18 October 2016

Military Sci-Fi Oddities: The 1983 FOREVER WAR Theater Adaptation by Yoel

Thirty-three years ago today at the small Theater in Chicago a play was aired, the theatrical adaptation of Joe Haldeman's 1974 military science fiction novel The Forever War. Haldeman's masterpiece was and still is one of the pillars of MSF and along with its yin-yang counterpart, Star Ships Troopers, it defines the genre for both writers and readers to this day. The theater play, however, was short-lived, it runs for six consecutive weeks and ended without any trace. Giving that the entire lifespan of the show was in the pre-internet days, there was little information known. There is a reason why we call those days the Dark Age or as Nintendo tried to teach us: "Everything not saved will be lost" and it seem that this unique and bold attempt to bring two distance worlds together, the Military SF and theater, was lost, well, forever. Well, all is not lost, after months of assembling bits of information, interviewing members of the stage play and A LOT of googling, I present you, the dedicated readers of FWS, my own show, this MSF Oddities article – The Forever War Theater adaptation!

This article wasn't possible without the help, information and source material provided by the than Organic Theater members who direct and made the theater adaption. I would like to thanks the following individuals:

-Director Stuart Gordon for answering my ever continuing questions regarding the play, script and the difference between the novel and the adaptation.

-Photographer, Jennifer Girard & costume designer Cookie Gluck for their rare photos of the actors, actresses, and stage.

-Morrisminor of the internet blog 'A subtle echo' for helping to obtain rare concept art images of Neal Adams's take on the TV serious adaption of The Forever War.

The Road to the Theater –the Background Story
In the early 80's, the Chicago Public Broadcast Service (PBS) initiate an attempt to capitalized Haldeman's novel, adaptation it into a lavish well-funded four episodes mini-series. The network already had a good record of transforming Sci-Fi novels to the small screen, Ursula LeGuin's Lathe of Heaven adaptation was first aired in 1980 and quickly become one of the most high-rated and successful shows PBS ever made and there were great hopes for similar success with The Forever War shot. Indeed PBS spared no expense, the original budget of mere one million dollars grew into three million; and both Stuart Gordon and Joe Haldeman were hired to direct and advise, respectively, this endeavor. For the role of concept art creation, PBS enlist comic artist Neal Adams and those rare and beautiful concept examples are all that is left of PBS aborted attempt along with being a painful reminder of what could have been.

In January 1981 Ronald Reagan was sworn to the 40th president of the United States and governmental support for public arts was largely redrawn. When PBS funds cut in half, they had to cut down on their productions and the number one item on their budget was The Forever War mini-series...so it had to go. So, it seems that Reagan Administion cost us fans The Forever War TV adaption! Well at least, he beat those bloody Communists, so I guess it makes us even...maybe.
But, while PBS dumped the production, Stuart Gordon wasn't going to let the central idea of transforming that iconic military sci-fi book into a media form. In the early days of the PBS television production when Gordon and Haldeman were discussing the best and most streamlined way to break the novel into four episodes, Joe told Stuart that the last episode will likely be the easiest to shoot and translate into a stage play. Gordon, who was the owner and director of the small fringe theater in Chicago, the Organic Theater, took notice and when PBS pull the plug, he offered Haldeman to do just that, convert the last part of the intended episode into a live stage play for Gordon to produce.As with PBS, Stuart Gordon & Organic Theater weren't strangers to Sci-Fi adaptations, the theater produced and performed a successful science fiction play named Warp! in 1971 which followed by two sequels. Gordon disliked the sterilized depiction of violence used by the popular media, like the then brand new Star Wars. Gordon believed violence should be presented without filters and served as gory, merciless and pointless as he believes it is. Haldeman accepts the challenge and on October 18th, 1983, the Organic Theater present Gordon's and Haldeman's joint project. The Organic Theater run the stage play for six weeks and didn't proceed in the following season. According to Haldeman, financially, was only a mild success returning the production costs but nothing more. With such lukewarm box sales records, the theater never renewed the stage play and the project ended in November of 1983.

The Difference between the Novel and the Theater Play
With any adaptation effort that takes a story from media form to another, there are going to be changes and some of them are not going to be pretty. The same is very true for the effort of translating the classic 1974 to the stage. The major difference between the novel and the live performance is, of course, the fact that the stage play was centered around the last campaign of the novel and starts off with Mandella strike force embarking to Sade-138 campaign, instead of the book, which has the characters in a form of basic training. The events of the stage play pretty much identical to the last part of the novel: 'Major Mandella'. A few detailed however been removed and other been 'dragged' in from earlier two parts of the novel. The most significant change is the absentee of Marygay Potter! No really...there is no mention of her ever exist and when William return to Stargate there is no letter for him from Marygay inform him she is waiting for him on the planet of Middle-Finger. Without her, the theatrical interpretation completely detours from the end of the novel.

The play begins as Mandella regrows an arm after lost it last battle, his 8th campaign. In the novel, Mandella loses a leg not arm and it is after his second campaign to Tet-2. To put this in some perspective, this means that the stage play would be like the reader picking up the 2003 Eos edition of the book and starting around page 176 (out of 277)! The play also relocated the war some 70 years to the future compared to the novel, William been born in the mid 21st century rather than the early 80's of the 20th century. While the soldiers in the novel encounter the Taurans face-to-face at the first campaign to Aleph-1, according to the play the Taurans never been seen by humans, they are always pushing the self-destruct button before defeat, leaving Terran scientists with nothing more than ashes. In the novel Mandella, Alsever and five other soldiers survived the last battle and returning back home. In the play only Mandella & Alsever are the sole survivors of the strike force ground troops.

Lead Actors & Actresses
-Bruce A. Young, actor -- Major William Mandella

-Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, actor -- Lieutenant Diana Alsever

-Gary Houston, actor -- Captain Charlie Moore

-Linda Kimbrough, actor -- Lieutenant Hilleboe

-J. Pat Miller, actor -- Private Graubard

Why is The Forever War Theatrical Adaptation is an MSF Oddity?
A military sci-fi theater play is quite a unique and rare phenomenon with the exception maybe being Jeff Wayne's live performance of his 1978 The War of the Worlds Musical as another example of a military science fiction live performance show. In fact, there aren't many Sci-Fi theaters plays to speak of. To begin with, the mere effort of translating of the book-to-the-stage made The Forever War theatrical adaptation stand out as a bold experiment that made it the first and only time in the entire genre of Military Science Fiction. This makes this 1983 military SF Play wholly unique and there wasn't and still is not any direct competitor or even something to compare the  theatrical adaptation to. A second reason to add this adaptation into the oddities list is the weird way the Organic Theater handle the source material. Organic Theater adaptation approach to the beloved book was to base the stage production on a third of the book, focusing on William Mandella last campaign of the Eternal War: Sade-138. Nowadays when movie producers consider taking a novel through the shock treatment of movie adaptations, they have two options to bring the story to the silver screen.
The first and the most common is to skim down the central story to its bones, removing any sub-plots, keep major characters under-developed and under-explained, dump outright many minor characters and basically speed forward the plot in order to cram a 600-page long book into a 2-hour long film. The best (or should I say worst?) example is 1984 David Lynch's DUNE. Even at a nearly 3-hour runtime of the 1984 DUNE film (2-hours and 17-minutes of the original cinematic release) wasn't nearly enough to fully bring the complex and highly detailed universe of DUNE to the screen. 
It was hoped that what audiences would be seeing was a touted sci-fi epic that would be hopefully compared to Lawerence of Arabia. Instead, audiences were left with was instead a hollow shell of a film, containing scenes, events and peoples taken from the original material and placed tightly with director David Lynch's hopes that the viewers could complete the gaps from their own memory of the novel. That's right, the intention was to have the audience play "fill in the blanks" with a film that cost an estimated $40 million in 1984 money. That is the risk that you take when taking an iconic and beloved book, as the case was with DUNE and translate into a film: alienated the core audience and bewildering new ones.  

The second scheme that the film industry used for the massive undertaking of adapting a book to a film in the past few years is to break the novel into two or more movies in a row. The recent Hobbit movie trilogy is the most noted example with results opposite from the 1984 DUNE experience, the short story of the Hobbit is mercilessly stretched to three long movies. The Gordon and Haldeman take on adapting The Forever War book is quite unique and as far as I remember, no movie adaptation just pick a third of a story with no intention of sequels.

Theater and Science Fiction
The current status why theaters are largely devoid of any Sci-Fi themes seem to universal true, there occasional successful accidents like Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Show which arguably could be labeled as Sci-Fi but the broad observation remains unchanged – there is a wide gap between the theater and science fiction. That not always been so, in the beginning of the 20th century before the visual media took off there were several remarkable theater plays presented stories and elements we today recognize as hardcore science fiction.
Bernard Shaw's Back to Methuselah dealt with the effects of potentially enhanced longevity on society and Capek's Rossumovi UniverzálnĂ­ Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots) basically is the proto-ancestor of all robot apocalypse as well as coin the term "Robot" ever since.
But that was a century ago and it's raised the necessary question, what has changed? Or more accurately: why is there no tradition of science fiction theater productions?

Here are a few answers:

1. There might be a lot of Sci-Fi stage plays worldwide and throughout the century, played on the stages of small fringe unheard theaters of that none of us have heard about. Totally unseen to the all-seeing eye of Google.

2. While the theater is essentially elitist medium, Sci-Fi is mainly popular genre, those two groups of Sci-Fi consumers and theatergoers are non-overlapping groups results in Sci-Fi theater be a un-bankable endeavor.

3. Historical accident, when it comes to theater most people, both managers, directors, and customers, tend to stick to what already tried and familiar. There are little to no theater westerners or detective live performance for the simple reason of no one made westerners or detective on stage before and science fiction suffered the same fate.
4. SF nerds - a difficult audience. Let's face it, Science Fiction fans are a very opinionated people! Any SF movie production, both original and adaptation, is been exam under scrutinized eyes and it hard to satisfy all or even few… Any potential SF theater will face similar treatment especially if that theater play is an adaption of some beloved book or TV serious. Just ask any Trekkie what his thoughts about William Shatner's proposed Star Trek: The Musical! and you'll get a full ear! How about HALO as Greek tragedy? How about ALIENS, the opera (it ain't over till the fat Alien queen sings!)?

5. SF movie adaptions in general and MSF in particular relays heavily on current visual miracles of computer technology. Science fiction adaptions are usually expected to be spectacular and in the arena where CGI dominates any cheap trap door and invisible fish wires have unfairly competed.

6. A derivate of previous reason - many SF readers are happily settled with their own image of the book's universe, a product of their own imagining and the way they imagine the characters, scenes & events. Those readers will reject any movie adaption attempt as "force feeding" of their beloved universe through the lenses and imagination of someone else. Other readers can enjoy those adaptations, marvel at the visual and audial wonders the wizards of cinema can produce. Sadly, theater seems to fall between the chairs with the former group of readers reject the theater adaption as the reject the cinema and the latter group views theater special effects as a lukewarm alternative to movies SFX.

