This month the United States Army deployed its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Alaska. The “Thunderbolts” with the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade arrived at Eareckson Air Station on Shemya Island on September 12 to support Defender Pacific 2020, a joint exercise to confirm the strategic readiness of combat forces in the Indo-Pacific Theatre.
This year’s exercise commenced week’s earlier with a deployment in Guam, with the second phase held in Alaska. The current mission is to focus on expeditionary deployment operations through M142 HIMARS rapid infiltration (HIRAIN) training, which reinforces crew combat readiness and quick-precision-striking ability by rapidly preparing and mobilizing the artillery platform. The drills further validate the crew’s long-range communication skills and abilities.
“This HIRAIN (mission) validates 5-3 FA and 17th FAB’s ability to rapidly project combat power in the Indo-Pacific region,” explained Army Major Kevin Shouse, plans and operations officer with the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade. “It took the tireless efforts of 5-3 FA’s Soldiers to make this operation a success.”
The 17th Field Artillery Brigade—the Force Field Artillery (FFA) Headquarters for the U.S. Army’s First Corps—is deploying HIMARS to demonstrate the unit’s readiness to shape the fight as a power projection platform in the region.
Mobile Rocket Platform
The M142 HIMARS is the light multiple rocket launcher platform that was developed for the United States Army in the late 1990s. Mounted on a standard M1140 truck frame, HIMARS carries six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMS missile. It can fire Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets, Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, the next-generation Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) and Extended-Range GMLRS rockets.
The HIMARS are transportable via a C-130 or larger aircraft for rapid deployment around the world.
Earlier this month, defense contractor Lockheed Martin won a contract for $183 million from the Army to produce twenty-eight additional HIMARS launchers and associated hardware.
“The army’s commitment to the HIMARS launcher through 2050 reflects our customers’ confidence in Lockheed Martin’s highly reliable, combat-proven precision strike systems and munitions,” said Gaylia Campbell, vice president of Precision Fires and Combat Maneuver Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “These new HIMARS launchers will provide unmatched mobile firepower in support of multi-domain operations, and our allies can count on Lockheed Martin’s continued support in maintaining these combat-proven systems.”
NATO partners, including Poland and Romania, have also adopted the M142 HIMARS platform in recent year.
The M142 HIMARS is operated by the Army as well as the United States Marines Corps, and under the command of a naval officer, a HIMARS was deployed during the Navy’s biannual Pacific Rim naval exercise (RIMPAC) last year. During which, six 227-millimeter GPS guided rockets were launched at the retired Navy Landing Ship Tank (LST) USS Racine from sixty miles away using targeting data transmitted via Link-16 datalink and an Army MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” drone.
While the Army reported that the rockets hit the LST, other reports suggest most were near misses, but the strike highlighted how the platform could be used to target and potentially sink enemy ships from significant distances.
As the Marine Corps has begun its shift from being a “Second Army” towards being an extension of naval power projection across the Pacific, the HIMARS is already part of its arsenal.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.