Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- Flaring trails of smoke streaked through the sky Sept. 16 in the Combat Center’s training area and led to a ground-shaking impact, west of Hidalgo Mountain. These streaks roared through the sky in several volleys, trailing a round that was shot out of a High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, from south of Hidalgo Mountain.
Members from the HIMARS Test Unit, stationed out of Fort Sill, Okla., demonstrated the capabilities of the Marine Corps’ latest system in the artillery world’s arsenal, the HIMARS, during Desert Fire Exercise in the Combat Center’s training area.
According to an army technology Web site, the HIMARS is a mobile, multiple rocket-launching system that is carried on a five-ton, six-by-six wheeled truck. The system is anchored on the bed of the truck and can launch multiple rockets at the same time in support of firing missions.
The system’s advantage is the capability to set in quickly and launch its munitions from the bed of the truck. The pod system raises skyward, angling above the cab of the truck, pointing at its target. After it fires the required rockets, the truck is able to move away from the area quickly before enemy forces are able to locate the launch site.
The Marine Corps began exploring the system in 2000.
Currently, Fox Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, is the only artillery unit using the HIMARS.
The HIMARS Testing Unit used the Combat Center’s training area to launch 60 rockets during their exercise.
“We are validating the rockets, the system and safety precautions for the HIMARS,” said Phil Beck, HIMARS senior system analyst.
“Our unit will be working with [5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment] and the 11th Marine Headquarters to give them a sense of HIMARS tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Staff Sgt. James G. Huffman, HIMARS section chief with HIMARS Testing Unit. “[11th Marine Regiment] will be getting used to understanding the difference between cannons and rockets.”
The HIMARS will also provide a longer range of impact for artillery batteries. The M777 Lightweight Howitzer fires rounds ranging at 30,000 meters. The HIMARS provides 50 percent more distance at a range of 45,000 meters or nearly 28 miles.
“The HIMARS is important to our regiment because of all its capabilities,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Hector Herrera, 11th Marine Regiment field artillery chief. “The HIMARS will provide the maneuver commanders with ground based, long-range precision, all weather, continuous general support and general support reinforcing fires.”
The HIMARS requires the same number of crewmen to man the system as any artillery gun.
“The HIMARS also provides indirect-fire support to accurately engage targets at a long range with high volumes of lethal fire without pulling direct artillery support,” said Herrera. “Therefore, the system improves our motto, ‘shoot, move and communicate’ by being able to have deeper fire capabilities, and will suppress, destroy and deny terrain to the enemy in all environments with maximum lethality.”
Three firing batteries from 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, are scheduled to be the first active artillery batteries to use the HIMARS in late 2007.