Warfare has many constants in that it is unpleasant, devastating, and destructive. How we arrive at such points, however, continues to evolve, as forces are always looking for an advantage over their enemies. The use of artillery is a masterclass in such topics. Although its usage can be traced back well over a thousand years, the weapons and even methods have all evolved over time to improve effectiveness and overall tactics.
What Is Artillery?
The artillery definition & meaning is a broad spectrum of weapons that are used to fire missiles and projectiles from long range at a target. This can include heavy artillery shells seen coming from modern mortar companies today to units armed with bows and arrows.
Over time, field artillery changed as technology improved and new ideas were presented. The deployment of artillery is much more destructive, obviously, but it’s also used in many different scenarios that have changed as the focus of warfare moved, as well. Still, if you need to attack an enemy effectively from a distance, artillery is a great choice for getting the job done.
Early Artillery Fire
Sieges have taken place for thousands of years. Using siege towers, the Romans were able to conquer cities in Gaul, with battering rams coming before this innovation. But artillery would come about as a way to lay siege to a city or military installation from a much greater distance.
Early examples of artillery would be found throughout the world in differing forms. The catapult was an early example used by Judah as well as the Chinese. These weapons were used for both siege and defending cities to attack enemies from a great distance.
The Chinese are also credited with the use of flaming arrows, a type of siege that proved effective at attacking both enemy forces and their installations with the use of impact and fire. But while these early examples lay the groundwork for artillery, the discovery of gunpowder would revolutionize the weapons and techniques used by nations all over the world.
The trebuchet was set to be the star of the medieval use of artillery, and for a while, it was. Don’t get us wrong; it was used to great effect throughout Europe and China, which had a previous ancient version of the trebuchet before it. But the transformation that artillery undertook with gunpowder was a game-changer.
We’re talkin’ cannons, and it’s one of the earliest examples of modern field artillery that there is. Mongolia took the idea of using gunpowder in warfare from the Chinese to use against the Chinese and expand their empire. The Hundred Years’ War would see such weapons used throughout. Even moving forward, throughout conflicts involving people from the French to the Japanese and everyone between, such weapons changed the battlefield in profound ways.
Because of the new, destructive effects these artillery weapons had on the battlefield, new capabilities also came to be. This led to innovations that would help develop swivel guns, eventually rifles, and would even have a hand to play in the development of rocket artillery when such techniques reached India.
It was also during this period that would see the first major victory due to the use of somewhat modern artillery. The Fall of Constantinople marked a change in warfare, as several bronze cannons which required hundreds of men to operate were used to win the battle. The cannons could only fire seven times a day and weighed an amazing 19 tons, but they helped claim victory for the Ottoman Empire in 1453.
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Modern Field Artillery
Today, modern militaries still need artillery, and modern technology has made them more effective than ever. Since World War II, mortar fire has played a major role in how we attack our enemies. America uses artillery for everything ranging from breaking up enemy forces to supporting troops who are closer to the enemy to destroying enemy targets, and so on.
The invention of missiles in the 1940s would also lead to another advancement in such technologies that would transform the idea of artillery fire yet again. Coinciding with the discovery of nuclear weapons, the ICBM would be born, and the world would never be the same. Today, we all still try to do our part to make sure that such weapons are never fired; however, we are still advancing at the same time.
The focus of hypersonic missiles is still new, but faster, harder-to-stop projectiles are being developed and can carry massive warheads that are destructive through impact and payload. Other techniques have been developed, as well, including railguns and other concepts that have not yet been put into practice. The weapons might change, but the idea is the same. Artillery is an effective way to attack your enemy from a distance and claim victory on the battlefield.
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