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Hmm. Training. Practice Practice Practice!

"All stations this net, all stations this net, CEASE FIRE FREEZE, CEASE FIRE FREEZE!"

Every artilleryman's nightmare radio call. Resulting in this crew command:

"To the rear of the piece, Fall In!"

Which, in Idaho, I guess resulted in this conversation:

"Gee, maybe this artillery stuff *is* harder than we thought, Joe."

Last year about this time, in a post since deleted, I mentioned that the Army asset managers were recalling howitzers on-loan to ski resorts for avalanche control duties - the only known (to me) commercial use of full bore Artillery in this country anyway... We were short guns and parts and it was a quick fix. Why we didn't give them some of the older guns we still have in storage, I dunno, mebbe we did. The article below uses a picture which indicates the offending piece could be an old M101 howitzer.

Apparently, we didn't take enough back... or at least we left some in the hands of local officials, without a good, grizzled Staff Sergeant in charge... At least that's what this post thoughtfully provided by Mike at Davidson's Law would suggest. The Utah Department of Transportation spokesman said:

Fitzgerald said the cannon was fired from a fixed launch site on the north side of Provo Canyon a spot above Sundance that's been used many times before. "Most of our firing is done when we cannot see the target," he said. "That's when we have avalanches, when it's storming." The blast was at least 3 miles off course. Avalanche-control operations are being temporarily suspended in Provo Canyon until officials can determine how the accident happened. UDOT blames the misfire on too much gunpowder.
I don't. I blame the gun chief, or the person who certified him. And it wasn't a misfire - but don't get me started on the article writer's flinging about the terms bomb and mortar - and howitzer... It was a charge error. And only attributable to human error. Reality check - the round *always* goes where it's aimed - you just have to make sure that where the gun is aimed, and where you want the round to land are the same place... As we see here - correct direction with wrong quadrant elevation (angle of the tube combined with the amount of force applied via the powder - and probably issues of target height in relation to the gun called 'site' in redleg-speech) caused the aiming point of the gun to not coincide with the intended point of impact...
UDOT spokesman Geoff DuPaix said the shells come pre-packaged in bundles, so it isn't clear who is responsible for using the larger charge.

I do. Whoever was in charge of the gun. Or whoever sent out the untrained crew, that's who.

Charge error? C'mon guys, you *never* pull the lanyard without counting the powder increments being held up by the guy at the powder pit, and verifying fuze setting, deflection, and quadrant! Just like this Gun Chief verifying the fuze setting before Number 1 rams the round. If you forget to do that 'round these parts, you find yourself with a new job, and the hint to start looking for a new career. Just like the guy on the left in this picture, holding up the unused charge bag in his left hand - so the Gun Chief can personally verify that Charge 6 is in the chamber - because Charges 7&8 are in the Powder Monkey's hands. Everybody in the crew has a job - and every setting is checked twice, by different people - just like the data was before it got to the gun - BEFORE YOU PULL THE LANYARD.

What? "Guy at the powder pit?" "Check the settings?" "Count the increments?" We don't need to do all that stuffy *Army* stuff, geez.

Of course, I'm assuming they even opened up a TFT (tabular firing table) or used a GFT (graphical firing table). Not that it would have mattered with a charge error of that magnitude.

While I'm relieved to know the County Sheriff is investigating, I hope they call in some expert help.

I don't think Sharon, the writer, who uses bomb, shell, howitzer, cannon, and mortar interchangeably, and refers to the firing point as a 'launch site' is going to be much use. She is at least consistent with her use of 'shrapnel'... although the purist would use 'fragments' because shrapnel, in a pure geek technical sense, is a submunition... but the language is what the people say it is, not stuffy technical quibblers like me! I wonder what Lt. (later LTG) Henry Shrapnel would think? Probably that it's way cool his family name is now a common word... Read his bio - and how the Brit gov't screwed him.

