Gelon the towed howitzer night-sight mount

Gelon the towed howitzer night-sight mount – Gun Electronic Laying Optical Night sight system

A visionary in the artillery world, then Captain Henry L. Eisenbarth, my battery commander, tasked me to develop a night-sight system in 1986. Over the years I have developed different systems for both towed and mechanized howitzers and, on occasion, submitted them for acceptance. But only in the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, did the officers and NCOs support one.

I used my experiences with night operations in the 82d Airborne Division during Grenada 1983, Desert Shield/Storm 1990-1991 and Operation Desert Fox 1998, the latter while attached to the 5th Special Forces Group, to develop the gun electronic laying optical night sight (GELON). GELON is a mounting system that allows units to use existing and future night weapon sights, laser aimers and (or) thermal weapon sights to conduct direct fire, including towed howitzers and 120-mm mortars. It enables Ml19 and M198 howitzers to engage direct fire targets at night without firing illumination, allowing FA units to maintain light discipline. This device also enables gunners to use the Killer Junior technique (detonate a high-explosive round above ground to produce a linear spray of shrapnel) under the cover of darkness.

The 319th AFAR is using GELON on its 105-mm howitzers and 120-mm mortars in Afghanistan.

The mount consists of a metal block milled to fit the existing direct fire mount and a deep metal hinge that pivots in line with the howitzer. This allows the gunner to correct the line of sight to compensate for the round’s ballistic arch as the tube is raised. A bicycle seat clamp locks the mount in place, but a standard rail taken from an M4 modular weapon system provides the mount’s true utility.

The rail system with rail grabber was developed for sniper systems and allows soldiers to bore-sight instruments to it and then remove them for storage or transport. When the instruments are returned to their numbered positions on the rail, they remain bore-sighted.

GELON’s operation is based on parallel aiming. In indirect fire, the gunner’s Pantel sight is used for directional control and his quadrant sight for range. His priority of work is sight-bubble-sight. In a direct fire engagement using the GELON mount, a gunner uses his night weapon sight for directional control and his quadrant sight for range. His priority of work remains sight-bubble-sight.

The mount allows the gunner to measure the difference between the gun and target in elevation to refine the firing solution as well as measure the range-to-target using a rangefinder, also mounted with a rail grabber.

There are many advantages to the night-sighted cannon in battery defense. For example, by having a laser aimer attached, the chain of command can employ the gun line much like it would an AC-130 aircraft by going laser dot to laser dot to confirm the targets before engaging them. Sections close to a wood line use a common thermal sight, and those watching observations points and entry control points use a passive night sight.

Rock Island Arsenal Manufacturing, Rock Island, Illinois, now produces the mounts. Units can contact Barbara VanOpdorp at vanopdorpb@ria.army.mil or Don Bowen at bowend@ria.army.mil in the Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command-Rock Island. TACOM estimates GELON will save the Army $27.2 million.

MSG Dennis J. Woods, Master Gunner

82d Airborne Div Arty, Fort Bragg, NC

2002 Gruber Award Winner

COPYRIGHT 2002 U.S. Field Artillery Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group