ST 6-50-60 Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for
M109A6 HOWITZER (PALADIN) OPERATIONS


CHAPTER 6

UNIT DEFENSE

Survival of the Paladin platoon is best achieved by avoiding detection. Modern target acquisition and surveillance devices make it extremely difficult to completely avoid detection. However, the greater distance between individual howitzers, coupled with shoot-and-scoot tactics, should reduce the probability of being targeted and hit by enemy counterfire.

6-1. INTRODUCTION

a. Establishing the Defense:

The purpose of this chapter is to discuss defensive techniques for each of the Paladin's modes of operation. The techniques and procedures to establish a defense are the same as those in FM 6-50-60; however, Paladin tactics of dispersion and displacement complicate the leader's task of establishing a viable defense. It must be remembered that the tactical situation, guidance from higher headquarters, and consideration of the factors of METT-T dictate what specific defensive and survivability measures the unit commander will take in a particular situation. A closely grouped battery perimeter can be as effective as a well dispersed platoon defense depending upon the tactical situation. Commanders must constantly assess the benefit of survivability gained through dispersion against the command and control gained by a closed position. The flexibility of the Paladin system presents many challenges for key personnel from the battery commander to the chief of section.

b. Responsibilities of Key Personnel:

The task of establishing a Paladin defense is complicated by tactics. Leaders must adjust a defensive plan that is constantly changing with the movement of howitzers within a position. Because of this movement, it is most important that the battery commander and platoon leader identify the critical elements of the defense. Leaders must convey that information to all the members of the Paladin team. Key terrain features, high speed avenues of approach, and danger areas must be known, and it must be explained how these features effect the defense. The gunnery sergeant and the platoon sergeant must rapidly develop the plan and disseminate the information throughout the unit. The gunnery sergeant works with the battery commander initiate the plan during the RSOP. The gunnery sergeant sketches the plan on the position area map/defensive diagram. (See figure 6-1) When the unit arrives the platoon sergeant refines the plan with the approval of the platoon leader. The section chief executes the plan and provides feedback to the platoon sergeant. Interaction between the leadership and the use of SOPs and checklists are important to maintaining a strong defense. (See figure 6-2)

c. Defensive Concealment:

The Paladin's best defense is to avoid enemy detection. The ability to rapidly position howitzers in widely dispersed and previously untenable locations is the best defense against enemy counterbattery efforts. Against an air or ground threat, concealment is the best means of avoiding detection. Firing positions should be selected that allow the howitzer sections the maximum ability to hide while continuing to operate. Tree lines, wadis, and built-up areas are some of the areas which help in concealment. When the battle becomes static, camouflage discipline should be rigorously enforced and camouflage nets may be used to effectively conceal the unit.

d. Howitzer Relocation:

The Paladin is an extremely accurate indirect fire system but is not as effective in the direct fire mode. As a consequence, when located by threat armor and attacked, the section chief should report, move out of the danger area as soon as possible, and continue the mission. The POC should be notified by reports in accordance with (IAW) unit SOP. The POC forwards the necessary reports to the battalion TOC.

e. Available Defensive Weapons:

The Paladin battery has a great deal of fire power that can be trained against attackers. A formidable defense can be planned using sound tactics and the organic weapons. Defensive weapons available to the Paladin battery include direct fire by the howitzers, .50 caliber machine guns, M60 machine guns, MK 19 grenade launchers, M18-series mines, light antitank weapons and 5.56-mm rifles. Artillery fires are a key element of battery defense planning. The BC coordinates these fires through the battalion S3. Mutual defensive support with friendly units within and next to the platoon or battery position area is coordinated face to face between the commander or NCOIC of the nearby unit and the GSG, the 1SG and/or the BC.

f. SOP Responsibilities:

The BC must ensure that battery SOPs give procedures for dealing with NBC attacks. SOPs should cover protective measures, immediate action, decontamination, and reporting. Guidance for the commander is in FM 3-100.

