French Artillery Chief Stresses Need to Reduce Collateral Damage, Work With European Partners More

Contributor:  Defence IQ Press
Posted:  11/06/2012  12:00:00 AM EST
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Tags:   artillery

Prioritising artillery capabilities has been a concern for militaries for many years. Improving range, the precision of munitions, and its land-air integration while keeping the cost of the systems to a minimum has always been a delicate balancing act.

Defence IQ recently spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Nicolas Bomont, Chief Operations in the French Army’s 1st Marines Artillery Regiment to understand where he stood on the issue of prioritising capabilities.

“What we are currently thinking, what we are exploring, is about how to reduce dispersion,” Bomont said. “We already have good accuracy, so if we reduce dispersion we can be almost sure that we can avoid collateral damage.”

Bomont indicated that precision is the key attribute for the French Army, but precision specifically pertaining to mitigating collateral damage rather than just targeting alone.

“So even if some industry leaders think that the most accurate system is the best, we don’t necessarily think so. You don’t have to develop highly accurate systems – working on dispersion reduction is enough to meet our requirements.”

According to a survey conducted by Defence IQ earlier this year, precision was also identified as the key capability with 75% of respondents citing it as a high priority.

The risk of collateral damage is evermore present in the minds of military commanders and government officials as wars increasingly become wars of attrition and the battle for hearts and minds. There is an argument to say that recent warfighting strategies such as those seen in Iraq and Afghanistan simply do not work and that issues such as collateral damage should not be foremost in military strategy; winning at any and all cost should. “If a country has chosen to engage in warfare, the focus of one’s efforts and the means at one’s disposal must be on the physical attrition of the enemy to the point that the enemy’s will to continue violently resisting has been broken,” writes Infinity Journal’s A.E. Stahl.

But that is just theory; in practice it is unlikely we will see this type of Iron Fist strategy executed by a Western nation again. So collateral damage matters. Precision of munitions matters.

Furthermore Bomont went on to say that “I don’t think that range is really an issue.” Citing the CAESAR, a 155 mm/52 calibre gun-howitzer, Bomont said that with a maximum range of 38 km the French Army already has ample scope for firing missions.

However, Bomont explained that regardless of capability, ultimately “it’s a problem of finance.” While the French Army has been “lucky” with acquiring artillery systems recently, greater integration and cooperation between the European allies could result in benefits on the battlefield as well as at the bank.

“It’s always surprising to consider that European countries can’t find an agreement [on acquiring artillery systems] because if they could find more agreement we could have more accurate artillery, and it would be cheaper.”

The words echo a recent speech by Philip Hammond, the UK Defence Secretary, who called for greater cooperation between European nations on defence capabilities and military strategy as the region faces the reality of a diminished US presence. Speaking to a delegation last week Hammond said:

“The level and sophistication of the integration between coalition partners, forged in campaigns such as Afghanistan and Libya, needs to be maintained and then taken forward long after those campaigns are behind us.”

He continued: “With the United States reflecting, in its strategic posture, the growing importance of the developing strategic challenge in the Pacific, the nations of Europe must find the political will to take on more responsibility for our own back yard, and fund the capabilities that allow us to do that.”

He concluded: “we must do things differently – maximising the capability we can collectively squeeze out of the resources we have, increasing inter-operability, closing capability gaps through joint working and greater specialisation.”

According to Bomont, this sentiment rings true for artillery regiments throughout Europe.

What do you think about greater European collaboration on the acquisition of defence equipment, and particularly artillery? Email your views and questions to

Defence IQ Press Contributor:   Defence IQ Press

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