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Artillery Fire Commands

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The Artillery Fire Commands are the commands taught by UOTC in mortar and artillery gunnery and FDC courses to issue to mortar and artillery gun crews. They contain the necessary information for laying and firing the artillery gun or mortar. Therefore a common understanding of the sequence, contents and meaning of the fire commands is essential for successful artillery deployment. The format and sequence taught by UOTC is the US Army format.

Sequence of Fire Commands

The elements of a fire command are always given in the same sequence. This saves time and confusion; each member of the firing unit knows the sequence and can anticipate what is coming next. This sequence allows actions to occur at the same time. For example, the propellant charge and fuze can be prepared while the deflection and quadrant are being set.

Certain elements of the fire command may be standardized by the unit commander. These need not be sent on each subsequent fire command. Quadrant elevation may never be standardized. It is given in each fire command.

  Initial Fire Commands Subsequent Fire Commands
1. Warning order Always Never
2. Pieces to follow1 When applicable When changed
Pieces to fire1 When other than standard When changed
Method of fire1 When other than standard When changed
3. Special Instructions When applicable When changed
4. Projectile1 When other than standard When changed
5. Charge Always When changed
6. Fuze1 When other than standard When changed
7. Fuze setting1 When other than standard When changed
8. Deflection Always When changed
9. Quadrant Elevation Always Always
1These elements may be designated as standard. Elements so designated will be announced only when something other than standard is to be fired.

Elements of the Fire Command

1. Warning Order

The warning order is always announced to alert the firing unit to the mission. When a firing battery is using voice commands, the warning order FIRE MISSION is announced. The warning order is not given in subsequent commands.

Other Warning Orders include pre-planned missions such as Immediate Suppression. These are pre-recorded by each gun, and eliminate the need to transmit some data via voice.

2. Pieces to Follow, Pieces to Fire and Method of Fire

This element designates the weapons that will follow the mission, the weapon(s) that will fire initially, and how they will engage the target.

Pieces to Follow

Pieces to follow tells the platoon who will lay onto data given for an adjust-fire mission. If the mission is a Fire for Effect mission, pieces to follow is not given, as the guns concerned will all be firing the first salvo. The pieces that follow will lay the guns, but not load until the mission enters the Fire for Effect (FFE) Phase. BATTERY ADJUST or PLATOON ADJUST indicates that the mission will be an adjust-fire mission and that all weapons will copy the commands, follow the mission, and participate in the FFE phase. Any weapon or number of weapons may be announced in this element; for example, PLATOON ADJUST or NUMBER 1 AND NUMBER 3 ADJUST.

Pieces to Fire

Pieces to fire indicates which weapon(s) will fire the data given in the initial fire command. PLATOON ADJUST, NUMBER 3 indicates that during an adjust-fire mission, Number 3 will fire the initial round of adjustment.

Method of Fire

Method of fire tells the firing piece(s) how many rounds to fire. PLATOON ADJUST, NUMBER 3, 1 ROUND indicates that during this adjust-fire mission Number 3 will fire one round at the data given in the initial fire command. PLATOON 1 ROUND indicates a FFE mission with all weapons firing one round at the data given in the initial fire command.

3. Special Instructions

Special instructions are used when actions that are different from normal are required. When voice commands are used, the FDC must announce the special instruction(s) to be followed. The FDC will precede a special instruction with the words SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS. When more than one special instruction applies, restrictive commands should be announced first.

