Iraqi Field Artillery: The missing link

New Iraqi Howitzer.

The most significant deficiency of the Iraqi Security Forces is its missing artillery. Artillery is called the “King of the Battlefield” because it is the single largest casualty maker in conventional war. Currently, The Iraqi Army’s largest indirect fires is its company’s 60mm mortar sections. While the current emphasis has been on fielding more infantry to the detriment of supporting elements, the Iraqi Army plans to fill out the artillery component from 2009 through 2011. Until that is complete, US forces will have to remain to provide support and training to Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi Army has a 60mm mortar section for each combat company. The Iraqi Army started fielding these mortar sections in late 2007.

Each Iraqi Army combat battalion is slated to receive a six-tube 81mm mortar battery each. The first orders of 81mm mortars were reported in a Foreign Materials Sale notice to Congress in July 2008. That order provided for 665 81mm mortars or approximately 110 batteries. Factoring in training establishment, this order is enough to supply about half of the current Iraqi Army combat battalions.

Each combat brigade is to have a fire support battalion. A mix of three batteries of 120mm mortars and one battery of howitzers per brigade is planned. The July 2008 notice to Congress indicated a possible order of 565 120mm mortars. That is enough mortars to equip the mortar component for 31 brigade fire support battalions of the 54 existing brigades. While there have been no reported howitzer orders, the howitzer batteries in the fire support battalions will probably be 105mm.

The totals of mortars ordered fill out that component for seven to eight divisions when training establishment is factored in. Seven Iraqi Army divisions have more combat battalions than the standard allotment of three per brigade. These divisions are probably the first planned to be upgraded by converting the excess battalions to fire-support. The seven divisions with extra combat battalions are the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th Divisions. Also, each of the extra battalions in the Iraqi Army’s 9th Armored Division is equipped with armored personnel carrier types that are easily converted to 81mm or 120mm mortar carriers.

The Iraqi Army has also reduced the manning level for its combat battalions. Four Iraqi Army divisions had been authorized to have their combat battalions manned at 135 percent and the rest of the Iraqi Army’s combat battalions were authorized to be manned at 120 percent. That manning authorization has been reduced to 105 percent. That is approximately a company-equivalent per battalion, or three company-equivalents per brigade of excess personnel. Those personnel in the now-overmanned battalions will not be dismissed since the Iraqi Army is still expanding. They will be reassigned to other new units, such as new forming artillery battalions. This cadre, combined with the planned addition of 70,000 personnel to the Iraqi Army, provides the necessary personnel for these additions.

Each of the Iraqi Army’s divisions is to have a field artillery regiment. The structure of the regiments probably will mirror the US structure for divisional fires brigades. US Army divisional fires brigades normally have only two battalions of field artillery. US Army divisional field artillery battalions are normally equipped with a mix of 155mm howitzers and multiple rocket launcher systems.

While the Iraqi Army has not started forming its planned four corps, it is expected that each corps will have its own field artillery brigade. This is standard in most countries, including the old Iraqi Army and the US Army, on which the Iraqi Army has been modeling itself. These corps-level brigades are usually larger than divisional fires brigades and tend to have the heaviest artillery in the army’s service. Most countries maintain these corps-level fire support components as reserve elements, since their service is not required in peacetime.

The Iraqi National Police (INP) and Department of Border Enforcement (DBE) do not have indirect fires elements. Considering the wartime roles of the INP and DBE as infantry divisions augmenting the Iraqi Army, these units would need indirect fires elements in conventional battles. Because these components are not required for the INP and DBE except in their wartime conventional forces infantry role, the need is not immediate. But if the Ministry of Interior were to establish a reserve, the wartime-only fire-support units would be the logical choice of components.

The total absence of reported howitzer orders is a potential major problem. It is possible that Iraq has ordered howitzers from a country that has good security and the order has been kept secret. One good candidate for such an order is South Africa. To date, reporting of purchases of South African equipment for Iraq has been from the Iraqis or from the US military. Most were reported after delivery. If Iraq is to have these essential elements operational by 2012, they have to begin orders this year if they have not already placed the orders.

The Iraqi Security Forces are a work-in-progress. Supporting forces took a back seat to combat forces until the end of 2007. Artillery elements are among those components required for the Iraqi Security Forces to be independent by 2012. The personnel are or soon will be available to man these elements. What is missing is the equipment and the training. US forces will be required to fill in while training the Iraqi Security Forces to replace them.

