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Weapon designed to launch projectiles beyond normal infantry weapon range

Top 10 Artillery related articles

Soldiers of the Royal Artillery firing 105mm light howitzers during an exercise

Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility generally providing the largest share of an army's total firepower.

Originally, the word "artillery" referred to any group of soldiers primarily armed with some form of manufactured weapon or armor. Since the introduction of gunpowder and cannon, "artillery" has largely meant cannons, and in contemporary usage, usually refers to shell-firing guns, howitzers, mortars, and rocket artillery. In common speech, the word "artillery" is often used to refer to individual devices, along with their accessories and fittings, although these assemblages are more properly called "equipment". However, there is no generally recognized generic term for a gun, howitzer, mortar, and so forth: the United States uses "artillery piece", but most English-speaking armies use "gun" and "mortar". The projectiles fired are typically either "shot" (if solid) or "shell" (if not solid). Historically, variants of solid shot including canister, chain shot and grapeshot were also used. "Shell" is a widely used generic term for a projectile, which is a component of munitions.

By association, artillery may also refer to the arm of service that customarily operates such engines. In some armies, the artillery arm has operated field, coastal, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank artillery; in others these have been separate arms, and with some nations coastal has been a naval or marine responsibility.

In the 20th century, technology-based target acquisition devices (such as radar) and systems (such as sound ranging and flash spotting) emerged in order to acquire targets, primarily for artillery. These are usually operated by one or more of the artillery arms. The widespread adoption of indirect fire in the early 20th century introduced the need for specialist data for field artillery, notably survey and meteorological, and in some armies, provision of these are the responsibility of the artillery arm.

Artillery has been used since at least the early Industrial Revolution. The majority of combat deaths in the Napoleonic Wars, World War I, and World War II were caused by artillery.[1] In 1944, Joseph Stalin said in a speech that artillery was "the God of War".[1]

Artillery Intro articles: 20

Artillery piece

French soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War 1870–71
British 64 Pounder Rifled Muzzle-Loaded (RML) Gun on a Moncrieff disappearing mount, at Scaur Hill Fort, Bermuda. This is a part of a fixed battery, meant to protect against over-land attack and to serve as coastal artillery.

Although not called as such, siege engines performing the role recognizable as artillery have been employed in warfare since antiquity. The first known catapult was developed in Syracuse in 399 BC.[2] Until the introduction of gunpowder into western warfare, artillery was dependent upon mechanical energy which not only severely limited the kinetic energy of the projectiles, it also required the construction of very large engines to store sufficient energy. A 1st-century BC Roman catapult launching 6.55 kg (14.4 lb) stones achieved a kinetic energy of 16,000 joules, compared to a mid-19th-century 12-pounder gun, which fired a 4.1 kg (9.0 lb) round, with a kinetic energy of 240,000 joules, or a 20th-century US battleship that fired a 1,225 kg (2,701 lb) projectile from its main battery with an energy level surpassing 350,000,000 joules.

From the Middle Ages through most of the modern era, artillery pieces on land were moved by horse-drawn gun carriages. In the contemporary era, artillery pieces and their crew relied on wheeled or tracked vehicles as transportation. These land versions of artillery were dwarfed by railway guns; the largest of these large-calibre guns ever conceived – Project Babylon of the Supergun affair – was theoretically capable of putting a satellite into orbit. Artillery used by naval forces has also changed significantly, with missiles generally replacing guns in surface warfare.

Over the course of military history, projectiles were manufactured from a wide variety of materials, into a wide variety of shapes, using many different methods in which to target structural/defensive works and inflict enemy casualties. The engineering applications for ordnance delivery have likewise changed significantly over time, encompassing some of the most complex and advanced technologies in use today.

In some armies, the weapon of artillery is the projectile, not the equipment that fires it. The process of delivering fire onto the target is called gunnery. The actions involved in operating an artillery piece are collectively called "serving the gun" by the "detachment" or gun crew, constituting either direct or indirect artillery fire. The manner in which gunnery crews (or formations) are employed is called artillery support. At different periods in history, this may refer to weapons designed to be fired from ground-, sea-, and even air-based weapons platforms.

Artillery Artillery piece articles: 20


The term "gunner" is used in some armed forces for the soldiers and sailors with the primary function of using artillery.

