By Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steven M. Melvin, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
YUMA PROVING GROUND, Arizona — Thirty-nine Cavalry Troopers from Fort Cavazos, Texas just completed training and testing on the Army’s newest anti-tank missile system.
Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment (Ghost), 3rd Brigade (Grey Wolf), 1st Cavalry Division, immediately began New Equipment Training (NET) on the Javelin Lightweight Command Launch Unit (LW CLU), to learn commonalities of the existing system, differences in functionality, and improvements to lethality.
Infantryman Staff Sgt. Tom Magsino, 30, from San Diego, California, a Weapons Squad Leader said, “We had a lot of privates that just got to us that have never been to NTC (National Training Center), have never been on the 240, or other heavy weapons systems, and yeah, it’s very easy.”
“The way they [New Equipment Training Team] had the class, they made it very easy.”
Spc. Julian Martinez, 25, from Corpus Christi, Texas praised the training.
“It was honestly some of the best training I have ever had,” he said about the 40-hour block of classroom and hands-on instruction given to the Soldiers before the field scenarios began.
Cpl. Collin Iadarola, 20, from Bossier City, Louisiana said, “Me personally — when I go back to my unit — we were able to keep the binder and flashdrive. I’ll definitely start making classes for the weapons squad and even the whole platoon.”
Major differences between the previous Block 1 Command Launch Unit and the new LW CLU were easily noticeable to the Soldiers.
“In the lightweight you can tell a major difference; you can scan out farther with higher clarity. Everything was crystal clear. It is like watching television in high definition as opposed to TV in the 90s,” said Magsino.
Once complete with training, the troopers were tested in a crawl-walk-run method to ensure all operational data is collected on the weapon system, as well as user integration with the new piece of equipment.
Grey Wolf troopers conducted dry runs focusing on detection, recognition, and identification using the new LW CLU followed by high intensity motorized battle drills featuring realistic near-peer threat vehicles, a unique capability Yuma Proving Ground provides.
Soldiers could easily notice the increased range and clarity of the LW CLU’s optics.
“The LW CLU is far superior, much easier to detect, identify, and engage targets at much farther distances from the Block 1,” said Iadarola.
“I am 100 percent confident to detect and identify targets,” he added. “You can tell how many tires it has, sometimes lettering on the side, suspension, turret size, track size; it’s far superior to Block 1.”
All the Cav Troopers said they were impressed the LW CLU’s imaging improvements over the old system.
Increased zoom was far from the only improved feature of the LW CLU.
Martinez said, “The autofocus was a HUGE, HUGE help. I hit the autofocus button and boom, perfect. It takes away about 5 seconds of my time doing what I need to do.”
Iadarola echoed similar praise.
“I use that autofocus every time I picked up the LW CLU,” he said. “It really does save time and save a lot of energy, especially with the lack of sleep and tiredness, you can just hit that button to save time and win the battle.”
The lightweight CLU isn’t just in name, but in practice can easily be transported and deployed via rucksack in a matter of 15-20 seconds according to the Soldiers.
Magsino recalled all the gear he must pack, like a top and bottom shirt and a couple pairs of socks, along with the old system.
“You can probably fit it in an assault pack verses the Block 1 where it can barely fit in a ruck by itself,” he said. “It would still be very difficult to pack it in and take it out of the ruck.”
“It is so much lighter and much more compact and smaller than the Block 1,” added Iadarola, “so it’s easier to travel and maneuver through the combat zone.”
Ergonomics and comfort built into the new system had all three soldiers mentioning the upgraded and redesigned hand positions and controls which give relief when holding the system while on mission.
“It’s a much more natural position to hold for long periods of time,” said Magsino.
“I found a lot of comfortable positions with the lightweight CLU,” said Iadarola. “It’s not as fatiguing as the Block 1.”
Col. Jonathan S. Bender, Director, Maneuver Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command said, “The original Javelin CLU system came out in 1995. The LW CLU update is the first major update to the system in over 25 years and this update will probably form the basis for the system for the next 25 years.
“Our Soldiers and our partner nations will be able to leverage this system in future peer to peer conflict and will give us and our allies the potential advantage in those conflicts.”
All the fast-paced, high intensity battle drills, culminating with a live-fire exercise, had the Troopers pumped and ready to go.
“I knew I was going to hit that target [a T-72 main battle tank],” said Iadarola. “I could’ve squinted my eyes and not even thought about it and still hit it.”
Martinez said, “It was dope. It was a sight to see,” of the live-fire shoot.
The test unit ensured the Army has the most lethal, effective, and efficient equipment to ensure victory in current and future battles.
“The ability of the Army to leverage Soldiers in testing gives us a way to ensure we are not putting a system or platform out to the force that they get and immediately find something wrong and lose confidence in,” Bender said.
“Soldier feedback in our testing will ensure we are on the right track in the acquisition of new equipment and weapons systems.”
Martinez said he had no previous experience with Javelin before his trip to Yuma Proving Ground, and after being taught basic skills, he became confident with the Lightweight CLU.
With a slight smile, Iadarola said, “It’s in the name, Lightweight CLU. Lighter, easier on the back. I’d pick it over the Block 1 any day.”
“I feel like anyone who uses the Block 1 and is pretty proficient is gonna be even happier with this [LW CLU],” Magsino added. “It’s definitely gonna be changing history for sure.”
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, OTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting 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.
The Maneuver Test Directorate, based at West Fort Cavazos, Texas, is OTC’s lead directorate for conducting independent operational testing of Infantry, Armor, and robotic systems to inform acquisition and fielding decisions for the Army and select joint Warfighting systems. Poised, ready, and always able, MTD is the “go to” test directorate to provide Army Futures Command and senior Army leadership with truthful test feedback they need to make informed decisions as to what capabilities will be brought to bear against future adversaries in a Multi-Domain Battle environment