Observers said that nearly 11 months of the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, artillery systems played a very important role in creating turning points, as the name “King of the battlefield”.
“Artillery is king on the battlefield, always has been and always will be,” said former retired major and US military expert John Spencer.
The reality on the battlefield in Ukraine for nearly 11 months has shown that, although the war has appeared a series of weapons of modern combat operations such as hypersonic weapons, and advanced drones, the role of artillery in attempts to gain control of the territory cannot be taken lightly.
King of the battlefield
From its first appearance on the battlefield in its rudimentary form, artillery began to have a turning point in future battles.
Former emperor and military leader of France Napoleon Bonaparte once remarked that: “God is on the side of the side that fights with the best artillery”.
By the 20th century, especially after the two world wars, the role of artillery was further confirmed. One of the factors that helped the Soviet Red Army win over Nazi Germany was artillery.
Artillery has great destructive power on the battlefield. The military research organization Finalbel points out that the majority of battlefield casualties in skirmishes are caused by artillery shells, not by grenades, shells and other weapons.
On the ground, artillery is the backbone of offensive and defensive efforts. For example, artillery would often be used to surround enemy forces with a barrage of fire from all sides to force them to retreat. Similarly, artillery was also deployed along the line areas, forming a protective layer to block the enemy’s advance.
Combined with reconnaissance equipment such as anti-aircraft radars, and UAVs, artillery has a powerful attack on opponents when grasping the exact location of the targets. In addition, artillery is considered low-cost firepower compared to rockets, has strong destructive power, and is difficult to intercept because of its low flight range. The cannon has enough power to attack a large area, hitting it in a rain of fire, and causing heavy damage to the opponent.
According to observers, a remarkable point in the Russian-Ukrainian war is that neither side has complete control over the airspace.
After World War II, the military doctrine of some Western countries no longer emphasized the role of artillery despite its ability to cause great casualties. The US and its allies tend to deploy highly maneuverable firearms, combined with bomber bombers above. This tactic can create a fast, long-range, flexible, low-risk attack.
But the condition is that the attacker must control the opponent’s sky, and this is not the case in Ukraine. Therefore, for many months, artillery is still considered the most important weapon of both sides in the turning point of the war.
Before the outbreak of hostilities on February 24, 2022, Russia and Ukraine had artillery stocks inherited from the former Soviet Union. Russia is a military power, so it has an arsenal of artillery that overwhelms Ukraine. However, Ukraine is also a country with strong military science thanks to its heritage from the Soviet Union, so they also possess quite powerful cannons.
Both Russia and Ukraine use Soviet artillery such as the D-30 Lyagushka towed artillery with a range of 22km; 2A36 Giatsint-B giant howitzer with a range of 40km as well as a BM-30 Smerch rocket artillery with a range of 70km.
This similarity means that Ukraine understands part of its opponent’s arsenal, as well as easily deploying confiscated Russian cannons into formation if they are intact. However, this is also a weakness because artillery requires ammunition and Ukraine’s stockpile is quite limited, making it dependent on supplies from a number of NATO countries that were members of the Warsaw Pact.
On the other hand, over the years, Russia has developed powerful artillery systems capable of wide-area attacks such as the improved 2S19M2 Msta-S, the 2S5 Hyacinth-S self-propelled howitzer, and the multiple rocket launchers. BM-27 Uragan, 240mm caliber 2S4 Tyulpan mortar. In addition, Russia also brought the TOS-1A “thermal fire god” to Ukraine with the ability to attack an area equivalent to 6 football fields, up to 40,000m2.
In the face of an overwhelming Russian force in terms of artillery potential, Ukraine has called on the West to help with NATO-standard weapons systems. Some systems can be mentioned as CAESAR 155mm howitzer (France), 155mm caliber M777 howitzer (USA), and M119A3 cannon (UK).
The most prominent complex that the West provided to Ukraine in June 2022 is the HIMARS multiple-launch rocket system. Ukraine calls HIMARS a game-changing weapon because it has destroyed numerous Russian supply lines, attacked the positions of Russian soldiers, and forced Russia to withdraw from certain strategic areas, such as cities. Kherson. It can be said that HIMARS has made an important contribution to Ukraine’s counter-offensive campaign on the whole line, creating great turning points, especially on the southern battlefield.