Related articles on the development of the Iraqi Security Forces:

Iraq strengthens the Counter Terrorism Bureau – Sept. 10, 2008

Iraqi Security Forces develop logistics capabilities – Sept. 22, 2008

Iraq announces plan to expand the Air Force – Nov. 6, 2008

Iraq develops its light combat divisions – Nov. 20, 2008

Iraqi Army develops its light armored forces – Nov. 27, 2008

Iraqi Army develops the heavy mechanized and armored forces – Dec. 3, 2008

Iraq develops the National Police mechanized forces – Dec. 10, 2008

Iraqi military plans major arms purchase – Dec. 12, 2008

Questions remain on the development of the Iraqi Security Forces – Dec. 18, 2008

Iraqi forces develop engineering capabilities – Jan. 10, 2009

Iraqi Security Force Order of Battle



  • jack winters says:

    Hi DJ
    The Serbian Defense Minister is in Iraq today
    He has met Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.And on Al-Hurra the Iraqi prim minister pushed the Serbian defense minister to accelerate the delivery of military equipment bought by Iraq.
    The other thing is that the Iraqi defense minister in a press conference with the Serbian defense Minster said that; Serbia is proceeding as planed with the production of the equipment ordered by Iraq, and that they are working on the training of the Iraqi army on the new equipment. He was asked about the corruption allegations and said there was not any, the New York Times article was bogus.
    The deal went through and Iraq is getting the equipment from Serbia, as well as from South Korea and Russia. Because the equipment is good, the delivery time is faster and it’s cheaper.
    DJ do you think they will get artillery from Serbia?
    And the corruption deal sign you have on the OOB should be removed don’t you think?
    The deal is going through whether we like or not.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    – The deal with Serbia was for small arms and trainer aircraft.
    – Then the number of trainer aircraft then dropped from 35 to 20.
    – Now Iraq is ordering US and Korean trainers to fill the same role as the not yet ever built Serbian trainer…
    Iraq is also looking at armored vehicles and artillery from Korea.
    They are shopping. That does not mean they are actually buying.
    Do not believe the deals are done until you see actual delivery of equipment.
    For example: The 2000 T-91s article was just a plant by Defense Solutions to woo investers, because they are having financial problems.
    I have yet to see any of the Serbian equipment ordered actually delivered. And some of it should have been delivered by now. The crook-deal sign stays next to those non-existent trainers. This deal had more to do with getting Serbia to write off the Iraqi debt to Yugoslavia than it did with buying weapons.
    If the Iraqis are buying Serbian, the most likely ordenance is SAMs. After all, Serbia is the only country ever to shoot down a stealth fighter….

  • DJ Elliott says:

    When we get a serious spam attack, the security filter tends to dump everything into the junk que.
    This is not the site playing with you. It is the way the automated security filter works when under attack.
    I just salvaged a half-dozen comments that had nothing wrong with them except the misfortune to be made when a spammer was attacking the LWJ.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    jack winters
    By the way, this is from one of the links you provided me:
    “Al Obeidi, who toured an automobile plant in South Korea on Jan. 15, has expressed interest in similar projects. Officials said one project was for the assembly of armored vehicles in Iraq.”
    Another of those links you provided mentioned artillery.
    That could mean Korean SP 155mm Howitzers. (Varient on the M109…)

  • Tim says:

    Mr. Elliot,
    As a proud member of “The King of Battle” there are a couple of reasons why Iraq lacks in artillery.
    1) The US MiTT that are training the Iraqi military do not train them on the use and employment of artillery.
    2) That is due to the nature of this war. The US military is more concerned that the Iraqis and Afghans have their trash picked up and running water so they like us, rather than crushing our enemy.
    There is a saying among artillerymen that we are a “Dead Branch Walking”. Why train Iraqis on artillery when the US doesn’t use it anymore.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    For the current COIN engagement, Artillery is not all that usefull. That is why US FA are operating in their secondary role as rear-area security.
    The IA’s Divisional FA Regiments were to start forming in 2008, but then, late in 2006, the PM decided to add more infantry Divisions to the structure.
    That increase in infantry forces delayed all of the IA support forces and delayed the start of conversion of the IA to its primary role of defending against external threats.
    That does not mean that FA is dead. It is simply less essential for COIN. But, internal security is the IA’s secondary role by law. Just as rear-area security is for the US gunners. You adjust to your circumstances.


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