REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Among the presentations about missile weapon systems, weapon system technology and the management of weapon systems, two Soldiers speaking to attendees at the Tactical Missiles Conference brought the day's meetings to the very heart of the matter - saving Soldier lives.

1st Lt. David Poe and Spc. Peter Murphy spoke about "the heart of the matter" as they shared their experiences on how the Improved Target Acquisition System and the TOW and Javelin missile systems made a difference in 2009 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

They were added as featured speakers to an agenda for the Tactical Missiles Conference, hosted by the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army at the Von Braun Center on May 4. The theme of the conference was "Evolving Missiles and Fires Into the New Decade."

The two Soldiers served in a unit of the 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, N.Y., in the mountainous terrain of northeast Afghanistan along the Pakistani border. Both said ITAS and the two missile systems can be credited with saving Soldier lives on a battlefield in the valley between two mountains.

"ITAS singlehandedly helped us take back half of the valley," Poe said. "It pushed them back into the mountains, giving the populated city back to the people. We literally shut them down ...

"You want to hit the enemy with almost everything you've got at the decisive moment. ITAS drastically reduced the amount of time support assets spent acquiring targets."

ITAS is the reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition platform, providing long-range heavy antitank and precision assault fires capabilities. It is a multi-mission weapon system used as a tank killer, precision assault weapon, and as the Infantry task force's long-range surveillance asset.

ITAS is used in conjunction with the TOW missile system, which has had more than 11,000 firings in Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom since 2003. It can also be used to site targets for the Javelin missile system, which has had more than 2,000 firings in OIF/OEF. During the 10th Mountain's deployment to Afghanistan in 2009, more than 2,000 TOW missiles were fired.

With ITAS, the Soldiers could see the enemy from a distance of 1,500 meters to two kilometers. If the target was not in range of the TOW missile, then Soldiers would still acquire the target with ITAS and then hit the target with a Javelin missile.

"ITAS is an instrument for identifying targets so we could engage them," Poe said.

"With this system, we don't have to try to decide who the enemy is. We know exactly what we're hitting. It gives us the ability to make sure we hit the enemy and only the enemy."
When it was time to fire, the Soldiers preferred the TOW bunker buster.

"We had three different missiles and one really got the job done for us," Murphy said. "The TOW bunker buster has a wider spray with greater effects."

Poe recounted one battle where insurgents ambushed a U.S. convoy, opening up on Soldiers with heavy weapons that forced them to remain in their vehicles. The insurgents then broke through irrigation canals that caused water to flow down the road and wash it out, trapping the Soldiers.

The 11-hour battle ended at night, when Soldiers used ITAS night vision in a decisive engagement of the enemy as they were closing in on the Soldiers.

"ITAS, that day, I'm sure saved our lives," Poe said.

Also speaking during the conference was Lt. Gen. Jim Pillsbury, deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command, who emphasized the partnership between industry and the military as they work together to provide Soldiers with the best weapon systems.

"Industry provides the necessary technology and the Army provides the leadership and the dollars," he said.

Pillsbury said that partnership will be even more essential in the years to come as the Army provides forces and equipment for conflicts.

"The plan for the foreseeable future is the rotational aspect of about 10 brigade-size elements deployed at any time," he said. "This fight is not going to end soon. We are fighting a dedicated and vicious enemy who wants to kill you for what you believe in."

The general mentioned the Army's most effective missile systems - MLRS, TOW, Hellfire, Hyrdra 70, Javelin and ATACMS -- and commended the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, and the Redstone-Huntsville community for its missile research, development and sustainment activities, saying "this community is feared by our enemy because you know the more precision (of our missile systems) the better ... Nobody does it better than the missile community."

He went on to mention the Materiel Life Cycle Doctrine - used in the "cradle to grave" management of systems - and asked industry to help with the cost element of that doctrine.

"Anything you can do to help us with that is one of those nuggets we're looking for," Pillsbury said.

The Army is working to control and lower system sustainment costs. Older systems have higher sustainment costs, such as the M1 tank and the Black Hawk helicopter, both with 87 percent of its costs due to sustainment.

"As weapon systems go further into their life cycle, more and more dollars go into the sustainment bucket," he said. "We've got to look at systems in the long term, and logisticians and engineers can help with that."

Partnerships between AMC and its organizations, the program executive offices and industry continue to be a "win-win situation," Pillsbury said. But he also stressed that the Army and AMC are going to do things "radically different" with "simpler, less expensive and faster" missile systems.

About 350 attendees participated in the Tactical Missile Conference, which included presentations on the THAAD System, Precision Fires Rocket and Artillery Systems, Joint Attack Munition Systems, Patriot/MEADS and Cruise Missile Defense Systems.

"We do this conference once a year for those interested in tactical missiles," said conference organizer Tommie Newberry.

"It allows us to compare notes, catch up on the status of programs and benefit from the synergy of being together to review missile systems programs."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16