Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#143, July 18, 2002
On July 2, Mortar Coy 'La valanga' (the avalanche) from
the Italian Battle Group (IBG) performed shooting exercises
at Resolute Barbara Range in Glamoc. 'La valanga' Mortar Coy
is one of the 'Tolmezzo' Battalion in Italy, which was the
concept for the formation of the 14th Alpine Regiment, the
base of the IBG.
Glamoc - The mortar company is made up of three platoons.
However, to accomplish the mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina
(BiH), the regiment has deployed just one of them. Every platoon
has four mortars. Capt. Dino Mora is the Mortar Coy commander:
"We have here just a platoon. A Battle Group is formed
in order to fit the mission, so we brought to BiH one platoon
and it is under direct control of the IBG Task Force commander,"
he said. "Every platoon has four squads, in the line
of weapons, one for every mortar. The other squad is the observation
team and at last, another one acts as a fire director centre."
The mortar used here is a 120-mm Otto-Melara, which is a light
model, just 95 kilograms, because these are mountain troops.
This mortar is a smooth bore, muzzle-loaded, high-angle-of-fire
weapon system. It is the ground mount version, which is the
lightest and most movable one.
The 120-mm mortar is capable of providing close, continuous,
accurate and responsive indirect fire support to manoeuvre
unit commanders in covering force and close combat areas of
the battlefield. It is also capable of providing target and
battlefield at night and during other periods of low visibility.
It can also fire smoke-screening missions. This type of mortar
can shoot at a minimum range of 600 metres to a maximum of
According to the executive order, 'Tolmezzo mortar' exercise
should have been a total heli-insertion one. However, due
to technical problems, it was that way just for personnel,
and not for equipment. The movement of personnel was done
from Rajlovac helipad by AB-205 Italian helicopters. Once
the mortars were set up on the fire position, frenetic activity
appeared. Mortarmen were setting camouflage nets over the
guns, laying the ammunition for the exercise, etc.
The usual fire with mortars is indirect fire, which means
that target can not be seen from the fire position. But it
is possible to direct fire at Resolute Barbara Range; therefore,
Glamoc has a good capability for training. That is one reason
why the troops are so excited, they will be able to see the
shells on the targets. First Lt. Antonio Cesare is the Mortar
Platoon leader: "This is a very good range for us. Its
capability for us is compared to the one we use in Sardinia
Island," he said.
Also called the fire director centre in other units, it is
a squad made up of a sergeant as a leader and a few other
men. They are in charge of transforming data sent by the forward
observer team into firing data for mortars. Also, they manage
radio nets, such as command and fire nets. All orders are
sent in english, as NATO procedures marked. Cpl. Giuseppe
Pilloni is the fire net radio operator. "I speak with
the observation team through this net. I receive data from
the observer, in english, and from this data my partners in
the team make the appropriate calculations to get data for
the mortars. I also tell the observers the time of fly of
the shell to make it easier for them to watch the moment of
the impact," he explained.
This team usually deploys with rifle company commanders. The
sergeant leader of the team is in charge of the acquisition
of targets for the mortar platoon. It is done by means of
call-for-fire NATO procedures. For that exercise, the observer
was on a hill with a very good view of the target's zone.
Sgt. Giuseppe del Grosso was the forward observer for the
exercise. "Theoretically, the observation can be made
from ground or from helicopter, with one or two observation
teams, but for this exercise we will be very near the platoon
because this is a very good range, and it is just an exercise,"
"From our position we estimate grid, altitude and range
to the target, and also the shape and composition. Those data
are passed by fire net. We also deal with the fire adjustment,
which are several rounds used to centre the fire on the target.
After that we observe the effect of the fire and we move on
quickly to another position," said del Grosso.
At the firing line
Targets appeared and the whole process began. The forward
observer called by fire net to the fire director centre with
the data of a target. The calculating team quickly transferred
the data to the line of mortars. "We simulate we are
supporting a rifle company of our regiment, which is our real
mission. We will shoot targets that the forward observer points
out to us," said mortar platoon leader Cesare.
One of the mortars of the platoon is called the main weapon
or pivot gun, which is the mortar represented at the calculating
team board, as the geographical centre of the platoon. That
weapon deals with the adjustment or ranging of the fire so
that it will be the mortar that shoots two or three rounds
before the others. After that, once the fire is over the target,
the platoon will perform a fire for effect, which is a certain
number of shells per weapon, to obtain the desired effect.
Corporal Daniele Carluccio is the main weapon team leader.
"We try to adjust the fire within as little shells as
possible so the other mortars can shoot with the data obtained
by us. The observation team adjusts our rounds over the target.
There is a direct link between our weapon and the observer,
the effect we produce," he underlined.
Bomba alla volata! Attenzione! Fuoco!
After a few shells were shot by the main weapon, the whole
platoon put rounds on target. Every mortar squad leader ordered
his crew: "Bomba alla volata! Attenzione! Fuoco!"
(Shell in the tube, attention, and fire). The same words went
along all the fire line with mortar-men involved in a vibrating
movement. Men aiming the mortar through the dial sight, others
levelling the weapon after every round, and others carrying
the shells to the barrel. And then, thumbs up and the squad
leader again ordered fire. Again and again.
They put rounds downrange with pinpoint accuracy at a blistering
Training, and again training, is always the key of success.
Nations of SFOR: Italy
Training and Exercises