7-person gun crew firing a US M777 Light Towed Howitzer, War in Afghanistan, 2009

The gunners and their guns are usually grouped in teams called either "crews" or "detachments". Several such crews and teams with other functions are combined into a unit of artillery, usually called a battery, although sometimes called a company. In gun detachments, each role is numbered, starting with "1" the Detachment Commander, and the highest number being the Coverer, the second-in-command. "Gunner" is also the lowest rank and junior non-commissioned officers are "Bombardiers" in some artillery arms.

Batteries are roughly equivalent to a company in the infantry and are combined into larger military organizations for administrative and operational purposes, either battalions or regiments, depending on the army. These may be grouped into brigades; the Russian army also groups some brigades into artillery divisions, and the People's Liberation Army has artillery corps.

The term "artillery" is also applied to a combat arm of most military services when used organizationally to describe units and formations of the national armed forces that operate the weapons.

During military operations, the role of field artillery is to provide support to other arms in combat or to attack targets, particularly in-depth. Broadly, these effects fall into two categories, either to suppress or neutralize the enemy, or to cause casualties, damage, and destruction. This is mostly achieved by delivering high-explosive munitions to suppress, or inflict casualties on the enemy from casing fragments and other debris and blast, or by destroying enemy positions, equipment, and vehicles. Non-lethal munitions, notably smoke, can also be used to suppress or neutralize the enemy by obscuring their view.

Fire may be directed by an artillery observer or another observer, including manned and unmanned aircraft pilots, or called onto map coordinates.

Military doctrine has played a significant influence on the core engineering design considerations of artillery ordnance through its history, in seeking to achieve a balance between the delivered volume of fire with ordinance mobility. However, during the modern period, the consideration of protecting the gunners also arose due to the late-19th-century introduction of the new generation of infantry weapons using conoidal bullet, better known as the Minié ball, with a range almost as long as that of field artillery.

The gunners' increasing proximity to and participation in direct combat against other combat arms and attacks by aircraft made the introduction of a gun shield necessary. The problems of how to employ a fixed or horse-towed gun in mobile warfare necessitated the development of new methods of transporting the artillery into combat. Two distinct forms of artillery were developed: the towed gun, which was used primarily to attack or defend a fixed-line; and the self-propelled gun, which was designed to accompany a mobile force and provide continuous fire support and/or suppression. These influences have guided the development of artillery ordnance, systems, organizations, and operations until the present, with artillery systems capable of providing support at ranges from as little as 100 m to the intercontinental ranges of ballistic missiles. The only combat in which artillery is unable to take part in is close quarters combat, with the possible exception of artillery reconnaissance teams.[3]

Artillery Crew articles: 19


The word as used in the current context originated in the Middle Ages. One suggestion is that it comes from the Old French atelier, meaning "to arrange", and attillement, meaning "equipment".

From the 13th century, an artillier referred to a builder of any war equipment; and, for the next 250 years, the sense of the word "artillery" covered all forms of military weapons. Hence, the naming of the Honourable Artillery Company, which was essentially an infantry unit until the 19th century. Another suggestion is that it comes from the Italian arte de tirare (art of shooting), coined by one of the first theorists on the use of artillery, Niccolò Tartaglia.

Artillery Etymology articles: 3


A bronze "thousand ball thunder cannon" from the Huolongjing.

Mechanical systems used for throwing ammunition in ancient warfare, also known as "engines of war", like the catapult, onager, trebuchet, and ballista, are also referred to by military historians as artillery.

Invention of gunpowder

A depiction of an early vase-shaped cannon (shown here as the "Long-range Awe-inspiring Cannon"(威遠砲)) complete with a crude sight and an ignition port dated from around 1350 AD. The illustration is from the 14th century Ming Dynasty book Huolongjing.[4]

Early Chinese artillery had vase-like shapes. This includes the "long range awe inspiring" cannon dated from 1350 and found in the 14th century Ming Dynasty treatise Huolongjing.[4] With the development of better metallurgy techniques, later cannons abandoned the vase shape of early Chinese artillery. This change can be seen in the bronze "thousand ball thunder cannon", an early example of field artillery.[5] These small, crude weapons diffused into the Middle East (the madfaa) and reached Europe in the 13th century, in a very limited manner.

