The Cameroon Defence Force (CDF) has been employing innovative methods to bring superior artillery firepower to bear in their fight against terror group Boko Haram.
This is largely to mitigate against the lack of air power available, but it has helped provide much needed heavy fire support to units in combat operations.
Most recently in June during a cross-border operation with the Nigerian military, the specialist Cameroon Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) employed CARDOM 120T self-propelled 120mm mortar to suppress enemy defences.
This requires good training and also cooperation with the Cameroon Army’s Surface-to-Surface Artillery Regiment (RASS).
Based at Nkongsamba, the RASS is Cameroon’s heavy artillery unit. The regiment is organized into a command battery, a training battery, three towed howitzer batteries fielding a mix of 18 Soltam M-71 155 mm howitzers and TIG 2000, a modernized derivative of the former equipped with an APU and power operated rammer, two batteries of Soltam CARDOM 120T 120mm self-propelled heavy mortars and another battery of towed 120 mm mortars.
The RASS is expected to expand its inventory in the near future to include multiple-rocket launchers of Russian origin whose procurement is being negotiated as part of a major arms package between Yaounde and Moscow.
There is also interest within the Cameroonian Army command in substituting the existing towed howitzers with self-propelled ones, although no agenda for this procurement has yet been put forward.
As part of Operation Emergence 4, the RASS has been deployed in the Far North for over two years, with at least one complete battery of six howitzers permanently positioned there, ready to provide long range fire support.
CDF sources said that RASS has worked in coordination with BIR reconnaissance teams and the BIR’s own dedicated unmanned vehicles (UAV) unit, the Groupement d’Observation Aérienne (GOA), which used Aeronautics Orbiter IIs mini UAVs to pinpoint terrorist concentrations and establish their precise coordinates. The information was then passed on to the RASS’ TIG 2000 battery to hit.
The CDF said that whenever this pattern of operations was used, the results were highly successful, with the enemy usually sustaining dozens of casualties.
Meanwhile, most of the CARDOM 120T have been broken into detachments of less than a full battery and attached to a number of outposts within the different zones of Operation Alpha – the BIR’s own counter-terrorist operation. Here they have been used for closer range fire support and working with BIR battle groups, the self-propelled mortars have been employed in rapid reaction operations, following Boko Haram incursions into Cameroon. The commander of a CARDOM 120T detachment said the system is highly prized for its flexibility and reliability.
While the RASS has been the leading artillery force in the campaign, Fire-Support Battalions (BA) of the Cameroonian Army’s different Motorized Infantry Brigades (BRIM) has also seen action.
Equipped with towed 120 mm mortars, most notably the French Thomson-Brandt RTF-1, these units have been deployed in support of BIR detachments, including in the border town of Amchidé and also throughout the Mandara mountain range on the border with Nigeria which Cameroon has heavily militarized to counter Boko Haram infiltrations.