Highly mobile rocket systems to stay in Australia after Talisman Sabre ends

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 11, 2019

High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, will train with Marines in Darwin, Australia, after participating in this month’s Talisman Sabre exercise Down Under, according to the Marine Corps.

A platoon from the Okinawa-based 12th Marine Regiment brought three HIMARS launchers to Australia for the monthlong, biennial drills involving 34,000 U.S. and Australian troops.

“The HIMARS is a highly mobile artillery rocket system,” 12th Marines commander Col. Mike Roach said in a phone interview from Australia on Thursday. “It’s light and it’s air transportable but it’s all-weather capable and provides a range up to [186 miles].”

On Monday, 50 Marines teamed up with the Air Force, Australian army and Royal Australian Air Force to practice inserting the launchers into an expeditionary air base before conducting live-fire drills in coordination with ground and amphibious forces, Roach said.

Air Force C-130J cargo planes out of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, and KC-130s out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in mainland Japan flew the launchers into Williamson Airfield in the Australian state of Queensland.

The launchers conducted live-fire training with reduced-range practice rounds, but the capability of the HIMARS wasn’t lost on Australian troops who watched them in action, Roach said.

“All the folks out there were very impressed at what it can do,” he said.

The rocket artillery has participated in Talisman Sabre in past years. It has also seen service in Afghanistan and Iraq, where it struck insurgents up to 50 miles from where launchers were based, Roach said.

In an area as large as the Pacific, the rocket artillery provides commanders with the range to go after time-sensitive targets, he said.

After the exercise, the launchers will move to Australia’s Northern Territory, where 2,500 Marines are training over summer as part of Marine Rotational Force — Darwin, Roach said.

“The HIMARS are taking advantage of the opportunity that Australia provides,” he said.

The sparsely-populated continent with its massive military training areas is a contrast to the Marines’ home on Okinawa, where military bases take up much of the island, causing friction with some locals.

The HIMARS will conduct training in Darwin in August, Roach said.

Twitter: @SethRobson1

A High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, also known as HIMARS, is test-fired during Talisman Sabre drill in Queensland, Australia, July 8, 2019.