DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Some years ago, U.S. strategists concluded that the 21st century battlefield would require the rapid placement, use and departure of a system that could accurately deliver devastating fire to distant targets not in direct sight.
This "shoot and scoot" strategy is hardly new -- but the newer M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System makes the age-old concept much deadlier. Marines have fired it twice at Dugway -- in June and December -- and will return with HIMARS in March.
HIMARS consists of a proven rocket launching system from a tracked, 27-ton M270 rocket launcher introduced in the 1980s. One rocket pod of the M270 is mounted on today's standard, wheeled M1140 truck frame, reducing the weight of the mobile launcher to 12 tons. The HIMARS launcher is carried in a C-130 cargo aircraft (maximum payload: 21 tons), while the two other C-130s carry personnel, communications support and more munitions.
The HIMARS can fire a pod of up to six guided M31A1 227mm rockets 50 miles; or a single, much larger MGM140 missile up to 190 miles. Both projectiles are expected to be upgraded with longer range capability in the near future.
The four Marine HIMARS batteries receiving Dugway's training support are from the 4th Marine Division, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Reserve. Three are firing batteries (F battery from Oklahoma City, D battery from El Paso and K battery from Huntsville, Alabama) and a headquarters battery from Grand Prairie, Texas.
Dugway's primary mission is to test defenses (detectors, protective clothing, gas masks, etc.) against chemical and biological agents in safety-redundant chambers. Outdoor testing employs simulated agent. Dugway's 800,000 acres abuts the Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range of 1.7 million acres, used for testing and bombing practice. They share controlled airspace up to 58,000 feet, reaching outside their combined 2.5 million acres.
Dugway's size and location make it the ideal range for HIMARS testing and training. HIMARS representatives first visited Dugway in early 2017, and were impressed.
Last June and December, the C-130s flew hours to Dugway's Michael Army Airfield's 11,000-foot runway for different training scenarios. Both required quick disembarking, travel to a nearby firing point, accurate fire and quick return to the C-130s.
June 13, D battery teamed with F-35 fighter jets from Utah's Hill Air Force Base's 34th Fighter Squadron. The stealth jets identified six targets, and provided the Marines with precise locations. Each rocket achieved effects on targets. Dec. 18, Marines launched a single missile to one target 21 miles away achieving effects on target.
"This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities, infrastructure and support available at Dugway Proving Ground," said Jim Munn, program manager with Dugway's Special Programs Division. Five years ago, Munn coaxed a Utah Marine Reserve unit to forego an Idaho range and train at closer Dugway. "After that, word got out," he said.
Ronnie Howell, a Lockheed Martin civilian with HIMARS, praised Dugway personnel and facilities for ease of use. "As far as being able to come out here and knock it out, it's great," Howell said. "It's easy accessibility for us, especially with the C-130s coming in here."
1st Lt. Alex Wilkinson of F battery was pleased with the support from Dugway offices, particularly Range Control and Special Programs. "They've been absolutely supportive of getting what we need, and what they need from us," he said. "Hopefully, this is more than a budding relationship for more training opportunities."