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Your Daily Gun Porn from Villainous Company on March 30, 2005 8:36 AM

John has a lovely arty post over at Castle Argghhh! I had to steal this photo as a teaser: Sheer poetry.... Read More

27 Comments

There may be other trouble down the road: Were trying to get them a 101 mm howitzer, a nonactive weapon that can shoot the same ammunition, he said. That, I hope, is a typo...either that or they're using Silly Putty rounds.
 
101mm??? I always thunk that it shot a Torpedo Thingy
 
...on top of everything else you mention, John, the guy holding the horse over to the side should have noticed something amiss. ha ha This is a case where perhaps local components of the NG should have been called in to operate the gear, or better require a recertification of these keystone cops periodically. Ugly...
 
...reality check...the round always goes where it is aimed... I nearly spit my coffee out on that one :) Nice post.
 
Three words: Loose.Obturating.Band. Result in these three words: Oh.Dear.God.
 
And of course, Bill comes up with one of the things that a crew chief might not be responsible for... along with bad powder or fuze lot. But only a bad powder lot had any real potential for a 3 mile error... Of course, when you are shooting at the side of a mountain and go high... Range to Impact becomes an issue, too. But since you don't intend to miss, you would only calculate that after you realized you missed... And how many duds do these guys get, anyway? That might be a bit of concern to skiiers and hikers!
 
Kind of reminds me of something that happened when I was a Company XO in Germany. With 1-6 IN (Mech)-Regulars, by God!-in Baumholder, Germany. We were conducting MILES gunnery, prep for live fire gunnery. We in in a training area in the far northeast corner of the Baumholder reservation. We were at least 6 km from the center of the artillery impact area, and what wind there was was blowing back toward the impact area. while were were doing our night firing, artillery flares, fired by our DS FA Bn (which shall remain unnamed) could be seen floating over the impact area to our southeast. We finished our firing, and racked out for the night. I woke up when the supply sergeant called to say he was on his way out with chow. Walking over to where the Brads were parked to wake up the CO, 1SG, and PLs, I noticed something odd in front of my track. It was a parachute from one of the flares, with what was left after the flare burnt out still attached. About 50m away, I saw another one. I'm really glad they weren't firing HE that night.
 
Oh, and Cassie - the Unit will appreciate the pic - that's a Marine crew.
 
LOB range errors are generally of the "Message to Observer: Duck" type. This'n sounds like the definitive excess powder increment story.
 
Not too mention scary to the guys in Danger Area "Echo" and beyond... Bill and I will spend the rest of the day trying to outgeek each other in artillery-speak.
 
Hmmm, either 10th Marines, 11th Marines, or 12th Marines... I can see it now, over the Fire Support Net: "Big Thunder, Snowman, fire mission, over." "Snowman, Big Thunder, fire mission, out." "Big Thunder, Snowman, packed snow, in the open, grid , shake and bake, over." "Snowman, Bug Thunder, packed snow... In the open... Who the hell is this? How'd you get this frequency? All batteries this net, check fire!" *aside* "I guess that's what happens when they put a ex-ANGLICO Marine in charge of avalanche control." (Cut me a break, guys, it's been over ten years since I executed a Call For Fire...)
 
Was there a trial first, Sergeant B? Or was the just a summary execution in the field?
 
Like John probably has, the Unit has collected several funny arty stories over the years. But I never repeat anything he tells me about work because I have no way of knowing what's OK and what's not, so I can't share any of them. But I know he'd agree with the Armorer's statement: the round ALWAYS goes where it's aimed. That's what killed me :D
 
I will never forget way back in 1986, Ft. Sill. We were doing our first live fire. I had the radio. The target was about 3k out. The guy doing the observing, says, drop 3-200. And I just sat there looking at him for a second. He meant to say 300 but before he said it, changed his mind. Needless to say, our instuctor was none to pleased with that call. But anyway, I have respect for the fire team. Keep up the good work. In case anyone cares, was in Bamberg from 1987-June 1989. I was in the Battalion toc inputting fire plans. Which is not quite as much fun as actually spotting, but was cool none the less.
 
