Conducting static-line airborne operations with non-typical weapons systems requires specialized training and equipment due to their large size. Paratroopers accustomed to the size and weight of a weapons case carrying an M4 or M249 must learn how to pack, move with and exit an aircraft with the bulkier equipment.
Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division have been training to perform airborne insertions with the Stinger Missile Jump Pack, a Man-Portable Air-Defense System capable of defending drop zones from hostile unmanned aerial vehicles and rotary wing aircraft.
"Operational environments the Army has operated in were mainly focused on countering insurgencies and Air Defense's focus centered around protection from Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles," said Capt. Herman Wu, the 3rd BCT Air Defense Officer. "It wasn't until near-peer threats to paratroopers became apparent that the Army recognized a capability gap exists in Short Range Air Defense on the drop zone."
The weapon's capability to defend against air threats on the drop zone makes it an essential component in future airborne operations.
"As an airborne unit, the Stinger Missile Jump Pack greatly increases our ability to defend against enemy UAS and rotary wing threats," said Wu. "It is likely our next drop zone will be beyond the range of any friendly Air Defense assets and air superiority does not guarantee safety from enemy air threats.
"It could likely be our only defense against air threats in the initial stages of an airborne operation as the enemy tries to take advantage of our re-organization," he added.
Training to jump with the Stinger Missile Jump Pack on Fort Bragg consisted of several events intended to familiarize the 3rd BCT paratroopers with the bulkiness of the equipment when exiting an aircraft. It also helped increase their knowledge about the system's employment.
Classroom instruction, practical exercise at the Fort Bragg Advanced Airborne School's 34-foot tower and virtual-reality training at the Fort Bragg Virtual Stinger Missile Dome conducted throughout March with the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade developed the paratroopers' knowledge about jumping with the system and employing it on the ground.
"Through this training, paratroopers are gaining confidence in their ability to successfully conduct a static-line airborne operation with the Stinger Missile Jump pack," said Wu. "Their presence on the drop zone provides an extremely effective countermeasure to enemy air threats."