8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment Soldiers prepare to execute an optically tracked wire guided (TOW) live-fire at Yakima Training Center, Washington during operational testing of the Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) vehicle. (Photo by Lawrence Boyd, Visual Information Specialist, U.S. Army Operational Test Command)
By Maj. Jacob Baker, Test Officer, Maneuver Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Washington — Networked Lethality capabilities were recently tested in the Stryker Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) vehicle here by Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
During operational testing conducted by the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Soldiers validated the effectiveness of the Stryker’s Modified Improved Target Acquisition System (MITAS) under realistic combat situations against a dynamic opposing force.
Through networked lethality, crews can now pass images and cue targets between vehicle platforms.
“The network lethality upgrade is a game-changer,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joe Raynel, 2nd Platoon Sergeant, Delta Troop, 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.
“The ability to create a route or develop an engagement area and share amongst the platoon increases the Stryker’s operational effectiveness.”
Ron Thomas, assistant test officer with the Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos), Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command (OTC), said MITAS upgrades are the first significant improvements to the vehicle’s capabilities since the Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s formation and activation nearly two decades ago.
He emphasized the engineering change is a long-awaited upgrade within the Stryker ATGM community.
The recent modification has introduced a new capability called network lethality.
Network lethality allows each Stryker to act as a sensor by transmitting situational reports and images within the Platoon, Company, and Brigade.
Other MITAS upgrades include the precision far target locator (pFTL), image enhancement, high-definition color camera, and upgraded missile launcher.
The pFTL integrates with the laser range finder, which allows for greater accuracy and precision while detecting enemy targets.
The networked lethality also enables and allows the ATGM vehicles to increase their tactical dispersion within the limits of the terrain, explained Thomas.
Optical enhancements provide the ATGM gunner with improvements for detecting, recognizing, and identifying targets at greater ranges and with more clarity.
“I was able to take images of enemy targets over 9 kilometers and cue my wingman to their location using the network lethality capability,” said Sgt. Anthony Rodrigues, Stryker ATGM Gunner for 1st Platoon, Delta Troop, Delta Troop, 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.
Since July, four months into the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Soldiers and crews of “Dog” Troop have been training and gaining proficiencies on operating the new Stryker ATGM vehicle at Joint Base Lewis-McCord (JBLM).
Working through social distancing challenges, Soldiers received new equipment and maintenance training on the MITAS system.
After training and certification, the troop deployed to Yakima Training Center, which was the first time Soldiers traveled outside the immediate JBLM area since restrictions to movement went into effect from the pandemic.
“After completing the operational test, Delta Troop may be the most trained and ready ATGM crews in the U.S. Army,” said Lt. Col. Brian Caldwell, another OTC test officer.
OTC’s test team deployed early September from Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos) to Yakima, amid the Corona Virus Pandemic and the threatening regional wildfires in Central Washington and Northern Oregon.
Despite the environmental and health threats and risks, the testers and Soldiers of “Dog” Troop took meticulous safety precautions to protect all personnel.
“The perseverance and discipline of all involved ensured the health safety and prevention of infection at the test site,” said Caldwell. “Deploying to Yakima was a high risk because it appeared to be the location with the highest infection rates in the state.”
Before the start of the record test phase, “Dog” Troop conducted a live-fire exercise engaging static targets out to multiple distances.
Dog Troop successfully fired five tube-launched optically tracked wire guided (TOW) missiles to validate the MITAS system.
Two Stryker ATGM Platoons also conducted simulated force on force engagements under both day and night conditions.
“This was easily one of the best Stryker ATGM training events I have witnessed since being assigned to 8-1 CAV,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Windmiller, Delta Troop Executive Officer.
The operational test included a live threat that consisted of three Stryker platforms conducting reconnaissance missions.
After completing their tactical missions, every Soldier submitted feedback to OTC test officers.
“The Army’s Operational Test Command thrives on conducting independent operational testing to inform acquisition and fielding decisions based on the Warfighter’s voice,” said Col. Jason Kniffen, Director of OTCs Maneuver Test Directorate.
“The Stryker ATGM operational test provided vital data that will inform the Army’s decision to field the Stryker ATGM in the future,” he said.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
Operational testing began Oct. 1, 1969, and as the Army’s only independent operational tester, the U.S. Army Operational Test Command taps the “Total Army” (Active, National Guard, and Reserve) when testing 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 (MTD), based at Fort Hood (Now designated 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 has and will remain the “go to” test directorate to provide the Army Futures Command and senior U.S. 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.