My Thoughts
I first began interested in the forgotten theater adaptation two years ago when I read about it in FWS blogpost: "What Is Going On With THE FOREVER WAR Movie?!" as a side note, it mentions the adaptation but without any information about such unique experiment. Google searches result in nothing as well. As months past, I decide to search and find and eventually craft my own article about the theater play.
There two main reasons pushed me to that goal:
For start, I'm a big fan of Haldeman's novel and any chance I've to learn more about his work the merrier it is. As Gordon's script landed in my mail I had a chance to read sort of "director cut" of The Forever War novel features all of Haldeman sharp humor and read the same loved story with slightly different plot and I'm grateful to Mr. Gordon for this exclusive experience.
Second, most of my life a tour to theater seem to be more as a punishment than something I am interested at. Most of my encounters with theater plays were force one so to speak as part of elementary and later high-school education programs. My interest in science fiction never met with any theater play and it appears naturally to assume that theater and SF are two separate realms. The notion that not only it is possible to engage those two together but also it has been done and it was The Forever War adaptation sparked my firmness to write this article. As to criticism regarding the play, there is only one – I felt terribly sorry for the lack of Marygay Potter in the adaptation. Marygay, Mandella's lover and the only one remains alive from his old world he knew and lost, was simply erased from the script.
As sort of compromised Mandella and Alsever chose to retire together in Middle Finger which is a heterosexual reservation planet after she chose to stay and live her entire life with Mandella. Answering her decision the two human clones in Stargate perform a magical hetero-conversion to Dr. Alsever before they teleport both of them to the reservation. In one of the old scanned newspaper, I found during my search for clues I found some too optimistic prediction: "there is the possibility of further dramatization of sci-fi novels if ' The Forever War' turn out to be the breakthrough in bringing sci-fi to the stage"
Sadly that never happen…

Next Time on FWS...
Surrounding us is the vast population of insects of all sizes, shapes, and aggressiveness that creep, fly, and crawl. Given the common human response to insects to run screaming away or kill it. this fosters the insect to be a template for a hostile alien species bent on conquest and control. In the next installment of the continuing FWS serial, "our enemies", we will exploring and explaining hostile insect aliens.

10 October 2016

FWS Comic Review: RUBICON (2013)

It seems like the favor-of-the-month for Special Operations units is the US Navy SEALs and their once secretive TIER-One Special Warfare Group: SEAL Team Six. For many years, the Navy SEALs were known about by some in the general public given the infamy of Richard Marcinko, but it was largely eclipsed by DELTA Force and other units in popular media. That altered with the War on Terror, but dramatically rose when DEVGRU Operators pumped 556 into number-one-shitbag UBL in Pakistan in 2011. An explosion of  NAVSPECWAR video games, books, films, TV programs soon followed, packing the collective consciences of the world with deeds of the elite Frogmen, but with some mixed results. The subject of today's FWS review is the 2013 graphic novel that was very much a product of that explosion of interest in Naval Special Warfare, but it fused the iconic Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai film with the conflict in Afghanistan, starring Special Operations of the Navy and Army instead of Ronin Samurai: Rubicon. Published by Archaia Entertainment in 2013, Rubicon was sold by the publishers as a retelling of the Seven Samurai story through the modern war in Afghanistan with American Special Operators defended an Afghan village from the Taliban. Heading this project was a team of talented creators with input from a former founding ST6 Frogman. Originally envisioned as a film, it was translated in a graphic novel to push for a major studio.

The Plot of Rubicon
A Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 pulls into US military forward operating base Troy and is let in based on the driver being a known translator for the people working out of the base. Moments after entering behind the wire, the driver bolts and the Toyota explodes, killing several, including a SEAL Team Six Operator named Big Mike. Back in Virginia Beach, Virginia, an ST6 team leader named Hector is attempted to enjoy family time after his most recent deployment when word comes down that one of the Frogmen in his team has been killed in A-Stan and they are spin up for an operation in-country. This news rips him apart from time with hs kids, his ex-wife, and his hot new girlfriend. Hector's team has been ordered to investigate just what the hell happened in that valley. Once in the country, the five-man ST6 team captured the Taliban would put the translator up to bombing FOB Troy. The SEALs roll into the village and turn over the bloodied prisoner to the father of the man killed. Putting the village into the debt of the SEAL team. However, the Taliban man is let loose by the village, and he warns of a great retribution when he returns. At the FOB, the SEAL teams met two US Army SIGNET intel guys with the language skills and no combat experience. It is there that the seven American Special Operators decided to protect the village and kill the Taliban.


As far as concepts go, Rubicon has one of the better plots of modern military war comics, and it mining the best Samurai film of all time does not hurt either. It is also oddly compelling and there is something special there that has made me return to it several times since I bought it in late August. One of the best compliments I can bestow on Rubicon is that I picked this graphic novel out of a bargain bin at a Houston Books-A-Million and even after flipping through the  graphic novel, I still bought it. The fusion of Seven Samurai  and Special Operation in A-Stan was an intoxicating mixture that propelled me to slap down my cash and take it home. At times, the graphic novel really comes together and delivers on its promises, especially when focused in on Hector, the leader of the Motley crew of SEALs. His challenges with leading a team of expert badass door-kickers and having an active role in his own life back home are spelled out in grim detail. as seen above, some of the art is excellent, especially when it comes to landscape and the vehicles.

An idea can only carry you so far, and it is up to the manifestation of that idea into a hard product that counts on the grand scale. While Rubicon is an amazing idea that would fit well into the other western visual interruptions of Seven Samurai, it is flawed at nearly every turn, and the excuse that is given by the creative team is fucking lame. Errors in page layout, dialog, gear, and how military operations are untaken are the “death by a thousand papercuts”of Rubicon. The battles are confused and worse of all. the production team took lifting ideas from Seven Samurai too literary for the graphic novel’s own good. This is best exemplified by the relationship between a beautiful Afghan village girl and one of the Army SIGNET intel guys. This just would not happen and has not happened in the real world. There is also the matter of the badass bearded operators being ST6 guys. Why? The situation in the graphic novel does not lend itself to the notion of a serving military unit behaving in that manner. No DEVGRU unit would go on mission like that. The situation presented in the graphic novel would be more acceptable if it was involving Private Military Contractors. This would be more inline with original Japanese film that used masterless Samurai (Ronin) to defend the village. The last bad element was the excuse given by Mark Long in the back-page interview. They said that several known issues in the graphic novel were not fixed due to scheduling deadlines. That is a tired excuse and I'm tired of it. The publisher of this graphic novel, Archaia, pushed for this to come out and the resulting unevenness cost Rubicon from being one of the best modern military war comics in more than a decade to a bargain bin find.  How that work out for you, Archaia? If this graphic novel was indeed rushed, as claimed, then it only hurt the long-term plans of the creative team to turn the graphic novel into a major motion modern military film, akin to 13 Hours or Tears of the Sun. That did not happen due to the lukewarm reception of Rubicon.

We all know the phrase "art is subjective" and to some, judging work based solely on its art is too subjective to warrant merit. I disagree, and Rubicon is a perfect candidate for its art style and direction being the Ugly of this graphic novel. It is not just that the art is "bad", it is that it is uneven as hell. That are some panels that are simply beautiful with beautiful Afghan visas, highly detailed Toyota FJ60 Land Cruisers and Hilux pickups, and stunning naked tattooed ladies. Seriously. Then there is art that gifts us with chunky, awkward human forms, battles, and howler monkey faces that make me itch when compared to the good art. Some of the characters appear as rough Operators with scars, beards, tattoos that make them every bit of the tactical beard badass Operators. Then the angle is wrong, and these DEVGRU Jedi Knights appear more simian and hulking lumps of tactical gear and weaponry or foolish jokers.

Bottom Line on Rubicon
Rubicon is a nexus of the ideas, talent, willingness, and time that could have been an opportunity to transform Kurosawa's iconic film into a modern warfare setting. Could have been the object term. This is the deeply painful final assessment of Rubicon, it is flawed on a fundamental level that strikes deep into the basic foundations of this graphic novel. While Rubicon is interesting, it deeply vexes me how this small comic publisher could take this wonderful idea and get it so wrong for no good reason...the nexus of positive elements was there and yet, it could not be realized. The bottom line on Rubicon reminds me what the Oracle said to Neo in the first Matrix film about him having the gift, but it looks like he is waiting for something, like his next life. That is the final assessment of Rubicon, it is waiting on its rebooting that hopeful will live up to the promise of the idea. The real shame of the graphic novel for me is that I really wanted to like it and I just could not get over its many errors and flaws. Reminds me of this girl I dated in high school...

Should You Read Rubicon?

That largely depends on your level of interest in this modern military graphic novel and the price tag. I paid about $6 for the thing at a Books-a-Million in Houston while visiting my mother, and I think that was the right price for it. In the end, I am glad I read and own Rubicon and I think some will enjoy this modern twist on The Seven Samurai....but it is still heavily flawed and if you are knowledgeable about NAVSPECWAR operations as I am then there is just too much wrong to give it a pass. I guess in the end...approach with caution.

Next Time on FWS...
The 18th of October marks one of the anniversaries of a lost and important event in military science fiction history. In the next installment of FWS MSF Oddities, chief FWS Contributor will be exploring and explaining the 1983 Forever War Theatrical adaptation! Be prepared for an amazing blogpost!

01 October 2016

FWS Topics: Artillery

From the beginning of human civilization, the use of various long-range weaponry has existed, allowing hunters to attack their target from a safer distance. That quest has gone from throwing stones, to the catapult, to ancient Chinese rockets and primitive cannonry that shook the walls of castles, all the way to modern computerized field cannons and rockets that suppress vast territory in lethality unknown to warfare previously. Modern artillery is composed of self-propelled platforms that fire shells and rockets to towed field cannons that continue the age old role of traditional artillery. On the horizon, directed and kinetic energy could alter the abilities and lethality of artillery from land, air, sea, and even space. While artillery is still an important component of modern warfare, it is rarely represented in science fiction. In this blogpost, FWS will going over the basics of artillery and its confused role in science fiction. Please note that while mortars are classified as artillery, FWS will be covering mortars in their own blogpost in the near future.

Before We Begin...
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all FWS readers and followers for their patience on the massive delay with FWS. Not only was the subject more complex than I originally expected, but the return of my 11 month old foster daughter to her bio-mother ripped me and my family apart emotionally and I needed to grieve, repair and drink. With the subject of artillery being more complex, I decided in the interest of time to reformat this blogpost as more of a survey over artillery than an exhaustive examination. If you are interested in a more in-depth perspective than here is a link to the US Army Artillery Field Manual FM 6-50.  

What is Artillery and What is the Combat Role of Artillery?
Basically, Artillery is a system of direct and/or indirect fire from mortars, cannons, rockets, and possibly directed-energy that fires a number of munition payloads to support in the field units in either defensive or offensive operations. These varying types of munitions range from smoke, high explosive, shrapnel, cluster bomblets (sub-munitions), and even nuclear. Artillery can take various forms as well, from heavy field guns, massive naval cannons, mortar tubes, railroad-based mega-cannons, self-propelled tank-like vehicles constructed around rockets or cannons. In the near-future, artillery could be space-based, or using directed-energy or new kinetic-energy weapon systems.

The Classification of Artillery
When it comes to breaking down artillery into its categories it is divided up by: the means of transporting the artillery to the battlefield, what it fires, and its purpose on the battlefield. At the basic level of classification we have what the artillery system is firing and in today's armies, that is either rocket or shell with many variations of warhead munitions. Next comes the means on how the weapon systems is transported to the battlefield. Artillery can be a towed system where the weapon systems are moved by animal, ground vehicle, or aircraft and these batteries cannot move or re-position independently.
Artillery can also be an self-propelled weapons platform that has the artillery piece constructed into a vehicle, aircraft, or even naval warship. There could be future interpretation of mobile artillery that could have these systems being stationed onboard space warships, in orbit as a satellite, or mounted onto a walker mech. This also can be either rocket or cannon as well. When it comes to purpose, the role of artillery seems simple on the surface, but some artillery is solely setup for air defense work, defending the coast or firing interceptors to counter into ICBMs. With the vast amount of munitions available to artillery crews, a single battery can lay down various types of fire depending on the situation, strategy, or timing.

