Are we seeing the end of Close Air Support?

Two videos, a recent one from Raytheon on the Excalibur guided 155mm artillery round and an older one from Lockheed Martin on GMLRS

and

Consider the deployed infrastructure requirements, capital and through life costs for this

On June 14, 2012, F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. BF-2 flew with an AIM-9X Sidewinder inert missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25 mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard internal weapon bay.
On June 14, 2012, F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. BF-2 flew with an AIM-9X Sidewinder inert missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25 mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard internal weapon bay.

versus this

The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA.
The final pre-acceptance trial of the GMLRS (Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System) at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, USA.

and this

Merlin Helicopter Light Gun Royal Artillery
Merlin Helicopter Light Gun Royal Artillery
The M777 155mm howitzer
The M777 155mm howitzer

Makes one think

 

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S O
S O
January 15, 2014 8:22 pm

A-10 fanbois will claim that an A-10 can strafe more close than a grenade or missile can be dropped (safely).
I don’t think that’s a necessity. only Americans seem to feel this necessity somehow.

Instead, I claim that eyes in the sky will remain very useful even in CAS. We’ll see if drones will pull this off over contested ground against a capable enemy.

BTW, the M777 is a very poor choice of a launcher. all-round traverse SPGs are much better.

Phil
January 15, 2014 8:38 pm

We’ll see if drones will pull this off over contested ground against a capable enemy.

We’ll see if manned planes can. My guess is they won’t.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 8:42 pm

I think we could be getting close to binning FJ CAS, with things like excalibur, GMLRS and hopefully PG Mortars, coupled with javelin and exactor.

Mix it with AH and as long as your are within the bubble its reaction time is minutes rather than tens of minutes. Plus cost savings per round and logistics.

Keep the FJ doing what it dose best interdiction and CAP, with the odd small diameter bomb dropped in CAS when its really needed.

Observer
Observer
January 15, 2014 8:48 pm

On the other hand, planes are immune to counterbattery fire and have a much longer range (80km for the MLRS), a single plane can cover more area than a battery of artillery. Add this to the fact that no one deploys artillery right on the front line, you can probably assume a reach into the enemy battle area of only about 40km. Aircraft also have the advantage in that MANPAD systems issued to infantry and armour are few and diffused on the forward edge of the battle area, only when they get deeper into brigade or division level areas will they start facing much more significant anti-air capabilities.

It was never an either or situation, but 2 systems complementing each other.

Phil
January 15, 2014 8:51 pm

How many guns does an F35 buy? How many rounds of ammo for the logistical effort of supporting a flight of F35s? There’s no competition in my mind. FJ CAS has its place (a niche place), but whether it needs to be delivered by the likes of an F35 is another question again.

Rocket Banana
January 15, 2014 9:02 pm

What about stand-off CAS weapons?

Not sure if they exist yet, but the idea of an F35 launching a cluster munition from 100 clicks isn’t that mad.

What about a Perseus enhancement with multiple “effectors” launched from jet or ship?

Love the Excalibur video though. I did tend to wonder how vulnerable the launch platform is though.

Pete Arundel
Pete Arundel
January 15, 2014 9:06 pm

I can see this being the end of conventional gun artillery too. Guns are expensive but ammunition for them is cheap. Once the ammunition starts getting expensive (and a guided shell is going to be expensive) then Multiple rocket launchers start to look more and more attractive. The launchers are cheap and light and guided rockets are a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to make than guided shells.

Phil
January 15, 2014 9:09 pm

Guns are expensive

Are they? Considering how long they last and how little they cost in on-going maintenance and operation I don’t see them as that expensive at all. To train a gun crew is far cheaper and quicker than training a couple of pilots and the groundcrew for a flight of F35.

Multiple rocket launchers start to look more and more attractive

They do but conventional artillery is not particularly inaccurate and weight of fire has a quality all of its own.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 9:12 pm

‘It was never an either or situation, but 2 systems complementing each other’

At the moment yes but FJ numbers are dropping and they are getting more expensive with every generation (prohibitively so) why waste it moving mud on the FEBA when other assets could eventually do a similar job.

Aircraft are not vulnerable to counter battery fire, but they are vulnerable to counter attack, Bastion springs to mind immediately along with SCUD type missiles.

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 15, 2014 9:13 pm

All hail the dawn of precision guided NGS…

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 9:15 pm

‘All hail the dawn of precision guided NGS’

Yes even begrudgingly that too ;-)

jamesf
January 15, 2014 9:15 pm

Observer,

Agreed – can’t see the Air Cav getting out of Idrang valley in one piece without it, even in this day and age (although they might have tapped into Ho Chi Minh’s cellphone and worked out what was awaiting earlier) – CAS gives theatre wide rapid response, close support artillery – even at 80km ranges – still only gives tactical rather than operational flexibility. Beyond that the poor beastie has to trundle on its tracks/wheels, or find a convenient C-17 (or even Chinook in the case of guns) to reposition – by which time the battle has been lost.

Depends upon the kind of war you are fighting, I guess and how willing the enemy is to play on your 80km pitch.

wf
wf
January 15, 2014 9:17 pm

: MRL’s can produce a shedload more weight of fire than guns. Their big disadvantage is the volume required for resupply…but if you are firing far fewer, that’s less expensive.

@Simon: WTF is the point of an F35 launching CAS weapons from 100km away? It’s going to take 10 mins to arrive.

Phil
January 15, 2014 9:24 pm

MRL’s can produce a shedload more weight of fire than guns

Swings and roundabouts. MLRS can fire 12 rounds and then a full re-load. Tube artillery can fire for far longer than 12 rounds. Do artillery barrels overheat?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
January 15, 2014 9:27 pm

Personally I like the AC-130 for CAS, maybe even just a cargo aircraft loaded up with missiles.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 15, 2014 9:29 pm

Or go to the other extreme, a stealthy B-52++ that can drop 100 x 1000 lb dumb bombs, but accurately enough to wipe out an enemy force in its entirety in a given notional box.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 9:31 pm

Do artillery barrels overheat?

