U.S. troops tasked to advise and equip armies in smaller developing countries are learning how to operate an older, Soviet-era artillery piece. The Texas-based 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade is learning to operate the D-30 howitzer, a light artillery piece widely distributed during the Cold War so it can in turn train foreign militarizes on how to use it.
First introduced in 1963, the 122-millimeter D-30 towed howitzer equipped the Soviet Army, the Eastern European armies of the Warsaw Pact, and Soviet client states abroad. The D-30 could be hooked up to a truck and driven to firing positions near the battlefield, showering enemy positions with shells up to 9.5 miles away. The D-30 can surge fire up to eight rounds a minute in emergencies or four rounds a minute sustained fire. Like almost all Soviet weapons of the period it can in a pinch be used in a direct fire role against enemy tanks.
The D-30 was produced by the Soviet Union, China, Egypt and Iraq, where it was known as “The Saddam.” Thousands of guns were produced and many are still in the inventories of developing countries to this day. Although old, D-30s are cheap and have a respectable range, making them an attractive choice for countries without large defense budgets.
The U.S. Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) are designed to help build up foreign ground forces, training them to become professional armies capable of fighting both insurgents and external enemies. Often SFABs will need to train foreign troops on their own equipment, which means they’ll need to master foreign weapons as well as their own.
The Fort Hood-based 3rd SFAB is currently learning how to use D-30 howitzers, training their own artillerymen in how to use them on modern battlefields. Although old, D-30s are cheap and have a respectable range. The Afghan Army uses D-30 howitzers, and Afghanistan is currently the main destination for SFABs units.
According to Lt. Col. Julian Urquidez, Commander of the 4th Battalion Field Artillery, 3rd SFAB, “SFAB training is targeted, so in our case we’re preparing to train on the D-30 for upcoming deployments,” he said, “Up to 65 countries, including our partners and allies overseas, use that form of artillery, so what we need to do is become subject matter experts on this howitzer. That doesn’t just mean the employment of the howitzer, but the gunnery as well. This is all to fulfill our mission in properly training and advising foreign security forces.