Common Artillery Terms
  • "Fire for Effect"=  (FFE) This often used artillery term is used to order the battery emplacement to fire a full barrage of their guns on to the target to blanket the target with fire to accomplish the mission or effect, like suppression or destruction. This is not a barrage that is fired until rounds are exhausted or the in the field units order a halt of fire. The battery fires and then waits for an “repeat” request from the field units. This artillery term that is used liberally in sci-fi books and games (HALO: Reach).
  • "Battery”= This a group of heavy support fire weaponry that fires shells, rockets, or even laser beams as a collective entity for coordinated fire. It can be ground-based, space-based, or even sea-based artillery.  
  • “Howitzer= This is a term applied to a short barreled artillery piece that uses small propellant charges for steep angle of decline. Lower velocity and shorter range. This word’s roots are muddled and are traced back to either German or Czech words. Howitzer is also commonly used for any artillery piece.
  • "Danger Close"= This is a popular term used in fiction, and it general informs the audience that the shit has hit the fan and you are calling in heavy fire support in close proximity to your position. The normal distance is about 600 meters for the Danger Close call.
  • "Crew Served Weapon"= This term is applied to any weapon requirement more than one soldier to operate. This can include heavy machine guns, artillery guns, mortars, and even massive naval artillery. Some AAA system, like the kinetic and directed-energy CIWS are larger weapon systems that can operate without human intervention.  
  • "Gun Ready"= This is used by the artillery crew to indicate that their gun or guns are ready for fire. This was used in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III to inform the player that the 102mm  Howitzer on their AC-130 is loaded and ready.
  • "Fire Discipline"= This the board term for directing artillery fire language. 
  • "Gun Laying"= This is a term applied to aiming an artillery piece or mortar and is a general term applied to various adjustments with more specific names.
  • "Indirect Fire"= This is primary use of artillery, to fire shells at an target(s) that are not directly in front of the battery and normally a good distance away. This requires the battery crews to use azimuth and elevation to dial in the target along with information pointing to the possible location. Artillery spotting teams, UAVs, UGVs, in the field units, and even satellites can be used to direct or indirect fire.
  • "Direct Fire"= This shots delivered onto a target that is point-of-aim (direct line-of-sight) of the cannon. Rare in artillery usage and could be only use for directed-energy artillery systems.
  • "Rounds Complete"=  This is used to inform the involved units that the number of shell/rounds allocated for the target have been finished, ceasing the bombardment.
  • "Destructive Fire"= This is the call to destroy the target(s) in a specific grip, this can impact the time of fire and the type of ammunition used.
  • "Line of Fire"= This is imaginary line that is created by the direction of barrel of the artillery cannon , used for position and fire direction.
  • "Time on Target /Time of Flight"= This is the ETA for incoming fire and how long it takes the shells/rockets to reach the target location. At times, this is used to clear the airspace corridor of friendly airborne units or tell the friendly units to get their green ass out of the fire zone.
  • “Fire Mission”= This is the request to ready a battery for action, and prelude to coordinates and ammunition requirements for the unit in the field.
  • “Suppression”= This is when artillery is used to deny or harass the enemy from counterattacking, moving, or accessing an area/equipment. This often is used in conjunction with an assault or movement of friendly forces.
  • “Final Protective Fire”= This is a fancy term for a prearranged artillery barrage of covering fire to protect the withdraw of field units from intercepting enemy units.
  • Time of Fire”= I am not sure how “official” this term is, but I’ve seen it a few time in World War One fiction. For what I remember, “Time of Fire” is an older term and used to detail the duration of time that the battery will be firing onto the target area. In the World War One stories, the artillery battery would bombard the target area, then at the appointed time, the artillery would stop, and the infantry would go over-the-top. 

Modern Military Artillery
Throughout the history of organized warfare there has been great change in how warfare is conducted and by what. However, some traditions remain the same, and the central concept of artillery has remained a staple of warfare for over 400 years. While it is not a winner of wars by itself, it is key ingredient for success on the battlefield then and now. With the advancement of computer technology, the Cold War, and the mechanization of modern warfare; artillery has grown in the last sixty years to include more importance on computerized aiming systems, GPS, self-propelled artillery vehicles, laser target designation, and guided rockets. Modern artillery is faster, more accurate, more deadly than previous generation...however, it is struggling for combat space and utilization due to advancements in close-air-support (CAS). However, modern large-scale warfare is not waged without the use of these big guns to support in the field units.    

The Field Artillery Team
When conducting indirect fire operations, the prospect of getting it wrong and either landing fire on the wrong grid coordinates or harming friends/non-combatants is a risk. To prevent this and obtain accelerate data, the is an entire team developed to the operation of the field artillery battery. At the foundation of the team is the Recon/Advance party whose job it is to scout a location for the entire artillery team to operate out of. Many considerations and requirements must be met prior to the field artillery team to embark on the Herculean task of relocation. This is a critical part of the entire operation, because if the location is poorly chosen, it could led to the entire field artillery team to be ineffective or wiped out. 
Once the team is setup, it is up to the Forward Observation team to find the enemy, relay coordinate data, and observe the effectiveness of the bombardment. The FO team relays their information to the Fire Direction Center, not the artillery gun crew. In battlefield conditions, FO teams can be blocked from gauging the fire and locating the targets, and the field artillery team relays on in-the-field units to call in coordinates and gauge the effectiveness of the salvo. When it comes to plotting, tasking of the field guns, and putting all of the information together; that is the job of the Fire Direction Center (FDC). Here the plan comes together, the math is checked and rechecked, and then fire orders are given to the guns. While this seems like a lengthy process, it can be accomplished rather rapidly once all of the pieces of the field artillery team.  

The Fire Support Base (Firebases)
Growing up watching Vietnam era war films and documentaries, it was hard to escape the frequent use of the term "firebase" and its ability to send down artillery fire from miles away. The term firebase is actually shortened from"fire support base" and their primary purpose is to be "temporary" quick-reaction heavy fire support sites for in-the-field units. This concept was pioneered in Vietnam and has been in seen in use in Afghanistan. The Fire base was just more than about six 105mm or 155mm towed field gun batteries arranged in an “star” pattern. These bases contained aid stations, tactical operations center, defensive platoons, heli-pads, and full range of artillery range personnel.
With the war effort against the NVA and NC being spread out across the country of South Vietnam and the local geography, there were challenges to classical ideas of how to support deployed infantry units with heavy fire. This is why the localized artillery assets were developed. These firebases were critical in the dense jungle warfare hell of Vietnam. Given its power and importance, the bases were attacked during the war, making it necessary for Fire Bases to have soldiers assigned as security. First built in 1965, these temporary sites became more like permanent hilltop forts that were part of the culture of the Vietnam War. During the war against the Taliban and AQ in Afghanistan, the US again developed modern firebases,

Physical Placement of the Field Guns
After reading through the US Army field manual on Artillery, I realized something that I had not considered before, besides I am not smart enough to be an artillery unit, the physical arrangement of the artillery battery is important to the effect on the target impact zone. The majority of SPA and towed field artillery cannons staggered the formation of their cannons in a line that is spread out to prevent easy targeting. However, there are different formations as seen in World War One and the America Civil War. Some of these are based on the range of the target, the capabilities of the gun itself, and the types of targets. This seems to have fallen out of favorite in modern artillery batteries.

Firing For Effect: Shot Placement and Target Location
We've all seen films where the grid reference coordinates are wrong and the rounds are coming in danger close, impacting friends. Blue-on-Blue fire is never okay, and this is one of the horrors of using field artillery: wrong shot placement. It is up to the various moving parts of the artillery team and the units in the field to synchronize their actions to allow the rounds to fall on the heads of the enemy and be effective. This involves accurate information on the enemy's position, friendly position, and information on the cover that the enemy is using; this can influence the type of fuse and ammunition used in the tubes.
When the plan works, the artillery falls on the heads of the enemy, and the field units can achieve their objectives. Get it wrong, and the rounds fall on the friendlies, handing victory to the enemy and ruining trust in the Combined Arms team. Nothing is worse for the artillery unit to know they committed rounds to the wrong target and hurt or killed friendlies. Helping the situation is technology, of course. The old days of a compass and a map are nearly gone with laser designators, GPS, and UAVs helping coordinator fire and targets. All of this means more effective impact on target and not on friendlies

Artillery vs. Close Air Support
For much of its history, artillery has reigned supreme as the king of heavy fire support and destructive power. In the centuries of continued development, there was nothing to challenge the supremacy of artillery until the advent of "modern" warfare via World War One. Tanks, military vehicles, airplanes all altered the relationship between the battlefield and artillery. But, it was not until the late 20th century that Close Air Support advanced enough with communication technology that CAS could compete with the classic role of artillery supporting ground units with heavy firepower. Prior to reading the book Not a Good Day to Die by Sean Naylor about Operation ANACONDA, I falsely believed that CAS and field artillery could be used interchangeably on the modern battlefield.
It was during that 2002 battle in the Shah-i-Kot Valley that the limitations of CAS on the modern fluid battlefield was exposed and how there still was a role for classic artillery fire support despite the higher-ups denying the 101st their heavy guns. While modern CAS with all of the laser guided technology and advanced munitions is strongly and grimly effective, it is often one bomb (with often smaller bombets inside) that cannot offer the suppression that an artillery battery bombardment can offer with the range of and change of munitions on the fly. If it was not loaded onto the aircraft than it is not there to drop on the shitbags. Then there is the time from target selection and permission to drop is often longer than dialing up the local artillery firebase, along with travel time for the aircraft to get into the AO.
Fixed-wing CAS has a physical limit of operational time based on fuel consumption that field artillery does not. As long as the guns has ammo and the artillery crews had chow and water, the guns are working to free the shit out of the enemy. Also, to the trained ear of the enemy, like the AQ and Taliban during Operation: ANACONDA, incoming fire can be spotting giving the enemy time to get to protected position to weather the storm of $37,000 JDAMS. Of course, CAS can get ordnance on the target in rough terrain where artillery guns cannot or will not be transport to. Both suffer from effects of hostile weather.
Tradition bad weather can and does ground fixed-wing and rotary CAS, but in most cases, artillery can go on firing. A nice marriage between traditional fixed-wing CAS and field artillery guns is helicopter CAS assault and AC-130 gunship on-station CAS. Both can adjust fire and often some form of suppressive fire. However, bad weather can ground helicopters, the enemy can engage helicopters, AC-130 gunships can only operate at night. The overuse of CAS and the underuse of Artillery has been seen in Afghanistan in the early days is more even with more bases, with forward artillery bases being used to support combat operations. The argument over CAS versus Artillery is not over... 