In Asia, Mongols adopted the Chinese artillery and used it effectively in the great conquest. By the late 14th century, Chinese rebels used organized artillery and cavalry to push Mongols out. The usage of cannons in the Mongol invasion of Java,[6] led to deployment of cetbang cannons by Majapahit fleet in 1300s and subsequent near universal use of the swivel-gun and cannons in the Nusantara archipelago.[7][8]

As small smooth-bore tubes, these were initially cast in iron or bronze around a core, with the first drilled bore ordnance recorded in operation near Seville in 1247. They fired lead, iron, or stone balls, sometimes large arrows and on occasions simply handfuls of whatever scrap came to hand. During the Hundred Years' War, these weapons became more common, initially as the bombard and later the cannon. Cannon were always muzzle-loaders. While there were many early attempts at breech-loading designs, a lack of engineering knowledge rendered these even more dangerous to use than muzzle-loaders.

Expansion of artillery use

French gunner in the 15th century, a 1904 illustration
Bullocks dragging siege-guns up hill during Akbar's Siege of Ranthambore[10]

In 1415, the Portuguese invaded the Mediterranean port town of Ceuta. While it is difficult to confirm the use of firearms in the siege of the city, it is known the Portuguese defended it thereafter with firearms, namely bombardas, colebratas, and falconetes. In 1419, Sultan Abu Sa'id led an army to reconquer the fallen city, and Marinids brought cannons and used them in the assault on Ceuta. Finally, hand-held firearms and riflemen appear in Morocco, in 1437, in an expedition against the people of Tangiers.[11] It is clear these weapons had developed into several different forms, from small guns to large artillery pieces.

The artillery revolution in Europe caught on during the Hundred Years' War and changed the way that battles were fought. In the preceding decades, the English had even used a gunpowder-like weapon in military campaigns against the Scottish.[12] However, at this time, the cannons used in battle were very small and not particularly powerful. Cannons were only useful for the defense of a castle, as demonstrated at Breteuil in 1356, when the besieged English used a cannon to destroy an attacking French assault tower.[13] By the end of the 14th century, cannon were only powerful enough to knock in roofs, and could not penetrate castle walls.

However, a major change occurred between 1420 and 1430, when artillery became much more powerful and could now batter strongholds and fortresses quite efficiently. The English, French, and Burgundians all advanced in military technology, and as a result the traditional advantage that went to the defense in a siege was lost. The cannon during this period were elongated, and the recipe for gunpowder was improved to make it three times as powerful as before.[14] These changes led to the increased power in the artillery weapons of the time.

The Austrian Pumhart von Steyr, the earliest extant large-calibre gun[15]

Joan of Arc encountered gunpowder weaponry several times. When she led the French against the English at the Battle of Tourelles, in 1430, she faced heavy gunpowder fortifications, and yet her troops prevailed in that battle. In addition, she led assaults against the English-held towns of Jargeau, Meung, and Beaugency, all with the support of large artillery units. When she led the assault on Paris, Joan faced stiff artillery fire, especially from the suburb of St. Denis, which ultimately led to her defeat in this battle. In April 1430, she went to battle against the Burgundians, whose support was purchased by the English. At this time, the Burgundians had the strongest and largest gunpowder arsenal among the European powers, and yet the French, under Joan of Arc's leadership, were able to beat back the Burgundians and defend themselves.[16] As a result, most of the battles of the Hundred Years' War that Joan of Arc participated in were fought with gunpowder artillery.

The army of Mehmet the Conqueror, which conquered Constantinople in 1453, included both artillery and foot soldiers armed with gunpowder weapons.[17] The Ottomans brought to the siege sixty-nine guns in fifteen separate batteries and trained them at the walls of the city. The barrage of Ottoman cannon fire lasted forty days, and they are estimated to have fired 19,320 times.[18] Artillery also played a decisive role in the Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs of 1444. Early cannon were not always reliable; King James II of Scotland was killed by the accidental explosion of one of his own cannon, imported from Flanders, at the siege of Roxburgh Castle in 1460.

Three of the large Korean artillery, Chongtong in the Jinju National Museum. These cannons were made in the mid 16th century. The closest is a "Cheonja chongtong"(천자총통, 天字銃筒), the second is a "Jija chongtong"(지자총통, 地字銃筒), and the third is a "Hyeonja chongtong"(현자총통, 玄字銃筒).

The new Ming Dynasty established the "Divine Engine Battalion" (神机营), which specialized in various types of artillery. Light cannons and cannons with multiple volleys were developed. In a campaign to suppress a local minority rebellion near today's Burmese border, "the Ming army used a 3-line method of arquebuses/muskets to destroy an elephant formation."