"Reality check - the round *always* goes where it's aimed - you just have to make sure that where the gun is aimed, and where you want the round to land are the same place..." That applies to more than just artillery, but the artillery guys are the only ones who ALWAYS remember it.
 
Hmmm, can't remember, PapaBlog, the LGAMs were yelling pretty loudly at that point...
 
It's not like the people shooting this cannon just missed the target. They shot the damn thing over the top of a rather large mountain into a neighboring valley. Two things worried me in addition to the above. One, that the operators(?) of the gun said something to the effect of "well, we didn't see it hit the mountain so we figured that we missed." Huh?!?!? AND TWO, we had a HUGE snowstorm in Utah this morning ... I'm keeping my head down.
 
John- What an awesome rant! "the weapon always goes where it was aimed" You so ROCK!
 
Been there, seen it. We had a demo by our Gunnery Instructers of a quick reaction fire drill called "Battle Sabot". Our second clue to something amiss was the Gunner shouting "Wrong Lay"; the first was watching the round clear the far crest on its way to an impact some 20km downrange (fortunately, the training area fence was 45km away). The Gunner had fired an TPDS (Sabot- 1485 m/s) using the HESH (c. 950m/s) setting on the fire control computer. Not a good thing. Cheers JMH
 
Yikes! That was wa-a-a-y too close *shudder*
 
Barb - You're okay! What innell were you doing in the impact area, anyway?
 
A friend of mine used to be a reserve Canadian Artillery soldier. And got to go on a great winter posting: Avalanche Control (AVCON) at Revelstoke, British Columbia. At the time, Parks Canada or whoever it was, contracted with the military to provide gun crews and a 105 mm towed howitzer. They were fired from cement firing positions...which were on a known distance chart and they had preset firing points. As a result, they got rounds on target with minimal fuss and few rounds expended. He told me that the Parks people had replaced that sensible system with a bunch of civilians and a 120mm mortar. There has been some problems, but I'm sure it saved money... Anyways, he had a blast up there. (pun intended)
 
Maybe it would be better to issue them a couple of old Soviet 122mm D-30 gun howiters and confine them to DIRECT fire missions. Or maybe some old M40A1 RCLs.*(use only ONE kind of fixed ammunition,nothing to remember or forget) Presumably, they can fire a rifle, they should be able to handle that. Guys, if you you can't actually SEE the target, DON'T shoot at it, M'kay? I have myself seen so many people firing small arms that seem to forget that if the bullet misses its target, it still goes SOMEWHERE. Yeesh! * maybe not.. you just KNOW some yutz is going to stand behind it and get vaporized.
 
Yup, in the "obvious to anybody with half a brain" category. I mean, it's not like yer in combat, or anything. Presumably you know where the gun is, and where the target is, and have maps, and all. You can take your time and get it right. Like, there's prolly a *book* right there, with instructions, and everything! As they tell beginning carpenters, "Measure twice, cut once!" Even if they're competent to do indirect fire, shouldn't they not shoot if they can't actually see the impact area? There might be somebody there, ya know.
 
I believe the weapon choice is related to ammunition availability. I shudder to think of their ammo storage possibilities... with the implications for the powder. Pre-surveyed, permanent firing points, with pre-computed data (at the ranges these things are generally firing, excepting very strong winds, environmental variables are not going to have a huge impact. Concrete pad, with obvious alignment points for the gun. A book with data for all the points pre-computed. How hard can it be? Of course, for all we know, that may be what they have, with some minor variation. Then it comes back to crew training, or a failure to follow procedure. I could set this up for them in one week. Cheap.
 
One other possibility, along the lines of White Bag vs Green bag for the 155mm, but with a range error of three miles, I tend to doubt it. This whole scenario looks like somebody used "too much of a good thing."
 
Heh. I was sent those stories by a friend who lives near Provo and all I could think of was getting Robert Redford in a snit and disrupting the Sundance Film Fesitval. Heh.