Thunder on Glamoc plateau

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Photo: Cpl. Grant Rivalin

Capt. Benoit Guilloux
First published in
SFOR Informer#139, May 23, 2002

The purpose of exercise Balkan Gunner 5 was to practice the interoperability of the participants. For four days, Canadian and British units deployed in the Glamoc area. The tactical scenario being that a group of individuals had taken over a significant amount of ammunition and that they were to be neutralised as the discussion period had borne no fruit.

This weapon is a 105-mm towed Howitzer. It is used as indirect fire support for light forces in rapid deployment situations.
Crew size: Three to seven troops.
Weapons weight: 1.5 ton.
Range: 18.5 kilometers.
Muzzle velocity: 490 m/sec at full charge.
Traverse / Elevation: Barrel can be elevated or depressed and can traverse left or right 360 degrees.
Barrel: 105-mm with a barrel length of 30 calibres* and progressive right hand direction of twist.
Recoil mechanism: Hydropneumatic.
Retractable firing platform.
Incorporates trail opening and closing hydraulic pump.
*Calibres are the number of twists the round undertakes within the barrel.

Glamoc Range - At location Alpha 1, 24A detachment from Q Battery, the 2nd Royal 22nd Regiment of Canada, is in operation. Sgt. 'No. 1' Denis Belanger explains the firing procedure,
"We receive the co-ordinates from the command post. The No. 3 lays the gun while the no. 1 checks. We then await firing permission."
The No. 3 is Gnr Jacques Desjardins, with the sight, he enters the direction and the height. The No. 4 is Gnr. Carl Hethrington, a reservist, he loads the shell. The order just received, the shot is fired., Belanger reports, "6, shot done!"
Completing the detachment, is Gnr. Samuel Roy, No. 6, and Bdr. (Cpl) No. 7, Eric Normand. The team mans a Giat Industries LGI 105mm gun. There is a good spirit around the detachment and Belanger says jokingly.

"My boys are pretty efficient. We are simply the best detachment in NATO. That is because we come from Quebec."
As well as a good spirit there is also professionalism, Maj. Marcel McNicoll, battery commander, made that very clear.
"You shall proceed with calm and methodically, with procedures and security measures always in mind."

The Command Post
At the command post, Capt. Patrick St. Pierre, battery second-in-command, explains what is going on.
"We receive the data via radio from the observation posts, then we determine the bearing and the elevation in order to get a precise ballistic. Artillery is a lot about mathematics, with a number of factors to be taken into account: range, wind, projectile weight, air temperature, muzzle velocity and air density."

Exercise Balkan Gunner
The men of the detachment eat and chat during a short break.
"We are doing this exercise in order to acquaint ourselves with other nations and get to the same results in the end. In this instance, we are firing alongside the British," says Normand. Hethrington adds:
"It is my first exercise within NATO, and it has turned out well. It breaks the normal routine of patrols, we do around four each week. I am a reservist but will accomplish six months like my comrades from the regulars."

First delivered to the British Army in 1993, the AS90 has been purchased to equip five field regiments. It is fitted with autonomous navigation and gun laying sytem (AGLS).
Crew size: Five to eight troops.
Armour: 17 mm.
Calibre: 155 mm.
Range: (39 calibres*) 24.7 kms, (52 calibres*) 30 kms.
Ammunition carried: 48 x 155 mm projectiles and charges (31 turret and 17 hull).
Maximum speed: 53 kph; road range 420 kms.
*Calibres are the number of twists the round undertakes within the barrel.

The security officer, Lt. Julie Destrempes, visited the gun-line,
"We are firing slightly less due to the firing adjustment that is to be made with our mortar units as well as the British ones and of course the British AS90s. As to my role, I am checking that shots are made in a secure spot in accordance with the applicable shooting restrictions."
St. Pierre added,"It is the first time that Canadians have used their digital radio system with other NATO countries, which are still equipped with the analogue system, hence, showing our communication capabilities."
Just a few kilometres away, Battery B, of the Royal Horse Artillery, belonging to the UK Battle Group based in Mrkonjic Grad, is hard at work. Its Battery Captain (BK), Capt. John Lefeuvre presents the situation so far.

"We have deployed our AS90 Battery in order to fire with the Divisional Artillery Group. Basically, we provide 6 guns for Multinational Division Southwest to provide artillery support. We are practising the artillery role alongside our Canadian friends."
Next to the AS90 he commands, Sgt. John Smith, the No. 1, explains the mission. "We are going to fire quite a number of shells during the four days. It is fine so far, we have adjusted our shots and fired together."
Lt. Chris O'Halloran, from the command post is also satisfied, he says,
"We have practised before at a command post exercise in Sipovo. We had to do quite a bit of work before being able to fire together."
Lefeuvre concludes, "Despite the language barrier with our French speaking friends, gunners around the world have to some extent, similar procedures."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: UK, Canada
Training and Exercises

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Photos: Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker

Not really the place to be (Barrel of an AS90, the RHA)

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No.3's shoulder in order to check bearing and elevation of the next shot.

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Inside the AS90 turret.

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Hidden British AS90 under camouflage nets.

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The reserve gives a hand.

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At Q Battery Command Post.

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A Canadian troop clears the weapon.