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4/73 Special Observation Post Battery (Royal Artillery)
4/73 Special OP battery are an elite unit within 5 Regiment, Royal Artillery, tasked with directing artillery fire and air strikes deep. 4/73 Bty also provide crucial battlefield intelligence on enemy positions, movements, strength and morale. 4/73 Bty deploy as Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Patrols which operate far from the main force, sometimes deep behind enemy lines. They may also deploy as Fire Support Teams (FSTs), embedded in a Brigade Reconnaissance Force or other recce formation.
4/73 Bty were established in 1982 to fill a mostly cold war role. In the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, small teams from 4/73 Bty were to establish covert hides along expected invasion routes. Once overrun by Soviet forces, they would call in intelligence reports and artillery strikes on deep/rear elements of the enemy - e.g. lines of supply, headquarters etc.
In many ways 4/73 Bty perform a similar role to 148 Bty. One of the main difference is that 4/73 Bty lack the parachute and commando training required of 148 Bty members. 4/73 is the regular Army's equivalent of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), a territorial unit. In times of war, 4/73 Bty form a fourth Patrol Squadron for the HAC.
4/73 Bty, or 'Sphinx Battery' as it is otherwise known, has seen recent action in Afghanistan and Iraq. During recent operations in Afghanistan the unit switched from its traditional artillery spotting role to a reconnaissance role, patrolling in WMIK / Pinzgauer columns.
In April 2007, 4/73 Bty formed part of 12 Brigade's BRF (Brigade Recce Force) for Operation Herric VI (April 2007-October 2007). When Herric VI, became Herrick VII in October, 4/73 Bty provided troops to 52 Brigade's BRF, alongside a recce platoon from the 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment.
The role of Special Observer within 4/73 Bty is a specialisation which candidates choose when joining the Army. An 18 weeks 'Special Observer Patrol Course' trains candidates in the requisite skills over a series of 8 modules:
HOW TO JOIN THE SPECIAL FORCES