Africa, America, Europe

salvo military tactics

15 to the 20th century

a salvo is a military term that stands for the simultaneous firing of several guns, as opposed to gunfire where all guns fire independently once an order is given.

 a volley is a term similar to salvo, but the two are distinguishable as volley fire is a term related to small arms and infantry, the salvo tactic was used by Navy and field artillery with the goal of achieving the maximum amount of firepower as possible in one moment, depending on the situation in combat a salvo could be used in numerous variations and against different targets

 in naval warfare, the salvo has been used since the 15th century and the age of sail ever since the first guns were mounted on ships salvos were used from that time until now the goal was the same to cripple the enemy with one blow and prevent them from fighting back.

 it was, however, the development of battleships in the 19th and 20th century, that led to further development of the salvo tactic. in that period, modern battleships became this symbol of naval power, they had multiple turrets with multiple guns mounted turrets allowed all guns on the deck to concentrate fire in various directions, with the development of battleships their guns became larger, and more powerful simultaneous and coordinated fire from eight or more heavy-caliber guns made this salvo a tactic of great firepower.

 a battleship standard tactic was to bring the enemy ship between its guns. however, the problem was that once the enemy’s ship was in range it too had the capability to fire, therefore it was necessary to deal with the enemy a mighty decisive blow as soon as possible.

 to do that a commanding officer had to coordinate the gun crew to concentrate the ship’s firepower, this was not the only advantage of the salvo as it also proved to be a superior way to set the firing range, since salvos were easier to spot than individual shots.

 individual splashes were quite difficult to distinguish contrary to salvos where their shells fell together and their splashes could be seen together.

 Finally, a salvo had a far smaller spread than individual fire, there were several salvo variations.

the broadside

 once the range was determined, the commanding officer could order simultaneous fire from all guns that could aim at the beam target.

 half salvo or split salvo was when the ship fired one gun from each turret at the same time, double salvo when one split salvo was followed by another this tactic allowed the gun to reload maintaining somewhat continuous fire of salvos.

 a bracket Southall or zigzag salvo was a method used to determine the range to the target the Germans used the tactic extensively in both world wars, it consisted of three double salvos, the first fired at the range determined by the rangefinder, the second 400 meters long, and the third 400 meters short of the first salvo

 I notice in which salvo was the closest, an accurate range was determined the latter salvo was a similar tactic in order to determine the target range the commanding officer would arrange each group of guns to fire a bit further than the previous until he reached the target

apart from the targeting enemy ships, salvos were quite effective against coastal fortifications very often naval artillery efficiency was compared to air attacks which were considered to be a better solution in fighting the enemy strongholds.

 however barely any plane except for heavy bombers could provide such intense firepower as a battleship salvo

for example a 16-inch shell from the iowa-class battleship weight around 2,000 pounds the iowa battleship had three turrets with three guns each which meant that its salvo provided 18,000 pounds of explosive one concentrated it could shake the ground on the spot where it hit

 similar to Navy artillery field artillery guns operated in units with coordinated fire one way of fighting the enemy was by applying the salvo tactic

 it involved the simultaneous fire of entire ranks of the battalion providing the firepower similar to those from battleships, however, unlike naval warfare the field artillery salvo had offensive and defensive roles.


 the destroy salvo was a short but quick salvo fire, the goal was to drop several shells at a short amount of time in order to inflict maximum casualties before the enemy reorganized and reached for covering.

 the counterbattery salvo was a short fast simultaneous fire against an enemy artillery position with the goal of destroying as much of their firing capabilities as possible

 and lastly, the suppression salvo had a slow rate of the fire of usually one round per gun per minute, it was the type of support fire with the goal to either pin the enemy down or to force him to withdraw during the attack of friendly troops

offensive salvos was most often combined with predicted aiming but as artillery progressed so did the aiming techniques this allowed artillery units to precisely determine enemy positions before firing

 in such a case in an artillery unit was able to get the most out of their salvo as the first rounds would make a direct hit with maximum casualties


 the suppression salvo was like the offensive type, but with the aim in slowing the enemy’s advancement or to make a screen between the attacker and the defender.

 the destroy salvo and the defensive strategy was a more intense shelling that caused casualties of disorganization among the attackers,

 and lastly, the final protective fire was a type of salvo striking close to a friendly units position in order to protect it from an overwhelming attack

 as a tactic, the salvo has been used by field artillery units for centuries as in naval warfare the intention was to deal a massive blow to the enemy and an instant the tactic was widely used during 19th century warfare and became very effective with the introduction of the rifle barrels and high-explosive shells

 this allowed artillery units to shell the enemy with enormous amounts of firepower in the post-world war 2 era the salvo tactic began to decline development of cruise missiles made battleships and their artillery obsolete a missile launched from a destroyer was able to cause more damage at greater distances than any battleship the domination of long-range missiles and air bombing also diminished the role of field artillery in the same manner, today salvos are mostly used for ceremonial purposes as a loud and thunderous performance of might