A howitzer /ˈhaʊ.ɪtsər/ is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles over relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent.
In the taxonomies of artillery pieces used by European (and European-style) armies in the 17th to 20th centuries, the howitzer stood between the "gun" (characterized by a longer barrel, larger propelling charges, smaller shells, higher velocities, and flatter trajectories) and the "mortar" (which was meant to fire at even higher angles of ascent and descent). Howitzers, like other artillery equipment, are usually organized in groups called batteries.
1 Etymology 2 History
2.1 Early modern period 2.2 Twentieth century
3 Types 4 Examples 5 See also 6 References 7 External links
The English word howitzer comes from the Czech word houfnice,
from houf, "crowd", and houf is in turn a borrowing from the
Middle High German
Mountain howitzer firing
In the middle of the 18th century, a number of European armies began
to introduce howitzers that were mobile enough to accompany armies in
the field. Though usually fired at the relatively high angles of fire
used by contemporary siege howitzers, these field howitzers were
rarely defined by this capability. Rather, as the field guns of the
day were usually restricted to inert projectiles (which relied
entirely on momentum for their destructive effects), the field
howitzers of the 18th century were chiefly valued for their ability to
fire explosive shells. Many, for the sake of simplicity and rapidity
of fire, dispensed with adjustable propellant charges.
Abus gun was an early form of howitzer in the Ottoman Empire.
In 1758 the
12-pdr Napoleon at the Colorado State Capitol
In the mid-19th century, some armies attempted to simplify their artillery parks by introducing smoothbore artillery pieces that were designed to fire both explosive projectiles and cannonballs, thereby replacing both field howitzers and field guns. The most famous of these "gun-howitzers" was the Napoleon 12-pounder, a weapon of French design that saw extensive service in the American Civil War. The longest-serving artillery piece of the 19th century was the mountain howitzer, which saw service from the war with Mexico to the Spanish–American War. In 1859, the armies of Europe (including those that had recently adopted gun-howitzers) began to rearm field batteries with rifled field guns. These new field pieces used cylindrical projectiles that, while smaller in caliber than the spherical shells of smoothbore field howitzers, could carry a comparable charge of gunpowder. Moreover, their greater range let them create many of the same effects (such as firing over low walls) that previously required the sharply curved trajectories of smoothbore field howitzers. Because of this, military authorities saw no point in obtaining rifled field howitzers to replace their smoothbore counterparts but, instead, used rifled field guns to replace both guns and howitzers. In siege warfare, the introduction of rifling had the opposite effect. In the 1860s, artillery officers discovered that rifled siege howitzers (substantially larger than field howitzers) were a more efficient means of destroying walls (particularly walls protected by certain kinds of intervening obstacles) than smoothbore siege guns or siege mortars. Thus, at the same time armies were taking howitzers of one sort out of their field batteries, they were introducing howitzers of another sort into their siege trains and fortresses. The lightest of these weapons (later known as "light siege howitzers") had calibers around 150 mm and fired shells that weighed between 40 and 50 kilograms. The heaviest (later called "medium siege howitzers") had calibers between 200 mm and 220 mm and fired shells that weighed about 100 kilograms (220 pounds).
A United States howitzer during the Battle of Manila, 1899
In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, the inability of rifled field
guns to inflict significant damage on field fortifications led to a
revival of interest in field howitzers. By the 1890s, a number of
European armies fielded either light (105 mm to 127 mm) or
heavy (149 mm to 155 mm) field howitzers and a few, such as
that of Germany, fielded both.
During the 1880s, a third type of siege howitzer was added to
inventories of a number of European armies. With calibers that ranged
between 240 mm and 270 mm and shells that weighed more than
150 kilos, these soon came to be known as "heavy siege howitzers". A
good example of a weapon of this class is provided by the 9.45-inch
(240 mm) weapon that the
38 cm siege howitzer, Austria Hungary 1916, in the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna.