I don’t know about overheat as in an LMG barrel but they are restricted to a certain number of rounds per minute for constant firing to prevent damage to the barrel.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 9:33 pm

Or go to the other extreme, a stealthy B-52++ that can drop 100 x 1000 lb dumb bombs, but accurately enough to wipe out an enemy force in its entirety in a given notional box.

Is that CAS or interdiction?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 15, 2014 9:37 pm

As per usual we are arguing extremes when actually systems compliment each other. If you are stuck doing an evac 200km behind the front line or inshore and are trying to hold a perimeter then the 2 systems shown in the video are f all use.
If you are defending a desperate perimeter and no other land for 80km then the 2 systems in the video are f all use.
Yes in a situation where we can safely have these mounts within range of the place that fires are required they will become more and more useful, cheaper and hopefully a quicker response time but they are not the 1 answer. No single system ever is.

So yes CAS will play a declining role but air power will still be important in providing support in circumstances where the heavy kit has not arrived, is not in range or for raids/other ops.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 9:42 pm

First I think we need to define what we class as CAS, myself its along the FEBA everything further out than that becomes interdiction.

Except of course when supporting CSAR and SF.

Phil
January 15, 2014 9:47 pm

I am sure reams of airpower doctrine have been written to define CAS but it’s simply the dropping of ordnance on an enemy in contact with our forces or about to imminently be in contact with our forces in order to directly assist those forces.

wf
wf
January 15, 2014 9:50 pm

@DavidNiven: sustained rate of fire for 155mm tends to be 2 rds/min. AS90 can burst 3 rds in 10 sec and do 6 rds / min for 5 mins, but sustained rate is low.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 15, 2014 9:50 pm

@ David Niven

The US JP on CAS is very specific when it sets it out as

CAS is air action by fixed-wing (FW) and rotary-wing (RW) aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces, and requires detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.

“Close air support (CAS) can be conducted at any place and time friendly forces are in close proximity to
enemy forces. The word “close” does not imply a specific distance; rather, it is situational. The requirement for detailed integration because of proximity, fires, or movement is the determining factor.
At times, CAS may be the best means to exploit tactical opportunities in the offense or defense. CAS provides
fires to destroy, disrupt, suppress, fix, harass, neutralize, or delay enemy forces. “

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 9:52 pm

Artillery in all its guises is faster and more responsive to your call than aircraft, even if they are shooting and scooting its comparable to FJ times of reaction.

Considering the improvements in accuracy of these systems would it now be possible to reduce the number of airframes required for the CAS tasking and only calling on them when its getting desperate or for taking advantage of an opportunity?

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 15, 2014 9:56 pm

4.5″ Mod 1 – 14 rounds a minute. Shot, splash, out.

Phil
January 15, 2014 9:58 pm

There’s also the fact that when artillery is called to fire, it can fire (and then peg it) – it doesn’t have to worry about defeating other defences first before it gets to what needs to be killed.

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 15, 2014 10:02 pm

Don’t forget FireShadow as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_Shadow

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 15, 2014 10:05 pm

So no definition mentions location at all which leads me back to my point about different systems for different situations. No 1 system is ever the answer :)

Phil
January 15, 2014 10:05 pm

CAS is action by fixed and rotary wing aircraft against hostile targets requiring detailed
integration with the fire and movement of friendly forces for targeting guidance and to
avoid fratricide.

ie, “fuck! that was close!”

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 10:08 pm

Cheers WF & APATS,

RAF definition is just waffle personally CAS is calling on aircraft to destroy targets on the ground that were expected but locations not known, such as an advance to contact you are expecting something to be there you just don’t know what and where.

If the positions were known beforehand then you would hit them at the beginning of H hour and to my mind that becomes a planned target.

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 15, 2014 10:10 pm

Danger close, first round at right 500, add 800, at my command, VT in adjust, spotter adjust, over!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 15, 2014 10:16 pm

@ DN

So you know better than the RAF and the US doctrinal definitions?

Phil
January 15, 2014 10:18 pm

So you know better than the RAF and the US doctrinal definitions?

What’s the FAA definition…?

jamesf
January 15, 2014 10:19 pm

The number of airframes has already been drastically reduced for a given effect due to PGWs, surely? These are only going to get better so to get the same effect as a TFG of F4s in Vietnam probably only requires one or two airframes (with much less collateral damage). The same can be said of almost any airpower element. Of course the platforms and weapons are exponentially more expensive to develop and procure, so not many savings there. If you think we bought 200 Jaguars and 200 Tornados and 175 Hawks between 1974 and 1984, but they were all basically trucks for lugging iron, with the most basic (by today’s standards) of targeting. In the last ten years we have bought maybe 90 Typhoons and upgraded 100 odd Tornados (of which 40 will be left by next year). But each one is now so capable, and so well kitted out with PGWs for both CAS and interdiction, that they could probably do a much better job than the 1980s fleet – although not a cheaper one.

I think the real issue will be how to do CAS (in support of UK or allied forces) at very long ranges from UK – in places like Libya, Mali and (God forbid) Syria. This is where tactical fast jets fall down, unless they are on carriers. I do think some sort of Taranis evolution will eventually provide a very long range (intercontinental), survivable UCAV that could do both CAS, interdiction, surveillance and even nuclear strike from rear areas bases (in UK or places where force protection is not an issue) by loitering close to the combat zone. But that’s for the distant future. Next-up F-35.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 15, 2014 10:19 pm

@ Phil

Can we have some jets please :)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 10:29 pm

@APATS

Not when it comes to operating aircraft, but
‘aircraft against hostile targets requiring detailed
integration with the fire and movement of friendly forces for targeting guidance and to
avoid fratricide’
Really they have to state that? if aircraft are used full stop does the airspace already need to be deconflicted, regardless? Avoid fratricide, so in all other cases they don’t bother?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 15, 2014 10:34 pm

