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Getting behind the news reports
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Seems like a typical Israeli "atrocity" (per Robert Fisk- btw, did anyone else notice the death toll at Qana suddenly dropped to 28 today, from 57 yesterday?) if you just take the report here at face value:
The IAF fired missiles in northern Gaza on Tuesday, killing a 14-year-old boy and a 24-year old woman, Palestinian officials said.

The woman was identified as Mirvat Al Sharkh, a medic. Three people were wounded.

The strike occurred near the town of Beit Hanun, the officials.

The IDF reported that the 14-year-old boy was involved in the launching of Kassam rockets into Israel.

On Monday, a 17-year-old Palestinian youth was killed by shrapnel from an IDF artillery shell fired near his house in Beit Hanun. The IDF said artillery was fired at militants launching rockets toward Israel. Palestinians also reported that 10 others were wounded.
So the Israelis are killing kids again with their random strikes and then claiming they're fighters, huh?

That's obviously what one could take from such a report and certainly Hamas would have no problem if the world believed it.

But more likely there's a bit of technology at work here which probably makes what the Israeli report true.

A little thing called a "counter battery radar". Ours are the "FireFinder" TPQ-36 & TPQ-37. They've been around for a while and what they do is help make life miserable for opposing artillerymen firing conventional munitions and rockets. We're talking about first round detection here. You fire and if the radars are on and pointed in your direction, you are a dead man if you stay in that position.

That's because, when everything is working properly on the counter-battery side, the unit firing counter-battery fires can have rounds in the air and on the way to your location before that first round you've just fired (and which the radar detected) ever impacts. A bit scary if you're lighting off some rockets. Or firing a mortar.

Michael Yon covers this briefly in one of his posts from Iraq:
Our bases have something called Counter Battery Radar (CBR), and when a mortar or rocket is launched, the computers on the CBR can calculate the POO before the bomb lands. The enemy knows this, and they know we can fire “counter battery” cannon or mortars, or that we might have jets and helicopters just moments away, or forces on the ground nearby. Lately, Iraqi police have joined the list of options for killing mortar teams. It’s increasingly dangerous to be a terrorist here.

And so the enemy plays a game of fire and flee, hauling the mortars around town, setting up the tubes (or rockets), firing a few shots, and moving out quickly.
The "POO" Yon mentions isn't what can be found in the britches of the guy on the receiving end of counter-battery fire, but an acronym for "Point Of Origin".

Thus artillery types know that they have to "shoot and scoot". Because if you stay in one place too long, you're gone. If you're the only guy out there lighting up the battlefield at a particular moment, you're not even going to be able to scoot, because you'll be target numero uno.

That is what appears to have been the case in Gaza. The radar detected the rocket launch, relayed the POO to an orbiting fighter which launched precision guided missiles into the launch site.

And who did the brave fighters of Hamas have launching the rockets?

A 14 year-old. And a woman.

Obviously expendable and what 14 year-old wouldn't love to light off some rockets?

The second incident seems to have been a result of actual artillery counter-fire mission on a radar identified rocket launching position.

Again this is pretty precise stuff. The POO is immediately calculated, sent to the guns and they fire the precise 8 digit coordinate provided. Obviously the whole point of counter-battery radar is to get information to the dedicated counter-battery guns as quickly as possible to catch the attacker before he can "scoot".

My guess is, even though this short report doesn't say so, that is exactly what happened. Just something to keep in mind when you read more reports like the one above.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Wow. I hadn’t thought about the TPQ systems in ages. I helped produce some of the technical manuals for them .... thanks for the trip down memory lane!
Written By: Captain Ed
The techno-porn gets better Captain Ed! Now we are working on systems that integrate a network of dozens of cheap UAVs or high flying mini-blimps rather than expensive fighter jets to track "shoot and scooters" evading counterbattery fire. CBR computers beams GPS to the UAV, UAV "lenses" down to the firing site in seconds, hopefully IDs the "shooter-scooters" and tracks changing GPS coordinates of the "scooters" to base. Where a decision to use artillery or send in troops, or attack helos to whack the bad guys can be made after lawyers and commanders weigh collateral damage and proportionality factors.

This works best where the firing is of the concentrated sort the Israelis face over only a few hundred square kilometers, or a true conventional battlefield.

But the best of high tech doesn’t work or is just too expensive against a diffused threat. All of Iraq where we are, can’t be protected by fleets of tens of thousands of UAVs from diffuse infrequent mortar/rocket launchers or IED planters.

Iraq exposed the folly of sitting around fingers planted up hind orifices, 6 months after combat was finished, watching "noble, freedom-loving" Iraqi people loot ammo dumps of weapons and HE.

Next time we need to do far better at securing the tools of an insurgency, and have given troops the authority to search with detector dogs and devices for illegal weapons and HE - and the authority not to arrest, but stand people caught with rockets. mortars, HE - right up against a wall and execute them on commander’s orders.

