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Battalion prepares for Patriot missile defense modernization on Korean peninsula

By Capt. Jonathon Daniell August 14, 2017

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- After eight months of intense training, members of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade successfully completed a Patriot missile defense system modernization effort that will provide continued protection from potential North Korean aggression.

In coordination with contractors from Raytheon and the Lower Tier Project Office, the brigade carried out the largest Patriot modernization project ever conducted outside a continental depot facility, said Steven Knierim, Raytheon project manager.

"The purpose of the battalion netted exercise was two-fold. First, it was to validate the systems to ensure everything worked and met the industry standard for performance," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tara Gibbs, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Patriot modernization project officer. "The second was to qualify the Soldiers and crews on the new equipment."

As part of the training, the batteries networked into the battalion data link architecture from geographically dispersed locations around the peninsula and conducted air battles. Each battery crew was required to complete a series of competency tests to demonstrate proficiency.

"Prior to the exercise, we spent three weeks split between formal classroom training and hands-on learning," said 2nd Lt. Nathan Jackson, Company C, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment fire control platoon leader. "The contractors taught us how to isolate faults in order to better diagnose problems in case the equipment goes down."

According to Jackson, one of the biggest benefits of the modernization overhaul was the replacement of many legacy systems and updating outdated technology. The combination of the two improved the tactical capabilities and reduced maintenance requirements for the missile defense system.

"For the Soldiers that work in the engagement control station, one of the smaller but more comfortable enhancements was the ergonomic improvements," said Jackson. "Touch screen maneuverable displays, along with improved adjustable seats, make long shifts more endurable."

Throughout the modernization process, the brigade carefully balanced the 'Fight Tonight' mission in the Korean theater of operation while rotating batteries through the improvised depot at Suwon Air Base.

The brigade is scheduled to modernize their platform of Avengers in the coming months as part of an ongoing plan of enhancing air defense capabilities on the Korean Peninsula.

Editor's note: Readiness and modernization remain fixtures among the Army's top priorities, both of which are initiatives 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade is addressing as the brigade upgrades their Patriot fleet. Upon completion of the largest Patriot modernization project ever conducted outside a depot facility, the Dragon Brigade will operate with the most technological advanced equipment within the Air Defense Artillery community. Furthermore, the brigade will execute a comprehensive new equipment training cycle to maintain Fight Tonight readiness throughout the transition. This article is part of a three part series that will follow the modernization and readiness effort as it materializes.

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