What are the types of indirect fire?
“Artillery is a god of modern war” Joseph Stalin
Indirect Fire Capabilities
Indirect fire is aiming and firing a projectile without relying on a direct line of sight between the gun and its target. Aiming is performed by calculating azimuth and inclination, and may include correcting aim by observing the fall of shot and calculating new angles. Modern armies use mortars, howitzers, and multiple rocket launcher systems to attack their enemy with indirect fire.
Recently, Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence said “This is an artillery war now.” He went on to say that Ukraine is firing 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day while the Russian forces are firing 50,000 to 60,000 rounds per day. As the LA Times reported, “This is the conflict in Ukraine now: a pitiless artillery war, the kind perhaps not seen since the days of endless trenches and gouged terrain that marked World War I. Less strategy than slugfest, both sides lob barrage and counter-barrage over a see-sawing front line and hope to still be standing when they pulverize the other side into either submission, or at least a crushing withdrawal.”
Since the war has changed into an artillery slugfest, it is helpful to understand the capabilities of the Russian and Ukrainian mortars, artillery, and multiple rocket launch systems. As you would expect, both sides rely heavily on former-Soviet designed systems — 122mm mortars, 152mm howitzers, and 122mm Multiple Rocket Launcher systems. Here is a deeper dive into each system:
A mortar is a “short-barreled, muzzle-loading artillery piece that fires explosive projectiles at low velocities, short ranges, with high, arcing trajectories.” The primary Russian mortar system is the 2S9 Nona, a 122mm mortar, which can be towed or self-propelled. The Nona can fire High Explosive, white phosphorus, smoke rounds, and laser-guided munitions like KM-8 Gran out to a range of 8,000 meters (4.97 miles). I estimated that Russia has approximated 600 (6x 2S9 Nona systems in each BTG x 100 BTGs) 2S9 systems deployed in Ukraine. Each mortar system is estimated to be firing 19-20 mortar rounds per day. Using this math, it would mean the Russians a firing a total of 12,000 mortar rounds per day across the entire front. According to the Oryx website (see below), Russian forces have lost 25 mortars of all types since the war began.
I suspect that Ukraine is employing mortar systems, but there is little discussion in the media on their systems, capabilities, or employment.
Howitzers or Cannons
The primary Russian howitzer is a 152mm howitzer. The towed version is the 152mm 2A65 Msta-B. The self-propelled version is the 2S19 Msta-S. Both systems can fire High-Explosive, cluster munitions, and the Krasnopol precision-guided munitions at ranges up to 30,000 meters (18.4 miles). Recently, Henry Schlottman (Twitter @HN_Schlottman) estimated that Russian forces had between 650 and 1,000 howitzers of all types and calibers employed in Ukraine. He also estimated that each howitzer was firing 30 to 35 rounds per day. Using this math, it would mean the Russian military is firing approximately 27,000 rounds per day across the entire front. According to the Oryx website (see below), Russian forces have lost 167 howitzers of all types since the war began.
Ukraine also relies heavily on the 152mm howitzer, as well as new howitzers donated by western nations. Ukraine is estimated to have 250 to 600 howitzers of all types and calibers employed in Ukraine. Schlottman also estimated that each tube is firing 10-20 rounds per day. Using this math, it would mean the Ukrainian military is firing approximately 5,000-6,000 rounds per day across the entire front. So far, Ukraine has lost 76 howitzers of all types over the past 4 months.
Multiple Rocket Launcher
A multiple rocket launcher (MRL) is a type of rocket artillery system that contains multiple launchers which are fixed to a single platform and shoots its rocket in a volley. The primary Russian MRL is the BM-21, 122mm system, whose nickname grad means “hail.” It can fire its 40 rockets with high explosive, white phosphorus, or cluster munition warheads up to 20,000 meters (12.4 miles). Recently, Henry Schlottman estimated that Russian forces had between 400 and 650 MRLs of all types employed in Ukraine. I estimated that each MRL is firing 40 rounds per day. Using this math, it would mean the Russians are firing approximately 21,000 MRL rocket rounds per day across the entire front. According to the Oryx website (see below), Russian forces have lost 167 MRLs of all types (including the 4 TOS-1A) since the war began.
The other interesting Russian MRL is the TOS-1A, Heavy Flamethrower System, which is a Soviet 220 mm 24-barrel multiple rocket launcher capable of using thermobaric warheads, mounted on a T-72 tank chassis. A thermobaric warhead is a type of explosive that uses oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion. The fuel–air explosive is one of the best-known types of thermobaric weapons. The Russians lost 4 of these weapon systems early in the war.
Ukraine also relies heavily on the BM-21 122mm MRL, as well as other MRLs, like the US donated HIMARs. Ukraine is estimated to have 150-200 MRLs of all types and calibers employed in Ukraine. I estimate that each MRL is firing 20 rounds per day. Using this math, it would mean the Ukrainian military is firing approximately 3,500 rockets per day across the entire front. Since the war began, the Ukrainian forces have lost 19 MRLs of all types.
Indirect Fire Losses
Compared to the amount of tanks, BMPs, and BTRs the Russian Army has lost in the war. Its indirect fire losses have been significantly less. Here is the breakdown of Russian mortar, artillery, and MRL losses since the war began:
Bottom Line: Although the Russian military has lost 269 mortars, howitzers, and MRLs. Furthermore, Russia has plenty of artillery assets available. And large quantities of ammunition to fire out of them for the foreseeable future in Ukraine. This war will remain an artillery slugfest throughout the summer.
Written by Dave Fivecoat
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