When Portuguese and Spanish arrived at Southeast Asia, they found that the local kingdoms already using cannons. One of the earliest reference to cannon and artillerymen in Java is from the year 1346.[19] Portuguese and Spanish invaders were unpleasantly surprised and even outgunned on occasion.[20] Duarte Barbosa ca. 1514 said that the inhabitants of Java are great masters in casting artillery and very good artillerymen. They make many one-pounder cannons (cetbang or rentaka), long muskets, spingarde (arquebus), schioppi (hand cannon), Greek fire, guns (cannons), and other fire-works. Every place are considered excellent in casting artillery, and in the knowledge of using it.[21]:198[22]:224 In 1513, the Javanese fleet led by Patih Yunus sailed to attack Portuguese Malacca "with much artillery made in Java, for the Javanese are skilled in founding and casting, and in all works in iron, over and above what they have in India".[23]:162[24]:23 By early 16th century, the Javanese already locally-producing large guns, some of them still survived until the present day and dubbed as "sacred cannon" or "holy cannon". These cannons varied between 180 and 260 pounders, weighing anywhere between 3-8 tons, length of them between 3–6 m.[25]

Between 1593 and 1597, about 200,000 Korean and Chinese troops which fought against Japan in Korea actively used heavy artillery in both siege and field combat. Korean forces mounted artillery in ships as naval guns, providing an advantage against Japanese navy which used Kunikuzushi (国崩し – Japanese breech-loading swivel gun) and Ōzutsu (大筒 – large size Tanegashima) as their largest firearms.[26][27]


Artillery with gabion fortification

Bombards were of value mainly in sieges. A famous Turkish example used at the siege of Constantinople in 1453 weighed 19 tons, took 200 men and sixty oxen to emplace, and could fire just seven times a day. The Fall of Constantinople was perhaps "the first event of supreme importance whose result was determined by the use of artillery" when the huge bronze cannons of Mehmed II breached the city's walls, ending the Byzantine Empire, according to Sir Charles Oman.[28]

Bombards developed in Europe were massive smoothbore weapons distinguished by their lack of a field carriage, immobility once emplaced, highly individual design, and noted unreliability (in 1460 James II, King of Scots, was killed when one exploded at the siege of Roxburgh). Their large size precluded the barrels being cast and they were constructed out of metal staves or rods bound together with hoops like a barrel, giving their name to the gun barrel.[29]

The use of the word "cannon" marks the introduction in the 15th century of a dedicated field carriage with axle, trail and animal-drawn limber—this produced mobile field pieces that could move and support an army in action, rather than being found only in the siege and static defenses. The reduction in the size of the barrel was due to improvements in both iron technology and gunpowder manufacture, while the development of trunnions—projections at the side of the cannon as an integral part of the cast—allowed the barrel to be fixed to a more movable base, and also made raising or lowering the barrel much easier.[29]

The Tsar Cannon (caliber 890 mm), cast in 1586 in Moscow. It is the largest bombard in the world.

The first land-based mobile weapon is usually credited to Jan Žižka, who deployed his oxen-hauled cannon during the Hussite Wars of Bohemia (1418–1424). However, cannons were still large and cumbersome. With the rise of musketry in the 16th century, cannon were largely (though not entirely) displaced from the battlefield—the cannon were too slow and cumbersome to be used and too easily lost to a rapid enemy advance.

The combining of shot and powder into a single unit, a cartridge, occurred in the 1620s with a simple fabric bag, and was quickly adopted by all nations. It speeded loading and made it safer, but unexpelled bag fragments were an additional fouling in the gun barrel and a new tool—a worm—was introduced to remove them. Gustavus Adolphus is identified as the general who made cannon an effective force on the battlefield—pushing the development of much lighter and smaller weapons and deploying them in far greater numbers than previously. The outcome of battles was still determined by the clash of infantry.

Shells, explosive-filled fused projectiles, were also developed in the 17th century.[30] The development of specialized pieces—shipboard artillery, howitzers and mortars—was also begun in this period. More esoteric designs, like the multi-barrel ribauldequin (known as "organ guns"), were also produced.

