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Kansas Guard artillery battalion showcases new rocket system

June 6, 2011

By Sgt. Jessica Barnett, 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT RILEY, Kan., June 6, 2011 -- The Kansas National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 130th Field Artillery lit up the sky with rockets during an Open House and Live-Fire exercise May 21, 2011, at the firing range on Fort Riley, Kan.

The public was invited to visit with the Soldiers, eat a hot dog lunch from the battalion field kitchen and observe a live-fire demonstration of the battalion’s new High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, a truck-mounted rocket launch system.

A static display of radios, ammunition trucks and other equipment were on scene for family and friends to explore.

“This is something we do every year to bring the communities out to see what our Soldiers are doing,” said Jolene Lowe, battalion Family Readiness Group leader. “It was nice to have the weather clear up and that so many people came out.”

The 2-130th FA is headquartered in Hiawatha with units in Abilene, Clay Center, Concordia, Holton, Marysville and Ottawa.

Fresh off the heels of a year-long deployment in support of the Multinational Force and Observer’s mission in Sinai, Egypt, the battalion is transitioning from the tracked-vehicle M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System to the HIMARS.

Weapons transitions have happened several times in the battalion’s past, each met with tremendous success.

The first major weapons upgrade came in 1977 when they switched from M102 105 millimeter Towed Howitzers to the 8-inch Self-Propelled Howitzer. Even when the Soldiers were tasked with the additional duty of being nuclear capable, they never failed an inspection that was given by active Army experts.

The same attention to detail and dedication that the Soldiers of the 2-130th FA showed in 1977, came through again when the battalion switched once more in 1995 to the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS.

Master Sgt. Eric Thompson, master gunner for Headquarters Battery, 2-130th FA, has been through the MLRS transition and knows the process well.

“During the MLRS transition we were going from howitzers to rockets, which entailed more of a workload for us to take on,” said Thompson, a Hiawatha, Kan., native. “Now that we are just updating our rockets, the process has gone very smoothly.”

Thompson said the soldiers were adapting to the new equipment and added tasks, even after just months from returning home.

“Our Soldiers are doing outstanding work,” said Thompson, “and have met every obstacle with professionalism. The Soldiers realize the importance of keeping our validity as a field artillery unit.
The deployment to the Sinai was a peacekeeping mission, and this transition allows the soldiers to return to what they do best, firing rockets.”

The HIMARS is the newest member of the multiple-launch rocket system family, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. HIMARS is a highly-mobile artillery rocket system offering the firepower of MLRS on a wheeled chassis. It carries a single six-pack of rockets on the Army's family of medium tactical vehicles.

The purpose of the system is to engage and defeat artillery, air defense concentrations, trucks, light armor and personnel carriers, as well as support troop and supply concentrations. HIMARS is able to launch its weapons and move away from the area at high speeds before enemy forces are able to locate the launch site, according to Army-technology.com.

HIMARS is operated by a crew of three - driver, gunner and section chief - but the computer-based fire control system enables a crew of two or even a single Soldier to load and unload the system. The fire control system includes video, keyboard control, a gigabyte of program storage and a global positioning system. The fire control computer allows firing missions to be carried out in an automatic or manual mode.

There are two different jobs that Soldiers trained for, the fire direction specialist and launcher crew. Each requires several weeks of training provided by Precision Fire; a civilian ran company based out of Texas.

“The difference between the two sets of training is the fire direction specialists have to do three weeks of computer training that is similar to the old system, but the launcher crew have to train on all new equipment,” said Sgt. Randal Milleson, a training noncommissioned officer for Headquarters Battery, and a resident of Lindsborg, Kan.

As the unit makes its transition from the M270 to the HIMARS, they will gain greater mobility as the HIMARS vehicle weighs approximately 24,000 lbs., compared to more than 44,000 lbs. for the MLRS M270 launcher.

The system is also transportable on the C-130 aircraft (combat loaded), allowing the system to be moved into areas previously inaccessible to the larger C-141 and C-5 aircraft required for the M270 launch vehicle, according to Lockheed Martin Corp.

The transition also plays a bigger role overall in the Kansas National Guard.

“[The transition] allows more than 400 Soldiers to keep a ready and relevant status and gives junior leaders a venue to practice their leadership and management skills, while maintaining the craft of field artillery,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Burr, battalion commander.

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