@ DN

You know as well as I do that they are talking about the fact that fratricide is more of a risk as they will be dropping much closer to friendly forces than they would otherwise. The situation may be confused as CAS is often called when the shit hits the fan. Targeting guidance could be as simple as directions from popped smoke or 2 way with a FAC. Notice for having new fast mover in the airspace will also be minimal in many situations as they respond to a “call”.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 10:38 pm

@APATS,

‘CAS provides ground or amphibious forces with firepower in offensive and
defensive operations, by day and night, to destroy, suppress, neutralise, disrupt, fix or delay
enemy forces in close proximity to friendly ground forces’

So whats wrong with just saying that?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 15, 2014 10:41 pm

@DN

They are the RAF ? The panel though it needed extra words?
Still hate that they tag Space on at the end of their publication. Do they watch no sci fi, you never see a space air force.

dave haine
dave haine
January 15, 2014 10:44 pm

I have an ex-harrier (GR3A) pilot turned B767 captain friend who has always claimed that it’s only close air support if you can shower your own side with bits of the enemy….anything else is strike.

Really though, wouldn’t CAS be better defined by response time? i.e. an aircraft on standby just behind the the front, ready to be called in to what ever target is required by the ground force commander.

I can imagine that to the ground force commander, all that matters is how quickly the effect can be delivered. If that is by artillery, excellent. if greater effect is needed and ground force commander feels it needs to be by an aircraft, then so be it.

In all of this the ‘waffle’ from the RAF recognises that it has to be integrated with the ground forces.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 10:44 pm

@APATS,

Your not wrong, and probably took 8 drafts to get to the end product!

Mark
Mark
January 15, 2014 10:45 pm

Provided it uk troops were giving cas to. These systems aren’t what’s replacing fastjets in cas it reaper and the like that’s doing that. In afghan tornado responds over hundreds of miles from a single location you need lots of artillery and lots of logistics vehicles to support an equivalent. All of which matters little we have so few fastjets left there will be very few to do cas in a gulf war or afghan style operation so they had better hope this type of thing works as advertised.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 15, 2014 10:48 pm

Serious head on

Yes, I know, unusual for RT.

CAS is critical when you need it. I’ve called for CAS a dozen times in a hot shooting war.

I could not give a crap where it came from, whether Army, Navy, RAF, or as in a couple of times in Gulf 1 from the USMC.

Does it work? Can you speak the same language in terms of grid references or do you need to convert to Lat Long? Can you get it to me NOW! as opposed to wait for ten minutes?

A little now is better than a lot later.

What matters is the C2 arrangements and rapidity of effect, not whether it is delivered by plane or rocket. You can’t much tell the difference on the ground.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 15, 2014 11:02 pm

Really though, wouldn’t CAS be better defined by response time? i.e. an aircraft on standby just behind the the front, ready to be called in to what ever target is required by the ground force commander.

Agree with you there.

In all of this the ‘waffle’ from the RAF recognises that it has to be integrated with the ground forces.

Do they really have to state that? its called close air support.

Dunservin
Dunservin
January 15, 2014 11:06 pm

“What’s the FAA definition…?”

It’s all in the doctrine:

BR1806 – British Maritime Doctrine (Third Edition 2004)

http://www.da.mod.uk/colleges/jscsc/courses/RND/bmd

Close air support (CAS) Air action against hostile targets which are in close proximity to friendly forces and which require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces. (AAP-6)

AAP-6 Edition 2013 – NATO GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND DEFINITIONS

http://nsa.nato.int/nsa/zPublic/ap/aap6/AAP-6.pdf

close support / appui rapproché CS
That action of the supporting force against targets or objectives which are sufficiently near the supported force as to require detailed integration or coordination of the supporting action with the fire, movement, or other actions of the supported force.
Related terms: cross-servicing; mutual support; support.
01 Mar 1973

close supporting fire / tir d’appui rapproché
Fire placed on enemy troops, weapons, or positions which, because of their proximity present the most immediate and serious threat to the supported unit.
Related terms: fire 3; supporting fire.
01 Mar 1973

jamesf
January 15, 2014 11:16 pm

What happened to Fire Shadow anyway? Seems to me its key weakness is that you launch the thing on spec, and if it turns out you don’t need it there is no way to get it back in one piece. Do we think Exactor was procured in preference (as at least you only lose a round if you mean business)?

Phil
January 15, 2014 11:21 pm

I was just rattling the dark blue cage.

APATs deftly spotted my mischief and didn’t bite.

But interesting info.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 16, 2014 12:06 am

@TD

In fairness the FAA definition is from a 2004 publication when we still had Sea Harrier. The RAF definition is from a much later publication now on its 4th Edition so until the FAA actually operates jets that provide CAS and looks at the doctrine I would keep your toys inboard :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 16, 2014 12:21 am

@TD
The FAA definition is the same as the US one but when you boil them down they all mean exactly the same.I t is all about proximity and integration.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 16, 2014 12:55 am

I will withhold judgement until the RN release a new version when we have F35 but no, we use a lot of different words for a whole host of things, the actual doctrine is the same.

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 16, 2014 2:34 am

Panic over – BMD was reissued in 2011. It’s now a fraction of the size of the old one and a lot clearer. Fewer pictures though :-(. It’s now called JDP 0-10 instead of BR1806 and has been aligned much more closely with existing Joint, Land and Air doctrinal publications. Specific definitions such as CAS have been removed and instead AAP6 is used. The AAP6 definition is:

close air support / appui aérien rapproché
CAS
Air action against hostile targets which are in close proximity to friendly forces and which require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.
Related terms: immediate air support; indirect air support; on- call mission; preplanned air support; tactical air support.
01 Mar 1973

Observer
Observer
January 16, 2014 2:42 am

Back to the topic at hand, you need both air-delivered firepower and gun/tube delivered firepower as they each have their own fields they excel in. For airpower, nothing beats their theatre level response time and because of their speed, a single unit can cover a lot of territory which might make it more economical if you consider the number of guns needed to cover the same area, but payload is a problem. Conventional artillery on the other hand, is slow, short ranged in comparison but very very persistant and as Phil pointed out, can bypass defending units to hit rear areas. It may even be more precise than CAS due to the closer degree of integration between 2 army units close to each other as opposed to a cross service liaison.

