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Army fires more missiles during seafaring RIMPAC

An avenger air defense system crew member with the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade loads a stinger missile before a live fire training exercise, during RIMPAC 2018 at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands Hawaii, July 24.

RACHAEL JEFFCOAT/U.S. ARMY PHOTO

By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 26, 2018

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Army on Tuesday fired a Humvee-mounted Stinger missile at a drone flying over water during Rim of the Pacific, adding to its role in what is largely an exercise for international naval forces.

It was another test of cooperation with the U.S. Navy — and all the other services eventually — that is part of a new “multidomain battle” construct seeking to integrate capabilities on future fast-moving battlefields.

On Wednesday, the Army provided a look at its Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program headquarters, a series of camouflage-covered, interconnecting tents on Ford Island.

From Friday through Monday, when RIMPAC enters the “freeplay” stage in which ships and aircraft playing the enemy roam about, the Army will be looking to do its part for friendly forces by simulating using Patriot long-range missiles against aircraft and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, long-range rockets to target ships at sea, officials said.

Tuesday’s Stinger live-firing at Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility followed the Army’s shore-based shot of a Naval Strike Missile at a decommissioned ship 63 miles out at sea on July 12 and Japan’s use of four truck-mounted surface-to-surface missiles to also hit the ship.

The Army also fired a shoulder-launched Stinger on Tuesday.

This year marks the first time a land-based unit participated in a RIMPAC live-fire event, the Navy said.

All the tests are part of the U.S. effort to overcome what’s known as “anti-access/area denial,” or the ability of an enemy to use ships, planes and long-range missiles to prevent Navy forces from approaching a battle site.

For the Army, the goal is to be a rapidly deployable offensive tool to counter enemy ships, particularly in an area such as the Indo-Pacific that has a multitude of strategic chokepoints and islands.

“We want to know, if we pivot our forces and we have to support a maritime environment such as the Pacific theater, how well can we interoperate with the Navy?” said Col. Chris Wendland, the Multi-Domain Task Force commander.

As part of those shore-based forces, Patriot missiles — better known for their anti-ballistic missile role — would be used to target aircraft at longer range, while Stinger missiles would be used for aircraft attacking Army firing positions, the Army said.

During the RIMPAC freeplay stage, the Multi-Domain Task Force, which includes Australian and Japanese personnel, will leverage P-3 and P-8 subhunting and reconnaissance plane sensor information to help identify targets, Wendland said.

“That interoperability between the Navy and Army — we’ve done it” — but not to this level, he said, adding, “There’s a lot of firsts out here.”

The use of an Army Gray Eagle drone during RIMPAC marks its first use in Hawaii, he said. The 28-foot follow-on to the Predator can carry an electro-optical/infrared sensor, synthetic aperture radar and four Hellfire missiles.

“That aircraft has been getting a lot of use out here as we try to help the Navy (by saying), ‘Where would you like us to look? ’” Wendland said.

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