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HIMARS opens a new chapter in Marine Corps history

14 Sep 2007 | Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn

On today’s ever-changing battlefield, the Marine Corps must constantly adapt by introducing new tactics, gear and equipment to the fight.

One of the most recent advances in the Marine Corps’ arsenal is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

The HIMARS is the newest edition to the artillery community. It was developed to provide Marine Air Ground Task Force commanders with access to indirect fire support that is accurate, timely and deadly.

One rocket fired by the HIMARS has a destructive power that is equivalent to eight 155 mm rounds fired by a battery.

The biggest difference between the HIMARS and the currently used M198 howitzers is that the HIMARS fires 3-4 m rockets as opposed to 155mm artillery shells. Another major difference is the size of the crews. The HIMARS only requires a three-man crew to operate, but the M198s call for a nine-man crew.

“Operating a HIMARS launcher is completely different from running a howitzer,” said 1st Lt. Jeremy J. Colwell, Tango Battery executive officer. “There are only three Marines in the launcher and they pretty much operate independently. Those staff noncommissioned officer and noncommissioned officers in the launchers have a lot of freedom, and are making the tactical decisions as to where to place the launcher when it is waiting for a mission.”

The organization of the fire direction center is also going to undergo a significant change due to the transition to the HIMARS.

“HIMARS is different from cannons in that at the battery operations center, formerly the FDC, computes data based on a grid point that we determine,” said Colwell. “Realistically, the liaison element is just on the hill to ensure the rocket impacts in the right place. The forward observers do not call for fire.”

By the end of its integration, the HIMARS will be fully operational in one active duty artillery battalion and one reserve artillery battalion. The HIMARS is replacing the M198 howitzers previously used by these battalions.

Currently, only Tango Battery, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, and elements of 2nd Battalion, 14th Regiment have fully transitioned from the M198s to the HIMARS platform.

Tango Battery became the first active duty battery to field the HIMARS when they participated in the annual Regimental Desert Fire Exercise at Combat Center Training Areas Lavic Lake and Blacktop.

“The Marines are excited about the upcoming deployment,” said Colwell. “The Marines have been doing an outstanding job and have been working very hard during this transition time.”

Tango Battery will be the first active duty battery to field the HIMARS in an operational environment when they deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at the end of this year.

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