Be realistic, there is no way one can take over the job of the other. You’re stuck with a 2 tier CAS/artillery system for the foreseeable future.

As for unmanned, my opinion is that the utility of CUAVs and the like have actually hit a plateau and cannot be practically developed further. If the rational is that the use of unmanned vehicles puts less lives at risk in strike missions, why not simply send a Tomahawk in the first place?

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 16, 2014 3:15 am

Observer,

TLAM – up to £750,000, consider flight time from launch platform and need for specific targeting authority. Large warhead, risk of collateral. Hugely complex targeting planning process and no 2-way link to guide it in – fire and forget.

Fire Shadow – cost unknown but a lot less than £750,000 per round, engagement time in minutes (seconds if on task), no complex targeting chain of command, theatre level weapon, could easily be guided by the pongo on the ground as he watches the target all the way in to the strike. Smaller weapon, lower collateral damage. Considerable growth potential for sensor, accuracy, loiter time, even recovery and reuse.

I think there’s scope for another tier yet.

Mercator
Mercator
January 16, 2014 3:23 am

A 500lb JDAM with glide kit has a notional range of 40 miles from altitude. So provided someone can pass on an accurate lat/long to the right people, someone should be able to deliver a weapon at relatively low cost from quite a way back on your side of the FEBA. Maybe it’s a fast jet. Maybe it’s a high-end UAV or a low-tech bomb truck version. Or maybe just a plain old P3 someone took out of the boneyard, loaded up with about 10 such weapons and ask them to do slow orbits about 20 miles back from the action. I guess it will depend on the level of air threat.

No doubt artillery and mortars will pick up some of the tasking, but I don’t think low-cost bomb delivery like that described above is completely out of the question.

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 16, 2014 5:33 am

The problem with fast jet CAS is responsiveness, it’s good in Afg because CAS a/c are flying cbt air ptls. If you don’t have USAF on hand then all bets are off and you are in the hands of the air tasking system. This takes time and there is no guarantee that you will have the necessary priority. Obviously this is not a notably viable system for engaging an enemy you don’t control. During the Cold War I don’t think the Brit army in Germany expected to see much CAS, which is one reason they didn’t bother to train all FACs they were supposed to have, and FACs are expensive to train and maintain current. Arty obsvrs and mor fire controllers are much cheaper.

Your CAS prospects are far better from teeny weeny airways (AKA AAC) because they are under army formation HQ command and will respond promptly in accordance with the commander’s priorities, you are not dependent on what queen crab had for breakfast. Of course AAC may be at greater risk from enemy SHORAD. While this might be in the hands of inf and tk soldiers in some armies (the implication being lower competence) it is not the case in all armies (eg UK).

Of course the key problem is ‘close’. PGMs of any type reduce the risks very significantly, but are expensive and this means qtys are more limited. How many you can fire at once depends of organisation and planning. GMLRS lnchrs carry either1 or 2 pods and are organised into troops/platoons of 2 or 3 lnchrs, ie carrying between 6 and 36 msls, and there are 2 or 3 troops in a bty. That said, arty comd & control procedures mean that any gun or lnchr within range of a target can potentially fire at it, it doesn’t matter who the ‘owner’ is, this is why artillery has tactical missions such as ‘direct support’, ‘general support’, ‘reinforcing’, etc. In Afg UK has used 9 GMLRS msls in one simultaneous attack. Of course precision targeting currently uses a special US application, one of the issues being the differences between spheroid, geoid and terrain surface, which requires some fancy maths to deal with something akin to non- rigidity of the trajectory.

With conventional artillery (& mortars) if the target is closer than 5-600 metres from own troops then special procedures have to used (the distance is significantly greater for naval gunfire because their shells go all over the place). These procedures mean that opening rounds have to fall at least that distance away which slows down the engagement. Of course the inf, etc, comd can always accept greater risk to speed things up. However, course correcting fuzes are becoming available, these are much cheaper than precision munitions and give a CEP of about 10 metres (the published trial information suggest a lot less). This means that it should become possible to drop initial shells (there’s no current suggestion to use them for mortars) pretty much as close as you want to own troops, although the risks are a bit complicated and concern angle of descent and the line of fire relative to own troops which determine fragmentation patterns.

Quite a lot of tosh I talked about rates of fire. Some guns, eg 25-pr and AS90, are constrained in the number of rounds they can fire in a short time with their largest propelling charge. The problem is barrel overheating, at lower charges it doesn’t exist or is far less of a problem. The real issue is what effect you want. If it’s casualties then you need to get lots of shells down in the first 10 seconds (although you may have longer with airburst fuzes and terrain that doesn’t offer much protection), either by a high rate of fire or using lots of guns or both. However, if you are after suppression then sustained firing may be needed (it depends how long you want to suppress for), but you don’t need a lot of rounds, about 2 shells per 100 sq metres per minute should be more than enough.

Which leads us back to CAS, not bad at causing casualties (but the 10 sec rule applies), crap at suppression. PGMs need point targets to destroy, waste of ammo for suppression. Suppression is what allows your ground troops to manoeuvre and defeat the enemy, or close with them with the jolly old bayonets fixed and popping grenades into holes.

PS just changed computer and now have working spell checking :-)

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 16, 2014 7:23 am

Traditionally CAS has worked quite well when planned in advance, typically 24 hrs in advance, which is OK if operations are moving very slowly and it is possible for ground forces to plan in this sort of timeframe, which is optimistic in mobile warfare . In Afg Combat Air Patrols have been available and the intensity of operations has been sufficiently low that CAPs can provide prompt support on demand. You probably wouldn’t want to bet on CAPs always being available.

During the Cold War the Brit army in Germany seems to have assumed that CAS would be unavailable, despite the Harrier force. Probably because the air tasking system was assessed as insufficiently responsive and there were never any guarantees of support. Evidence of this is that the army never trained all the secondary FACs they were supposed to have and held equipment for.

