Avenger and Sentinel Advanced Gunnery validates SHORAD capabilities on the Korean Peninsula

by 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade
Stripes Korea

The “Silent Archers” of Echo Battery, 6-52 Air and Missile Defense Battalion, attached to 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 35th ADA Brigade, conducted Advanced Gunnery in October 2018 in conjunction with the 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Air Defense and Airspace Management (ADAM) Cell on the Digital Multipurpose Range (DMPTR) at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex (RLFC) about 30km northeast of Camp Casey, South Korea. Echo Battery is a forward-deployed Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) battery stationed at Camp Carroll, South Korea. They safely completed a comprehensive training event that honed the proficiency of Avenger crews on their M3P .50 Caliber Machine Guns, certified Sentinel crews from across the peninsula, and validated Avenger "Slew to Cue" capabilities with the 210th FA Brigade ADAM Cell.

Echo Battery executes one of the most crucial, intricate missions of any battery in the Air Defense branch. Its headquarters, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd platoons are attached to 2-1 ADA Battalion at Camp Carroll, while its 4th platoon is attached to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery/6-52 AMD Battalion at Suwon Air Base. Since the April 2017 establishment of Combined Task Force (CTF) Defender, Echo Battery provides Avenger Weapon Systems, its Sentinel Radar, and Security Forces (SECFOR) protection to critical assets of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery and its supporting units.

With the growing Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) threat, Echo Battery quickly acquired the mission to execute non-kinetic Counter-UAS (C-UAS) measures with several non-program of record C-UAS systems.

At Suwon AB, 4th Platoon continues to provide SHORAD to critical assets of 210th FA Brigade. In order to accomplish this complex mission, Echo Battery continuously trains its Soldiers to achieve Military Occupational Specialty dominance and expertise on their assigned systems.

According to TC 3-01.64, the Avenger’s mission is to “provide protection from enemy reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition (RISTA) efforts.” The Avenger is designed to counter low-altitude UAS systems, high-speed fixed-wing/rotary-wing aircraft, and RISTA threats. The Avenger is highly mobile and provides the fire unit flexibility with its variety of functions. It employs eight ready-to-fire stinger missiles with the capability to convert those stinger missiles into man-portable Air Defense System (MANPADS). The effective range of these stinger missiles is 4km. The Avenger also has an M3P .50 caliber machine gun mounted on it. Integrated within Avenger units is the AN/MPQ-64—the Sentinel radar—that has a range of 40km.

Echo Battery conducted Advanced Gunnery October 22-26, with the intent to qualify its 24 Avenger crews, 6 Sentinel crews, and the Sentinel crews from 210th FA Brigade; the unit additionally strived to validate the Avenger Weapon Systems’ “Slew to Cue” capability using air tracks from the Sentinel Radar transmitted via Enhanced Position Location Reporting Systems (EPLRS). While the unit executed gunnery without digital scoring in June 2018 at Chipori Range, the digital scoring system and team of contractors from the Warrior Training Alliance (WTA) greatly improved the scoring standards and enabled crews to conduct in-depth and insightful after action reviews (AARs) during the October 2018 iteration. At Chipori Range, the Avenger Master Gunners (AMGs) and Avenger Crew Evaluators (ACEs), Table VIII-qualified staff sergeants certified to score by AMGs, scored the Avenger crews from the firing line by looking at engagements on Remote Control Unit (RCU) displaying the feed from the Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR). This method, though a functional and commonly utilized means to score ground engagements, proved unreliable in comparison to the DMPTR at Rodriguez Range.

With multiple cameras to observe firing crews from a remote battle position, evaluators in the tower accurately annotated positive and negative engagements. The varying camera angles and play-back feature allotted clear, concise improvements for crews requiring remedial training.

On the first day of the Advanced Gunnery at the DMPTR, the Avenger crews conducted the Table V dry run rehearsal of Tables VI-VIII as led by the officer-in-charge, range safety officer, and noncommissioned officer-in-charge. The leadership briefed crews on range orientation, concept of operations, and safety, as outlined in their daily risk assessment. Avenger crews proceeded through safety checkpoints to the ammunition point, to the “beach master”, a term coined to describe a senior NCO who controls crew movement, and finally to the firing line. Prior to executing, the NCOIC reviewed Tables VI-VIII with the crews.

Crews proceeded to bore-sight their weapons to complete Table VI; crews calibrated their M3Ps to fire between 950 and 1100 rounds per minute . Once completed, Avenger crews executed Tables VII-VIII of the prequalification and qualification iterations. Both tables required five ground engagements using the M3P and five aerial engagements using the Captive Flight Trainer (CFT) to simulate stinger missile engagements. The team chief (TC), the senior crew member, engaged the 500m and 600m targets while the gunner engaged the 800m, 900m, and 1000m targets from inside the turret. The TC also engaged two of the five CFTs while the gunner executed the remaining three.

The aerial targets were remote-controlled miniature aerial targets (RCMATs) operated by Team Outlaw, a military contractor group based in Huntsville, Alabama. Once crews completed Table VII prequalification with at least three successful aerial engagements and two successful ground engagements, they continued to the Table VIII qualification. All 24 Avenger crews completed Tables VI-VIII, qualifying after three days of firing. Personnel who qualified early conducted “shoot on the move” CFT engagements with the support of Team Outlaw’s aerial targets—a rare opportunity.

The Sentinel crews concurrently trained and certified alongside crews from 210th FA Brigade on March Order and Emplacement of the Sentinel Radar and Sensor C2 node. Since there is no doctrinal “gunnery” for the Sentinel crews to follow, each unit developed their own certification programs based on unit Mission Essential Task Lists (METL). Sentinel operators learned from each other and exchanged ideas on how to improve their respective programs.

After Echo Battery’s six Sentinel Crews and 210th FA Brigade ADAM Cell’s Sentinel crews rehearsed March Order and Emplacement of the Sentinel Radar and Shelter, the senior 14G NCOs assessed the crews. After certifying, the crews conducted training with the 210th FA Brigade ADAM cell, using the Sentinel Radar to pass air tracks via EPLRS to four Avenger systems, further validating Avenger and Sentinel integration to enable the "Slew to Cue" capability.

None of the valuable training at Advanced Gunnery could have been accomplished without the help of the 94T Avenger system mechanics. As soon as they set foot on the range they were hard at work bore sighting the M3P machine guns. Whenever guns and Avenger systems went down, the 94Ts were on the scene to get things back up and running again. They were truly the silent and unsung heroes of the range and their efforts were crucial to the success of the mission.

Echo Battery exceeds the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade standard as one of the top-performing batteries. They incorporated Sentinel training and certification, established data links with 210th FA Brigade ADAM cell, and validated the Avenger’s slew- to-cue and shoot-on-the-move capabilities. Echo Battery plans on integrating with the 2-1 ADA Battalion Patriot and THAAD units to perform SHORAD operations at Patriot contingency locations across the Korean Peninsula in November 2018 during the Battalion’s FTX—another milestone to etch into Echo Battery’s impressive history.

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