Thursday, May 7, 2015


Monday, May 4, 2015

Fire discipline lost or replaced in transition

The Gunners bible

I am not sure if it is me only or everybody else. I can remember things of the past, way in the past but not of things in the immediate past. I cannot remember most things in my life say in the past 10 years, but I remember most things 30, 40, 50 years ago. Quite vividly too. 

When I recalled my first lessons in fire discipline in 1965 during our first adhoc inhouse YO course with Dato Jaafar Mohammed in 1 ARTY, every memory came back flawlessly. Beautiful thoughts and all things nice.

I remembered so many fire discipline commands not used today, lost in transition or replaced. Some simply not in use nor practiced because we would not encounter those circumstances that needed those specific fire disciplines.

Fire discipline is the explicit and precise language of gunnery, spoken and executed precisely by the OPO, GPO and gun numbers. This is the language of fire control.There can be no variations of thoughts and meanings. It has to be exact. There are no grey areas. However conventions could be included so long as these conventions are enforced applications to suit local situations. And there are many conventions too, discussed and set by our own conventions of IGs.

Do you remember any of the fire discipline below?

Used by the OPO for another repeated round at the same bearing and elevation. Not to be used to repeat a scale.

Search and sweep
Used by OPO to produce an effective spread of fire without artificially increasing the size of the beaten zone. Sweep. To spread the round by the amount in metres. Rounds are fired left and right of the line of fire. Search is the amount of range in metres ( to the nearest 50 metres)  along the line of fire.

A method of fire by the OPO for concentrations at regimental or higher level to provide a certain quantity of rounds for fire for effect. Scale is not an executive order to fire. Scale is not used by the GPO.

Stand easy
Order by the GPO to terminate a shoot. Now end of mission.

Stand fast. 
Now stop by safety.

Salvo ranging
OPO orders salvo ranging when ranging is required from more than one gun. The charge used is reported to the OPO.

Fire by order.
From OPO or GPO. Now at my command.

Clinometer laying
Used by the GPO to the OPO when the gun was layed using quardrant elevation

Bore/muzzle/flight prematures will be reported by GPO to OPO.

Stop and Go on
Stop and go on is ordered by OPO to correct a mistake entailing the firing the gun.

Gun loaded gun hot
Reported by GPO to OPO when round is loaded in gun for too long and may be hot. OPO orders to empty the gun as appropriate.

OPO informing GPO of a mistake made. Wrong is followed by giving the correct order. Not used by the GPO.

Bad ram
Reported by GPO for guns loaded by the ram rod when the round was incorectly loaded.GPO does not fire the round. OPO fires the bad ram round with a safe correction.

Report stand by
Ordered by the OPO to the GPO. GPO will report stand by 5 seconds before fall of shot. Stand by is  also normally cued by the OP Ack.

Any old Gunner can remember any more unique fire disciplines to include here in?

Take care lest we forget

Allen Lai

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Air Op

Hermes 900 UAV

WW1 air OP

Balloon OPs

The artillery air OP is no more. In comes the drones. above is the Israel Defence Forces’ drone Hermes 900  UAV nicknamed “Star”

I had Googled and researched into the development of the air OP. The air OP was first used in WW1. A plane would service a particular artillery battery, and before takeoff the battery's target was confirmed.  Once in the air the observer had to identify his battery and the target.  He would then transmit a message ordering it to fire.  He could usually differentiate shells that belonged to his battery by measuring the time from when they had fired till the explosion in the vicinity of the target.

From 1915 onwards the corrections, transmitted in Morse, were in the "clock code": a letter was used to indicate the distance from the target (the letters Y, Z, A, B, C, D, E and F representing distances of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 yards respectively) and a number in the range 1-12 representing the direction from the target (with 12 indicating due north of the target, and 6 representing due south of the target).

Captain H J Parham, RA was a memebr of the RA flying club had re-conceptualised the method of air Op in 1933. And since then there were air OP unts, Artilery pilots and army air units. The first British air OP unit commanded by Captain H C Bazeley RA, was the 651 Squadron and was operational in 1941. 

The use of balloons were also experimented with great success.

We were also almost in the same approach to have our own air units; the army air corps. The army was calling for army helicopter pilots to form the nucleus of the army air corps in 1967. Capt Richard Jalil was the first Gunner to be a helicopter pilot. I had also applied to join the next batch of call ups. I even had secured an aptitute test in KL. But I was not fated to be a helicopter pilot. I was then serving in Tawau, Sabah and had to miss the aptitute test due to operational requirements. I was never offered a second chance for the aptitute test. And the rest was history.

Our air defence regiment has a operational “drone” detachment. More specifically remote controlled fixed wings aeroplanes. We hope one day we will be able to achieve some substantial arial support for our artillery.

