Altus AFB supports HIMARS joint training mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christopher Toon
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Altus Airmen partnered with their Army brethren from across southwest Oklahoma, west Texas and Alabama for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System training April 27.

The training helped to test the efficiency of the HIMARS weapon, which offers the firepower of a multiple-launch rocket system on a wheeled chassis. The 97th Air Mobility Wing offered an aircraft and its Joint Precision Airdrop System, which combines air drop and GPS technology. The combination of the two allows for a unique capability referred to as the "hot panel." The launcher's GPS can link into the transporting aircraft's GPS antenna via the JPADS system. This capability allows the launcher to remain fully GPS-guided while in flight, so it is, fire-mission ready immediately upon landing.

To kick off the training event an aircrew from the 58th Airlift Squadron flew a C-17 Globemaster III to Fort Sill, Okla. where it began loading two of Fort Sill's Bravo Battery 1-14 Field Artillery's M142 HIMARS. During the loading the aircrew had a total of 40 people from Fort Sill, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and Dallas accompany the joint training mission. Once loaded, the crew flew to White Sands Missile Range, N.M. for testing.

"This event was the culmination of a multi-year development effort to enhance the capability and utilization of the HIMARS launcher on the battlefield," said Maj. Michael Fitzgerald, Assistant Product Manager for HIMARS. "This capability effectively gives commanders in the area of responsibility the ability to employ this system in more areas given the partnership with the U.S. Air Force and the capabilities that both the HIMARS and U.S. Air Force bring to bear.

"The goal for this mission was to prove operationally the hot panel capability allowing war fighters to be in the driver's seat the whole time. They did exceptionally well and effectively demonstrated that this capability is ready for operational employment in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as needed," Major Fitzgerald said.

The Bravo Battery 1-14 Field Artillery was able to quickly offload the aircraft, accurately fire their rockets and return to base safely. The combination of the HIMARS using hot panel and the C-17's JPADS reduced soldier's presence on the ground significantly. This equates to lives saved in battle.

"This HIMARS mission was a capstone event - the culmination of all hot panel testing," said Capt. Ryan Goodlin, C-17 Formal Training Unit Instructor Pilot, Tactics Flight Commander 58th Airlift Squadron. The integration of the HIMARS hot panel and the C-17's JPADS was not a quick process, but after several missions the capability was conclusive.

Joint training is conclusive because of the seamless partnership between the Air Force and Army. Captain Goodlin said joint training is always important because it allows military forces to simulate actual combat operations similar to those required downrange.

"It is even more important in this case because of the cutting-edge capability that the hot panel- equipped HIMARS adds to U.S. operations. When the Army calls upon the Air Force to deliver this strike package downrange in the near future, seamless integration is key. We must train like we fight," Captain Ryan Goodlin said.

The U.S. Army website said the premier location for conducting weapons system tests and evaluations is the White Sands Missile Range.

White Sands Missile Range's engineers and scientists perform services necessary to support the Integrated Test and Experiment Strategy for planning, design, conduct, analysis, and reporting using operational research, system engineering and scientific methods during the life cycle for military hardware and software.

To support these services, White Sands Test Center provides all the capabilities necessary to ensure the success of any test brought to the range. These capabilities are routinely utilized by the Army, Navy, Air Force and other authorized customers to support their diverse test requirements.

Major Fitzgerald said the aircraft, HIMARS, war fighters, weapons and location came together to help make this a successful operation.

"Being able to work with both Fort Sill and Altus AFB has been a great partnership and really made it possible to conduct this live fire event," Maj. Fitzgerald said. "We certainly hope to do more cooperative training and development to enhance this capability and make sure that Army, USMC and USAF units understand how to employ this capability on the battlefield."