The 1650 book by Kazimierz Siemienowicz Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima[31] was one of the most important contemporary publications on the subject of artillery. For over two centuries this work was used in Europe as a basic artillery manual.[32]

One of the most significant effects of artillery during this period was however somewhat more indirect—by easily reducing to rubble any medieval-type fortification or city wall (some which had stood since Roman times), it abolished millennia of siege-warfare strategies and styles of fortification building.[29] This led, among other things, to a frenzy of new bastion-style fortifications to be built all over Europe and in its colonies, but also had a strong integrating effect on emerging nation-states, as kings were able to use their newfound artillery superiority to force any local dukes or lords to submit to their will, setting the stage for the absolutist kingdoms to come.[29]

Modern rocket artillery can trace its heritage back to the Mysorean rockets of India. Their first recorded use was in 1780 during the battles of the Second, Third and Fourth Mysore Wars. The wars fought between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore in India made use of the rockets as a weapon. In the Battle of Pollilur, the Siege of Seringapatam (1792) and in Battle of Seringapatam in 1799 these rockets were used with considerable effect against the British."[33] After the wars, several Mysore rockets were sent to England, but experiments with heavier payloads were unsuccessful. In 1804 William Congreve, considering the Mysorian rockets to have too short a range (less than 1,000 yards) developed rockets in numerous sizes with ranges up to 3,000 yards and eventually utilizing iron casing as the Congreve rocket which were used effectively during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812.[34]

Napoleonic artillery

A 19th-century cannon, set in the wall of Acre to commemorate the city's resistance to the 1799 siege by Napoleon's troops.

With the Napoleonic Wars, artillery experienced changes in both physical design and operation. Rather than being overseen by "mechanics", artillery was viewed as its own service branch with the capability of dominating the battlefield. The success of the French artillery companies was at least in part due to the presence of specifically artillery officers leading and coordinating during the chaos of battle.[35] Napoleon, himself a former artillery officer, perfected the tactic of massed artillery batteries unleashed upon a critical point in his enemies' line as a prelude to a decisive infantry and cavalry assault.

Physically, cannons continued to become smaller and lighter—Frederick II of Prussia deployed the first genuine light artillery during the Seven Years' War.

Jean-Baptiste de Gribeauval, a French artillery engineer, introduced the standardization of cannon design in the mid-18th century. He developed a 6-inch (150 mm) field howitzer whose gun barrel, carriage assembly and ammunition specifications were made uniform for all French cannons. The standardized interchangeable parts of these cannons down to the nuts, bolts and screws made their mass production and repair much easier. While the Gribeauval system made for more efficient production and assembly, the carriages used were heavy and the gunners were forced to march on foot (instead of riding on the limber and gun as in the British system).[36] Each cannon was named for the weight of its projectiles, giving us variants such as 4, 8, and 12, indicating the weight in pounds. The projectiles themselves included solid balls or canister containing lead bullets or other material. These canister shots acted as massive shotguns, peppering the target with hundreds of projectiles at close range.[37] The solid balls, known as round shot, was most effective when fired at shoulder-height across a flat, open area. The ball would tear through the ranks of the enemy or bounce along the ground breaking legs and ankles.[38]

Modern artillery

The development of modern artillery occurred in the mid to late 19th century as a result of the convergence of various improvements in the underlying technology. Advances in metallurgy allowed for the construction of breech-loading rifled guns that could fire at a much greater muzzle velocity.

After the British artillery was shown up in the Crimean War as having barely changed since the Napoleonic Wars the industrialist William Armstrong was awarded a contract by the government to design a new piece of artillery. Production started in 1855 at the Elswick Ordnance Company and the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, and the outcome was the revolutionary Armstrong Gun, which marked the birth of modern artillery.[39][40] Three of its features particularly stand out.

Armstrong gun deployed by Japan during the Boshin war (1868–69)

First, the piece was rifled, which allowed for a much more accurate and powerful action. Although rifling had been tried on small arms since the 15th century, the necessary machinery to accurately rifle artillery was not available until the mid-19th century. Martin von Wahrendorff, and Joseph Whitworth independently produced rifled cannon in the 1840s, but it was Armstrong's gun that was first to see widespread use during the Crimean War.[41] The cast iron shell of the Armstrong gun was similar in shape to a Minié ball and had a thin lead coating which made it fractionally larger than the gun's bore and which engaged with the gun's rifling grooves to impart spin to the shell. This spin, together with the elimination of windage as a result of the tight fit, enabled the gun to achieve greater range and accuracy than existing smooth-bore muzzle-loaders with a smaller powder charge.

