Pacific joint partners team up to provide precision firepower

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Tait, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group

Members of the 353rd Special Operations Group demonstrated a rapid infiltration capability during the execution of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) training drill, which took place June 1, 2017 at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.


“The unique mission set in the Indo-Asia Pacific region requires continuous collaboration with military partners and innovation in the way we do business,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, 353rd Special Operations Group deputy commander. “The precision, long-range, mobile launch technology provided by HIMARS coupled with the rapid infiltration ability of our MC-130J Commando II provides a key operational and strategic strike package for the Pacific.”


The Airmen worked with 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division partners for the HIMARS Rapid Infiltration (HIRAIN) joint exercise involving the load and offload of two U.S. Marine Corps HIMARS from two U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130J Commando IIs for a simulated rapid-fire at Kunsan Air Base.


“Conducting a HIRAIN mission means the launchers must rapidly offload, fire and onload again so the Marines are on the ground for minimal time,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Kenneth King, 353rd SOG Battlestaff Director. “The launcher fits into an MC-130 with only inches to spare, so aircrew and HIMARS operators had to work together to coordinate the duties of the command vehicle with the aircraft.”


A HIMARS operates with support from a command and control vehicle which is connected to the launchers by a radio data link.


“The biggest challenge was finding a way for the launcher to maintain GPS position in-flight, maintain power without running its engine, connect to both an on-aircraft Fire Direction Cell and a ground-based command and control element, and provide a digital data connection for their targeting and launch approval software via the aircraft’s satellite communications suite,” said King. “It was a complicated process involving over 2,000 man-hours, but it allowed for a simulated rapid-fire on the ground once all these moving parts came together.”


The 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division added a HIMARS battalion in August 2016 and began deployments to the Pacific theater in spring of 2016.


“When I found out in January about the USMC HIMARS launchers in theater, I immediately began working with 12th Marine Regiment to develop a HIRAIN fast-in and fast-out raid capability using assets from the 353rd SOG,” said King. “Since January, the group has conducted eight separate training iterations leading to the June 1st event to include support to USMC exercise BLUE CHROMITE, day and night static load training, air and land communication checks, a Verification of Planning (VPE) exercise, and a joint training exercise in Korea.”


A team of 20 people including representatives from III Marine Expeditionary Force, 12th Marines, Air Force Special Operations Command Digital Dagger and two USMC software experts worked with Joint Special Operations Air Component Pacific personnel in the planning and execution of HIRAIN.


The extensive coordination with joint partners and innovative problem solving by Airmen and Marines resulted in a successful execution of HIRAIN in the Pacific theater.


“I'm excited to see where this partnership takes the 353rd SOG in the future,” said Kirby. “I would like to see a live-fire exercise next time as a culminating event of all our planning efforts, and hope to set up a regular training cycle with 12th Marine Regiment to allow for increased interoperability. HIRAIN is a new theater capability that's only just come online, so our current successes are the foundation of this developing capability.”