This is probably one of the reasons leading to AAC armed heli. AAC units are under army formation commanders and respond to their priorities and can provide CAS quickly. Of course AAC heli may be more vulnerable to MANPADS, but AAC are masters of tactical flying to minimise the risk. (It has been said that the best tactical pilots were former infantry and armoured NCOs, they have a good eye for the ground)

MANPADS may be less capable when operated by inf and armd troops, but in some armies (eg UK) it is operated by specialist AD units who are properly connected to get the Recognised Air Picture alerts, which will help against CAS, with sub-units normally assigned to leading battlegroups and deployed a tactical bound behind the leading elements.

It’s useful to understand that any form of fire support can do two things to some extent. The first is destruction of targets including causing casualties. Until precision munitions destruction has been easier said than done, particularly against point targets. Of course with immobile targets you can just keep at them until you get lucky. For casualties, most occur in the first 10 seconds of attack, after that it’s the law of diminishing returns unless the targets have no available protection, lying down vastly reduces the vulnerability to impact fuzed munitions, you need a hole against airburst, and if there are a lot of airbursts you need protection over the hole (more chance of a fragment entering the hole).

The second effect is area suppression, this lasts as long as the attack lasts, plus a minute or two. Suppression stops the human target doing what they should be doing. In enables manoeuvre troops to manoeuvre and if necessary close with the enemy with bayonets fixed and popping grenades into holes.

PGMs are excellent against point targets, but mensuration can be laborious and requires special software to deal with the issues around spheroid and geoid differences. CAS may have a limited duration for sustained suppression.

UK developed procedures for using GMLRS to support troops in contact. I think the largest ‘concentration’ they’ve planned and executed was a simultaneous attack with 9 GMLRS. Of course artillery C&C arrangements mean that any gun or launcher in range can engage a target, this is why arty has tactical missions of ‘direct support’, ‘general support’ and ‘reinforcing’, it enables principles of war such as flexibility and economy of force among others. Just for the record GMLRS can have launchers with 1 or 2 pods organised in troops/platoons of 2 or 3 launchers and batteries of 2 or 3 troops. UK also has dumb MLRS warheads with AT-2 scatterable anti-tank mines.

For artillery and mortars ‘close’ means a target within 5-600 metres of own troops (naval gunfire is more despite having smaller shells). Special procedures have to be used, which slows down the engagement, although the supported commander can always accept more risk to speed it up. The bottom line is that you can adjust rounds to fall as close as you want, with increasing risk, although this depends somewhat on factor such as angle of descent and the line of fire relative to own troops. However, all this will change, Course Correcting Fuzes are becoming available, these are not full precision, but reduce the CEP to under 1o metres. They should remove the need for the current special procedures for close targets.

Finally, some guns are limited in the intensity of firing. The problem is barrel overheating, it occurs when firing with the largest propelling charge and affects both 25-pr and AS-90. However, it isn’t a problem at smaller charges. That said, firing high rates of fire for more than a few minutes runs into human performance constraints. However, high rates of prolonged fire aren’t required. Most casualties occur in the first 10 seconds of an arty attack, that’s about how long it takes for the targeted to take cover, using airburst will increase casualties. To increase the number of rounds just increase the number of batteries firing. For targets that are vulnerable to shell fragments and aren’t going anywhere a lower rate of fire for longer to fire more is OK . For suppression you don’t need many rounds, 2 rd/min per 100sq metres should be more than enough.

wf
wf
January 16, 2014 7:34 am

One of the advantages of rockets is their ability to modify their flight trajectory slightly. The US has an “urban” mode to ATACMS that uses a vertical dive.

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 16, 2014 9:09 am

Pre-previous post is mine, not sure how I managed to become Undefined.

Rocket Banana
January 16, 2014 9:19 am

wf,

WTF is the point of an F35 launching CAS weapons from 100km away? It’s going to take 10 mins to arrive.

5-6 minutes, which is as fast as any jet.

Which is only 2-3 times longer than the Excalibur shell to 40-50km.

Zaitsev
Zaitsev
January 16, 2014 9:52 am

Surely it depends on what type of war you want to fight. If you’re the British army in Normandy then this system is going to be perfect. You are advancing small amounts in each attack and so it is easy to bring the artillery up to support you. However if you’re the Americans in the invasion of Iraq, then your advance is going to rapidly outstrip your artillery all the time and you are going to need more CAS. Admittedly I don’t know a huge amount about the logistics of moving artillery. I’m sure one of the benefits of this system however is that it means less of your logistics is taken up hauling artillery shells, so perhaps this allows the self-propelled artillery to keep up with your advance more easily, but would it irradiate the need for CAS or is the nature of artillery such that its always going to lag behind a fast paced advanced? I would also worry about relying on GPS munitions as it does seem to be a bit of a weak link (Vulnerable to jamming, interference or anti-satellite weapons).

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
January 16, 2014 10:53 am

I don’t think this spells the end of aircraft for CAS but it may be able to use other assets more frequently to allow the airframes to do other taskings. If Tornado is replaced by F35 then that means a multirole aircraft will be replacing one that is purely air to ground. The multi role aircraft will be required to do other missions as well as CAS/Strike.

Could we have maintained our air contribution to Herrick if the aircraft were required to do other missions in addition to CAS on a constant basis.

Lets also not forget that most weapons dropped by FJ for CAS are pretty large pieces of ordnance, I’d rather hit a tree line with a few rounds of precision guided airburst artillery or mortars than a 500lb paveway.

a
a
January 16, 2014 12:18 pm

Would be nice if we had something like Netfires NLOS as well – palletised self-operating missiles in boxes. No heavy logistics tail required, can be moved by any airframe or ground vehicle, crew requirement of zero.

I can easily see UCAVs taking over more of the CAS role, but only if we can assure a completely friendly sky and EW environment; present-day UCAVs can’t survive against hostile FJ or, really, any sort of air defences.