8-inch Armstrong gun during American Civil War, Fort Fisher, 1865

His gun was also a breech-loader. Although attempts at breech-loading mechanisms had been made since medieval times, the essential engineering problem was that the mechanism could not withstand the explosive charge. It was only with the advances in metallurgy and precision engineering capabilities during the Industrial Revolution that Armstrong was able to construct a viable solution. The gun combined all the properties that make up an effective artillery piece. The gun was mounted on a carriage in such a way as to return the gun to firing position after the recoil.

What made the gun really revolutionary lay in the technique of the construction of the gun barrel that allowed it to withstand much more powerful explosive forces. The "built-up" method involved assembling the barrel with wrought-iron (later mild steel was used) tubes of successively smaller diameter.[42] The tube would then be heated to allow it to expand and fit over the previous tube. When it cooled the gun would contract although not back to its original size, which allowed an even pressure along the walls of the gun which was directed inward against the outward forces that the gun's firing exerted on the barrel.[43]

Another innovative feature, more usually associated with 20th-century guns, was what Armstrong called its "grip", which was essentially a squeeze bore; the 6 inches of the bore at the muzzle end was of slightly smaller diameter, which centered the shell before it left the barrel and at the same time slightly swaged down its lead coating, reducing its diameter and slightly improving its ballistic qualities.

The French Canon de 75 modèle 1897, the first modern artillery piece

Armstrong's system was adopted in 1858, initially for "special service in the field" and initially he produced only smaller artillery pieces, 6-pounder (2.5 in/64 mm) mountain or light field guns, 9-pounder (3 in/76 mm) guns for horse artillery, and 12-pounder (3 inches /76 mm) field guns.

The first cannon to contain all 'modern' features is generally considered to be the French 75 of 1897.[44][45] It was the first field gun to include a hydro-pneumatic recoil mechanism, which kept the gun's trail and wheels perfectly still during the firing sequence. Since it did not need to be re-aimed after each shot, the crew could fire as soon as the barrel returned to its resting position. In typical use, the French 75 could deliver fifteen rounds per minute on its target, either shrapnel or melinite high-explosive, up to about 5 miles (8,500 m) away. Its firing rate could even reach close to 30 rounds per minute, albeit only for a very short time and with a highly experienced crew. These were rates that contemporary bolt action rifles could not match. The gun used cased ammunition, was breech-loading, and had modern sights, a self-contained firing mechanism and hydro-pneumatic recoil dampening.

Indirect fire

Indirect fire, the firing of a projectile without relying on direct line of sight between the gun and the target, possibly dates back to the 16th century.[46] Early battlefield use of indirect fire may have occurred at Paltzig in July 1759, when the Russian artillery fired over the tops of trees,[47] and at the Battle of Waterloo, where a battery of the Royal Horse Artillery fired Shrapnel indirectly against advancing French troops.[48]

In 1882, Russian Lieutenant Colonel KG Guk published Indirect Fire for Field Artillery, which provided a practical method of using aiming points for indirect fire by describing, "all the essentials of aiming points, crest clearance, and corrections to fire by an observer".[49]

A few years later, the Richtfläche (lining-plane) sight was invented in Germany and provided a means of indirect laying in azimuth, complementing the clinometers for indirect laying in elevation which already existed. Despite conservative opposition within the German army, indirect fire was adopted as doctrine by the 1890s. In the early 1900s, Goertz in Germany developed an optical sight for azimuth laying. It quickly replaced the lining-plane; in English, it became the 'Dial Sight' (UK) or 'Panoramic Telescope' (US).

The British halfheartedly experimented with indirect fire techniques since the 1890s, but with the onset of the Boer War, they were the first to apply the theory in practice in 1899, although they had to improvise without a lining-plane sight.[50]

In the next 15 years leading up to World War I, the techniques of indirect fire became available for all types of artillery. Indirect fire was the defining characteristic of 20th-century artillery and led to undreamt of changes in the amount of artillery, its tactics, organisation, and techniques, most of which occurred during World War I.

