British army artillery conducts live-fire, maneuver training at Grafenwoehr

Story by Sgt. Christina Dion

British army artillery regiment conducts live-fire exercise at Grafenwoehr
At the end of a two-week exercise, British soldiers of the 26th Royal Regiment Artillery move out of the training area and prepare the guns for railcar movement back to Mansergh Barracks, Gutersloh, Germany. The artillery regiment spent two-weeks performing day and night live-fire exercises at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area with six 45-ton AS-90 self-propelled howitzers. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christina M. Dion/Released)
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – With no showers or hot meals, no laundry facilities and no mattress for sleeping, British army artillery soldiers may have felt like they were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan again. But during this particular mission members of the 26th Regiment Royal Artillery were just training. With six howitzers and support teams, units from the regiment spent two weeks at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area honing skills in both day and night live-fire maneuver exercises.

The vast size of Grafenwoehr’s training area gave the artillerymen the ability to train at the highest level, said British army Maj. Kerry Williams, commander of the 55th (The Residency) Headquarters Battery. Although the unit is based in Gutersloh, Germany, they are unable to perform the necessary live-fire and maneuver training at Mansergh Barracks because of the range size needed for their particular weapons so they trained here.

During the two-week long exercise, the six 45-ton AS-90 self-propelled howitzers fired more than 300 90-pound, 155-mm rounds, which have the ability to travel as far as 24 kilometers, or 14 miles. Grafenwoehr is the largest training area in Europe, and the only one that has the capability for these types of large-scale live-fire maneuvers. During the exercise, the rounds were fired from the fire position to the impact area which was 9 kilometers, almost 6 miles, away.

Although much of the targeting system is computerized, safeties verify heading and fire direction against the fire plans to ensure there were no mistakes. Marks on the rear of the vehicle aligned with the front barrel give the safety personnel a marker to manually validate heading directions. Performing these checks during the day is important, but safety personnel said checking them at night is an important skill they need to maintain.

Most training at Grafenwoehr happens during the day, however since the sun doesn’t go completely down in Germany until 10 p.m. during the summer, the soldiers were unable to finish their night fire-plan missions until late. Williams said once they started the full operations, it takes about four hours to complete.

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