LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Coalition forces and civilians living on Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, have an added layer of security in the form of the Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar System and the Land-based Phalanx Weapons System, or the C-RAM and the LPWS, two systems that work together for base defense.
The C-RAM is an early warning detection system and the Phalanx is designed to engage rockets, artillery shells and mortars - which are common weapons used by the enemies of Afghanistan to attack coalition forces and Afghan security bases.
"This is one of the only systems that is strictly defensive," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Geoff Utter, a platoon leader with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.
"It takes the round, the rocket, artillery, or mortar out of the sky so it doesn't fall on the protected area," said Utter, an Omaha, Neb., native. "It definitely gives the feeling to the soldiers that live on the FOB and work there, a sense of security. I would hope they can sleep at night knowing that we have this system up and running."
The system has been adapted from a similar naval system used to defend aircraft carriers and large ships on the open seas. It is now being deployed on a trailer platform, and has recently been brought to FOB Shank in Logar province, Afghanistan.
The defense systems are the first to be deployed to this area. U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Holbrook, the executive officer for Battery B, 2-44 ADA, and a native of Lexington, Ky., said, "It's an honor to bring the system into a new area; it's never been done at this altitude, in this theater."
When the C-RAM detects incoming rockets, artillery, or mortars, the 2-44 ADA's engagement operations cell determines if the round will threaten personnel or materiel. If the threat is credible, the Phalanx fires a burst of 20 millimeter, self detonating rounds. These rounds are designed to knock the incoming weapon off course and disable it, so even if the rocket, shell or mortar impacts on the base, it does not explode.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Torres, a native of Temecula, Calif., and the platoon sergeant for the engagement operations cell of Battery B, 2-44 ADA, has been working with the C-RAM since 2005 in Iraq, during its initial fielding on land.
"The 20 millimeter rounds self detonate after a certain distance to minimize civcas [civilian casualties]," he said. "There were zero cases of civcas after nearly 200 engagements in Iraq."
The C-RAM system uses multiple types of radar and cameras as part of its "sense and warn" capabilities. The system sounds an alarm to alert personnel, regardless if the Phalanx will fire or not, due to aircraft in the area or system maintenance. The warning allows service members and civilians to react, giving them a higher survivability rate in case rounds impact in the area.
C-RAM's automated systems also allow it to feed information, based on the trajectory of an incoming round, to artillery personnel. This aids in counterfire, giving artillerymen the necessary coordinates to return fire to the location the round came from, much sooner than previous methods.