Self Propelled vs. Towed Artillery 

There are two main gross classifications in modern artillery: towed and self-propelled. This naturally sparks a debate about which form of artillery is better. When it comes to positives of towed artillery over self-propelled, it is lighter, cheaper, less mechanic complex, air mobile, and able to be deployed with light divisions for greater fire support. Some claim that towed field artillery guns are more all-weather capable than SPA. However, towed artillery guns do relay on trucks or helicopter to move them when the armor or mechanized infantry moves up beyond the range of the guns. If no transport is available to physically move the guns, than the artillery element is stuck at that location, which can put them at greater risk for counter-battery and infantry attacks. This is where self-propelled artillery shines. 
A battery of cannons can be easily moved and re-position as the tactical deems it and they are harder to counter. When it comes to SPA disadvantages over towed artillery it is mostly due to the reliability of the engine propelling the gun and availability of fuel resupply in the field, along with SP guns are more expensive than traditional towed field guns. Some say that the recoil energy causes greater wear and tear on the SPA systems than towed. Of course, SP guns, like the M109, require less manpower to operate and are quicker to setup and fire than towed, especially if you consider the South African G6 wheeled SPA can fire five shells just a minute after movement.  The debate rages on, but the both are still needed on the field of battle and both bring their own "favor" and ability to the overall tactical environment. 

Rocket Artillery vs. Gun Artillery
In another question/debate often raised when discussing artillery, which is better: rockets or gun artillery? One of the iconic images of the Second World War was racks of rockets launching a hail of  awesome destructive power that pounded targets and beaches. While "dumb-fire" rockets are still around but the world of rocket artillery has moved to more guided systems allowing for more precise targeting. Rocket artillery has the ability to blanket an area with massive heavy fire in shorter amount of time than gun artillery and at a more rapid rate of fire than gun artillery. However, rocket artillery can shoot it load faster than an gun battery, leaving the rocket battery empty and needing resupply, this puts gun artillery with greater sustaining fire rates.  
Often rocket SP artillery platforms, like the US Army MLRS, is able to receive resupply in the field, but those reload times are longer than gun artillery batteries, and there is less variety of warhead munitions than gun artillery. Consider that a battery of field artillery guns can have at their fingertips a number of warheads and can adjust elements of those shells, like the fuse and powder loads. This availability of ammunition allows a gun battery to bombard the target area longer, leading to greater target saturation and suppression. The downside to that, is that rockets are quieter, but does generate more heat blooms than gun artillery, and has greater "shock-and-awe" factor when hailstorm of rockets pound their position. The grim effectiveness of the US Army MLRS during the Gulf War was told in the faces, casualties, and testimony of Iraqi POWs. 
When it comes to costs, gun artillery is cheaper all around when you consider comparing self-propelled rocket artillery platforms and not the older truck towed dumb-fire rocket artillery. One chief advantage of rocket artillery often stated is the lack of recoil over gun artillery. While hotly debated, recoil is a major consideration of gun artillery causing SP gun artillery platforms to be non-mobile during firing its mission, allowing for less maneuverability and greater exposure to counter-battery. The counterpoint is that gun artillery is more accurate than rocket artillery as a general rule...that could change. Helping the gun artillery accuracy is the ability to field fire observation teams, which rocket artillery does not. When it comes to The bottomline is that since the vast majority of artillery branches around the world use both, that they both have a place and function on the modern battlefield to justify their maintenance and development costs.  

Types of Artillery

Naval Artillery
When most people think of artillery it is often the classic field cannon with soldiers loading the breach and laying down a thick rain of shells, but one of the early applications of artillery on a wide-scale was as naval weaponry. Not only useful for ship-to-ship engagements, but these cannons could be used to support ground units in invasions, as seen in the island hopping campaigns of World War II. Of course, naval artillery is not just support weapon system for invasion, at one time; naval warships pounded each other with long-range guns in slug matches of epic proportions. While the massive 16inch guns of big-gun WWII warships that fired shells the size of VW Beetles is gone, the new rapid fire 127mm naval guns of the US Navy are able to provide anti-ship and land support capability at a range of about 20 miles. The real naval artillery of today’s navies is guided missiles with guided shell technology and railguns being explored. Naval artillery continues onward into battles in outer space with a futuristic version of shipborne gunnery seen in science fiction, like Battlestar Galactica.  

Nuclear Artillery

During the Cold War, NATO and the Warsaw Pact developed low-yield (about 100 tons of TNT) nuclear shells that could fire from field artillery cannons. The idea behind these insane sounded weapons was to use these in the same role as tactical short-range nuclear weapons, against large formations of enemy targets. These were conceived when atomic/nuclear weapons were thought to be the answer to future warfare situations; as well as to counter the numerical conventional force advantage of the Warsaw Pact over NATO. As crazy as all of this seems, these low-yield nuclear weapon shells were tested and could have been issued to battlefield units if the need arise, especially if the Soviets had invaded West Germany.
To best field these nuclear artillery, US Army developed the M65 280mm atomic cannon nicknamed “Atomic Annie” in the 1950’s. About 20 of these cannons were constructed with the cannon being able to fire a 280mm shell at 20 miles. The US Army was not the only ones involved in nuclear artillery, the majority NATO and Warsaw Pact member countries developed and stored thousands of nuclear artillery shells, but the vast majority of nuclear shells were removed from Europe by the very early 1990’s. Even by the 1970’s and 1980’s, the advent of tactical nuclear launchers made the role of nuclear artillery nearly obsolete.

Railway Gun
One of the largest land-based artillery systems was the Railway gun of the first and second world wars. The utterly massive cannons were often surplus naval artillery from the heydays of Dreadnought and the Battleship, where slug matches between dueling naval artillery where still commonplace. Due to the limitations of military vehicle towing capabilities, these titans of artillery were hauled on the heaviest mover of men and equipment: the railroad. This means that unless there were already tracks perfectly laid out to the correct firing site, new track had to be laid for the gun. This was just another expense associated with railroad artillery, adding to the massive monetary costs, manpower, and resources.
While most associate the railway gun with World War I and II, the practice was original thought of back in 1847, and we have pictorial evidence of railway artillery being used, to a lesser degree, in the American Civil War. With the vast pain in the ass, militarily speaking, that these gargantuan weapon platforms are, why would any military use them? When railway guns were in vogue it was prior to the advent of modern air power and missiles. It was believe that bigger was better when it came to heavy fire support and the cracking of heavy bunker fortifications, like the French Maginot Line. Another use of these massive cannons was to lay siege to a city, like the Germans did to Paris in World War One. Railway guns also crossover to coastal artillery with the advent of “cross-channel” cannons that would have been used if Hitler had invaded England. Today, the function of these obsolete artillery pieces has been taken over by “bunker-buster” bombs and cruise missiles at a much cheaper price tag.

Anti-Aircraft Artillery
When aircraft emerged as a major threat to nations, in the form of military airships, bombers, and even fighters around World War I and II, one of the counters for this was Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA or Triple-A). While this term is still used today, the true Anti-Air Artillery is a bit of an misnomer. True Triple-A was modified or custom built cannons that fired specialized shells, like flank, to destroy or damage incoming bombers and other aircraft. This is best remembered by World War II movies involving bombers skipping across the pond to level German targets, like 1990's Memphis Belle. 
While the term is still used, Tripe-A today is more associated less with old-fashioned cannons that fell out of favor around the Vietnam War and more with  rapid-fire larger-caliber mobile self-propelled gun platforms like the US Army M113 APC based M163 VADS and the old Soviet 23mm ZSU-23-4 self-propelled platform. There is also air defense portable gun platforms that can be used to defend an area, base, or formational, like the old Soviet 14.5mm ZPU AA guns. However, one of the common forms of aircraft defense systems is the use of rockets or SAMs, to intercept incoming hostile aircraft. It is highly likely that AA defense systems will use futuristic weapon systems like lasers and possible railguns. FWS will cover air defense systems in a later blog article.

Close Infantry Mobile Fire Support Artillery (Assault Guns)
Another form of artillery that is more up-close-and-personal that heavy gun miles away from the front is mobile close infantry fire support artillery. This is one of those military sci-fi concepts that been seen in futuristic urban warfare scenarios and there some examples in military history as seen with the USMC M50 Ontos self-propelled 106mm recoilless rifle system. During the Battle of Hue and even some cases of the World War II there was use of lighter armored vehicles like M3 Stuart tank and in the Ontos in urban settings to support urban combat operations. There is also the World War II concept of the Assault gun, where infantry support gunnery was placed into a tank-like vehicle, like the 3rd Reich Sturmgeschutz III tanks. This heavy firepower allowed infantry units to have mobile fire support artillery while the infantry protects the armored vehicle from anti-tank weapons. In science fiction, classic mecha, Type-II powered armor, and larger robotic walker tanks have all been used as close infantry support. I can remember tense 1980's games of CityTech using smaller mecha to support infantry units in a custom version of the game. Good times.

Coastal Artillery
Prior to the development of long-range bombers and guided missiles, the only way to delivery massive fire onto coastal targets was to use the naval artillery and bombard the in-land targets.  As with anything associated with warfare, where there is a threat, there is a counter. The counter to naval artillery was coastal artillery to repeal incoming naval threats. This idea of defensive coastal artillery batteries has been around since 1381 and was often in conjunction with coastal forts, but with development of guided missiles and airpower, coastal artillery would be phased out after World War II. Coastal artillery was often its own branch of the greater armed forces and I even had an ancestor who served in the US Army coastal artillery during the Spanish-American War.
During the colonial territory rush of the New World, European powers often established forts with heavy artillery presence to fend off any invasion from committing a hostile takeover of their colonial holdings. This was especially true in the Caribbean.  During World War II, coastal artillery used in both the Pacific and the Atlantic with some effectiveness, and if the Nazis had enacted Operation: Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain, it could have been one of the largest uses of coastal artillery. One of the best known coastal artillery/fortifications systems was the Nazi Atlantic wall that the Allied D-Day invasion forces faced on that fateful day. Most coastal artillery of those days are rushing away or been preserved in museums.

Artillery from the Skies
The idea of using the skies as a means of attack and support fire goes back to the age of military balloons and the early airplanes of the Great War, but true artillery support from the air has not been a reality until more recently with the gunships of the Vietnam War and the War on Terror. USAF Special Operations Command has a fleet of specially modified C-130 cargo planes designed to deliver on-target heavy support fire at night to in-the-field units and carry out targeted strikes. How is this airborne heavy weapon system just not a form of  close air support and can be considered artillery?
Well, that is a debatable, but given that the AC-130 Spectre gunship carried an specialized variant of the M102 105mm howitzer, it can be considered an airborne self-propelled artillery piece that is used in a manner close to the use of ground based artillery guns. With an experienced crew, the AC-130 can pump out 13 rounds-per-minute of 105mm freedom delivery onto targets. The future of the airborne M102 105mm is in doubt with some gunships already fielded without the big gun. It is likely that the next-gen AC-130s will be equipped with an offensive laser cannon.

Self-Propelled Gun Artillery (SPA)
One of the issues with artillery cannons is that they are heavy and require a great deal of support material and personnel. Adding to the issues of deploying field artillery is the rapid pace of modern land warfare due to mechanization. While field guns being towed by military trucks  is one answer to the artillery keeping pace with the assault force, another is Self-Propelled Artillery/Gun pieces (SPA/SPG). The idea of mounting cannons on a mobile platform has been around prior to the development of automobiles and trains, like the camel-mounted Zamburak mobile artillery of the 19th century and the train artillery of the Boer Wars; it was the First World War when the proper SPA were developed.
Either being mounted to wheels or tracks, SPA gained acceptance and adaption after World War II when mechanized warfare was seen as the future of land warfare. Mobility and flexibility were the key terms in associated with SPA. Being independently mobile allows the artillery piece to shot and re-position before it can be engaged by counter battery systems or aircraft, as seen with the French CAESAR wheeled SPA. This increases the survivability of the battery. Artillery being mobile allows this critical support element to keep up with the spearheading armored forces. With this mobility comes the issues of resupplying the SPA with ammunition and fuel.
That is where the US Army M992 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle comes into play. This M109 chassis'ed support vehicle is designed to resupply the M109 15mm SPA quickly with an conveyor system. However, in practice, the M992 and M109 crews load the shells with their hands to avoid issues...and issues with explosive is never a good thing. When it comes to the size of those SPA shells, 155mm is the most common, but the largest SPA in-service was the American Army M110 203mm howitzer. Most of the modern SPA batteries can fire four rounds per minute per gun. That is a great deal of freedom going down-range in a normal battery formation. One modern SPA, the South African G6-52 155mm wheeled SPA, gives us an example how self propelled artillery can use their mobility and rate of fire to increase survivability. This excellent weapons platform can fire off a rapid burst of 5 shells after just sixty seconds after movement, then re-position after 30 seconds after rounds complete, and fire again sixty seconds after that movement. This prevents the accuracy of counter-battery locating and targeting the G6.

