Field artillery units are essential components of military ground forces, and their role is to project cannon, rocket or missile fire on enemy positions or destroy military installations, including enemy artillery batteries that threaten friendly infantry units. Artillery pieces are also found aboard naval ships, and their purpose is to inflict damage to enemy naval vessels or coastal enemy positions, or to provide suppressive fire during naval infantry operations. However, the Army and the Marine Corps are the branches that are traditionally associated with artillery batteries. An artillery gun piece such as a howitzer, a rocket launcher or a surface-to-surface missile launcher is manned by an artillery crew that may consists of up to five members. The howitzer cannon is the classical example of an artillery weapon that requires a crew for its operation. Artillery crew members may perform various tasks such as operating transport vehicles, setting the howitzer at its location, inputting target coordinates into the gun settings, loading the howitzer with ammunition, and firing on enemy positions according to received coordinates.

Artillery crew members are enlisted soldiers or marines. Currently, this position is closed to female personnel. The operation of an artillery howitzer is a complex task that requires several components that need to be integrated. The crew of a howitzer usually does not see the enemy position on which they execute artillery fire. The artillery pieces are organized in batteries, that are located deep behind infantry positions. Forward observers are the ones who actually visualize the target and relay target coordinates to a fire control center, which transforms the data and computes gun parameters that are introduced by artillery crew members into howitzer settings. The artillery crew also receives permanent feedback that allows them to adjust the fire according to the input received by the forward observer. After coordinates are received and transformed into gun settings, the howitzer is loaded with ammunition and fire is executed. It may take up to five crew members to ensure a smooth operation of a howitzer, but in crisis situations, fewer crew members may operate the artillery piece.

Next: What does an Artillery Crew Member do?

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