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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, 1st Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade, tasked with directing artillery fire and strikes from attack aircraft and precision missiles. 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 Battery soldier
A member of a 4/73 Bty Surveillance and Target Acquisition patrol crosses a river during an exercise, 2017. He is wearing an AN/PVS-14 monocular night vision device. His SA80A2 rifle is fitted with a KITE Weapon Mounted Night Sight.
MOD photo by Stuart A Hill AMS | © Crown copyright 2017 | used under open government licence

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 Battery comprises 4 Patrol Troops and a Battery Headquarters. 3 of the Patrol Troops consist of a 3-man HQ element and two 6-man Patrols. A smaller Patrol Troop, with an HQ element and just the one 6-man Patrol, stands ready to support 16 Air Assault Brigade.


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.

  • During their deployment, the BRF mounted a seven week desert patrol, Britain's longest since the second World War.
  • In November 2007, 4/73 foiled a car bomb attack on their convoy
  • The BRF saw action during the UK/ANA operation to retake the town of Musa Qaleh in December, 2007.

Selection & Training

The role of Gunner 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:

  1. Physical Endurance, Stamina and Navigation
  2. Tactics and Patrolling
  3. Communications Skills
  4. Advanced Combat Field Firing
  5. Specialist Skills Package
      a) Specialist OP and Observation Skills
      b) Medical Trauma
      c) Survival
  6. Advanced Patrolling Skills
  7. Final Surveillance and Reconnaissance Patrolling evaluation
  8. Basic Op Assistant.

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