Bullets, rockets and artillery shells flew down range simultaneously in an intense defence of the gun line during Exercise Chau Pha.
CAPTION: A soldier from the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment fires an 84mm Carl Gustav during Exercise Chau Pha in Townsville Field Training Area. Story by Major Taylor Lynch. All photos by Lance Corporal Riley Blennerhassett.
Gunners from the 4th Regiment teamed up with infantrymen from the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR) to destroy a simulated threat rapidly approaching their position.
The exercise was complex, including full mission profiles, high-explosive weapon practices, keypad deployments, airmobile operations using Army helicopters, integration with infantry, as well as testing a command post in planning the missions.
The activity prepared 3rd Brigade soldiers for combat operations by exposing them to a combined arms environment.
Major Luke Arbuthnot said using multiple layers of firepower created a significant challenge for an approaching enemy force.
CAPTION: Gunners from the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery conduct a direct lay fire mission.
“The gun line layers fires from all weapon platforms in the defence of their position, including machine guns and anti-armour rockets,” Major Arbuthnot said.
“The howitzer is the most powerful weapon on the position, providing excellent range and effectiveness against an advancing enemy, whether they be armoured vehicles or dismounted troops.
“The gunners ensure joint fires and effects are integrated, providing fires at the right time, maximising combat power.”
Major Arbuthnot also described the considerations artillery took when working alongside infantry to defend a position.
“To provide them the most protection, we consider how close our soldiers can safely get to the enemy position without being affected by our own artillery,” he said.
“We then cut those fires at the last safe moment. This gives infantry and armoured vehicles the best chance to advance on the enemy and be ready for the close fight.
“Exercises like Chau Pha help to inoculate units like 3RAR to what it’s really like to fight while live artillery is falling in support of their mission.”
CAPTION: An Australian Army CH-47 Chinook prepares to unload an M777 howitzer during Exercise Chau Pha.
Major Arbuthnot said being able to deploy an M777 howitzer via Chinook helicopters from the 5th Aviation Regiment was a crucial capability.
CAPTION: An Australian Army Gunner from the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery checks the sights on an M777 howitzer at Townsville Field Training Area.
“The M777 howitzer will continue to play a key role in providing offensive support to the close fight,” Major Arbuthnot said.
“It can be deployed by road, rail, sea, and air, making it an accurate and flexible capability.
“By under-slinging a battery of howitzers under the Chinook we can rapidly project forward to support a fight in a gun raid.”
Major Arbuthnot said Exercise Chau Pha was a great way to build a trusting team between different units of the 3rd Brigade.
“It’s down to relationships. A combined arms team that trains together ensures we understand each other’s capabilities and requirements,” he said.
“A strong professional relationship is vital in building the trust and respect needed in an effective fighting force.”