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Marines with 3rd LAR await their chance to shoot on the firing line and test out their new sights and turret. 3rd LAR recently received Improved Thermal Sight Systems and Electric Drive Turrets in their light armored vehicles.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Nerl

Vehicle upgrades give Wolfpack bigger bite

20 Sep 2008 | Lance Cpl. Michael Nerl

The Wolfpack is now armed with a bigger bite thanks to an upgraded main gun turret system for their light armored vehicles.

            The Marines of Company D, 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, trained with new turrets and sights in their light armored vehicles Saturday at the Combat Center’s Range 500. 

            The new Electric Drive Turrets and Improved Thermal Sight System provide more precise fire capability for Light Armored Recon Marines.

            The old  LAV hydraulic system for maneuvering the turret is being replaced Corpswide after approximately 25 years of use, and the new sights can see much farther than before, along with improved thermal imaging capabilities, said Sgt. Rolando Magdaleno, the Company D master gunner and a native of Santa Ana, Calif.

            “We have the same weapon used in the turrets, but the turret itself is upgraded,” said Magdaleno.  “What I like about the new system is that it is much quieter and a whole lot smoother than the old hydraulic system.  From the learning I’ve had on the subject, it looks like a much better system.  It was time to get rid of the old system. It worked well but it was starting to get old.”

            3rd LAR received classroom instruction on the new equipment last week, and they went one company at a time for approximately five hours a day to the range to test out the equipment Sept. 19 and Saturday. They will be qualifying with it beginning Monday through Oct. 3. 

            “Right now it’s a live-fire training exercise meant as familiarization training for the Marines,” said 2nd Lt. Blake Rice, a platoon commander with Company D and a native of Bethesda, Md.  “1st LAR trained with them first in the U.S., 2nd LAR got the upgrades when they were overseas, but I’m glad we did this now.” 

            Getting the upgrades back in the States is much better because the battalion has time to get out in the field and handle the equipment and learn with it, where they can sit down afterwards and iron out any kinks or wrinkles in their performances.

            The Marines fired 55 25mm dummy rounds to zero out the weapon and introduce themselves to the new system, said Rice.  It takes five rounds to properly zero the sights with this new system.  Each vehicle went through the zeroing process multiple times monitored by civilian contractors who taught the classes to the Marines. 

            The contractors were Raytheon employees that were instructors and the actual developers of the new systems.  The company has been here for the past month and a half working with 3rd LAR making the upgrades and supervising Marines learning about the system. 

            3rd LAR is just snapping in with the new turrets, but they are already being put to use in Iraq by 2nd LAR.

            “The upgrades began back in November of 2006,” said Loren Demers, an electrical engineer and a native of McKinney, Texas. 

            The laser can target things at approximately 8,000 meters and gives access to many new features that weren’t available on the old system.  The new system makes firing much easier than before.  The improved thermals are really clear. You can even see where people are sweating, as well as clearly inside a house, you can see a person moving.

            “The ITSS is much more advanced than before,” said Rice.  “It has the capabilities to do all the calculations for the gunner.  There’s a device that looks like a smokestack on the back part of the turret, that’s used to calculate the wind variable for shooting.  Also, the new laser reticle you aim with calculates distance to the target, and gives you a grid location for where the vehicle is and where the target is, in case you need to call in for artillery fire, which I think is phenomenal. The range on the laser also is incredible. You can magnify up to 40 times, and that’s quite a distance.”

            The new sights and electrical turret were looked at favorably by the Marines, and they were all very much impressed with the system’s capabilities. 

            The Wolfpack heads back to the field in October to sharpen their new teeth on their first gunnery qualification range with the new turrets and sights. They are scheduled to deploy next spring.


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