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A Brief History of the Field Artillery Branch


A Brief History of the Field Artillery Branch Throughout history, artillery has been used on the battlefield to overcome extreme obstacles and gain dominance. Although artillery in its beginnings was much different from today, the heritage behind it is one of which to be proud. As it began, artillery could be looked at as more of an art of engineering than that of war else. Implements of war were designed to be disassembled and moved over large distances with the assistance of horse teams. These devices included things such as the catapult, onager, trebuchet, and ballista. While these pieces are far from what artillery has become today they are still commonly considered by historians to be ancient artillery. With these ancient mechanical devices, the outcome of a battle could often be quickly decided. It was not until the development of gunpowder that artillery began to move away from the larger mechanical pieces to the devastating cannons of today. While gunpowder played a key role in the modernization of artillery, the rifling of the bore (barrel) also played a huge role. “Rifling had been tried on small arms in the 15th Century. The machinery used to accurately rifle the barrel of a cannon did not arrive until the 19th Century. Cavelli, Wahrendorff, and Whitworth all independently produced rifled cannon in the 1840’s, but these guns did not see widespread use until the latter stages of the American Civil War, when designs such as the various caliber Rodman guns came to prominence.” (The Dynamics of Military Revolution) With rifled barrels came the ability to achieve a precision that was very hard to accomplish prior to this innovation. It was already know that causing a projectile from a weapon to spin would increase its accuracy. Upon applying this to the larger caliber weapons of the time, it was found that this held true for those pieces as well. During the 1860s many rapid technological advances took place within the mechanics and theories of the artillery devices of that time, but the first cannon to contain all modern features wasn’t developed until 1897. This weapon, called the French 75 fired cased ammunition, a deviation from the previously used separate powder and projectile. The 75 also included such features as an effective breech loading mechanism that meant that it could be loaded from the rear of the cannon instead of the barrel, modern sites, a self-contained firing mechanism, and a recoil dampening system. Advances did not stop there however, and the development of more modern pieces of artillery began to take leaps and bounds into the modern age. United States artillery began at around the same time as the United Sates themselves. In 1775, Colonel Henry Knox was elected as the Colonel of the Regiment of Artillery and thus was the official birth of the U.S. Field Artillery known also as the King of Battle. Knox’s regiment became operational on 01 January 1776. Colonel Henry Knox was a key factor in organizing the Field Artillery Regiment for the United States Army. With Knox’s organization soon came the need to develop weapons on a larger scale to be manufactured and distributed in the United Sates very quickly. Before this, the United States Army used weapons seized from the British to conduct Artillery operations. Knox pushed for the concentration of a manufacturing effort in one place and he selected Springfield, Massachusetts. With this began the United States development of the field artillery. The transition of the artillery away from the older models of earlier times was a rapid one. As technology began to progress along with the development of new production ideas and techniques, it began to be possible to produce weapons that far out preformed the ones of the past. While the various sizes created in the past range from 75mm up to 100mm as well as a cannon capable of firing a 15 kiloton nuclear shell, the most commonly used artillery pieces today fire either a 105mm shell or a 155mm shell. When coupled with the technology today, these pieces are among some of the most advanced implements of war used in this age but this have not always been the case. One of the scrapped ideas of the past is the Little David, developed by the United Sates to test aviation bombs during the Second World War. The need for this weapon soon passed with the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan. ( Today the United States Field Artillery branch uses only a handful of weapons regularly. Some of these include the Paladin weapon system. The Paladin is a self-propelled machine that is used to fire many different types of 155mm ammunition. The US also uses the 777A2. While this weapon also fires a 155mm shell, it is not coupled with a mode of transport making it a towed piece of artillery. Other weapons, to include M119 and the M102, fire a 105mm projectile. While the United States Field Artillery Branch has many weapons in service today, the greatest benefit to their usefulness might come from the incorporation of the digital age into the firing process. Since the development of computer software that allows for more accurate fire mission processing at a faster rate, the United Sates Field Artillery has gotten much more deadly. When coupled with the devastating firepower of today’s newer weapon pieces the versatility of field artillery on the battlefield cannot be matched. As the US Army moves further towards the future, we will begin to see the implantation of even more advanced artillery. Rounds such as the XM982 Excalibur fall into a category called non-line of site. These rounds use GPS guidance to assist them in reaching their target with much more accuracy than ever achieved before. As more advances in technology are achieved, there is no doubt that the Field Artillery Branch will continue to grow and thrive as one of the most appreciated elements of the United States Army.…...

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