The reality is, though, that FJ CAS is going to be around for a long time yet, because we have all these FJs fitted for CAS and what else are we going to do with them?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 16, 2014 2:01 pm

@SR

Dunservins link was to the AAP-6 definition as well. So we have not changed it. We use NATO definition the RAF write their own.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
January 16, 2014 2:12 pm

Fireshadow was canned. The British Army purchase of guided 155mm projectiles. cargp 155 projectiles with smart AT submunitions and the long range rocket (ATACMS) were also either cancelled or postponed indefinitely. There may well be a guided or course corrected 81mm mortar round at some stage, but AFAIK none has even been trialled by the BA and in service systems elsewhere are 120mm or larger which the BA does not employ.

Dunservin
Dunservin
January 16, 2014 3:01 pm

@TD

“Is it not still a current doctrinal publication though? I blame both equally and I bet the army has another definition, so carry on.”

You asked for it:

Army Doctrine Publication – Operations

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/33695/ADPOperationsDec10.pdf

d. Attack. …AI [Air Interdiction] is carried out at such a distance that detailed integration with land forces manoeuvre is not required. Second, Close Air Support (CAS), which provides pre-planned or immediate action against hostile targets. CAS requires detailed integration with the fire and manoeuvre of land forces for targeting guidance and to avoid fratricide. Coordination and integration is the responsibility of ground-based forward air controllers. CAS provides land forces with firepower in offensive and defensive actions, by day and night, to destroy, suppress, neutralise, disrupt, fix or delay an adversary, often in close proximity to friendly forces.

@APATS

“Dunservins link was to the AAP-6 definition as well. So we have not changed it. We use NATO definition the RAF write their own.”

As evident above, the Army write their own too. To be fair, the definitions / explanations of CAS all stress the same key points: close proximity to friendly forces and the need for detailed integration / coordination. While the lengthier and more parochial Army and RAF versions are similarly worded, the maritime version replicates the US and NATO definitions. The FAA, at least, doesn’t appear to need reminding “to avoid fratricide” or that the enemy can be attacked by day and by night. Perhaps these provisions have been stipulated by the H&SE? ;-)

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 17, 2014 2:20 am

@ Z
Despite the hype manoeuvre forces do not rush off at such a pace that artillery cannot keep up. Like arty these forces also need fuel, ammo and rest.

Ammo loads carried in arty units vary quite a lot between nations, and UK’s battery holdings have always been larger than most. If you want to do some arithmetic, AS-90 carries 42 rds on board, in the old 8 gun btys (used in the invasion of Iraq) there were 12 IMMLC DROPS vehicles per battery each with a flatrack of 10 ULCs, each ULC held 17 complete rounds. The btys also had their own rough terrain forklifts for moving ULCs around if necessary. The logistic system ran flatracks through to the regimental ammo point where the bty DROPS vehicles collected them. MLRS btys also had a lot of DROPS vehicles, but in their case with DROPS trailers.

The arty problem used to be that it took 10 – 15 mins (in UK, some nations being notably more ponderous) to get a battery into action, and somewhat longer to get it to a higher state of survey that was consistent across all batteries. Guns could come into action from the line of march quite quickly, a few minutes, but survey (fixation and orientation) were somewhat rough and ready, and doing it at night was a real challenge. This started to improve when PIM (a gyroscopic orienter) was issued to batteries in the mid ’60s. It improved again when PADS (gyroscopic orientation and fixation) entered service in 1980, these were both battery level devices.

The big change started with MLRS where each launcher had its own integral ‘PADS’ connected to the fire control and laying system. AS-90 also had this and similar arrangements were retrofitted to all light guns by 2001 (UK arty was ‘all-digital’ a decade before the US). What this meant was that a battery on the move could be in action, day or night, from the line of march within a couple of minutes or so with fixation and orientation on what used to be called ‘theatre grid’, which you need for accurate predicted fire and for multi-battery engagements. Standard, more deliberate deployments were obviously a lot faster as well. Equally important it allowed new tactics when the counter battery threat was high. (No, not so-called’ ‘shoot & scoot’ which was the tactic used by nuclear arty.)

PIM = Precision Indicator Meridian
PADS = Position and Azimuth Determining System

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 17, 2014 3:02 am

APATS, so yet more evidence then that the Army and RAF are incapable of thinking outside their own boxes?

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 17, 2014 6:37 am

@ Observer

re GMLRS SPLL locations.

Traditionally the rule of thumb was that batteries applied a 1/3 – 2/3 rule, ie they deployed 1/3 planning range behind the FDL/FEBA/FLOT or whatever you want to call it this week. Give or take a few km this was normally OK. I would expect SPLLs to do this, but of course the planning rg applied is dumb ammo because UK retains AT-2 warheads. Hence I would expect SPLLs to be roughly 10km behind fwd main body troops (ie not recce), assuming a GMLRS planning range is 70km (and substantially more has been achieved in actuality) then reach is more like 60km not 40km. In UK planning range is about 90% of FT max range.

Zaitsev
Zaitsev
January 17, 2014 10:09 am

Thanks that was very informative. I was under the impression that the main problem with moving your artillary was the logistics train moving up resupplies of ammunition. I may be wrong but does artillary not use alot more ammunititon than the rest of the force? It probably varies with the types of conflict. However I had not considered that alot of the ammunition heavy tasks for the artillary are going to be unrealted to the CAS mission they are replacing, in which case they could keep their precison guided rounds in reserve while using conventional rounds for normal bombardment. This way even if the logistic train got streched the artillary could still be relied apon for a CAS type role. (I realize that artillary has probably being doing the CAS type role long before aircraft, I only use the term to differentiate from the role artillary ussally plays, and the role it might play if it was using precsion gudided weopons in such a way that the CAS aircraft became unneccasrry).

dave haine
dave haine
January 17, 2014 11:43 am

@SR, APATS
I think it more demonstrates that the Army and RAF are at least singing off the same hymn sheet, unlike the Navy…….

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 17, 2014 12:11 pm

@ David Haine

It might do if the RAF and AAC definitions were the same.

