By Staff Sgt. Opal Vaughn, 173rd Airborne BrigadeMarch 8, 2016
CHINCHILLA, Spain (March 8, 2016) -- U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Spanish army soldiers from the Spanish Armed Forces Airborne Brigade (BRIPAC), trained on the M41 TOW Improved Target Acquisition System, Feb. 25, 2016, during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, here.
Exercise Sky Soldier 16 provided the opportunity to 1-503rd IN REG (ABN) paratroopers to train on the TOW system as the Spanish BRIPAC observed, providing them the opportunity to see first-hand the capabilities of the system.
"[In my opinion] the TOW is our most effective anti-tank weapon," said U.S. Army paratrooper 1st Lt. Jacob Wijnberg, executive officer for Company D. "As we transition from the war on terror to more conventional adversaries, anti-tank capabilities are crucial to the Brigade's mission."
"Spanish observers were present throughout the TOW training to exchange techniques and ensure the safety of all involved. The BRIPAC uses similar systems so they were familiar with this kind of training," said Wijnberg.
Being able to observe the training was just as important as conducting it, said Spanish army Capt. Jaime Arribas, commander for Headquarters Company, BRIPAC.
"The training has been great so far and a great opportunity for us to be embedded with an American Army [battalion]," said Arribas.
The TOW system is not a capability that the BRIPAC regularly train on as they possess different systems like VAMTAC BM2 anti-tank vehicle, said Arribas.
The TOW system consists of two pieces: the Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided TOW missile, and the Improved Targeting Acquisition System that enables the missile to acquire and lock on to a target. It is capable of destroying an armored target from up to 3,750 meters away.
This is important because the TOW provides light infantry units, like 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), the capability to engage mechanized opponents and win, said Wijnberg.
Combined training exercises in the past have taken the battalion to the Baltic States and Poland as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
"Anti-armor training has been the centerpiece of the tactical training with Baltic States and Poland militaries. Throughout our training deployments, the TOW system has been a focus for cross-training and interoperability with our allies," said Wijnberg.
"[In my opinion] as the most lethal and versatile system in our inventory, the TOW deploys with us wherever we go. We absolutely plan to use its wide range of capabilities in upcoming exercises such as Saber Junction 16 and Swift Response 16."
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deploying forces to the U.S. Army Europe, Africa and Central Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours. The brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build stronger relationships and strengthen the alliance.