Rocket Artillery
Rockets are nothing new to the world of artillery, and have been an integral part of artillery since ancient times. Rocket artillery is a fixture of warfare since the days of ancient China and has been used in some of the most iconic battles of history, like Waterloo. World War II would see the advent of military heavy-duty trucks being the foundation for self propelled rocket artillery batteries that unleashed a fury of rockets down on enemy positions. Rocket artillery has also enjoyed a strong naval tradition with  naval warships mounted ranks of rockets to bombard beaches for the Pacific island campaign of World War II and even the War of 1812.
Today, the rocket artillery of choice is the self-propelled rocket artillery (SPRA) platform, like the US Army M270 MLRS and the Russian 9A52-4 "Tornado". SPRA are either a tracked tank-like vehicle or a wheeled truck-like vehicle, but both mounted a launching system of multiple rockets of various warheads. Rocket artillery can be used for counter-battery and defensive operations, like the Patriot Missile interceptor system.

Towed Field Artillery Guns
The most traditional form of artillery is the towed field artillery guns that have been used since 14th century Ming Dynasty in China. This application of wheels to the heavy cannon allowed for artillery to be mobile and incorporated into engagements beyond siege warfare. Transportation of the field guns were mostly done with beasts of burden and even limited human labor. This was true up until the Second World War when heavy trucks were recruited for the job. In some cases, military aircraft can be used to move or drop howitzers onto the battlefield as seen in airborne assault units. Despite the heavy presence of self-propelled artillery vehicles due to the mechanization of land combat units, the vast majority of artillery fire support has been erupting from the barrels of towed field guns.
While they are strongly effective, towed field artillery pieces do have several considerations that I have not thought of prior to reading the Army Field Manual. The site that the artillery command choses is depended on many factors, with being defendable being one. While the gunnery have to be considered with making sure their position is close enough, but too close to the frontline, they most also be considered with an enemy forces attacking the artillery position to eliminate their support. This has and does happen in military history, as we have witness with the American Airborne assault of the Nazi artillery position at Brecourt Manor in Normandy, France on June 6th.
With artillery being a scientific and labor intensive activity, attention to counter attacking infantry and light mechanized units can be lacking, and enemy could sneak up on the artillery position. Pages of the Army field manual are devoted to creating a proper defensive position site with machine gun and prepared fighting positions. However, there is also the issue of having enough guns to defend the position while carrying out their primary job of manning the artillery pieces and holding off the enemy assault until help can arrive. While proper procedure is to have defending infantry units, combat is a harsh and strange mistress that bleeds away support units, leaving the towed artillery battery position more vulnerable. While some may discount the continued role of towed artillery cannons, we must remember that as this blogpost is being written, US Army forces are using 155mm M777 Howitzers in Iraq to support combat operations against those ISIS shitbags by the Iraqi Army.

Mech-Propelled Artillery Platforms

When it comes to future armored vehicles, making it mecha makes it much more cooler and badass, and even applies to artillery. In a twist on modern military self-propelled artillery vehicles is the mecha-propelled artillery platform (MPA). These walking tanks are outfitted with massive cannons in either KE or DE weapon systems that are designed to keep a (slow) pace with other military mobile units while the walker-format allows for added maneuverability and flexibility. This are naturally hulking war machines that are both terrifying and a nice juicy target for aerial bombardment. One of the interesting cases of mecha being used mostly as artillery support is the Destroids from ROBOTECH Macross and the Super Dimension Fortress Macross series.
While these Destroids became heroes to many of us fans in the hex grid battlefields of the BattleTech universe and in the die-cast Matchbox toys, they were barely touched upon in the series, with full attention paid to the garish Veritechs. Looking at the series now, the Destroids are used mostly as mobile artillery and support. The SDF-1 used the several variants of Destroids as AAA and close-in weapon systems. This makes some of the Destroids of Macross and ROBOTECH a form of mech-based mobile artillery.  

Space-based Artillery

One of the most common futuristic artillery systems used in science fiction is the orbital directed energy platforms that rein down killer light at cities and superhuman biker-punk teenagers. The laser beam needed for such devastative power is on the order of 40 megawatts. Particle beams could also be used, but the most viable is the “rods from god” kinetic projectiles from orbit to strike planetary targets. While it seems that space-based artillery would be the ultimate high ground, there are already in-service missiles systems that can take out satellites, along with intra-orbital kinetic interceptors. These could be good system for providing off-world colonies with some artillery support, just in case space pirate show up or hungry killer insects.  

Planetary Defense Artillery
One futuristic application of artillery could be closer in spirit to coastal artillery: planetary defense artillery batteries. Instead of defending our coastline, these massive artillery batteries would defend our planet from incoming invasion fleets. Sci-fi has some fine examples of this concept, like the RDF Grand Cannon, and I had these with an older sci-fi universe I developed from age 6 to 18. In that universe, settled worlds were granted planetary artillery bases manned by government personnel and defended by the colonial garrisons. While each colonial world was entitled to at least one, it often depended on the size and importance of the colony. One artillery base was often a sign of a newly founded colony, while a dozen or more where a sure sign that the government valued this world. Specialized assault units were created to disable or destroy these artillery bases prior to full-scale planetary invasions. I had several stories centered around these special spaceborne assault units. We will discussing these space-drop operators next month. This speaks to the grim effectiveness of these artillery defense bases against orbiting hostile warships.  

Artillery Ammunition

At its simplest concept, artillery is the ability to hurl a heavy projectile at great distances to strike targets. For more close engagements that involve direct fire, cannons firing grapeshot could sweep and maim infantry. Simple kinetic projectiles can be effective, but when explosives were added to the mix, it became Thor's hammer to pound the enemy. The transition from simple kinetic projectiles to explosive warheads altered artillery shells being a delivery system to import various payloads to their unlucky targets. Modern artillery projectiles are normally found in the 100mm to 200mm range with most NATO nations using 105mm and 155mm shells. The most common artillery munition payload is high-explosive (HE) that is a mixture of 39% of TNT, 60% RDX, and 1% of an binding wax agent. 
One of the great advantages of gun artillery is the ability to mix-and-match warhead loads, fuses, powder loads, along with having a number of munition payloads to choose from during combat operations. In the United States 155mm artillery shell inventory, there are some 34 different types of payload types ranging from practice rounds, smoke, tear gas, area-denial munitions, many high explosives variants, and white phosphorus. Some of these munitions can be mixed to increase lethality or to layer abilities, like generating smoke followed by mines. During the Battle of Fallujah in 2004, it was reported that US Marines were mixing WP with HE to hit buildings. 
This being the 21st century, technology has altered payloads in the lethal and nonlethal variety. Area Denial Artillery Munition (ADAM) and Remote Anti-Armor Munition (RAAM) are ways for artillery to lay down the hate on an area. ADAM are 36 M74 anti-personnel mini-mines deployed by the M692/M731 155mm shell to non-hardened surfaces and allow for an varied hours long minefield. Due to the destructive and cruel nature of mines being leftover from previous conflicts, ADAM mines can be effective for only four hours to an maximum of 48 prior to self-destruction. Then there is Remote Anti-Armor Munition (RAAM) that are a nasty form of anti-tank artillery that has an 155mm shell is packed with nine mines designed for taking out tanks on non-hardened surfaces.
One of the most common uses of artillery, besides pounding the shit out of the enemy, is to lay down smoke. Many factors of weather and local environment enter into the calculations of creating maximum and continuous smoke dispersion. Most assume that a single shell or salvo could lay down the smoke field, in reality, it takes the firing of one shell per every two-to-three minutes to create an effectively dense smoke field. Some 155mm smoke shells are packed with canisters to pack as much smoke generation in a single shell as possible. Most modern smoke munition has IR blocking properties. One of the more interesting 155mm non-lethal artillery payloads is the XM867 US Army is E-Warfare communication jammers that can spread an hockey puck shaped communication jamming field.      

"Shoot-and-Scoot" and Counter Battery Artillery
Two of the terms often heard in conjunction with modern artillery is "shoot-and-scoot", "counter battery" and they are strongly related. Technically, shoot-and-scoot is called "fire-and-displace", and it is tactic developed by artillery batteries during the Cold War due to the ability of enemy units to triangulate incoming artillery and return fire via"counter battery"salvo that can destroy or neutralize the original source  of the hostile artillery fire. Repositioning the artillery battery after firing their last round out of the tube is similar to the tactics of when snipers reposition to avoid being detected and engaged. This repositioning after firing is tricky-to-impossible for towed artillery batteries, and at times, the soldiers may have to abandon their artillery pieces to save themselves if no transport is readily available.
Where shoot-and-scoop is best used is by the more mobile self-propelled artillery platform and some SPA systems have developed around rapid fire salvos technology, followed by movement within a minute, like the South African G6, to increase survivability. Counter battery comes in many forms, from traditional artillery pieces using radar to locate and return fire, to systems closer to the naval close-in weapons systems. These type of counter battery are more akin to AAA or CIWS than traditional forms of counter battery and could be completely automated. These systems can intercept incoming artillery fire (shells or rockets) via 30mm rounds, interceptor missiles, or even laser beams. These current and next generation systems certainly blur the lines between defensive weaponry and counter-battery.

The Future of Artillery
The traditional role of artillery as the “king of the battlefield” was due to years of being the mass causality delivery system. It is estimated that during WWII, that 70% of casualties were from artillery. That traditional role is under threat with the present conflicts in the Middle East. With the current wars being more counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency centered, they do not involve the classical heavy mechanized land war model of World War II and the Cold War. This undercuts the role of traditional artillery as well. Presently, CAS and gunships are used more in conjunction with COIN operations than field artillery, but both are still used jointly. Not helping the situation is the bleeding off artillery personnel for other jobs and roles, as seen in Iraq with artillery guys being peeled away to pull patrol or security. Some artillery units have not called upon their artillery training in years or do not received the complete traditional artillery training. One article I read stated that artillery was a “dying branch” of the combat arms. They also went on to say that if the problem is not fixed of bleeding away personnel, underbaked training, and young officers not being put into the artillery branch soon, the entire artillery branch could be seriously damaged with problems “too many to overcome”.
Over the next 30 years, artillery is going to undergo massive changes due to the continued undercutting of its core mission, the inclusion of railguns, gauss, and lasers, along with guided shells that could use assistance from rocket motors to propel them faster and further than before. UAVs will be used to a greater extend in locating the enemy, and the recon element of the field artillery team could be nearly eliminated. Armed drones could be also used to counter artillery with missile strikes on artillery batteries positions. Artillery could become more automated with more independent cannon systems that allowed in-the-field units to dial into the automated artillery master control system, and order up some 155mm love to the enemy. Extending this concept we could see 3D printers and nano-material allowing to generate ammunition and custom loads all on-demand. Automated in-field self-propelled artillery could be dropped in and setup without much involvement from humans.
One hint of the near future of self-propelled was the US Army next-generation of SP artillery, the XM2001 "Crusader"155mm self-propelled artillery howitzer and its XM2002 artillery resupply vehicle. This was an attempt to lighten the SPA, incorporate bleeding edge technology, increase the "shoot-and-scoop" ability with rapid fire and resupply, and decrease the crew to three. Sound good, right? I can remember the XM2001 being tested and it was looked as the future of SPA and a pattern to be followed by other military organizations...and it was cancelled by SoD Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 for it not fitting in with his "vision" of the lighter, more mobile modern military. What was cutting edge about the XM2001 Crusader was it cooled barrel to allow rapid firing, automated loading and handling, improved engine and armor technology. While the project was cancelled, the ground work is there and other nations have looked to the XM2001 and XM2002 for inspiration for next-gen near future SPA.

