Army begins virtual training on missile defense system at Fort Sill
January 26, 2015
The Army on Friday cut the ribbon on the service’s new virtual training facility, moving from training whole batteries on its newest missile defense system to individual training in a classroom.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles. The system can see much farther and fly higher than the Patriot missile, said Col. Jim Payne, commander of the 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
“It buys us time,” he said, “and that’s very important.”
The first THAAD battery was activated in 2008. One of the three active THAAD batteries moved to Guam in 2013, becoming the first operational unit.
But while the Army has a military occupational specialty for Patriot operators, THAAD operators won’t get their own MOS. Communications architecture or Patriot soldiers will train on THAAD as an additional skill, Payne said.
Until last year, the Army sent instructors to the units to train them all at once. Now, soldiers just out of boot camp or more senior soldiers assigned to THAAD units can learn to use the system in the 100,000-square-foot virtual training facility at Fort Sill.
Payne said the virtual trainers look and feel the same as the launcher vehicle, but have a video game-type system running in them for virtual simulations. The three-person cab also can be “opened like a burrito” so there is a larger area for instructors to use for the training, he said.
The facility took about two years to build and cost $27 million, making it on time and under budget, Payne said. It was dedicated Friday as the Lt. Gen. C.J. LeVan THAAD Instructional Facility, a tribute to a retired general who worked on rocket and missile programs and is credited as a visionary in air defense doctrine.
The Army is building its fourth THAAD battery now, with plans for seven batteries of around 100 soldiers, Payne said.