invention of gunpowder and its use in warfare, the cannon (and, later,
the gun) has become a dominant feature on the battlefield. In the last 3
centuries, the number and placement of the artillery has often been the
deciding factor in battle.
By the start of World War 1,
the artillery gun had largely disappeared from its previous position in
the front lines, although
in the first months of the war there
occasional direct fire engagements, it soon became obvious that such
exposure of artillery batteries was suicidal.
into hiding and habitually fired from behind hills and woods. As daytime
aerial observation came into use, especially from balloons, camouflage
became a fine art and, together with night firing, was used to conceal
battery locations. These precautions for self preservation by the
artillery did not occur at the expense of its basic mission of
supporting the infantry.
the batteries were now dispersed over a greater area behind the front
lines, their fire could be concentrated on any target within their
longer ranges. It was quite obvious to all armies engaged on the Western
Front that for the infantry to survive, something had to be done to
silence the guns. But first, these guns had to be located.
problem was not simple, especially under the adverse conditions in which
all military operations are conducted. Aerial observation was employed
from the beginning, both by balloon, which had first been trailed as
early as the American Civil War in 1861 and then
and Australian forces in the
and then the novel aeroplane in World War 1
(which only had its first powered flight in 1903). However, direct
visual observation was only partly effective and aerial photography was
cumbersome, slow, and unreliable.
Borne out of a need for
Artillery to enhance its supremacy on the battlefield with accurate and
timely target information, the first elements of Locating Artillery
were developed, with Sound
Ranging, Survey, Flash Spotting supplying the raw data and Counter
bombardment sections acting as collecting points for all data on enemy.
By World War II the use of
massed guns decreased with more emphasis placed on the use of howitzers
(high angle guns) and mortars. This type of weapon was, in general, far
easier to move and far easier to hide. They were an ideal weapon for
mountainous or jungle terrain therefore new methods of detection would
be required to combat this new threat.
Scientists were again testing many gadgets, where Radar and Short based
Sound ranging proved to have the potential to solve the problem.
1966 heralded in Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War,
included was a Detachment of Locators. This was a small Unit with never
more than 100 Locators in Vietnam at any given time; they would show
their versatility and ability to work in small groups throughout the
area of operation. This has become a trademark of a ‘Locator’.
the late 1960`s and into the 1970`s the emergence of the electronic
era impacted on Locating. Apart
from the introduction of the
Mortar Locating Radar there
were the electronic Gun
Calibration sections, light Meteorology Sections and sensor equipment.
Surveyors received desktop and hand held calculators to replace the
tedious long formula calculations, as well as electronic distance
The locating unit of the late
1990`s had moved further into the Electronic Era. The old
Mortar Locating Radar
had been replaced by Weapon Locating
Systems. Survey had been updated to a stage where very little fieldwork
was required and electronic equipment produced answers in minutes that
may have taken days to produce.
Surveying was possibly the most radically updated skill of all
with the introduction of electronic distance measuring devices, hand
held calculators, and satellite positioning devices, reducing the survey
work to the press of a button. Gone were the days of hand taping miles
and miles of country side and endless hours calculating the
angles and distances and the complex
formulae used from the initial known position to calculate the position
(Latitude and Longitude) of all other points in the triangulation
The end of the 20th Century,
saw the name
Locating Artillery changed to Surveillance and
Target Acquisition, with
weapon locating radars that have the ability to fix locations of hostile
guns & mortars within seconds, meteorology and survey troops with
the latest satellite positioning systems such as Global
unmanned aerial vehicles UAV’s.
As to the
future of what was Locating, we find that it may be best left to the
“Star Wars” factor unbelievable today possible tomorrow.
story of Locating Artillery and the people who contributed their
talents is contained in the book ‘Tracks
of the Dragon’ A
history of Australian Locating. This is a book about locating
written by former Locators.
brief explanation of the methods and skills that were used in Locating
- observing the gun flash and taking a
on the direction of the flash. Observations from several
positions were used to calculate the position of the gun.
Placing microphones at regular surveyed locations
to detect the sound of gunfire and then by using the time difference of
that sound as it reaches each microphone, then calculating the position
from which the sound pulse originated.
- The radar
projects an electronic beam at an object, this object may be anything
from an aircraft to a mortar bomb, depending on the role of the radar.
When the beam strikes the object (called the Target) the Radar received
an echo or returning signal. This signal carries data on the target,
which is normally decoded by a computer, and the location of the target
was then determined.
variety of equipment such as Infra-Red Thermal Imagery, Acoustic and
Seismic which were used together or separately to mount surveillance of
tracks or paths used (or may be used ) by an enemy to give early warning
of the stealthy approach of that enemy.
– Artillery Locating units had their own surveying sections responsible
for providing accurate survey information with detection equipment and
The accuracy of detection and the accuracy of the
location detected is very much related to the exact position of the
detection equipment and/or the observer. In order for Artillery Locating
units to be able to give accurate information to the counter battery
artillery, they must have accurate information about their own location.
Modern Survey equipment are
fully automated that can email point data to the office computer and
satellite positioning systems,
such as a
Global Positioning System.
Weather information is important for planning military operations and
had been carried out by launch weather balloons to record wind speed and
direction; identify the types of clouds present and estimate cloud
height and amount of cloud cover; take readings of barometric pressure,
temperature, humidity, and sea conditions; operate radio equipment to
receive information from satellites.
operation of a field artillery meteorological observation station were
able to make visual observations and take readings from weather
equipment, radar scans, and satellite photographs; plot weather
information on maps and charts; and forecast weather based on readings
and observations. This information is essential to assist the accurate
fire of the Artillery
System (GPS) - Global
Positioning System satellites transmit signals to equipment on the
ground. GPS receivers passively receive satellite signals; they do not
transmit. GPS receivers require an unobstructed view of the sky, so they
are used only outdoors and they often do not perform well within
forested areas or near tall buildings. GPS operations depend on a very
accurate time reference, which is provided by atomic clocks at the U.S.
Naval Observatory. Each GPS satellite has atomic clocks on board.
- UGS systems employ various sensor modalities including seismic,
acoustic, magnetic, and pyro electric transducers, daylight imagers and
passive infrared imagers to automatically detect the presence of persons
or vehicles, and transmit activity reports or imagery via
radio-frequency (RF) or satellite communications (SATCOM) links to a
remote Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (PED) station. The
systems are packaged for concealed emplacement in the field and for
long-duration unattended operation.
Gun Calibrationalibration is
concerned with the muzzle velocity (MV) of guns. This information is
essential for accurate predicted fire. This is now the responsibility of
the Gun Regiments.