Can Rail and Gauss KEWs be Used for Artillery?
The answer is mixed. Both commonly used forms of kinetic energy weapons: Gauss and Rail could be used for artillery in both indirect and direct fire roles. The US military research agency, DARPA experimented with Gauss technology being applied to mortars in the 120mm size and a proposed 81mm. The results were promising, but there was the in-field power requirements and if one of the coil stages failed...you could have a problem. The US Navy has been conducting promising research into ship-based Railguns that could be deployed within a decade.
According to the US Navy's own site, the EM Railgun could be a multi-mission weapons platform that could reach out beyond 100 miles to strike land and sea based targets. This means that EM Railguns can be used in both a direct and indirect fire role, concurrently to traditional chemically propelled shells. One of the issues with electromagnetic KEW is the shell payloads. All of real-world EM KEW systems fired high velocity dense metal non-explosive sabots to industrial fuck up a target...could EM KEW Railguns be used to fire the vast array of munitions as traditional artillery?
We know that the US Army wants to explore EM KEW Railguns for their own land-based artillery purposes, and this could mean that they have a way to fire munitions out of the Railgun system using a "shoe" around the projectile. In 2016, the US Army began testing of an the "Railgun Hypervelocity Projectile" system on an M109 Self-Propelled artillery vehicle. The $25,000 per round system could allow the M109 Paladin equipped with HVP to reach out to 58 miles, however, given the modifications, expense, and less-powerful warhead has put some of the future of the application of railguns into SPA into some doubt. Bottomline, it is possible to use both Gauss and Railgun KEW systems for artillery. 

Can Directed Energy be Used for Artillery?
If electromagnetic Railguns can be used as futuristic artillery platforms, how about about those pretty laser beams? Well...I hate to be vague, but the answer is somewhere in the middle between yes and no if directed energy could be used as artillery. The best way that directed energy beams and/or pulses can be used in an artillery fashion is counter-battery. Thanks goes to FWS consultant David for this suggestion. Given that DE artillery cannot arched and must be direct fire, it best use is to intercept incoming shells from conventional artillery or in an AAA capacity. as seen in the US Navy.
That is not to say that we could redefine artillery given direct fire is a smaller portion of modern artillery. As we have seen in Star Wars and Godzilla, powerful beam emitters on an artillery scale could be used to take down or defend targets. We have ever seen ground-based laser artillery cannons being fired to re-directional "reflector" satellites to strike targets out of line-of-sight, like in the Gamilon Reflex gun usage during Battle of Pluto Base in Space Cruiser Yamato/Starblazers. 

Artillery and Off-World Warfare
Transporting artillery from one location to another has always been a pain in the ass, and this why self-propelled artillery was invented. However, this not solve the issue of transporting non-mobile artillery pieces, ammunition, support vehicles, and even the SPA across oceans and continents. That comes down to military cargo vessels and heavy-lift cargo aircraft. The logistics becomes even more complex when facing the prospect of transporting artillery systems across the depths of outer space. Some sci-fi works have shown armies slugging it in massive conventional mechanized warfare engagements, but rarely do these works show the labor and expense of transporting those machines and supplies to those distant points of light. This called "starlift capability" and is mentioned often in the pages of the ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manual.
From a hard-science view, wars on distant exoplanets would be rare and it is likely that any military force that existed would have brought down from the colonial transport vessels in pieces or manufactured via 3D printer technology on-planet. It is likely that an colonial self-defense force would have some sort of artillery to repel other colonial ships from taking over, but it is unlikely it would be akin to weapon systems like we see today. Rocket and gun batteries, mortars, and orbital based would likely exist, but massive tank-like mobile artillery pieces would not.
Now, in the soft-serve sci-fi universes, there seems to be no issue in transporting, fielding, and supplying heavy mechanized forces complete with artillery support. Massive troopships would house all of the heavy armor, tac-air, and ground forces needed for a slug-o-fest on the planetary area-of-operations. Think of BattleTech and Starcraft in this regard. There is a happy compromise, hardened underground military storehouses. It could be possible to transport heavy military supplies to exoplanet colonies via automated cargo ships and construct underground military storehouses to give the colonial garrisons and militia some real firepower when aliens or humans come calling to boot them off their real estate. The US military did this in key hotspots around the world, including Saudi Arabia. If and when these military supplies were needed, the colony could simply dig them out of deep storage and dust them off...like the Xmas decorations every year.    

Using Starship Artillery Within the Planetary Atmosphere
One of the most interesting and unique aspects of sci-fi artillery is when spaceborne shipboard artillery is utilized against ground targets while the warship is within the atmosphere of the planet. This has been seen in HALO: Reach, HALO 3, Starcraft, "Stormfront pt. II" from Star Trek: Enterprise, and Space Cruiser Yamato. The idea of turning space-based anti-ship weaponry to inflict massive damage on an industrial level on planetary targets is a compelling one. Also compelling and awe inspiriting is the mere sight of space warships flying through the atmosphere...but, it is a good or realistic idea?
As we have seen in HALO: Reach and Starcraft, the use of warship in endoatmospheric engagements puts the starship at great risk from AAA fire, and interception craft. Given the power of their onboard weaponry, it is likely that everything the enemy can muster to counter the massive floating threat looming over the battlefield would be brought to bear. If the warship is disabled or destroyed, you are faced with an massive threat from the hailstorm of debris and nuclear fallout. It is also possible that the warship will suffer damage preventing it from reaching orbit...and if it is not designed to land, then you have a problem on the order of thousands of tons of falling starship.
Also, some defensive and offensive systems may not operate the same as they do in space. When I was wargaming back in the day, we developed custom rules for taking combat starships into the atmosphere. Energy shielding would not work, causing these vessels to relay on their hull armor. Also, our DM added some modifiers to using one of our warships in an planetary atmosphere : repair time, greater fuel consumption, and increased hull structural stress. For ever round our ships were endoatmospheric artillery platforms, the ship would need increased repair time, it would consume more fuel/energy, and the pull of the planet's gravity would strain the hull. This spiced up the gameplay and made the decision to bring a warship to a dirt-side fight tougher to make.
Of course, all of this is based on a soft science fiction universes. In the real world, you simply could not use an starship in the same manner as seen in Starcraft. The hard science starship is not an World War II battlecruiser in outer space, and it does not possess the aerodynamics qualities nor the structural integrity to withstand endo/exo atmospheric flight conditions and stress. Added to this, real world starships would lack the ability to hover or thrust as seen in sci-fi warships looming over the battlefield dispensing killing power on a god-like level. If the ship survived atmospheric reentry, it would be a brick due to its lack ability to stay aloft in atomsphere.  

Mega-Artillery Cannons

The Iraqi' Project Babylon
The old Baathist regime in Iraq dreamed up massive supergun artillery prior to the First Gulf War and was made into a semi-reality by ballistic mad Canadian scientist Gerald Bull. Bull was obsessed with the use of mega-artillery cannons to launch satellites into orbit without the use of rocket motors. This idea was the abandoned HARP project of the 1960's. In 1981, the Iraqi government came to Bull to develop long-range artillery for the Iraq-Iran War. That morphed into the adventurous Project Babylon that could have reached out 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers. Two versions of the Babylon Cannon were in various stages of development prior to the First Gulf War: the smaller "baby" Babylon (350mm) and a massive 1,000mm mega artillery cannon. According to Iraqi sources, the purpose of the supergun was to twofold: anti-satellite artillery via rocket assigned munitions and launching NBC shells at any hostile nations. Given the size and scope, this project could not stay hidden, and British intelligence seized pieces of the massive cannon. In 1988, Gerald Bull was assassinated by either Iranian or Israeli intelligence to halt the program that would have likely been used against both nations. Without Bull, the Project Babylon was stillborn. There is some evidence that the Iraqis tried to develop an medium sized 600mm Babylon cannon with out Bull. The remains of the "Baby Babylon" cannon on a hillside in were examined by the UN and dissembled after the war. Pieces of Project Babylon were placed in museums. The story of Bull and his desert superguns was told via the 1994 HBO movie called Doomsday Gun.  

Nazi Germany's "Schwerer Gustav" 800mm Railway Gun 
Nazi Germany's Schwerer Gustav
There is one thing you can say about the 3rd Reich…they thought in grand terms. There were projects on the drawing boards that eclipsed conventional thinking at the time, and one of those mammoth projects that actually saw the light of day was the Schwerer Gustav. The name comes from the designer and the German word for heavy. Only two were completed with one under construction at the end of the war. Firing 800mm shells, this was a railway artillery gun of unbelievable proportions, demands and costs. Coming in at 7 million Reichsmarks and 1350 tons, it took 250 soldiers three days to assembly the damned thing after an additional 2,500 soldiers were used to lay down track to get the artillery piece into position.
It could launch its 800mm projectiles at a distance of about 24 miles at a rate of 14 rounds per day and was specifically designed to be a city siege weapon. Think of the gun has a modernized Paris Gun. This is the largest and heaviest artillery weapon to be developed and fielded into a combat zone. Towards the end of the war, the 3rd Reich chose to destroy both the Gustav and the Dora. Given the massive shells, the pain in the ass that the guns was, and that their usage verse the cost; the final assessment of the 800mm railway cannons is that they were a testimony to engineering and the commitment of the 3rd Reich to defy logic and common sense.

Imperial Germany's "Paris Gun"
World War One witnessed the development of new technologies applied with devastating and grim effectiveness. Besides the familiar technologies we all learned in school, there should be the inclusion of artillery . Growing out of this technological revolution was the advent of railway artillery that mounted larger and larger cannons. One of the largest of the "supergun" artillery pieces ever developed up until World War II was the Imperial Germany Emperor William Gun AKA the "Paris Gun". This long-range siege gun was able to fire its 238mm shells at a distance of over 80 miles and was the first man-made object to enter the stratosphere.
This 154 ton gun was the longest range artillery gun and was over double the range of the Schwerer Gustav and interestingly enough, both of these metal monsters were produced by the arms company Krupp. This range of the Paris Gun was so revolutionary that when shells impacted into Paris in 1918, it believed that it had to come from above from an Zeppelin. It came has a shock that an artillery gun could reach Paris at over 70 miles away. To product this range, the barrel was reinforced with a crane to reduce stress, and to get it to the battlefield, it was mounted on a railroad platform. The gun was developed from an naval artillery piece which caused the cannon to be manned by 80 members if German navy instead of the army. The projectile itself was 238mm and weighted in at 234 lbs. Given the violent velocity that the rifled artillery round were fired at, each firing had the consequence of wearing down the interior steel of the barrel, This caused the shells to be altered in size and numbered based on the number of fires to counter the wearing down of the internal diameter of the barrel.

