As the U.S. Army continues successful forward movement on its Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team (E-IBCT) modernization pathway, additional systems are being explored within the mix of brigade enhancements now being explored by the 5 – 1 Armor Division, Army Evaluation Task Force (AETF).
One recent arrival is the M777A2 155 mm towed howitzer, which has been introduced into the AETF to provide the unit with “precision fires” capabilities in the aftermath of the Non Line of Sight Launch Systems (NLOS-LS) cancellation.
The AETF is currently “in the field” at White Sands Missile Range, conducting Company Situational Training Exercises (STX) in preparation for the unit’s critical Force Development Test and Evaluation (FDTE) in early September and Limited User Test (LUT) ’10 in the last half of that month.
One of the elements currently supporting STX is Alpha Battery of the “5 – 1 Fires Battalion,” which has recently been equipped with a limited number of M777A2 howitzers.
According to Staff Sgt. Justin Wrightman, a gun chief in Alpha Battery, the Fires Battalion currently includes only a single “line battery” – Alpha – consisting of 45 men.
In the field, the unit positioned its three “Triple Sevens” in a modified diamond formation (rear position vacant) to provide fires in response to the needs of the maneuver companies.
“We just received our M777s in March, followed immediately by NET [new equipment training],” he observed. “And that puts us in a really unique situation, since they have given us howitzers that are already fielded while a lot of the new equipment out here has not been fielded yet. One of the things that will result is that they will be able to see how the future systems will work with currently fielded systems.”
Acknowledging that Company STX operations were limited to “simulated”/dry fire missions, Wrightman noted that the upcoming milestone tests might include live fire elements.
In addition to general fires, the M777A2s provide the AETF with a precision fires capability through the potential application of the “Excalibur” guided projectile.