In the early 20th century, the introduction of howitzers that were
significantly larger than the heavy siege howitzers of the day made
necessary the creation of a fourth category, that of "super-heavy
siege howitzers". Weapons of this category include the famous Big
Bertha of the
US M198 gun-howitzer
As heavy field howitzers and light siege howitzers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries used ammunition of the same size and types, there was a marked tendency for the two types to merge. At first, this was largely a matter of the same basic weapon being employed on two different mountings. Later, as on-carriage recoil-absorbing systems eliminated many of the advantages that siege platforms had enjoyed over field carriages, the same combination of barrel assembly, recoil mechanism and carriage was used in both roles. By the early 20th century, the differences between guns and howitzers were relative not absolute and generally recognized as follows:
Guns – higher velocity and longer range, single charge propellant, maximum elevation generally less than 35 degrees. Howitzers – lower velocity and shorter range, multi-charge propellant, maximum elevation typically more than 45 degrees.
The onset of trench warfare after the first few months of the First
World War greatly increased the demand for howitzers that gave a steep
angle of descent, which were better suited than guns to the task of
striking targets in a vertical plane (such as trenches), with large
amounts of explosive and considerably less barrel wear. The German
army was well equipped with howitzers, having far more at the
beginning of the war than France.
Many howitzers introduced in the course of
World War I
In the years after World War I, the tendency of guns and howitzers to acquire each other's characteristics led to the renaissance of the concept of the gun-howitzer. This was a product of technical advances such as the French invention of autofrettage just before World War I, which led to stronger and lighter barrels, the use of cut-off gear to control recoil length depending on firing elevation angle, and the invention of muzzle brakes to reduce recoil forces. Like the gun-howitzers of the 19th century, those of the 20th century replaced both guns and howitzers.
Demonstration of a British 25-pounder firing
Thus, the 25-pounder "gun-howitzer" of the
USMC M-198 firing outside of Fallujah, Iraq in 2004
During World War II, the military doctrine of Soviet deep battle
called for extensive use of heavy artillery to hold the formal line of
front. Soviet doctrine was remarkably different from the German
doctrine of Blitzkrieg, and called for a far more extensive use of
artillery. As a result, howitzers saw most of the action on the
Eastern front, and most of the best howitzers of the WWII period were
Soviet-made, as other allies mostly relied on
different types of assault for the battle. Most of the howitzers
produced by the
Breech of a US M109 self-propelled gun-howitzer
A self-propelled howitzer is mounted on a tracked or wheeled motor vehicle. In many cases, it is protected by some sort of armor so that it superficially resembles a tank. This armor is designed primarily to protect the crew from shrapnel and small arms fire, not anti-armor weapons. A pack howitzer is a relatively light howitzer that is designed to be easily broken down into several pieces, each of which is small enough to be carried by mule or pack-horse. A mountain howitzer is a relatively light howitzer designed for use in mountainous terrain. Most, but not all, mountain howitzers are also pack howitzers. A siege howitzer is a howitzer that is designed to be fired from a mounting on a fixed platform of some sort. A field howitzer is a howitzer that is mobile enough to accompany a field army on campaign. It is, invariably, provided with a wheeled carriage of some sort.
Main article: List of howitzers See also
Plunging fire 12-inch coast defense mortar 2B9 Vasilek
^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". etymonline.com.
^ The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 4th edition reprinted, 1956:
^ Paul, Hermann. 1960. Deutsches Wörterbuch. Haubitze
^ Stephen Turnbull: The Hussite Wars, 1419–36. P.46
^ "German Medieval Armies 1300–1500". google.com.
^ "houfnice" in Václav Machek, Etymologický slovník jazyka
českého, second edition, Academia, 1968
^ Stephen Turnbull: The Hussite Wars, 1419–36 
^ The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, (Oxford: The Clarendon Press,
1973), I, p. 992
^ (Retd.), Col Y. Udaya Chandar (2017-04-24). The Modern Weaponry of
the World’s Armed Forces. Notion Press.
^ Artillery: Its Origin, Heyday and Decline, Brigadier OFG Hogg,
London, C Hurst and Company,1970
^ OFG Hogg Artillery: Its Origin, Heyday and Decline (London: C Hurst
& Co, 1970), pp. 94
^ Heinrich Rohne, "Zur Geschichte der schweren Feldhaubitze",
Jahrbücher für die deutsche Armee und Marine, No. 423, pp. 567–68
^ "William Johnson, "The Sultan's Big Guns." Dragoman, vol.1, no.2".
Archived from the original on July 10, 2007. Retrieved
2017-04-05. CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
^ Konstam, Angus (1996). Russian
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