OT (?) artillerymisfire

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If OT still interesting. Wasn't there a media posting about a test missle that missed its target by 100 feet or so recently? Any thoughts from artillery experts? Text below:


Jan. 28, 2000, 10:47PM

Firing practice on hold as Army probes blasts

KING (AP) -- Artillery practice will be suspended at Fort Hood until investigators figure out how four stray shells exploded near a ranch northeast of the sprawling military reservation, Army officials said Friday. There were no injuries in Wednesday night's hourlong barrage, but the explosions damaged several houses on the ranch and left craters and pieces of shrapnel in the yard of Joan and Robert Shoaf, just north of Fort Hood. "I heard this terrible noise, and I was on the side that it hit," Joan Shoaf told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "I jumped out of the bath tub. I asked my husband what the noise was. He said he saw shrapnel everywhere." The houses suffered damaged roofs, shattered drywall and cracked foundations from the blasts, Shoaf said. Her husband called 911 after the shelling, and Coryell County authorities notified Fort Hood of the incident. "I got to realizing how close to death we had come," Shoaf said. "It could have blown up our house." Army officials said the live 155 mm Howitzer shells were fired from M-109A6 Paladin howitzers at the base, nearly eight miles to the southwest. Fort Hood spokeswoman Lt. Col. Mary Ann Cummings said base officials are cooperating with local authorities to determine how the accident happened. The base is also conducting an investigation of its own, she said. She said Fort Hood officials don't know how long either investigation will take. "The bottom line is we're very committed to the safety of the community," she said. "Fort Hood has always been a good neighbor, and we want to continue to be good neighbors." Army officials surveyed the area in Blackhawk helicopters. They continued their investigation Friday. Robert Shoaf said an Army colonel flew in to apologize for the incident. "That's not quite going to cut it," he said. "We've lived out here 70 years, and we've not had to be afraid of anything," he told the Killeen Daily Herald. "Now we have to be afraid of this all the time. I've had two strokes, and it doesn't take much to excite me." There have been at least three other reported live-fire incidents at Fort Hood since 1993. Three Texas National Guard soldiers died in 1993 when they accidentally were fired on by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. In July 1998, two AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopters were accidentally fired on by a Bradley crew. Three months later, a soldier was killed when he was struck by two bullets fired from an M-16 during a training exercise.

-- charlie in houston (cml@workmail.com), January 29, 2000


Must have been exciting for these folks. Murphy's law lives.

In 1944 in live-fire training with artillery at Camp Maxey, the infantry company on our left took about 90% casualties from a batch of shells that were mistargeted -- they were supposed to hit about 100 yards ahead of the troops, but dropped on the company instead. Later we were told the Army expected a 5% casualty rate in training.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), January 29, 2000.

In January 1995, in the Oklahoma Hills (out of Camp Gruber,) I was the radio op for our Field Artillery Battery Commander, sitting in a jeep with him on top of a high hill off to the right of the battery's direction of fire, during training. My commander was acting as FO (Forward Observer), directing fire by radio back to our Battery Executive Officer, Lt. Ganz from Flushing, NY. Things were going according to normal until all of a sudden an eight-inch (diameter) howitzer shell came winging over us about 20 feet above the jeep (We could tell where the path was 'cause we could see a red trail behind it as it passed by. Scared the livin' unowhat out of us.

A moment later, another similar round. Then another.

The Captain grabbed the mike and roared at the E.O. -- "Cease fire, you &^%$#@(*)!!! (conservative translation.)

Fortunately altho the rounds landed some 800 yards off their target they didn't hit any of our Infantry boys in the dugouts.

The next day our Lt., who among other interesting gambits used to steal our lunch rations when we were out all day bivouacing in the snow and slush, was 'shanghai'd': on his way to Adak in the Aleutians -- a fate nearly as bad as receiving a posthumous Purple Heart.

Does sh*t happen in the military? You bet. Was this incident some New Development In Our Infrastructure, worthy of a post on Y2K? I can't see how.

Doomer Bill

-- William J. Schenker, MD (wjs@linkfast.net), January 29, 2000.

Just got back from looking up howitzers. You gunners might assess relevancy of this material: "The M109A5 self-propelled howitzer provides an affordable increase in firepower, as either a new production vehicle or an upgrade. The M109A5 is easily customized to specific mission requirements, including increased ammunition storage, improved ammunition handling, position and navigation systems, and automated fire control and communication systems". Don't have the resources or knowledge to know if the M109A5 means more or less advanced than M109A6 or if the systems referred to are electronically controlled. Good observation on the infrastructure.Thanks for the feedback. If no computerized system components , you're correct. Posting is OT.

-- charlie in houston (cml@workmail.com), January 29, 2000.

Accidents like this are humorous when they don't cause casulties. Unfortunately, from experience, I know these things happen far more frequently than you are told.
My first time I got wounded was from absorbing some 81mm mortar splinters from a National Gaurd unit that dropped 6 'short rounds' in our AO. To say the least its disconcerting. Im glad those folks were not hurt. (You can bet some Captain or LT is loosing his ass over this)
Unfortunately this trend will continue as the budget for "real time live fire" gets cut. In order for the guys to do this stuff right, they need more steel-to-steel contact to get it down pat. These simulators and shit just ain't gonna cut it.

-- Billy Boy (Rakkasan101st@Aol.com), January 29, 2000.

When I was in the Army I was a "gun bunny" on the M109. Back in 1970 the standard formation was called a lazy W, six guns staggered across the field, when we pulled into the area the chief of smoke or the XO would lay the guns, that is line them all up on the same compass heading.

Today, as I read, the gun batteries can break up into two gun groups and scatter over the terrain and then target via computer/satelite hookup. The guns no longer need be in a lazy W formation. This affords the battery greater protection against counter battery attack. They can set, shoot and move before the enemy can target them. Before satelites and computers we could do this in a few minutes but we had to be together in the lazy W formation with all guns laid together.

The only computer we used in 1970 was the Fire Direction Center Computer. They did all the calcs, wind, rain, location of target, time on fuze, powder charge, quadrant & deflection, that is elevation of the gun tube and the compass direction.

-- Mark Hillyard (foster@inreach.com), January 30, 2000.

The M109A6 paladin looks like its earlier M109 predecessors, but inside it's quite a bit different. The fire control system is automated and tied in with an automated fire direction system coming from the Fire Direction Center. The Army threw its slide rulers and protractors away a couple of years ago, as well as it's projectile ballistic reference books and now relies entirely on its automated systems. I think this increases our vulnerabilities, but the systems work most of the time.

I have no idea what might have caused those misfires; it could be something as simple as someone entering the wrong grid coordinates into the fire control computer. There are redundant automated checks within the system, but it's possible that a verification check missed the error too. There are no more manual backup checks(see above).

Unrelated, I remember watching an AH-64 helicopter shoot a Hellfire missle in Germany several years ago. It was a big deal, because these missiles are so expensive, they don't get shot for practice very often (only 2 missiles were shot by this entire battalion in a whole training year.) This particular missle was an old model that the Army was getting rid of by expending them in training.

The missile left the launch rail, one of its guidance fins apparently failed, and it promptly turned 90 degrees and flew towards the neighboring German town. I think it impacted outside of some German farmer's house. Needless to say, the pucker-factor was pretty high there for a few minutes. No one shot any more Hellfires at that range for the rest of that year.

-- gun bunny (falldown@go.boom), January 31, 2000.

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