We conducted some limited air OP shoots in Asahan range. They were quite straightforward drills. OTGT directions and the targets were clear and observable. The downside to air OP shoots was always airsick.

1970s. Border ops. I was in an allouette helicopter about 3000 feet over the dense jungles in upper Perak. We were doing the clasic figure of eight manoeuvre for orientation and fixation onto a high ridge. Two F5E zoomed passed just above us, Fast. Low and in a tight formation.

We were conducting airstrikes and I was the Air OP.

“Tiger Tiger, this is G29, Sheldrake speaking, do you have visual on orange smoke, Over” 
A “squesh” was clearly heard meaning afirmative. The F5E was flying so fast that the pilot dd not have time to answer “ Roger afirmative”.  All he has time was to press the voice switch to get the “Squesh’ in the VHF radio. The americans would say “Do you copy?”

“G29, Own troops south of orange smoke. Aproximately 800m. Target on high ridge. Come in 90 degrees from the west, Over” 

Air strikes should always come in from 90 degrees of own troops for added safety.

Both the F5Es did a fly over and swooped around. I could see them coming from the west. One behind the other. Each F5E fired two rockets into the ridge. 

That was it. End of Mission. Did we hit the target? Truth be told. I don’t have the faintest idea. But I was really happy that our troops were safe. The air strikes had boosted high morale if not anything else. Air strikes in the jungle terrain is very difficult because of the high canopy of tree tops. There were no real targets observable. Our ground troops would search and clear the high ridge after the air strikes.

Again in late 1970s. I was on ops in Sarawak. B Bty 2 ARTY was supporting 2 RMR operating from Lundu in the First Division Sarawak. I had two guns each in Kg Bokah, Lundu and Semantan.
The Lundu - Biawak road was as black as a black kettle. A convoy from the previous Ranger battalion operating in the area were ambushed recently.

2 RMR conducted OPS UMPAN.  Two 3 tonners were specially prepared with sandbags surrounding the side walls of the 3 tonners. The side canopy covers and the side boards were designed to drop with a simple pull lever. A section of troops hid inside the 3 tonners with additional mounted GPMGs and M60s grenade launchers. From the outside they were plain 3 tonners on routine admin runs. The convoy was escorted by a ferret scout car and two APCs in the front, mid and rear. 

I was air OP in an allouette, circulating in circles like an eagle 8 KM away. We had report lines for the convoy and predicted targets along the route. The Ironside commander was also convoy commander and he  would report the report lines to Bn Tac, and Bty CP and I monitor the progress airborne. We waited for the ambush. 

Ops Umpan was not triggered even after two weeks moving to and fro Lundu-Biawak. A month later SB had a SEP who confessed that the enemy was tempted strike but did not. A sweep along the route discovered two freshly prepared ambush positions. They were lucky. We were lucky?

I had another chance to do air OP with 2 RMR. I was airborne and was ready to call for fire to support a company ambush in Lundu area. The company was commanded by Capt Hamid who was to be awarded the SP medal, when he sprung his ambush in this ops. Unfortunately he did not call for fire support as planned. We did not know of his actions until it was all over and when he had called for medevac. I returned to Lundu camp immediately and the heli was re-tasked to do the medevac. 

So much for my experience with Air OP.

Alas, air Op was a thing of the past. With current GPS gadgets and arial surveillance drones, remote target acquisition and control is in.

Take care

Allen Lai

Friday, May 1, 2015

Gun salutes

Back in the 1960s, Field Regiments had their fair share of gun salute duties. Even after the establishment of 41 BTY, we still had to chip in to do gun salutes. Field Btys were on a rotation basis to fire gun salutes depending which state’s sultan birthday.

I loved gun salutes. I was GPO, young and brash. Gun salute duties took up about a week’s deployment to the state’s capital town. My favourite gun salute was for the Sultan of Kelantan. The two most favourable reasons were The Sultan of Kelantan was our Gunner in Chief and Kapt Mustapha Saad was BK. He was of course a Kelantanese and was deemed very close to the royalties and palace staff. Add the two together, we would have a business as usual holiday in the state. What say with Golok Thailand, just accross the border; a railway line crossing the Sungei Kelantan providing free access pass immigration and customs points.

Golok those days was also a haven, a rouge’s delight. Same same but not the same. Mustapha Saad or Musti as he would liked to be called, look after us well. We did not have to cross illegally via the railway line. We crossed in style using palace staff cars, with local guides to boot. Who wouldn’t want to volunteer for gun salutes in Kelantan? 

Now 41 Regiment has all the perks that comes with gun salutes. But alas Golok is no more a bright border town. I visited Golok recently to see a sorry state of affairs, neglected and gloomy. 

Yes it is still the same same but not the same.

Allen Lai