Broadly defined, the term “artillery” refers to machines designed to propel missiles or projectiles of any kind.
Broadly defined, the term “artillery” refers to machines designed to propel missiles or
On the battlefield, artillery is used to provide either direct (when the target can be seen) or indirect (when the target is not visible to the firing weapon) fire against enemy troops, vehicles, or installations. Artillery may also be used for general bombardment, the interdiction of supply routes, illumination via flares and other pyrotechnic devices, the screening of friendly forces via smoke rounds, the delivery of atomic warheads, and defense against enemy air attack. At sea or in a coastal defense role, specialized artillery serves to destroy enemy ships or aircraft and to bombard land targets. Artillery units use a wide variety of specialized ordnance, including antipersonnel, antiarmor, nuclear, chemical, high-explosive, and proximity fuse.
However, the promise of battlefield artillery could hardly be denied.
These victories stimulated considerable innovation in ordnance, and throughout the 1500’s experts tinkered with a wide variety of ammunition. Most cannon fired solid cast-iron round
Artillery took a great leap forward in 1537, when Italian mathematician Niccolò Fontana
It was an age characterized by arms races between designers of guns and fortifications and between leaders seeking ways to use field artillery more effectively. Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian
Another quantum leap in artillery organization took place in the early 1600’s, when King Gustavus II
These advances spurred even more improvements in artillery. In the 1690’s the Dutch fielded the first true howitzers, and Swiss inventor Jean de
This explosion of new ideas and technology encouraged battlefield innovation, and Frederick the Great of
In France, Inspector General of Artillery Jean-Baptiste Vacquette de
Chevalier Jean Du
Across the Channel, Englishman John
That importance was threatened by the growing prominence of rifled infantry weapons in the early 1800’s.
Most armies, however, were slow to adopt rifled artillery and infantry weapons on a large scale, and smoothbore
That understanding finally came after the Franco-Prussian War
These new guns fired extremely heavy shells, demanding more research into the problem of
Other late nineteenth century improvements in artillery included the development of smokeless powder, high explosive rounds, better fuses, and, by the 1890’s, the widespread use of metallic cartridges for ammunition. Each invention represented an enormous leap forward in destructive power and range for artillery weapons, and armies struggled to develop new ways to utilize them. Most organized their big guns into a separate artillery branch and placed them at the disposal of division- or corps-level commanders, because the great range of artillery prohibited its use too close to the battlefield. That distance, however, required gunners to learn how to use artillery in an indirect role, supporting units by firing at targets they could not see, and the limited communication technology of the period made such a role difficult at best.
These events set the stage for World War I
During the interwar years refinement of the
In World War
After World War II, artillery units struggled to adjust to the nuclear age. Tactical nuclear
The Krupp arms manufacturing company’s exhibit of a massive cannon at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Within conventional artillery, the United States found that during the Korean War
The United States also found a need for lighter pieces that could be carried by aircraft to support airborne and air mobile forces. In the 1950’s it therefore developed a 75-millimeter pack howitzer and 105-millimeter and 155-millimeter towed howitzers suitable for air transport. These guns were used with great effect during direct American involvement in the Vietnam
As the Vietnam conflict ended, the 1973 Israeli-Arab October
All of these advances, along with the use of next-generation RPVs and sophisticated fire-control
As armies evolve into the twenty-first century, artillery promises to play a vital role on conventional battlefields, with computers and advanced ordnance producing faster rates of fire over greater ranges with astonishing accuracy. Like their counterparts in centuries past, however, the artillery of the future will have to balance performance with speed of movement, lest it find itself unable to deploy to trouble spots around the world in a timely manner.
A gun crew of the Sixty-fourth Artillery Battalion, Twenty-fifth Infantry Division, fires a 105-millimeter howitzer on North Korean positions in 1950.
By the nineteenth century, most advanced countries boasted coastal fortifications equipped with these cannons in brick and stone emplacements. The United States joined in this effort by building twenty-four forts equipped with more than 750 guns along the Atlantic coast between 1806 and 1811. By the late 1800’s, breech-loading guns were dominant, with guns placed in disappearing barbette carriages and hidden behind or beneath concrete walls.
These cannon were arranged along the gun decks on both sides of sailing ships and fired through ports in the side of the hull, which could be closed in inclement weather. Naval architects designed several classes of
The relative stasis in naval gun design was shattered in 1858, when the French launched
Naval designers then had to decide where to place their armor-piercing guns and how best to protect them with armor plate. Some chose to place their guns at either the front or rear of their ships, while others adopted the
By 1874 the English were deploying ships with 12.5-inch muzzle-loaders in turrets weighing as much as 750 tons, and the growing size of turrets required hydraulic and mechanical power to rotate them. As breech-loading guns became dominant in the late 1800’s, designers sank turrets down into the hulls of ships and used compressed air and water to cleanse gun barrels, interlocking doors to separate ammunition storage from firing compartments, and pressurization to reduce the risk of accidental explosion. They also developed machines to take over the process of loading ammunition, and by World War I
These ships required sophisticated targeting systems to account for the great range of their guns, as well as for their own movement and the movement of their targets. Naval designers therefore placed fire-control centers high up in the masts and control towers of ships to allow a good view of targets and gave these centers control over the firing of guns in all turrets. During and after World War I these fire-control centers were aided by observation aircraft and fired at such great range that they had to account for the curvature of the earth in their firing computations.
During World War II battleships reached their zenith, when the United States and Japan utilized ships with guns as large as 16 and 18 inches, respectively. Rather than playing a primary role in the naval battles of the era, however, these great ships were eclipsed by aircraft as the dominant weapon on the high seas. They served primarily as antiaircraft and shore bombardment platforms and were retired after the war as aircraft and guided missiles replaced them. Although U.S. battleships were brought out of retirement so their great guns could bombard distant land targets during the Korean War
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