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    Third Army heats up Hellfire

    Third Army Heats Up Hellfire

    Photo By Dustin Senger | U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Nickolas Tooliatos, 1st Theater Sustainment Command deputy...... read more read more



    Story by Dustin Senger 

    Area Support Group - Qatar

    SOUTHWEST ASIA – Third Army/U.S. Army Central is accelerating troop support by drastically reducing Hellfire testing and repairing delays – up to eight times faster – using an existing ammunition storage point on the Arabian Peninsula.

    The Hellfire missile system forward test and repair facility opened May 1, presenting the first higher-level capabilities site in Southwest Asia. Procedures that previously took two years are now expected to finish within three months, at a fraction of the cost.

    "Our readiness in theater has increased," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Brown, Hellfire product manager, during opening remarks. "We are continuing to make our war fighters more lethal and more survivable across the entire war front."

    Most defective missiles sent to the Anniston Army Depot in Anniston, Ala., only need minor repairs, says Brown. Many are serviceable but faulty launchers or improper mounting procedures led to erroneously labeling them as malfunctions.

    Damaged products requiring repairs are often fixed within 30 minutes – sometimes sooner, according to Jonathan Hornbuckle, Hellfire missile system forward test and repair facility site lead. Launching shoes, control fins, aft plates and connector pins are sometimes bent or broken during distribution. Missiles clocking more than 1,000 hours of captive carrying time develop clouded seeker domes in sandy environments.

    Brown said reported defects cost the government an average of $9,000 per missile in 2009, and long transit delays constantly held up re-fielding efforts.

    Alternative courses of action aimed to provide a cost-savings solution by minimizing transport nodes. An expert think tank combined Army Materiel Command; Theater Sustainment Command; Army Aviation and Missile Command; and Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command.

    In November 2009, Third Army approved the development of a forward test and repair facility. Two months later, fragmentary orders were published for commanders within the Central Command area of operations.

    In February, a Joint Attack Munition Systems fielding team began installing, validating and verifying capabilities, which include testing Hellfire variants, performing external repairs and improving materiel availability.

    Brown officially opened the facility with Lt. Col. Peter Butts, 1st Battalion, 401st Army Field Support Brigade commander. The 1-401st AFSB will coordinate Hellfire logistics. The unit previously pioneered the only Stryker battle damaged repair facility in Southwest Asia at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.

    "Materiel assessments and repairs in contingency areas are a necessity for a force-projection army," said Butts. "Forward positioning maintenance capabilities and repair parts ensures maximum equipment availability for combat operations."

    "We are here to support overseas contingency operations," says Butts, "by providing first-class, responsive logistics to satisfy Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom requirements."

    While adhering to a 90-day turnaround cycle, future defects are estimated to cost less than $1,000 per missile at the facility. Brown expects to save millions of dollars in transportation, testing and resetting activities, as support is extended to all services.

    "We will preserve our precious tax dollars," said Brown, "by reducing test and repair cycles, reducing materiel shipping and handling times and increasing usable shelf lives."

    "Hellfire missile systems are the air-to-ground precision-strike weapon of choice for Central Command," says Brown. More than 13,000 missiles have been fired since 2003 – nearly 10,000 in combat. The warheads shatter advanced armor and defeat urban point targets while minimizing collateral damage. Arming occurs within 150-300 meters after launch. A last-rites sonic bomb is sometimes heard prior to impact.

    A Hellfire automatic target reacquisition feature contributes to the effectiveness of Apache, Cobra and Seahawk attack helicopters. The semi-active laser-guided missiles accurately engage targets through adverse weather conditions and severe electro-optical countermeasures. Variants weigh 100-108 pounds and pack a 24-pound warhead with an effective range of five miles.

    Recent evolutions in Hellfire software and design have improved battlefield tactics, techniques and procedures. Remotely operated aircrafts in Iraq and Afghanistan use the missiles to destroy insurgents within inches of their determined position.

    Two unmanned aerial vehicle missions in Afghanistan strategically eliminated 16 enemy combatants Jan. 11. A Hellfire launched in the Now Zad area of Helmand province killed 13 insurgents without causing any reported civilian casualties or damage to residential compounds. The other missile hit three combatants setting up firing positions in the Nad Ali district, leaving a small hole in a compound wall.



    Date Taken: 05.01.2010
    Date Posted: 05.08.2010 08:43
    Story ID: 49328

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