NEW MEXICO --
The hum of
turbine engines fills the air on a chilly December morning at the White Sands
Missile Range in southern New Mexico. Cresting the horizon, two C-130 Hercules
military transport aircraft approach a makeshift runway on the desert floor.
The first plane lands and offloads Marines and tactical communications gear.
The second aircraft lands downrange of the first and offloads an M142 High
Mobility Artillery Rocket System and a launch team.
the Marines are ready to send rounds downrange. The fire mission comes over the
radio from the Force Artillery Headquarters and the communications team quickly
relays it to the launcher.
begins and observers hold their breath awaiting the launch.
pierces the air and the HIMARS is enveloped in smoke. Seconds later, a second
rocket leaves the launcher and follows the trajectory of the first. Over 30 kilometers away, the target is split
in half as impacts from the rockets erase its existence across the white desert
These are the
Marines of Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division,
and they conducted a live-fire HIMARS air raid at White Sands Missile Range,
New Mexico, Dec. 4, 2015.
essentially trying to test the capability of the HIMARS to launch an air raid
from any position,” said Sgt. Garrett S. Zurich, HIMARS launcher section chief,
1st platoon, Battery D. “We were able to land, fire a guided munition at an
enemy target, re-embark and get out of the firing position.”
span of a few hours, the Marines were able to transport two separate HIMARS
launcher teams from Biggs Army Airfield in Fort Bliss, Texas, and fire six
guided multiple launch rocket system unitary rounds to eliminate a target 31
this mission over a single drill weekend, the Marines required coordination
from the 14th Marines regimental headquarters, which served as a Force
Artillery Headquarters, 2nd Battalion inspector and instructor staff, the
Army’s 1st Armored Division Artillery, White Sands Missile Range personnel,
Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th
Marine Aircraft Wing and VMGR-234, MAG-41, 4th MAW.
the mission at the force artillery headquarters in Fort Worth, and transmitted
it 800 miles via digital high-frequency transmission to a mobile platoon
operations center at White Sands Missile Range that had gotten off a C-130 just
five minutes prior, and put rounds on target,” said Col. Joseph Russo,
commanding officer, 14th Marine Regiment.
aspects of this mission had been practiced in the past, this event was the
first time a Marine Corps unit has employed this tactic using HIMARS and live
exercised several of the individual portions of this event in the past, but
hadn’t brought them all together,” Russo said.
“We’ve conducted long-range digital HF communications over 800 miles
before, but hadn’t tied them into a live fire raid event. We’ve loaded HIMARS launchers into aircraft
before, but never live-fired them during a raid exercise. We’ve live-fired GMLRS unitary rounds before,
but not done so within the constraints of a tactical scenario.”
The end result
showcases the ability of the HIMARS launchers to enhance a Marine Air-Ground
demonstrated to the Marine Corps a unique, relevant and marketable capability
to provide precision fires against an objective that may otherwise be too well
protected to risk manned aircraft against, or out of range of other
surface-to-surface fire capabilities,” Russo said. “This offers MAGTF or a
joint commander an additional proven option.”
the instability in various regions of the world, this HIMARS tactic keeps
Marine Forces Reserve ready to respond to any threat that may arise in the Marine
Corps’ current areas of operation.
“It proves that
the HIMARS can be highly mobile,” Zurich said. “At any point, at any time, we
can get on an airplane, go anywhere in the world, eliminate a target, get out, land
again and refocus.”