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Big Guns

By Cpl. Diego Bunuel
First published in
SFOR Informer #97, September 27, 2000

Glamoc - The broad tracks of the three AS 90s of the Chestnut Company dug deep into the black earth, flinging mud pies to the side of the road as they raced to set up their artillery battery on a slight slope. Their guns, 155 mm from the 1st Royal Horse Artillery Regiment, the biggest in Bosnia and Hercegovina, raised their monstrous muzzles skyward and waited for the instructions from the forward observation post on the other side of the hill.

Eyeing his target from the turret of his modified warrior, the "OP" called in the co-ordinates. The objective lies on the steep, rocky flanks of a mountain range a few kilometres away.
At the artillery position, the four gunners manning the AS 90 snapped into action.

The mechanical arm shoved in the 96-pound shell with lightning speed. The three-foot long charge then followed.
"Safety down," shouted Bombardier Paul Preston, his finger slightly above the red steel button that would send the round in the air.
"Fire." The massive carcass of the gun rocked smoothly backward, the shell was on its way.

Inside the gun's turret, the detonation sounded muffled. But the blast ripped the air like the crack of a whip and resonated as it bounced off the surrounding hills.
The first shells scratched the limpid skies with a sliver of smoke before crashing and spreading massive blinding clouds.

Then a dozen of high explosive shells relentlessly pounded the area with enormous explosions and deafening booms.
"These guns are designed to be on a fluid battle field," said Sgt. Mark Graham. "We call it shoot and scoot."
Capt. Matthew Birch agreed: "We're off before any enemy battery can spot us.And these guns are great because you can take them anywhere. If we went into a real war this is the gun you want."

In BiH the Chestnut Company has the responsibility of making available three of its guns and deploy them anywhere on a six-hour notice to move, explained Maj. Neil Marshall, the battery commander.
With a firing rate of three shells in under 10 seconds and a maximum range of 24.7 kilometres, the AS 90 is a formidable opponent on the battlefield.

But during such exercises a whole logistical group comprised of an MT unit, a quartermaster and an equipment support unit along with a recovery system, follows the battery everywhere they go.
The crews said they enjoyed this exercise because the weather was different than in England, the range was bigger and it gave them more discretion at to where they could fire.

Under the autumn skies in western Bosnia where the backdrop of sunburnt wheat fields cut out the silhouettes of men, dwarfed by the size of their guns, the firing went on.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK
Exercises and training