By Capt. Michael A. CuginoNovember 13, 2017
At the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, used two Direct Support Electrical Systems Test Sets (DSESTS) to support three task force-organized maneuver battalions that included about 144 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Fourteen years later, the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), 4th Infantry Division, is now using the same number of DSESTS platforms to support four maneuver battalions and several hundred Abrams and Bradleys during Operation Atlantic Resolve.
As the Army transformed into modular brigade combat teams, its core mission to contribute land power to joint operations intensified. This transition has increased the ABCT's size and its reliance on digital systems.
The Army's increased number of platforms, footprint, and reliance on technology have strained the sustainment warfighting function. As ABCTs have extended their operational reach, off-platform automatic test systems (OPATS) have struggled to provide combatant commanders' freedom of action and prolonged endurance. More DSESTS and operators are needed in order to mitigate risk and better support ABCT maintenance.
DSESTS REPAIR CAPABILITIES
DSESTS tests line replaceable units (LRUs), such as parts that provide vehicle power distribution, forward looking infrared cameras, data management, optics and sighting, ballistic solutions, and GPS, on Army systems.
DSESTS enables an ABCT to repair LRUs within the brigade support battalion (BSB), thereby saving time, space, and money. Instead of replacing an expensive LRU that is in limited supply, maintainers can use the DSESTS to provide diagnostics that will assist them in repairing and replacing LRU components.
The armament section in a BSB field maintenance company consists of four fire control repairers and two DSESTS. This section supports the testing and repair of Bradley and Abrams LRUs when they are aggregated for gunnery in a garrison or deployed environment.
As ABCTs have moved into hybrid mission sets across multiple countries, the number of DSESTS in the ABCT has become inadequate. With recent increases in ABCT combat systems, the requirement to operate across multiple countries, and the lack of a fielded OPATS replacement, the Army needs more fire control repairers and DSESTS.
The current DSESTS configuration causes extreme distances between the maneuver battalions and the DSESTS equipment, which increases the time combat platforms are down for repairs.
Adding two repairers and one DSESTS to the armament section would make BSBs capable of better supporting ABCT efforts because they could echelon support forward to the main effort.
A greater number of personnel and systems would allow for quicker fault verification and repair of the more than 50 LRUs that are tested with the DSESTS. This change would increase the operational readiness of maneuver elements that are constrained by long lines of communication.
Another option is to add more lines to the authorized stockage list or the shop stock list. While this option seems simple, the supply must be in place to enable supply support activities to carry the additional lines. Adding more lines requires more space, which means more trucks, more truck drivers, and more equipment to reach the goal of a 100 percent mobile ABCT BSB.
For Operation Atlantic Resolve, ABCT maneuver elements are stationed in Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland, and Germany. Two OPATS are not enough to readily support ABCT fire control equipment throughout Europe.
By placing one system with two fire control repairers in the Baltics and another system with two repairers in Romania, the BSB can at best support two of the brigade's four maneuver elements. The continuity of support can be assured in Poland by adding another DSESTS and two additional Soldiers.
A third DSESTS is of little value in a garrison environment because of the shortened distances and aggregated gunnery ranges. Instead of fielding the set directly to the ABCT field maintenance company, it could be issued as theater-provided equipment. Adding two more repairers would ensure the unit's ability to man three DSESTS trucks while deployed.
Augmenting the ABCT with an extra DSESTS and two fire control repairers would extend operational reach, prolong endurance, and ensure that maneuver elements have freedom of action thanks to the increased operational readiness of their armament systems.
Capt. Michael A. Cugino is the S-3 for the 704th BSB, 2nd IBCT, 4th Infantry Division. He has a bachelor's degree in history from Excelsior College. He is a graduate of the Drill Sergeant Academy, the Total Army Instructor Training Course, the Officer Candidate School, the Ordnance Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Captains Career Course, and Airborne School.
This is an Army Sustainment magazine product.