APRIL 28, 2017, MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Arizona – Marines with Delta Battery, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 supported Marines Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 in firing rockets from a high mobility artillery rockets M142 System as part of Assault Support Training 2 at Artillery Fire Area 1, Slab City, California, during the semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17, April 19, 2017.
Lasting seven weeks, WTI is a training evolution hosted by MAWTS-1 which provides standardized advanced and tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness.
The Marine Corps Operating Concept and Future Force 2025 initiatives have each challenged the service to innovate and meet the needs of a dynamic, 21st Century battlefield. One way that the Marine Corps has accepted this challenge is to do something that has not been done before; the live integration of the HIMAR and the F-35B Lightning II.
This is the first time the HIMAR, a light, multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV) truck frame, has made its appearance at WTI training.
“To capitalize on the 5th generation aircrafts’, the F-35B, capabilities to produce targets for ground based systems is something we haven’t been able to previously do in the past,” said Col. Joe Russo, commanding officer of 14th Marine Regiment. “The intent today is to open up a firing range for Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System live fire here at Yuma, something we hope to be able to use again in the future, due to its proximity to WTI and the opportunities presented to integrate with the training curriculum of WTI.”
The 2/14 Marines loaded GMLRS in the HIMAR, firing at targets, using VMFA-211 F-35Bs to guide rockets.
During this exercise, Marines from Delta Battery 2/14, MAWTS-1 and VMFA-211 worked together in order to further integrate HIMARS planning into the WTI curriculum, validating a newly developed GMLRS firing point in the Chocolate Mountains Training Area.
“We’ve fired GMLRS in the past, to get the F-35B incorporated in the mission is really the significant next step that has not happened before,” said Russo. “What we are shaping is the ability for the ground base fires platform to engage targets that previously would have only been able to be engaged by a pilot in an aircraft.”
As of now, the pilots call for fire over the radio which gets manually put into a system, making its way down to the HIMAR launchers, so the future goal is to be able to accomplish that digitally, said Rolf “Bugsy” Siegel of Lockheed Martin.
This potential future digital communication would save time in the real world battle fields, locating and firing on a target even faster. The longer it takes to annihilate a target leaves ground Marines vulnerable to enemy forces longer.
The exercise identified requirements for the integration of the F-35B and Marine Air Ground Task Force Command and Control systems.
“The ability for a ground base fire platform to engage and fire upon targets that previously would have only been able to be engaged by a pilot in an aircraft, which puts the pilot in harm’s way, is revolutionary when it comes to how we shape the battle field,” said Russo.
The Marine Corps’ goal of quickening the process to stream line the digital communications between the HIMAR and the F-35B could give us the potential to use it in real world operations.
“This is momentous and the Marines have been briefed many times on how important it is for them to execute this professionally because this will influence the entire force, active and reserve, on what we’re accomplishing out here,” said Russo. “At some point, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, this will manifest itself in real combat. The Marine Corps is and always has been known as the force that is always ready when the nation is not.”
By Cpl. Harley Robinson, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma