FORT CARSON, Colorado -- Military operational testers recently conducted the first operational test of the Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS) system in 20 years.

JTAGS is an early warning system that communicates with the Air Force's Space Based Infrared System, which counters enemy tactical missiles targeted at U.S. forces or U.S. coalition partners. The system that underwent the recent testing was a new version of the system. The testing lasted 22 days.

Unlike the current version, the new JTAGS system will not be stored in mobile shelters, but will operate out of unit operations centers. It will provide real time alert information to forces on the ground to facilitate force protection efforts, active/passive defense operations, and attack operations.

Prior to the test, Sgt. 1st Class James Harris and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Gross, experienced JTAGS operators from Fort Carson's 1st Space Brigade, shared their knowledge of unit-level procedures, ensuring the test unit Soldiers were proficient on the new system

"The crews were subjected to hours and hours of fast-paced scenarios that pushed their operational abilities to the max," Harris said.

Data gathered during the testing will inform future material release decisions, according to Brian Hesselberth, the lead military test plans analyst with the Air Defense Artillery Test Division, Fires Test Directorate, Army Operational Test Command (OTC) at Fort Bliss, Texas.

During testing, the OTC Test Directorate out of Fort Bliss, Texas, worked alongside 10 Soldiers assigned to Test Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery (ADA), 30th ADA Brigade from Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

"This system is an essential piece in defending our Nation and its allies from a protection standpoint," said Spc. Andrew Franco, 30th ADA primary JTAGS Operator.

With help from the ADA Soldiers, who quickly learned the new system and how to apply it in JTAGS operations, OTC collected all necessary performance data to support the Army decision criteria.

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As the Army's only independent operational tester, the Army Operational Test Command tests and assesses Army, joint, and multi-service war fighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer -- the American Soldier.