  • NONE / WHEN READY: No special instructions given in a fire command implies each gun is to fire the round as soon as the piece is ready to fire, at the section chief's discretion.
  • DO NOT LOAD is a restrictive fire command that prohibits loading and firing. The section may prepare the projectile, charge, and fuze (if applicable) and lay the piece for deflection; and set the quadrant elevation (or loading elevation). The command from the FDC would be (so many) ROUNDS, (special instruction) DO NOT LOAD. To fire the rounds, the FDC commands CANCEL DO NOT LOAD, QUADRANT (so much). This command allows the guns to load if not otherwise restricted by special instructions. The target number may be used in place of the command QUADRANT to allow loading and firing of preplanned targets and scheduled fires. DO NOT LOAD does not apply to the entire mission, it must be announced with each initial or subsequent command.
  • AT MY COMMAND (AMC) or BY PIECE / BY ROUND AT MY COMMAND is a restrictive command that prohibits the battery from tiring until directed to do so by the FDC. The command from the FDC would be (so many) ROUNDS, SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS AT MY COMMAND. When directed to fire the rounds, the section(s) would fire all the rounds specified in the method of fire.
  • BY PIECE, AT MY COMMAND would direct the sections to fire all the rounds specified in the method of fire by section(s) as announced by the FDC.
  • BY ROUND, AT MY COMMAND would direct the section(s) to fire each of the rounds in the method of fire by volley as commanded by the FDC. The command
  • BY PIECE, BY ROUND, AT MY COMMAND combines the control of both commands explained above. AT MY COMMAND remains in effect until the FDC commands.

4. Projectile

This element designates the type of projectile to be used in the fire mission. When voice fire commands are being used, the projectile must be announced when it differs from standard. High-explosive (HE) is standard.

5. Charge

The charge indicates the amount of propellant to be used and grants permission for the crew to cut the propellant. Charge is always announced in the initial fire command by the FDC. It is never standardized.

7. Fuze

The required fuze type is announced (for example, FUZE TIME). Fuze is announced in subsequent commands only when a change in type is desired. If no fuze is given than point-detonating (PD) is standard.

8. Fuze Setting

The element designates the Fuze setting or time that is to be used. TIME 14.5

9. Deflection/Azimuth

This element commands the deflection or azimuth that the piece must be layed on. With voice commands, deflection/azimuth is always announced as four digits; for example, DEFLECTION 0321 (zero three two one) and DEFLECTION 3300 (three three hundred).

NOTE: Deflection implies the gun is laid on an azimuth of fire and deflection is an adjustment in direction from that azimuth of fire. Azimuth refers to a gun that has a fire-control system that can give the actual magnetic azimuth in mils the tube is pointing, eliminating the need to adjust from an azimuth of fire.

10. Quadrant Elevation

This element commands the quadrant elevation the gun is elevated on. Quadrant elevation gives the section chief permission to load and fire the round unless otherwise restricted by special instructions or unsafe conditions. The command from the FDC could be QUADRANT 318. The quadrant is always announced, in both initial and subsequent fire commands.


An example of a detailed fire command for an adjust mission. Note that the platoon is adjusting to Gun 3, who is the adjusting piece.

FIRE MISSION! Platoon Adjust, Number 3, One Round. Special Instructions: At My Command. Shell HE. CHARGE 3. Fuze Delay. Number 3, Azimuth 4535. Number 3 Quadrant 324.

An example of a short fire command using mostly standardized data to quickly send a fire for effect.

FIRE MISSION! Battery 3 Rounds. Charge 2. Azimuth 2434. Quadrant 230.

An example of an immediate suppression mission. For this example we will assume the Pieces to Fire, Method of Fire, Shell, and Fuze have all been pre-recorded by the gunline.

IMMEDIATE SUPPRESSION! Charge 2. Azimuth 1520. Quadrant 253.

Commands & Reports

There are various artillery specific Radio Prowords that are used by the FDC/POC to give commands to the firing sections and reports made by the firing sections to the FDC/POC.

Command / Report Given by Meaning
CHECK FIRING FDC/POC All firing must cease immediately, regardless of if the gun is loaded or not.
CEASE LOADING FDC/POC Already loaded rounds are fired, but no additional rounds may be loaded.
SHOT, NUMBER # Section Announced after the initial round has been shot by gun #.
ROUNDS COMPLETE, NUMBER # Section Announced when the final round has been fired by gun #.
LAID, NUMBER # Section Announced by gun # when the gun is laid and DO NOT LOAD was issued.
READY, NUMBER # Section Announced by gun # when the gun is laid and loaded and AT MY COMMAND was issued.
MISFIRE NUMBER # Section Announced when a misfire has occurred (voice only).
END OF MISSION FDC/POC END OF MISSION (EOM) means that the fire mission has been terminated. The sections should return to the azimuth of lay or priority target data.