By Sgt. 1st Class Derek Green, Research Development Test & Evaluation NCO, Fire Support Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs
FORT RILEY, Kans. — Field Artillery Soldiers here are testing the new M109A7 Family of Vehicles (FoV) 155mm / 39 caliber Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) and the M992A3 FoV Carrier Ammunition Tracked (CAT).
Soldiers from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Brigade conducted several training events leading up to the Initial Operational Test (IOT) of the latest Paladin.
Training included collective training at both platoon and battery level, beginning with New Equipment Operations and Maintenance Training for both the SPH and the CAT.
The SPH provides the primary indirect fire support for full spectrum operations to support Armored Brigade Combat Teams (ABCTs), Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), and Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs).
The CAT provides armored ammunition supply support to the SPH operating in support of full spectrum operations.
The M109 FoV IOT effort involves more than 400 personnel — Soldiers, government civilians and contractors from the U.S. Army Operational Test Command (USAOTC), based at West Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos), Texas.
The IOT tested for effectiveness, suitability and survivability of both vehicles in a full operational environment under various tactical scenarios, according to Craig Mosier, deputy test officer with USAOTC’s Fire Support Test Directorate (FSTD).
Mosier said support from Fort Riley’s 1st Infantry Division Artillery and 1st ABCT, was key to the IOT’s success.
“The real ‘good news’ story here is the excellent coordination and cooperation effort between several organizations,” said Mosier. “Many DoD organizations, such as the Army Public Health Command and the Yuma Training Center — that are not the typical players in an IOT — have stepped up to ensure the safety of Soldiers conducting the test as our foremost concern.
“This is the largest operational test conducted in recent history by FSTD,” Mosier continued, “and it is our stringent safety standards that help ensure the well-being of Soldiers and operational testers involved in these types of tests.”
Agencies and activities from across the installation including Range Control; Department of Plans, Training, Mobilization, and Security; and the Network Enterprise Center (NEC) went above and beyond to ensure the test team had the support necessary to conduct the IOT.
“This is an extraordinary training opportunity for the test unit,” said Maj. William P. Fisher, test officer with USAOTC’s Fire Support Test Directorate. “They will be firing nearly 10,000 rounds and each vehicle will travel roughly 1,000 miles from the train up through the IOT.”
Fisher explained how the test comes at just the right time for the unit.
“These Soldiers are returning from Korea and ramping up for the National Training Center, all while enhancing their readiness for worldwide contingency operations,” he said.
The battalion, known as “Hamilton’s Own” will be the first unit equipped with the new capability, deploying with the systems to the NTC.
“The Soldiers of 1-5 FA got a once in a lifetime opportunity to put future warfare equipment through the rigors of simulated combat,” said Sgt. 1st Class Milton Morales, a Research, Development and Test NCO with FSTD.
Morales said that during the IOT, Bravo Battery “Bone Crusher,” will put the systems through their paces in several grueling 72-hour vignettes designed to push the systems to their limits.
“By doing so, they were afforded the opportunity to provide relevant user feedback specific to the design of the systems,” Morales said.
“During the IOT, the ‘Bone Crushers’ fielded 500-plus sets of these systems, shaping the future of NET training for the other two batteries in the battalion, which will be ongoing until the battalion is fully equipped with the systems over the summer.”
“Future artillerymen will have ”Hamilton’s Own” to thank for their efforts in testing of these systems,” said Mosier.
“These test units and players influence the future of Army readiness and modernization by offering their input to improve upon the systems field artillery Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight with,” Mosier added.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
As the Army’s only independent operational tester, USAOTC tests Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using representative Soldiers to determine whether a system is effective, suitable, and survivable. Public law requires USAOTC to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer, the American Soldier.