An implication of indirect fire and improving guns was increasing range between gun and target, this increased the time of flight and the vertex of the trajectory. The result was decreasing accuracy (the increasing distance between the target and the mean point of impact of the shells aimed at it) caused by the increasing effects of non-standard conditions. Indirect firing data was based on standard conditions including a specific muzzle velocity, zero wind, air temperature and density, and propellant temperature. In practice, this standard combination of conditions almost never existed, they varied throughout the day and day to day, and the greater the time of flight, the greater the inaccuracy. An added complication was the need for survey to accurately fix the coordinates of the gun position and provide accurate orientation for the guns. Of course, targets had to be accurately located, but by 1916, air photo interpretation techniques enabled this, and ground survey techniques could sometimes be used.

In 1914, the methods of correcting firing data for the actual conditions were often convoluted, and the availability of data about actual conditions was rudimentary or non-existent, the assumption was that fire would always be ranged (adjusted). British heavy artillery worked energetically to progressively solve all these problems from late 1914 onwards, and by early 1918, had effective processes in place for both field and heavy artillery. These processes enabled 'map-shooting', later called 'predicted fire'; it meant that effective fire could be delivered against an accurately located target without ranging. Nevertheless, the mean point of impact was still some tens of yards from the target-centre aiming point. It was not precision fire, but it was good enough for concentrations and barrages. These processes remain in use into the 21st Century with refinements to calculations enabled by computers and improved data capture about non-standard conditions.

The British major-general Henry Hugh Tudor pioneered armour and artillery cooperation at the breakthrough Battle of Cambrai. The improvements in providing and using data for non-standard conditions (propellant temperature, muzzle velocity, wind, air temperature, and barometric pressure) were developed by the major combatants throughout the war and enabled effective predicted fire.[51] The effectiveness of this was demonstrated by the British in 1917 (at Cambrai) and by Germany the following year (Operation Michael).

Major General J.B.A. Bailey, British Army (retired) wrote:

From the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth, artillery is judged to have accounted for perhaps 50% of battlefield casualties. In the sixty years preceding 1914, this figure was probably as low as 10 percent. The remaining 90 percent fell to small arms, whose range and accuracy had come to rival those of artillery. ... [By WWI] The British Royal Artillery, at over one million men, grew to be larger than the Royal Navy. Bellamy (1986), pp. 1–7, cites the percentage of casualties caused by artillery in various theaters since 1914: in the First World War, 45 percent of Russian casualties and 58 percent of British casualties on the Western Front; in the Second World War, 75 percent of British casualties in North Africa and 51 percent of Soviet casualties (61 percent in 1945) and 70 percent of German casualties on the Eastern Front; and in the Korean War, 60 percent of US casualties, including those inflicted by mortars.[52]

— J.B.A. Bailey (2004). Field artillery and firepower

An estimated 75,000 French soldiers were casualties of friendly artillery fire in the four years of World War I.[53]

Precision-guided artillery

M982 Excalibur guided artillery shell

Modern artillery is most obviously distinguished by its long range, firing an explosive shell or rocket and a mobile carriage for firing and transport. However, its most important characteristic is the use of indirect fire, whereby the firing equipment is aimed without seeing the target through its sights. Indirect fire emerged at the beginning of the 20th century and was greatly enhanced by the development of predicted fire methods in World War I. However, indirect fire was area fire; it was and is not suitable for destroying point targets; its primary purpose is area suppression. Nevertheless, by the late 1970s precision-guided munitions started to appear, notably the US 155 mm Copperhead and its Soviet 152 mm Krasnopol equivalent that had success in Indian service. These relied on laser designation to 'illuminate' the target that the shell homed onto. However, in the early 21st Century, the Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled relatively cheap and accurate guidance for shells and missiles, notably the US 155 mm Excalibur and the 227 mm GMLRS rocket. The introduction of these led to a new issue, the need for very accurate three dimensional target coordinates—the mensuration process.

Weapons covered by the term 'modern artillery' include "cannon" artillery (such as howitzer, mortar, and field gun) and rocket artillery. Certain smaller-caliber mortars are more properly designated small arms rather than artillery, albeit indirect-fire small arms. This term also came to include coastal artillery which traditionally defended coastal areas against seaborne attack and controlled the passage of ships. With the advent of powered flight at the start of the 20th century, artillery also included ground-based anti-aircraft batteries.

The term "artillery" has traditionally not been used for projectiles with internal guidance systems, preferring the term "missilery", though some modern artillery units employ surface-to-surface missiles. Advances in terminal guidance systems for small munitions has allowed large-caliber guided projectiles to be developed, blurring this distinction.[54]

Artillery History articles: 128