 

 

 

 

 

6-2. BATTERY AND PLATOON DEFENSE

a. Most effective defensive method:

Battery and platoon level defensive operations are most effective when the ground threat is greater than the counterfire threat and during night operations. Conventional battery and platoon defensive operations in a Paladin battery differ little from those described in FM 6-50, Chapter 3 and FM 6-20-1, Chapter 3. Concentration of the howitzers into a battery or platoon formation increases the defensive capabilities against ground and air attack. Headquarters and the logistics element can be collocated with the firing elements to provide additional security particularly at night. Survivability moves are driven by the tactical situation.

b. Advantages:

Advantages of battery and platoon operations are as follows:

- Wire communications reduce radio signatures in the platoon and battery area.

- Security within the battery is maximized.

- Available firepower for defense against ground and air attack is increased.

- Supply distribution, feeding, and sleep rotations are easier to manage in platoon and battery-level operations.

 

6-3. PAIRED HOWITZERS

a. Coordination:

This mode enhances howitzer section defense, especially during degraded operations and hours of limited visibility. The Paladins and their FAASVs provide mutual security through interlocking fires with crew-served weapons. Paired howitzers should coordinate survivability moves with each other to ensure continued mutual defense. When FAASVs are used either in the paired configuration or in overwatch positions, they can help with security of the entire position.

 

 

 

 

b. Advantages:

Advantages of paired howitzers are as follows:

- Firing areas are better protected against ground and air attack.

- The increased number of soldiers in the area lessens the psychological factors of isolation.

 

6-4. SINGLE HOWITZERS

a. Least effective defensive method:

The section chief must be adept at applying the defensive procedures in FM 6-50-60 to establishing a local defense. The dispersion and isolation of single howitzer operations place the immediate responsibility of making defensive decisions on the section chief. He must understand commander's guidance and take action on that guidance and instructions from the POC. He must make an initial plan to displace or fight from his position and develop the plan with the platoon sergeant. The SC and the ATC must work together to establish an effective defense. The ATC bears a large responsibility to defend the howitzer, particularly when the howitzer is firing. The SC and ATC must make effective use of cover and concealment. Entering a position, they must scan and clear the immediate area, identify danger areas, avenues of approach into the position and an egress to an alternate position or rally point.

This mode of operation is least preferred; however, it is very effective when the counterfire or air threat is greater than the ground threat. Defense against ground threat suffers, since the maximum number of crewmen available for single howitzer defense is nine. Mission and crew rest requirements make it difficult to provide observation posts (OPs) and listening posts (LPs).

b. Advantages:

Advantages of single howitzer operations are discussed below.

(1) The single howitzer mode limits enemy detection because of the small firing signature. In case of enemy counterfire, the potential loss and damage may be limited to the individual howitzer and possibly the FAASV.

(2) The smaller signature makes detection of individual howitzer difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 6-1. Defensive diagram.

Battery Defense Checklist

H - HOUR ACTIONS COMPLETE

Accurate RSOP

Prepare positions/pickup point

Occupy: Lay/Safe Battery

Assign Sectors of Fire/Est. Timeline

Coordinate w/POC for HOW;UPDATE

Emplace Fighting Positions

Test/Emplace M-8 Alarms

Complete Range Cards

Assign Time Line/ Priority of Work

Complete Pos Map/Defense Diagram

Clear Fields of Fire

Camouflage Vehicles

Hasty Fighting Positions/Rollover Pits

Mass Casualty Plan Established

Commo to All Perimeter Positions

Ammo Redistributed As Needed

Defense Diagram to Bn

Wire Staked and Buried

Sleep Plan Established

Fighting Position Improvement/Overhead Cover

PMCS Completed/2404's Turned In

Rehearse Reaction Plan, NBC Teams,

Casualty Evac., Crater Analysis Teams

Test/ Reposition NBC Equipment

Recon Route to Aid Station

All Mines (M18A1) Emplaced

All Wires Buried (If used)

Fighting Positions Completed/Camouflaged

Inspect/Preposition MOPP Gear

Update Unit on Tactical Situation as Necessary

Personal/Crew Served Weapons Cleaned

Rehearse Direct Fire/Tank Killer Teams

Technical Rehearsal of Fire Plan

 

 

Figure 6-2. Example of Defensive Checklist.