In the army, the artillery is the arm, which uses missile launchers and other devices to hit enemy targets with heavy projectiles from a distance.
The ancient Greeks and their catapult as well as the Romans and their ballista can legitimately be regarded as the forerunners of artillerymen.
During the XIV century, the importation of black powder from China brought about the invention of the first pieces of ordnance and other rudimentary less efficient cannons. The XV century witnessed the use of iron balls.
The first military artillery corps was created in the XVII century by Louvois, Minister for War under Louis XIV.
The evolution of the artillery continued under Louis XV and Louis XVI with the creation of regiments and schools as well as the endowment of equipment. Then, two distinct corps could be identified: field artillery and siege artillery, corresponding to light artillery and heavy artillery respectively.
Napoleon I, who as Bonaparte had become general thanks to his exceptional artillery skills, significantly increased the strength and resources of the artillery. This initiative contributed immensely to the prodigious victories of the Empire.
The XIX century witnessed a series of innovations such as the rifled barrel, the new breechblock cannon-loading method (as opposed to mouth loading) and the advent of the melinite, a far more effective substance than the Chinese black powder. Right up to the 1870 war, artillerymen used to move on foot while their equipment used to be drawn by horses.
During World War I, cannon and mortar technology had been exquisitely perfected. Heavy artillery was used against cavalry- and infantrymen. These unfortunate troops, who were often rashly exposed to bombardment by their commanders, were literally scattered into pieces by shells, resulting in heavy tolls.
World War II witnessed even more advanced innovations in the artillery with the use of radio signals and radars to efficiently target fire. New types of projectiles and means of transportation also came into existence.
Le 68e régiment d'artillerie d'Afrique - Devise: "De l'audace, toujours !"
14 juillet 2007 - Champs Elysées, Paris Collection PC FNCV
At the dawn of the third millennium, heavy artillery has disappeared with the advent of weak nuclear charges and missile-launching devices. Artillerymen now have electronic devices and computerized systems which enable them to hit their targets with near-perfect precision, thus avoiding as much as possible civilian casualties. Media organs refer to these high precision strikes as « frappes chirurgicales » (surgical strikes).
A noter que l'armée de Terre française comporte un régiment d'artillerie parachutiste, le 35e R.A.P., basé à Tarbes.