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The M102 howitzer firing

First introduced during the Vietnam War, the M102 was the light-towed 105 mm howitzer used by the United States Army in the Vietnam War, the First Gulf War, and most receintly in the Iraq War.

M102 howitzer belonging to Battery A, 1-206th FA, is towed north from Camp New York, Kuwait by a M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV.


An Air Mobile Howitzer for the Vietnam War

The M-102 105mm howitzer is used in air mobile (helicopter) and light infantry operations.[1] The weapon carriage is lightweight welded aluminum, mounted on a variable recoil mechanism. The weapon is manually loaded and positioned, and can be towed by a 2 ton truck or High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), can be transported by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, or can be dropped by parachute with airborne units. When emplaced, the howitzer's high volume of fire compensates in large measure for the lower explosive weight of the projectile compared to the Army's 155mm and 8-inch howitzers. Since 1964, the Army has acquired 1,150 M-102 towed howitzers. This weapon is being replaced by the M-119-series 105mm howitzer.[2]

Resistance to Change

Units were initially equipped with the M101A1 howitzer, virtually the same 105-mm. howitzer that had been used to support U.S. forces since World War II. In 1966 a new 105-mm. towed howitzer, the M102, was received in Vietnam. The first M102's were issued to the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery, in March 1966.[3] Replacement of the old howitzers continued steadily over the next four years.

Many of the more seasoned artillerymen did not want the old cannon replaced. Over the years they had become familiar with its every detail and were confident that it would not disappoint them in the clutch. Old Redlegs could offer some seemingly convincing reasons why the M101 was still the superior weapon: its waist-high breech made it easier to load; it had higher ground clearance when in tow; but most important, it was considerably less expensive than the M102.[4] Their arguments, however, were futile.

The new M102 was by far the better weapon. It weighed little more than 1 1/2 tons whereas the M101A1 weighed approximately 2 1/2 tons[5]; as a result, more ammunition could be carried during heliborne operations, and a 3/4-ton truck rather than a 2 1/2-ton truck was its prime mover for ground operations. Another major advantage of the M102 was that it could be traversed a full 6,400 mils. The M101A1 had a limited on-carriage traverse, which required its trails (stabilizing legs) to be shifted if further traverse was necessary. A low silhouette made the new weapon a more difficult target for the enemy, an advantage that far outweighed the disadvantage of being somewhat less convenient to load.

Basic Design

The 105-mm howitzer M102 is a lightweight towed weapon, which has a very low silhouette when in the firing position. The M102 howitzer fires a 33-pound projectile of semifixed ammunition and at charge 7 will fire 11,500 meters. It has a muzzle velocity of 494 meters per second. The maximum rate of fire is 10 rounds per minute for the first 3 minutes, with a sustained rate: 3 rounds per minute.[6]

A roller tire attached to the trail assembly of the M102 permits the weapon to be rotated 6,400 mils around a firing platform, which provides the pivot for the weapon.[7] The weapon can be elevated from -89 mils(-5 degrees) to a maximum of 1,333 mils (75 degrees). The panoramic telescope has a four power, fixed focus optical system, with 178 mils field of view. It contains dry nitrogen gas to retard fogging and condensation. The parallax shield used during boresighting protects the lens.[8]

The trails are made of aluminum alloy. They are a single box trail in wishbone shape, and serve three purposes, which are: MOBILITY, STABILITY, and STOWAGE OF SECTION EQUIPMENT. The lunette is the towing pintle that allows the weapon to be connected to the vehicle. When towing, vehicle has a fixed or seized tow pintle; remove the lock plate located under the lunette. The drawbar has two positions. The drawbar is lowered for travel, and raised for firing.

There are two lifting brackets to connect slings to, when the howitzer is being lifted by helicopter. A third bracket is located on front yoke. The carriage handles are used by crew members to lifting and shifting the howitzer during loading, unloading, and emplacing the howitzer.

The firing platform attaches to the howitzer lower carriage by using a socket and a locking handle. The eight holes are for the stakes needed to stake the howitzer in position. Platform stakes are issued in three sizes. There are 4 fifteen inch stakes issued. These are used for frozen or rocky terrain, and are normally issued only where needed, such as extremely cold areas. There are 8 twenty four inch stakes issued, and they are used for hard packed ground. Thirty eight inch stakes are used for soft ground and there are 4 issued.

Current Usage

102 Howitzer belonging to Battery A, 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, 39th Brigade Combat Team, in position at Camp Taji, Iraq 29 May 2004

While the M102 is no longer in use by the Active United States Army, having been replaced by the M119, however it is still in use by the National Guard. The M102 was last deployed to combat in 2004 by the 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, Arkansas Army National Guard. Seventeen M102 howitzers were deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq. The 1-206th FA provied fires and conducted counter-fire missions in support of 39th BCT operations, an element of the 1st Cavalry Division. The 1-206th scavangend spare parts from nine M102 howitzers that were located in the Camp Taji Bone Yard. Allegedly these howitzers were captured by the Iraqi Army during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

The M102 is also used on the USAF's Lockheed AC-130 gunship. The M102 105mm Cannon was modified to be fired from the left rear side door of the AC-130 gunship aircraft.[9] To accomodate this cannon, one of the side-firing 40mm guns was removed from the aircraft and replaced by the radome that formerly had been installed in the door cavity. That change provided enough space for the 105mm gun to be mounted in the doorway in place of the radome. The gun was used extensively beginning with the Vietnam War and continues today.[10]

The M102 is used in extremely limited roles by the United States Marine Corps, primarily for firing salutes.


  • Caliber: 105 mm (4.13 in)
  • Length: 17.1 feet (5.2 m)
  • Width: 6.4 feet (2 m)
  • Height: 5.2 feet (1.6 m)
  • Weight: 1.5 tons (1.4 t)
  • Crew: 8
  • Rate of fire: 10 rounds per minute maximum, 3 rounds per minute sustained
  • Range: 11,500 m (7.1 miles), 15,100 m (9.4 miles) with rocket-assisted projectile

See also


  1. ^ Global Security. Org, M102 105mm Lightweight Towed Howitzer
  2. ^ Global Security. Org, M102 105mm Lightweight Towed Howitzer
  3. ^ Global Security. Org, M102 105mm Lightweight Towed Howitzer
  4. ^ Global Security. Org, M102 105mm Lightweight Towed Howitzer
  5. ^ Global Security. Org, M102 105mm Lightweight Towed Howitzer
  6. ^ TM 9-100-202-14, TM 9-1015-234-12, TM 9-1015-234-10, AND LO 9-1015-234-10
  7. ^ TM 9-100-202-14, TM 9-1015-234-12, TM 9-1015-234-10, AND LO 9-1015-234-10
  8. ^ TM 9-100-202-14, TM 9-1015-234-12, TM 9-1015-234-10, AND LO 9-1015-234-10
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links

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