then move before being located and attacked with counter-battery fire.

Katyusha weapons of World War II included the BM-13 launcher, light BM-8, and heavy BM-31. Today, the nickname is also applied to newer truck-mounted post-Soviet – in addition to non-Soviet – multiple rocket launchers, notably the common BM-21 Grad and its derivatives.

Although this type of weapon has existed since the 15th century (Leonardo da Vinci having perfected a similar machine), the design of the Katyusha may have been influenced by Giuseppe Fieschi's Machine infernale - Fieschi was honored in a religious service at a Moscow church at the prompting of Soviet General Kotskov, the inventor of the Katyusha rocket launcher.

List of field guns

Field guns are one of two primary types of field artillery. Guns fire a heavy shell on a relatively level trajectory from a longer barrel, allowing for very high muzzle velocity and good range performance. Guns are most adequate for providing long range fire support and counter-battery fire.

M110 howitzer

The 8 inch (203 mm) M110 self-propelled howitzer was the largest available self-propelled howitzer in the United States Army's inventory. Consisting of an M115 203 mm howitzer installed on a purpose built chassis, it was deployed in division artillery in general support battalions and in separate corps- and army-level battalions. Missions include general support, counter-battery fire, and suppression of enemy air defense systems. The M110 was exported to a number of countries.

SLC-2 Radar

The SLC-2 Radar is a Chinese active electronically scanned array counter-battery radar designed to locate hostile artillery, rocket and ground-to-ground missile launchers immediately after firing, and to support friendly artillery by guiding counter-battery fire.

SLC-2 radar can also be applied in adjusting firing of friendly weapons or rockets. With slight modification to software parameters the radar can also be used to detect and track low flying targets such as light aircraft, helicopters and RPVs.

SLC-2 systems have sometimes been mounted on a Dongfang EQ2102 3.5 ton truck.

Self-propelled gun

A self-propelled gun (SPG) is a form of self-propelled artillery, and in modern use is usually used to refer to artillery pieces such as howitzers.

Self-propelled guns are mounted on a motorized wheeled or tracked chassis (because of this they are sometimes visually similar to tanks). As such the gun can be maneuvered under its own power as opposed to a towed gun that relies upon a vehicle or other means to be moved on the battlefield. Self-propelled guns are combat support weapons; they are employed by combat support units fighting in support of, or attached to, the main combat units: infantry and armour (tanks). Self-propelled guns are best at providing indirect fire but can give direct fire when needed.

It may be armoured, in which case it is considered an armoured fighting vehicle (AFV). Typically, self-propelled guns are more lightly armoured and may not have turrets and their purpose is distinct from that of tanks.

The greatest tactical advantage in the case of artillery guns is clearly the greater degree of mobility they have compared to towed artillery. Not only is it important in offering military forces greater flexibility, but it is critical in avoiding attack from the enemy (counter-battery fire) by allowing the guns to change position immediately after firing one or more salvos and before their position can be located ("shoot-and-scoot" tactics). A secondary advantage in the case of – even lightly – armoured guns is the increased protection offered to the gun crews.


Shoot-and-scoot (alternatively, fire-and-displace or fire-and-move) is an artillery tactic of firing at a target and then immediately moving away from the location from where the shots were fired to avoid counter-battery fire (e.g. from enemy artillery).

Swathi Weapon Locating Radar

The Swathi Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) is a mobile artillery locating phased array radar developed by India. This counter-battery radar is designed to detect and track incoming artillery and rocket fire to determine the point of origin for Counter-battery fire.

The WLR has been jointly developed by DRDO's Bangalore based laboratory, LRDE and the Government owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). The sub-systems have been fabricated by BEL based on the DRDO designs and delivered to LRDE for integration.


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