Note: This is part two of a multi-part series exploring elite components within the conventional British forces.
148 Battery (Meiktila) is a unit comprised of specifically qualified men from the British Army and Royal Navy. Tasked with calling in artillery and airstrikes to support United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) and 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.
The men of Meiktila are both parachute and commando qualified, and are experienced in stealth insertion via parachute, boat, and helicopter. 148 Battery fire support teams (FSTs) have accompanied and served with UKSF elements. Their specialists in techniques on controlling artillery and airstrikes are second to none. 148 Battery excels is calling in naval gunfire support from modern British warships. They conduct highly accurate strikes and surgical precision hits on objectives to support the UKSF.
The battery supplies FSTs to the brigade reconnaissance force of 3 Commando Brigade. 148 Battery shares a base with the Special Boat Service (SBS) in Poole, Dorset. It is believed the unit has a good working relationship with the SBS.
148 Battery is organized by way of an HQ element and reinforcing components, such as admin logistics and several six-man FSTs. The teams are led by a patrol commander from the Royal Artillery (RA). An RA bombardier is second in the leadership hierarchy. The team also includes a Royal Navy Commando signaler and RA lance bombardiers or gunners. If needed, FSTs can divide into two units, the second unit being managed by the second-in-command.
Weapons and equipment
In the old days the men of 148 Battery used the M16A1/A2 as their main personal weapon. Today the men of 148 have shifted to the SA80a3. FST members may also be equipped with a general-purpose machine gun or the FN Minimi light machine gun on operations depending on their task. 148 Battery uses several pieces of specialized equipment:
- MSTAR mobile radar
- Surveillance System and Range Finder (SSARF)
- Laser rangefinders
- FireStorm targeting system
- Secure radio communications
- GPS navigation devices
Skills of 148 fire support teams include:
- Covert insertion methods
- Patrolling behind enemy lines
- Concealment – building camouflaged hides
- Encrypted communications
- Forward air control (calling in airstrikes)
- Naval gunfire control – 148 teams often use pre-planned fire missions, observing and adjusting the artillery fire as needed
- Battle damage assessment
In the 1982 Falkland conflict, 148 Battery units joined up with SAS and SBS members for several successful missions, which included the assault of Argentine positions on West Falkland and in and around Port Stanley.
148 Battery took part in the 1991 Gulf War, including the recovery operation of the British embassy in Kuwait. A 148 Battery team inserted into the embassy compound with the SBS. In 1991 they were selected to take part in Operation Haven in northern Iraq alongside 3 Commando Brigade.
148 Battery also deployed with 3 Commando Brigade as part of Operation Telic, the British segment of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. FSTs from 148 Battery have deployed with 3 Commando Brigade on operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, too.