Countering mortar attacks in Iraq

Keep your head down, stay safe, get home.
That’s a direct order, troop.
Good luck out there. Bring baby wipes.

That depends on who Ali-Baba actually is - if he’s part of a local group he’ll probably not want casualties in his own (or related) civilian community. even if it reflects badly on the US troops
If he’s an outsider fighting his religious/political nutjob war far from home, maybe, there’s plenty of evidence outsiders in Iraq and Afghanistan hold the life of civilians lightly.
But even then I’ve read plenty of informed opinion that the willingness to harm civilians has worked against the outside groups - unsurprisingly producing local hostility (and they need some local cooperation to operate, even just on a basic logistical level)

The best result for outsider Ali and his friends is still to drop rounds actually inside US installations – and provoke retaliatory fire (which Ali hopes lands after he’s got some distance away from the house/school/mosque he fired from)
Which is the reason for :-

But which of course in practice introduces more delay to any response

//on soap box//
A note on the delays I mentioned. I’m a US Army Civilian in the ammunition area. One job is flying/convoying to Forward Operating Bases to inspect ammunition, investigate malfunctions, gather info about usage, etc… One question is always when did you last fire. I’ll get the bitches about not being able to fire back until the enemy is long gone. Really hurts morale when you’re being shot at, know where it’s coming from, and can’t fire back without approval.

Insert plenty of expletives; “First they ask if we’re actually being shot at? The damn rounds are falling all around. Do you know who is shooting at you? It’s the bad guys. Can you identify where the fire is coming from? Hell yes.”

Switching viewpoints; we have killed thousands of civilians in errors. Shooting up a market square thinking you were shot at, wrong coordinates, mistaking wedding/birth/other celebrations for enemy fire, mistaking legit checkpoints for insurgents, bombing Allied maneuvers from lack of communication, collateral damage. It’s all bad publicity, harmful to relations with the people we are trying to help, and the death of innocent people. So a lot of control gets concentrated.

Solutions? It’s getting the authority pushed as low as possible, usually the unit Captain. Risk management is the buzzword. The Captain has to ask those questions above and have positive answers. Troops have mistaken nearby gunfire as incoming; there may be overlaps in artillery coverage; it could be stray rounds from training or a celebration. Fratricide is uncommon but a fact. Might the forces be Afghan or Iraqi army, Spec Ops, other friendlies? How do you know where the fire is coming from? Eyes on from an outpost, aviation (manned/unmanned), unit in contact, radar? Have you scouted the impact area?

Keep the authority close to the weapon and you get responsive fire. Some units reported getting authorization to return fire an hour and 15 minutes after taking incoming. Really got them and others steamed. //off soap box//

As an S2 battle NCO in the TOC, I’ve witnessed many many fire missions. In fact, at that point, Camp Ramadi had taken more shots than any other FOB at the time, according to Division. There’s a ton of problems with shooting back that those gunners don’t realize. First of all, there’s NO guarantee that there are actual rounds falling. It’s probably 50/50…could be a flock of birds flying around the radar line or celebratory fire from a wedding. Then, for all they know, the rounds are coming from right next to one of our observation posts or right by a convoy. Are they suggesting we drop rounds on our own guys? Third, what if they’re right next to a school, mosque, etc.? Don’t forget about the choppers and planes in the air, don’t want to shoot them down either. They think they can get all that stuff cleared and coordinated faster than the TOC can? Tell them to do their job and let the TOC do it’s job and we’ll all get along easier. When we tell them to hold fire, it’s for a reason.

And to whoever said that counterfire needs clearance from a higher-up…so what? There’s a battle captain (or major) there in the TOC 24/7 doing nothing but monitoring that and other things, giving clearance for such things. It’s not like they’re going to go “Hold on, I’m on the phone.” or they’re asleep in their rack.

So there you go, pretty much what smithsb said. That’s why it takes so long.

But what about getting drones to put eyes on the coordinates the fire came from using counter battery radar? I understand that drones might have vision obscured, but can’t they get over the bad guys fairly quickly? Also, is the poster above saying that Predator pilots fly using the surveillance cameras? As far as the bad guys not shooting if they thought that there was a drone overhead, wouldn’t that be considered mission accomplished? I expect that there is a good reason that commanders don’t use this tactic, but I don’t know what that reason is. Of course it will bother me if the answer is “Why didn’t we think of that?” but I trust that people in positions of responsibility know what they are doing. (Something tells me that all former and current Doper soldiers are going to start laughing at me.)

Thanks for your help,

The answer is we own several hundred drones. Each one can observe an acre or so in detail at any gven time. At best two of three can be airborne at any time; the other one is being repaired, refuled, etc.

Iraq consists of over 100 million acres.

We do not have a sufficirent supply to have one orbiting each fixed base 24/7. And if we did, the bad guys could simply plan to launch mortar fire from two locations simultaneously. So we buy another several hundred multi-million dollar drones. And then bad guys buy another 5’ length of sewer pipe & make another mortar so they can attack from 3 locations at once.

The issue is not tactics, or organization; it’s simply numbers. Point defense aross a vast number of points is always a mug’s game with costs grossly disproportionate to damage alleviated. So you absorb some fire. Not happy for the grunts who are doing the absorbing, but that’s the nature of warfare.