Nazi Germany's The V-3 Hillset Supeguns
What is it with the Germans and their super-sized artillery? Anyways, besides the V-2 guided missiles assault on London, there was an artillery system envisioned to bombard London from Northern France with hillside cannons that could fire 300 shells a hour battery. Given its destructive power, this could have crushed London and some think it could have turned the tide of the war in favor of Germany. Cloaked in secrecy with an cover identity of being an pressure pump, the V-3 was designed to use an multi-stage charge to produce the range needed to reach London. What stopped the Nazi supergun? The British learned of the project and attempted to stop or harass the project using RAF air power in 1944. RAF bombers carrying specialized "tallboy" bunker-buster bombs knocked out the V-3 site in Mimoyecques, France. This slowed progress and the D-Day invasion pushed towards the testing site. The other V-3 hillside cannons were also victims of the Allied invasion causing supplies and ammunition for the operational guns that were designed to bombard Luxembourg. Even when the two smaller versions V-3 cannons constructed for the Luxembourg bombardment were operational and used, they were less effective than original planned. After less than 200 rounds, only 10 were killed with only 44 confirmed impacts within the target area. What remains of the V-3 site at the Mimoyeceues Fortress is museum.

The Artillery Suppressor?! What the Frak?
When I first witness this photo a few years ago, I swore that is was as fake as a porn stars' organism...but no, this is a real artillery cannon suppressor or "Artillery Muffler". This concept, while seemingly oddball or an internet hoax, was an old idea to suppressor the noise from artillery cannon fire. It is used in the same ways as small arms sound suppressors, noise control, but a much larger and more expensive level. Both US and German engineering firms have created a few artillery mufflers for testing, but it is unknown if this a system that will be adapted for use due size of the muffler and its lack of real purpose. The real purpose behind the German MaK Muffler seems to be to lessen the noise pollution of testing artillery at the proving grounds. One of the most difficult elements of providing information on this artillery muffler is that there is so little hard information on the actually system, and most sites either say it is a hoax or incite some sort of penis joke. Cute.

Science Fiction and Artillery
The relationship between artillery and science fiction is not a strong one, with appearances of traditional artillery being rarely seen. It largely depends on the media format we are talking about if artillery even makes an appearance. For the most part, there is a simple lack of live-action sci-fi artillery, with Star Wars: TESB planetary ion cannon, the Clone artillery cannons in Star Wars: AOTC and the JSDF laser artillery trucks in those old Godzilla movies being some of the rare examples. Books, anime, RTS games, manga, comics, and tabletop war game simulations are where the bulk of sci-fi artillery is seen and used. This is likely due to the inclusion being simpler than developing SFX shots or models of a visual production.
Artillery does appear time to time in sci-fi literature and the majority of the time it just mentioned, as is the case of artillery in the pages of DUNE and Caves of Steel. It takes a inclusive future war tale to have artillery being used in the correct manner. This especially true in the tabletop war-game simulation and the real-time-strategy video game category, where artillery is often an integral part of the complete gaming experience. There are even miniature futuristic artillery pieces even developed for tabletop war simulations. Even when more classical artillery platforms are seen and used in science fiction, they are mostly self-propelled artillery vehicles. Few works have towed field guns, and most of those come from tabletop miniature wargames like WH40K. There are two types of futuristic artillery seen in science fiction. One of the few future artillery technologies used by sci-fi creators is the good ole "death-from-above orbital" artillery paltforms, as seen in Akira, Bubblegum Crisis, and Gears of War. It as also been present in RTS games as a mega-damage weapon or as a kill-streak reward in shooter games.
The second is more familiar and older, more traditional form of artillery: naval. Massive kinetic and directed energy shipborne cannons are seen in a number of science fiction, like Battlestar Galactica, Space Battleship Yamato, and the MAC from HALO. These starship weapon systems are designed around ship-to-ship combat and not indirect suppression fire, however, some sci-fi works feature these weapons being used for planetary invasions, bombardment, and even ground fire support. As we have seen in BSG and Yamato, the starship artillery gunnery can be used for Air and point defense for protecting the ship from incoming missiles and fighters mostly by the use of kinetic energy flak. When it comes to the future visibility of artillery in sci-fi, I honestly do not think that science fiction works will not include artillery on a greater scale in the near-future, given the more visible presence of close air support in modern warfare, despite the long tradition of artillery on the battlefield and its power.


The Colonial Marine/US Army M292 Self-Propelled Artillery from the  ALIENS universe
In the pages of the excellent ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, there is a section on CMC artillery and what the author created has been my template of thinking about off-world artillery assets. The critical issue with the deploying armored assets off-world to colonial battlefields is starlift capability. US Army and Colonial Marine units have to deal with what they have. One of the primary artillery pieces seen in off-world conflicts like Linna 349, is the M292 SPA. Based on the foundation of the of M22 Jackson MBT, this magazine-fed 158mm automated SPA is designed to fire off six rounds powered by an liquid propellant in under 10 seconds to avoid the advanced counter-battery systems of the 22nd century. To protect the M292, the A2 variant is fitted with an laser defense turret.

Artillery from the Warhammer 40K universe
Most know the darkgrim world of Warhammer 40,000 for its terrifying aliens and massive super-soldiers in heavy powered armor, but there is an entire army, the Imperial Guard, with all of the combined arms....including artillery. There are both self-propelled and towed artillery platforms with all manner of projectiles. The most common is the massive "Earthshaker" artillery cannons that fires an 132mm shell at at maximum distance of 40 kilometers. It comes with a towed form and an platform variant that are designed for standard artillery roles and siege warfare. In addition to the Earthshaker is the heavier and slower firing Medusa siege gun, which is too heavy for the Centaur utility vehicle and requires the Trojan vehicle.
When it comes to the self-propelled gun variety, is the Basilisk and Minotaur which is an 132mm artillery Earthshaker cannon based on Chimera armored vehicle and the Manticore self-propelled rocket artillery platform. Artillery is less common in the advertisements for WH40K, but is a critical element of the larger tabletop engagements and matches. Interestingly enough, it is not just the Imperium, the Orks have seriously artillery in the form of "Kannons", "Boom Gun", and the titanic "Soopagun".When it comes to sci-fi artillery, it is likely that sci-fi artillery of Warhammer 40,000 has the largest and most varied types of artillery, human and non-human.    

The EDF Mobile Rocket Artillery from the Red Faction Universe
One of the better future designs of mobile artillery is the EDF missile tank from Red Faction Guerrilla. Used by both sides of the Second Mars Revolution, and was one of the most feared weapons of the EDF. Carrying six pods of 3 missiles (18 in total), the EDF mobile rocket artillery tank can lay down the hate via two fire modes: indirect single missile launch or rapid multi-rocket launchings that home in on a target. The variant of the EDF missile tank was the ones captured by the Red Faction and modified with much heavier armor to survive the EDF heavy armored vehicle attacks that would target the captured SP rocket artillery.

Portable Light Artillery Directed Energy Cannon from Alien Legion
One of the finest military science fiction comics of all time is Epic Comics' Alien Legion that ran for several series in the mid-1980's onward today. In this far-future where three galaxies are united under a single government that fields a massive multi-species military, called the Legion, protects the three galaxies. Given the different sentient species in the Legion, some wield wildly different directed energy weaponry, with only the largest species carrying the portable light artillery High Energy Laser cannon. Mentioned and seen in the pages of the second series of Alien Legion used by Legionnaire Tonk, an member of Force Nomad. Throughout the second series, Tonk carries increasing larger HEL light artillery cannons that bust out walls and engage armored targets. The use of these portable DEW artillery cannons could be due to the normal lack of Combined Arms in the Legion and that they could not always transport artillery pieces to the distant battlefields. While these handheld units cannot offer indirect fire, they do have damning effective direct high-energy fire. It is unknown if the writer mis-wrote and mis-labeled these heavy HEL cannons as "artillery", but the concept is rather compelling.    

Republic Self-Propelled Heavy Artillery Turbolaser (SPHA) from the Star Wars universe
At the opening battle of the Clone Wars on Genonsis, the new Grand Army of the Republic launched a massive Combined Arms attack that included the Rothana Heavy Engineering Self-Propelled Heavy Artillery Turbolaser Walker. This 12 legged walker could only be transported to the battlefield via the Acclamator class Assault Ship. Unlike the walker tank, the SPHA could not be halted to the front via an carrier variant of the LAAT/i tactical transport. These were used throughout the Clone Wars and even recycled by the Galactic Empire. While powerful and available in several variants that mounted missiles and mass drivers along with being able to move under its own power, it was slow and required a great deal of power for movement and firing the cannon. Without support, the SPHA could be overwhelmed and destroyed. Worse of all, it was barely portable due to its bulk, requiring the heavy-lifting capability of the Accelamator class to get it to the front. It is one of the few futuristic artillery pieces seen in a live-action film, but is one of many in the SW films. Sadly, there is no Lego set of this behemoth.

The COG Hammer of the Dawn Satellite-based DEW system from Gears of War universe
One of the more standout and iconic examples of orbital artillery was the Hammer of the Dawn strategic satellite that fired a imusion-powered laser that was developed by Dr. Fenix that helped bring an end to the Pendulum Wars. During the Locust invasion, the Hammer of Dawn was a critical weapon system that was out of the reach of the invading horde and could inflect massive damage on the even the largest Locust combat forms.
The v-150 Planet Defender Ion Cannon from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
This surface-to-orbit planetary defense artillery cannon is a rare example of live-action sci-fi artillery. This expensive piece of hardware was used to disable incoming warships to allow for the planetary defenders to organize themselves or evacuate the planet. Why would the Rebellion favor the less-than-lethal ion blasts to normal high-energy lethal directed energy is that the ion blasts works more effectively and quickly than pounding incoming warships with laser bolts. In some ways, the v-150 cannon was the "soft-kill" option and was traditional space combat weapon used to knock important targets and disabling warships to buy time. 
The uses of the ion cannon were expertly explored by the 1990's space flight combat simulators X-Wing and TIE Fighter. Several times, you were instructed to use your ion cannons to knock a shuttle or ship to allow VBSS operations. In the 1980 film, the Rebels use the v-150 to disable incoming Star Destroyers allowing rebel transports to slip the grasp of the Imperials and escape the defeat on Hoth. In one fantastic scene, an Rebel transport is escaping Hoth orbit with bolts erupting from the cannon back on the frozen surface striking an Star Destroyer. Several toy interpretations have been released of the iconic sphere cannon, including a mini-Lego version and a "Hoth Ion Cannon" playset from the short-lived Star Wars Micro Collection toyline from Kenner that came out and died in 1982.   

The "Plasma Bugs" from the Arachnoids from Starship Troopers (1997)
One of the few examples of alien artillery is the Plasma bugs from the 1997 live-action SST film. Biological engineered lifeform on Klendathu, the Plasma Bug was a multi-role organic weapon system that was used for anti-air, planetary defense, and artillery. They can strike at Terran starships in orbit or at ground targets in a ground artillery role at a minimum distance of 1 mile and at the maximum distance of 5 miles with an impact radius of 30 meters. Due to the method of fire, turning their abdomen sections to the sky, they must be directed by an Brain Bug via a network of Arachnoid scouts and spotters. One of the advantages of the Plasma Bug was its ability to "shoot-and-scoot" easily, however, the Plasma Bug was too bulky to avoid M.I. artillery and airstrikes completely. In addition, given that these are biological weapons platforms, Plasma Bugs have been observed "running out of ammunition" so to speak. This is a very rare example of organic artillery, especially considering it is an major live-action film.  

