The Afghan National Army has in the past few years completed the fielding of their main artillery piece – the 122-mm D30 Howitzer. Each brigade of the Afghan army has about 6-8 of the howitzers within its brigade combat support battalion or kandak. [1] The D30 Howitzer is the principle means of Afghan fire support. Unfortunately, the Afghan Air Force is still a long ways from being able to fulfill all of the close air support requirements of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

The initial fielding of the D30 howitzers came from the nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Subsequent to that, the U.S. provided additional D30s in conjunction with some European nations. Afghan artillerymen are trained at the Artillery School in Kabul and also at the Regional Corps Battle Schools located at the Afghan National Army Corps throughout Afghanistan.

In addition to the artillerymen to man the guns there are forward observers to call for fire who usually will be located at elevated forward positions. Within close proximity of the D30s is the Fire Direction Center (FDC). The Coalition forces (U.S. and other nations) initially provided all of the instruction to the Afghan artillerymen; but in the past couple of years the Afghans have progressed to the stage where almost all the instruction is by Afghan instructors.

ANA D30 Howitzer Fire Direction Control FDC

The D30 Howitzer fielding has not been a complete success. Some D30 batteries can only do direct fire and have not progressed to where they can employ indirect fire effectively. [2] Some of those batteries that do use indirect fire are still not delivering ‘effective fire’; most times one would call it ‘harassing fire’. [3] There is a shortage of good maps for the forward observers and fire direction control centers. The Afghans were issued the Afghan Gunnery Computer (AGC) but it is not clear if all the FDCs are using them effectively. At one point in 2014 there were some software issues with the AGC. For a few years the D30s were using two different types of sights – one graduated in 6,000 mils and another graduated in 6,400 mils. This caused confusion and degraded accuracy on the battlefield.

However, with the departure of the combat units of the Coalition nations (other than SOF) there is very little fire power available for the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF). The limited close air support provided by the Afghan Air Force’s MD-530s Cayuse Warrior helicopters and A-29 Super Tucano fixed-wing aircraft, although becoming increasingly effective, cannot cover the entire battlefield. For now, the principle fire support for the ANDSF is the D30 Howitzer.

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Footnotes:

[1] The Afghan word for battalion is kandak.

[2] Direct fire is line-of-sight; a straight line from the gun to the target. Indirect fire implies a firing arc; perhaps over the horizon, over an obstacle – where there is no line-of-sight to the target.

[3] ‘Harassing fire’ means the rounds land in the general vicinity of the target; but not necessarily hitting the target.

References:

Wikipedia, 122-mm Howitzer (D-30).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/122_mm_howitzer_2A18_(D-30)

Fullerton, MAJ Daryl L. (US Army FA),”ANA Artillery: training the trainer”, Fires Bulletin, May – June 2009. http://sill-www.army.mil/firesbulletin/2009/May_Jun_2009/MAY_JUN_2009_Pages_18_22.pdf

Videos:

Afghan National Army Boost Artillery Skills, British Forces TV, March 5, 2014. A 3-minute long video depicting British forces training up Afghan artillerymen in Helmand province.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGTwioJNsFI

ANASOC - Afghan National Army Special Operations Command

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Afghan National Army D-30 Certification, DVIDS – Combat Camera Afghanistan, September 15, 2012.
www.dvidshub.net/video/159775/afghan-national-army-d-30-certification

Images:

Top image: Artillerymen from the Afghan National Army of 2nd Brigade 203rd ANA Corps fire the D-30 at Forward Operating Base Sharana on February 9, 2011. Photo by Specialist Zack Burke.
www.rs.nato.int/article/isaf-releases/afghan-national-army-artillery-soldiers-train-on-howitzers.html

Second Image: ANA fire direction control center (FDC) from 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corps. Photo by PAO, 2nd Bde, 10th Mountain Division. U.S. Army advisor from 2/10 Security Force Advisory Team RED-1 observes.
www.dvidshub.net/image/983104/ana-soldiers-provide-safety-through-delivery-artillery-fires