SomewhatRemoved
SomewhatRemoved
January 17, 2014 2:40 pm

Dave, fair enough. It’s not like the Army or RAF have to work with NATO, or other alliances for which NATO doctrine is at the core. That would be, umm, just about every other Western ally on the globe then.

Observer
Observer
January 17, 2014 6:34 pm

Obsvr, is that tube or rocket artillery? Tube yes, one bound behind, but I was under the impression that the 155s were deployed even further back from the tube artillery. The 60km range estimated is probably correct though. 20km behind the FEBA, 10km behind the traditional tubes.

Now if only we can get a manpack radio with an 80km range, most I know only hit 40-50km. Vehicle sets can carry a booster, so their range is longer, but the poor recon are already overloaded enough that asking them to lug a booster pack along might be too much. They get by this by dropping a rebro station mid way between the objective and their company HQ.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 17, 2014 6:45 pm

If & its a big if, we end up in Afghan type conflicts (small British contingents taking on irregular insurgents) then may be light artillery that even small units can take with them. Thinking of the Oto Melara M56 pack howitzer, that was bought way back for UK forces. 105mm short barrel, weight 1290 kg, can be towed by a 4×4 Jeep type vehicle. No it does not have stand off range, but 10 km is plenty for the role envisaged. Darn sight cheaper than expensive guided munitions or fast jets.

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 18, 2014 3:34 am

@Observer

Well, manpack VHF does tend to be a bit range limited, which is another reason not being too far from the guns. However, footborne observers are perhaps less common than they were, but auto re-broadcast from manpack to observer’s vehicle then onto a more powerful vehicle mounted set has been around since WW2 and used by UK arty since that time. Then there are HF manpacks which will give you long ranges with skywave, although HF tends to less bandwidth hence lower data rates if you are using digital comms. Not forgetting that satcom manpacks are widely used by FSTs in Afg.

Given that UK is now putting MLRS btys into field regts I suspect that guns and lnchrs won’t be too far apart. MLRS tactics have always been to wait in a troop ‘hide’ then when given a fire mission deploy to a firing position about a km away, then move to a replen point to reload and back to a hide and wait for the next fire mission. There is always a strong incentive to keep tube arty reasonably well forward, it increases the area of influence fwd of the FEBA and minimises the need to fire higher propelling changes, and hence limiting barrel wear. Barrel wear seems to be a bit of as problem with the 52 cal 155s, although the only two armies to have used them operationally seem a bit reticent about ‘fessing up to this and other problems.

@z

Yes, historically arty ammo has been the major logistic load, 70+%, not least because there was in the past a lot of artillery. However, it’s actually quite difficult to fire more than about 500 rds/gun/day – or 3 flatracks of 155mm, on mobile operations or when there is a serious enemy threat. The logistic calculations aren’t difficult. 500 rds is about 23 tonnes of shells and every one has to be manhandled from ULC to gun, and the gunners have other tasks as well, this is the real limiting factor (as a UK trial c.1980 clearly showed (the famous ‘8 day loading trial’).

Arty does things CAS can’t really do, ie respond very quickly, deliver a lot of airburst HE in the first 10 seconds and deliver sustained fire for a reasonable duration. Given the right ammo, eg BONUS, etc, it can probably destroy AFVs in reasonable quantities, and also deliver white and black illum to help direct firers and for other purposes, and deliver screening smoke.

Maebe
Maebe
January 18, 2014 4:12 am

Not mutually exclusive.

Sometimes there are moving targets.
Sometimes you need the earth moving capabilities of air dropped bombs.
Sometimes merely the presence of fast-air will deter the enemy.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
January 18, 2014 8:57 am

@ Obsvr,

Many thanks for your pertinent and accurate observations on the RA. I gain the impression that we probably overlapped in serving, as what you say fits exactly my memory. I’ve got great affection for the RA (and specifically, 1st RHA) who provided FOOs and FACs to my recce regiment and who dug us out of the shit several times when we got really stupidly brave. Good boys, all of them.

Re rebros, you could do this several times over. I had a personal PRC 349 that I “found” which I outfitted with a bodged Cougarnet covert headset that inexplicably returned with me from a tour of West Belfast. I used to link that to a 351 manpack carried by my gunner a couple of hundred yards behind when he and I went on close target recces, and he’d be linked to the 353 in my wagon in the troop hide. Signal / Noise attenuation was atrocious, but still workable.

Of course, we’d do it with mobiles now.

Observer
Observer
January 18, 2014 10:35 pm

ROFL, that was exactly what happened to us the last exercise I went to RT. “Can’t get the rebro station, anyone got their number?” ” Hold on” *takes out hand phone* “Sergeant, we can’t get you on comms, can you move closer to us?” “No, still no reception, ah hell, I’ll just read out my report on the phone.”

It was embarrassingly hilarious.

Michael
Michael
January 19, 2014 1:53 am

I would like to point out other aspect in the dispute artillery vs CAS. How much does average 155mm shell weight? 50-75 pounds? Consider the fact that a single bomb weight’s 500-1000 pounds, or even more. And please compare penetration of 155mm shell and 1000 pound bomb. It would be hard to destroy heavilly fortified forward command point with artillery strike.
Usage of CAS or artillery support depends on many factors, such as:
1) How big “bang” is needed.
2) How much penetration is needed.
3) Time factor (time required for execution of cas or artillery strike).

Both forms of frontline support complement each other on the battlefield. There are other factors like for example their logistical footprint, but the real question is: Can British Armed Forces afford to resign from either method of fire support in foresable future? I don’t think so.

Cheers,
Mike.

P.S. Sorry for my bad English, I’m still learning.

S O
S O
January 19, 2014 3:05 am

Michael, maybe you should do research first, and skip the guesswork.

155 mm HE shell is usually at 42-47 kg, which is roughly 90-105 lbs. Most howitzer HE shells 149-155 mm are or were somewhere in this range.

Bomb weights are notional. AFAIK no bomb weights exactly 500 or 1,000 lbs. The basic Mk 82 versions are several per cent heavier than its notional weight.