The Japanese Self-Defense Force Maser Artillery Cannons from the Godzilla Universe
Back in the 1980's on Saturday and Friday nights, my older brother and I would watch the old Japanese monster movies on an independent Tulsa station KOKI-TV 23. In those glorious films of destruction on post-war Tokyo, the Japanese Self-Defense Force would bring out armored vehicles to fight the monster of the week...and this included artillery. Field artillery, rocket launchers, and even vehicle-mounted directed energy artillery in the form of "masers". Type 70 and Type 66 were the most seen in the Godzilla films and other Toho Studio films. First appearing in 1966's War of the Gargantuas and dozen since, these were hallmarks of the Japanese monster movies and they were little more than vehicles models with light bulbs and motors to move the satellite dish like emitters around. Some believe that laser artillery cannons seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones could have been influenced by these Japanese monster-killing laser artillery trucks.

The 1.4 FD P-Tower and DF.9 DE Light Artillery cannons from SW: TESB
Artillery can be used for offensive and defensive operations, and during the Battle of Hoth, the Rebel forces defending the base were outfitted with several directed energy light direct fire artillery cannons used for anti-vehicle and anti-infantry work. The dish-emitter 1.4 FD P-tower anti-vehicle and the DF.9 anti-infantry cannons put up a good fight against the heavy Imperial armored assault, and were translated in toys in for the normal figures and the short-lived "Micro-collection" from 1982. 

The Covenant Type-26 "Wraith" Mobile Artillery Vehicle from the HALO Universe
One of the strangest tanks in military sci-fi is the Covenant Type-26 "Wraith" armored anti-gravity vehicle. Much like much of the Covenant weaponry, the Wraith tanks uses a powerful plasma projector that can be used for direct or indirect fire roles, allowing one single platform to occupy two battlefield roles of SPA and MBT like the Terran Siege Tanks from Starcraft. While less effective in tank-vs.-tank engagements than the UNSC Scorpion MBT, the Wraith is a scourge to UNSC units. The main armament is an low-velocity 35cm plasma mortar that fire a burst of crackling plasma energy encased an EM sabot that when impacted upon the ground or target, it bursts in a bubble of superheated energy that engulfs any targets in an 20 meter radius impact zone. Over the course of the bloody Covenant/Human War, the Type-26 was modified and altered, but never could best the M808 MBT in a single engagement.  Throughout the HALO games, the Wraith tank was a pain in the ass and if ignored, you could be easily killed by an slow-moving blob of plasma. 

The Heavy "Laser" Cannon from Star Trek "The Cage"
In the original 1966 pilot for Star Trek: TOS, called "The Cage", the Enterprise in 2254 under Captain Pike was lured to Talos IV by an distress beacon from an older Earth colony mission 18 years ago. Once on the creepy surface of Talos IV, the land party is fooled by the powerful Talosians mental ability and then captured. The crew attempts to free the captain by using a powerful directed energy semi-portable cannon powered by an power transfer from Enterprise to blast open the aliens' underground base. The effort fails...sort of. This is the only appearance of Starfleet artillery besides the grenade launcher/mortar seen in "Arena". There was an non-canon semi-portable "photon cannon" seen in the FASA non-canon TNG Officer's Manual from 1987 that drew inspiration from the laser cannon in "The Cage".  

The UEG "Grand Cannon" Planetary Defense Reflex Artillery from ROBOTECH/Macross Universe
When the Earth was united by the "Visitor" advanced alien spacecraft that crashed landed on Macross island in 1999, the newly formed United Earth Government hastily put into motion a plan to defend the Earth against the more advanced alien forces. While the re-construction of the SDF-1 was visual symbol fo the the heavy investment into Robotechnology by the RDF there was also the secret project at the covert base in Alaska that was began in 2002: the Grand Cannon. Powered by Reflex furnaces that rested deep underground and constructed at a massive expensive with the barrel of the weapon being miles deep into the Earth, it is no wonder that it took nearly ten years to construct the base. By 2010, there were no less than four Grand Cannons under construction, including one on Luna.
It was only fired once, during the Zentraedi invasion of the Earth in 2010 when 4.8 million alien warships under Supreme Commander Dolza folded into Earth space to put an end to the threat posed by the Terrans and Breetai's fleet once and for all time. During the space battle and planetary bombardment, the Grand Cannon was fired. The massive Reflex energy beam swept the heavens, melting away loyal Zentraedi warships like snowflakes in a blowtorch flame.
It is estimated that single firing of the Grand Cannon from Alaska destroyed about 800,000 out of the 4.8 million Zentaedi fleet, and this allowed the SDF-1 the opportunity to assault Dozla's command base. Alaska base and the Grand Cannon were destroyed by an overwhelming alien counter-attack that not only leveled the surface base, and crippled the weapon, it also leveled most of Alaska territory along with it. Only two survivors were recovered from the base: Lisa Hayes and T.F. Edwards. If the UEG had the time to complete the other Grand Cannons, it is estimated that the majority of the alien fleet would have been destroyed, and possibly saving the Earth from the apocalypse visited by the alien bombardment along with billions of lives. Later examination of the failure of the Grand Cannon to fire more than once rest in the central strategy of these planetary artillery defense batteries: there was to be more than one. The Alaska base Grand Cannon was to work in concert with other Grand Cannon located on Earth and the Moon to hit the enemy space force one after another of crushing directed energy artillery fire. While one cooled down from its firing, another Grand Cannon would fire, covering the other bases. In direr crises, more than one could have been fired in salvos. However, time ran out for the Earth, and only one was online when the doomsday alien force came.        

The Terran Siege Tank/SPA from the Starcraft Universe
In the crazy world of Starcraft, the Terran military developed a dual-role armored vehicle to perform the duties of an self-propelled artillery platform and main battle tank. While in the "tank mode", it is a classical MBT on tracks and is designed to assault the enemy. In "siege mode", the MBT transforms into a planted artillery piece that can perform as a single gun battery or as a group. Both modes use plasma-based directed energy cannons in two different calibers for its dual functionality. The Siege Tanks would appear in all Starcraft games, even the aborted Ghost, where our heroine could have called in artillery fire support from an battery of Siege Tanks.

The Self-Propelled Artillery from the B5: GROPOS wargame
One of the gems of 1990's American sci-fi television was Babylon 5 and its success was thought to be the spawning ground for an industry of spin-off products like ST and SW. Well, that did not happen and one of the casualties was the tabletop war simulations of planetary warfare in the B5 universe, GROPOS. In the ranks of Terran and alien armored vehicles of the game were some self-propelled artillery platforms like the EarthForce "Loki" and the Narn "D'Kal'Tal." The Loki  was an wheeled SP artillery piece constructed around the kinetic energy 165mm BiPro cannon that fired the shells with rocket assistance up to fifty miles in range. In addition to the Loki SPA, there was also the Frey SP rocket artillery MLRS. All EartForce ground artillery units are arranged  in a standard battery of 2 vehicles or a heavy battery of three vehicles. Added to the mixed with both Narn and Minbari SPA vehicles that I do not have any information on these alien SPA since the GROPOS wargame died quickly and I do not possess those manuals...yet. It do believe that both are DEW artillery though. One day, FWS will cover GROPOS in an blogpost.

The RDF HWR-01 M.A.C. II "Monster" from ROBOTECH: Macross
The first ROBOTECH series, Macross, is packed with all manner of mecha, transformable or not. As I mentioned above, the non-transforming mecha of the RDF, the Destroids, are not the hero mecha of the 1st Robotech War, but no Destroid is more disrespected than the titanic MAC II "Monster" artillery mecha. This one of my favorites mecha from ROBOTECH and I even had the Matchbox plastic/metal interpretation. The power of this colossus is the four 406mm (15inch) KE autocannons that offer crushing fire and the most powerful portable weapon system in the RDF and weighs in at 285.5 tons when fully loaded. During the 1st Robotech War, the RDF fielded a number of mecha and the largest was the MAC II Monster. 
While slow moving, it packed massive offensive power and thick armor caused the RDF to task the MAC II with being an SPA. Part of the reason behind the role as an SPA was due to its inability to carry more than 10 rounds per artillery tube, causing the Big Green Monster to be tied to a supply source. The other part of it being classified self-propelled artillery is slow speed when compared to the other Destroids and especially the VF Valkyries. This slow speed, massive bulk, and lack of active defensive systems caused the MAC II to suffer high loss rates. To help with this, the four 406mm KE cannons were switched over to heavy particle cannons. This altered the role of the Monster from SPA to an direct-fire mobile artillery platform that was used during the Zentraedi Malcontent Uprising. When it came time to develop new mecha for the Robotech Expeditionary Force, the MAC II was upgraded to improve upon its design by retaining its massive firepower, and increasing it's maneuverability.
Now, when it comes to the disrespect of the MAC II in both the Macross and ROBOTECH series, it mainly has to do with how the Monster Destriod is projected on screen. Despite its massive offensive abilities, I've always felt that it was neutered on-screen by how easily it is destroyed, there really no epic scenes of it bombarding the enemy, and to add salt to the wound, there is even a moment when Khyron rides an MAC II like a horse. Ugh. I wanted so much for this titan of mecha's firepower to be unleashed and projected in a positive light so no one would pay worship to the garish Veritechs when the Monster would bombarding the space giants with 406mm shells.  
The 1.2 GW Laser Cannon on the USS Saratoga from Space:Above and Beyond
Towards the end of the life for this iconic military SF show, we see the writers and creators channeling the War in the Pacific during World War II in the April 20th, 1996 episode of Sugar Dirt. Here, the United Earth Forces are mounting a serious planet-hopping strategy to counter the gains by the Chigs, and one of the targets needed for the war effort is the planet of Demios, specifically, the airfield where a bloody battle was fought at the beginning of the war. Prior to the major planetary invasion, the United States John F. Kennedy class carriers are moved into range for their 1.2 gigawatt laser pulse cannon to bombarded the AO to soften up any defenses and enemy position. This is interesting example of starship-based artillery used to engage planetary targets in support of ground operations. This is only time we would see this heavy cannon in action...the series was cancelled just two episodes later. thanks for that, FOX!

The Main Battery of the BSG-75 from the Rebooted Battlestar Galactica universe
In the 2003 rebooted Battlestar Galactica universe, the 12 Colonies of Kobol use mostly kinetic weaponry, and this includes their powerful Battlestar class spacecraft carriers. One of the tactics of the Colonial Battlestar classes is to lay down a thick blanket of AAA kinetic flank fire from the battery as the attack fighters launch. This not only protects the outgoing fighters, but protects the carrier from incoming Cylon missiles and raiders. This can be viewed from the perspective of naval and AAA artillery despite the sci-fi setting.

Next Time on FWS...
With the recent delay in publications and the readjustment of the overall schedule of FWS, I thought it would be best to craft an "easier" blogpost to keep FWS content coming...and mean pushing up the review of this fictional military graphic novel. While reviews are not the most highly rated or viewed blogpost here on FWS, this modern "war comic" deserves its moment here on FWS to be examined and judged, especially being inspirited by one of my favorite films, The Seven Samurai. Join us next time when FWS will review the 2013 Rubicon modern military graphic novel.