And we have to get to a position where the world begins to understand that Americans and Israelis hitting enemy hiding in civilian populations doesn’t threaten to wreck the Geneva Conventions...but the assymetric techniques of Islamofascist war defying all Geneva rules and using children as soldiers does...if they are permitted to continue to get away with it by the UN-crats, Lefties and Euroweenies.
Written By: C. Ford
URL: http://
Perhaps this is technical minutae, but it’s worth noting that when you say "8 digit grid" you’re referring to an area represented by a circle with a 5 meter radius. A gun crew, if properly laid in and registered can achieve first-round hits generally within that area, depending on the range and lateral "probable error" (PE) of the shot, which is dependent on range, ammo type and tube. In a perfect world, you’ll likely get somewhere around 50% of your rounds impacting within a 20 meter radius of your intended target.

But there’s lots of ways error can play into this. Error in calculating the intended target, the elapsed time between the last registration and the time the mission is fired, sudden weather changes and so forth, as well as human error can really effect how accurate this fire is. Even trying your best and doing everything right, Murphy can make these rounds land 50 meters or more away from the target. In an urban area, this can have significant consequences. Some of the streets in these areas are barely more than 50 meters apart, which means you can easily end up hitting the wrong block.

Fortuanately, the IDF are about the best there is in this counterbattery business, so I would expect that they have their error rates way down. It’s not useful to shoot if you don’t hit your target, and they need to hit them. But no matter how hard you try to do it right, error always creeps in. They should still try, though. Counterbattery is very effective and important, even if it’s not perfect.

I’m a former 11C Fire Direction Chief, if that’s not obvious by now, and I hope the IDF keeps giving it right back to them and continues to improve. The military necessity of doing counterbattery is overwhelmingly compelling.
Written By: Greg Letiecq
Heh ... yeah it was pretty obvious, Greg. Thanks for the excellent points. Although it’s been 37 years, one of my first jobs in the army was a weapons platoon leader back when infantry companies still had 81s. I have a great respect and affinity for 11 Charlies.

I’d guess that over the years the IDF has pretty well surveyed that area and have the ability to pretty accurately lay that fire out there. But as you point out, Murph still rules and stuff happens. In the cases above, however, I’d bet they were right on target.
Written By: McQ
And who did the brave fighters of Hamas have launching the rockets?
Given your description, I would actually be somewhat more inclined to beleive that Hamas launched something from a vehicle, and then "scooted" out of the area before the response could hit. There could have easily been women and children on the street nearby who would have had no clue what was going on, and got hit after the original shooter had left the scene.
Written By: Rosensteel
URL: http://
Rosensteel, and your point is???
Written By: The Poet Omar
URL: http://
What, they describe how counterbattery fire works and from this you conclude a 14 year old who you know nothing about, who’s parents you know nothing about, who’s upbringing you know nothing about, couldn’t have fired the rocket and there must be another explanation that absolves said 14 year old?

Reasonable doubt, is that it?
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Given your description, I would actually be somewhat more inclined to beleive that Hamas launched something from a vehicle, and then "scooted" out of the area before the response could hit.
Given my description, which included a woman which was identified by the Palestinians as a ’medic’, I’d suggest that your inclination is much less reasonable than mine.
Written By: McQ
Clearly, the only way one can conclude that the 14 year old or the woman had anything to do with the firing of the rockets would be to have them testify, in court, under oath, that they had done so. (Even then, they might’ve been through Abu Ghraib or Gitmo.)

Short of that, however, one can only conclude that all theories, including that the 14 year old and the woman had been beamed there from the Israeli Starship Enterprise just in time to be caught by the counterbattery fire, must be given equal weight and each must be disproven before any firm conclusion (especially one absolving the IDF) can be reached.

If they won’t personally admit, Hizb’allah you must acquit!

Oh, and if Hizb’allah freedom fighters evacuated in a Katyusha truck (e.g., a BM-27-type launcher vehicle), they should be assumed to have done so to avoid injuring locals from counter-battery fire. If only the Israelis had understood this, then the civilian casualties could have been avoided.

Tortuous explanations are reserved for freedom fighters’ actions.
Written By: Lurking Observer
URL: http://
I was thinking about this story for a while in conjunction with the whole "how do we deal with groups that use civilians as shields..." and came up with an idea:

Apply the legal concept of negligence to incidents like this. Human rights groups could review this case with the following information to decide who is "responsible."

1. Location chosen for launching the missile. Was it launched from an apartment complex instead of a nearby soccer field?

2. Could the launching party reasonably be expected to know about counter-battery fire?

3. Was there any attempt by the launching party to clear the area or warn residents about possible retaliation?

Human Rights groups could find a whole new industry here.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

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