There are no “heavily fortified forward command points” anywhere but maybe at the Korean DMZ, in Israel or in Singapore.

Artillery would have no more trouble dealing with a bunker than an air strike. It’s merely a question of missile sizes.

Artillery can take out anything that CAS can take out.

CAS is not interdiction. It’s not about striking bunkers, bases, area air defences, depots and so on either. The typical CAS targets are deployed (dispersed) ground combat troops; armoured vehicles, artillery, infantry, engineers, anti-tank troops concentrations. None of this requires a particularly heavy kind of ammunition. A 70 mm rocket does the trick in CAS if it hits. Only attempts to neutralize minefields are a bit more tricky.
____________________________

Some context; German army’s doctrine about CAS, paraphrased:
Infantry battalion commander; don’t expect artillery support. Artillery is probably busy supporting the Schwerpunkt as designated by some of your superiors.
Rely on your mortars (which you don’t have by TO&E if you are a Panzergrenadier commander, but then your odds of being at the Schwerpunkt are a bit better) instead.
Close air support? What’s that? Gold-plated luxury of an even higher order than field artillery!
———————————–

I criticized the mortar issue repeatedly, but I think it’s perfectly healthy to expect little fire support, especially little support that can be moved to faraway places as easily as CAS effects.
Don’t submit to the American disease of expecting gold-plating all around you.
Some Vietnam War-era tactical vignettes from their professional journals looked like caricatures: ‘As a company leader you got mortars, artillery, helicopters, Skyhawk fighter-bombers, other bombers and heavier artillery available on call. You got 15 minutes to arrange the fire support to win your battle with AKM-wielding peasants. What are your calls?’

This is insanity, and I’m not making this up, just paraphrasing.
Ever since, they’ve been infected and rotten with this excessive dependence on fire support. Afghanistan repeated this; a platoon in contact with a few ragtag weekend jihadists had often more fire support on call than a Kampfgruppe commander in 1944. And then they whined that said support takes a couple minutes to arrive.

This is madness.
The white-ish anglophone countries are fully exposed to this infective madness because they lack a protective language barrier – unlike most Europeans.

The opposite – smeared as ‘human wave tactics’ or glorified by 3GWers as (semi-imaginary) ‘Hutier tactics’ isn’t the way to go either, of course.

Nurture and bet on your organic fire support – both direct and indirect fire.
Make sure the army’s artillery is fine and capable of area destruction, quick reaction, precision, moving target interception, mobility-reducing, sustained smoke and sustained suppression effects.
CAS is a theatre-level asset that’s bound to only be relevant in small wars, at the Schwerpunkt or at crisis locations. It has no place in battalion-level considerations. It’s for corps level operational planning.
The same applies to quite long ranged artillery, such as GUMLRS or ATACMS, LORA missiles et cetera.

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 19, 2014 3:49 am

@ Michael

155mm shell is 45kg, the quantity of HE inside varies considerably, from around 6.6 kg in M107 to over 11kg in L15. A descending direct hit from the latter will deal with most military equipment, but traditional ‘dumb’ arty is not really in the business of destroying point targets. It relies on fragmentation to do damage and cause casualties. Destruction of point targets by arty needs stationary targets, time and patience for the ‘law of probability’ to take effect. Damage/casualties and/or suppression then have what I call ‘secondary effects’ – delay, disruption, degradation, etc.

‘Destruction’ is not always necessary for many types of target, and in the modern legal environment may not be a ‘proportionate use of force’, ie it is illegal and a potential war crime. It might be useful to note that NATO thinks that 15% casualties will neutralise a unit. Military historical examples suggest this might not be true, but I suspect they mean neutralised in the immediate aftermath of suffering this level of casualties at one time.

Of course a ‘heavily fortified command point’ may be a somewhat rare beast in the forward area. My solution would be to dumb it. Ie enough HE fragments to take down its antennas, if it ain’t communicating it ain’t commanding anything. I’m assuming it has no landline, and mobile phone signals don’t work (wriggly tin or lots of dirt are not good transmission mediums). Of course the real question is ‘why bother?’, just suppress the troops being commanded.

However, once you get to structures such as bridges then larger air delivered weapons are the way to go, but if you are advancing whether or not to destroy bridges can be a tricky decision. That said I suspect a GMLRS warhead or two would make many bridges unusable. It may be useful to remember that the original driver for ‘smart bombs’ was interdiction against bridges in N Vietnam – dumb air isn’t much good at point targets either.

Obsvr
Obsvr
January 19, 2014 4:45 am

@SO
The secret to effective artillery support are the command & control arrangements. It’s useful to remember that the UK, etc, and the US actually have very different arrangements although some of the latter have been known to assert that there is little or no difference in practice (I’ve come across nothing to convince me they are not deluded). The British practice evolved from 1914 onwards but was pretty much settled on the current practice by about 1943. It’s been used in all UK campaigns in the 70 years since then, it works well. Post Cold War the air support aspects have been expanded, and been tweaked to deal with newer issues around airspace coordination.

In UK a Direct Support battery commander (major) and his tactical group of FSTs is assigned to each manoeuvre battlegroup. These FSTs have the authority to order the fire of their own battery, and some may sometimes have authority to order fire from other batteries. In the event of conflicting calls it is for the battery commander to resolve with his arty CO and the manoeuvre CO. Note the FSTs issue ‘commands’ not ‘requests’ for arty fire from their own battery.

Generally the mortar platoon commander becomes part of the BC’s cell at BGHQ and the infantry mortar fire controllers are in effect part of the FST with each company (along with any FAC). The FST commander is responsible for locally coordinating fires and with CAS, army air and the arty UAS detachment if one is present (airman have an attitude to sharing airspace with shells and mortar bombs). When more extensive firepower is needed to support a BG operation it is planned and coordinated by the BC in consultation with the BG commander. Obviously the BC obtains additional fire support resource committal from his arty CO who deals with the bde comd, div arty comd, etc, depending on what could be available.

Bobbie Ball
Bobbie Ball
March 23, 2014 9:55 am

Test comment.