GRAYLING, Mich. – Field artillery firefinder radar operators honed their skills to detect enemy fire during Northern Strike 21-2 at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
"We trained our Soldiers with collecting and sending target data from the point of origin of enemy artillery down to the fire direction center," said 1st Lt. Garrett Dupre', platoon leader with the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, New Hampshire Army National Guard. "Fire direction center would take our target information and send that to friendly artillery, who could take out the enemy threat."
The coordination involved networking between multiple units to respond to enemy fire. Radar operators can receive precision grid coordinates for optimal accuracy from an enemy artillery location, send that information digitally to fire control specialists (FCS) belonging to a field artillery unit through the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS). The FCS would communicate to the field artillery and counter the enemy's attempt to attack friendly forces.
"We operate firefinder radars, and our purpose is target acquisition for counter-battery fire," said Dupre'. "That means when an enemy artillery fires at us, our radar picks it up through the computer on board, calculates the point of origin where it was fired from, and predicts the intended point of impact."
"We can get down to a 10-digit grid coordinate, find the size of the projectile being fired, and project the type of weapon system that's firing it — a motor, a cannon or a rocket," he said.
During Northern Strike, National Guard units integrated and enhanced digital communication with each other. The New Hampshire Guard members worked with Soldiers from the West Virginia Army National Guard, who supported the AFATDS piece.
"We came up here as guests with the 201st Field Artillery Battalion, West Virginia National Guard," said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Childs, platoon sergeant with the 197th Field Artillery Brigade, New Hampshire National Guard. "They never worked with us before, and we learned a lot from each other."
"The Michigan National Guard contacted us to get digital communications running so the radar could talk to the AFATDS - FDC (fire direction center)," he said.
This type of communications technology is beneficial in real-world situations.
"Our systems coordinate fires digitally across the battalion," said Army Capt. Tyler La Vay, battalion field direction officer 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Regiment, West Virginia Army National Guard. "In war, radar operators would see direct or indirect fire and immediately send us a fire mission, giving it to my section who would disseminate it down to the battery that is munitions capable to fire on that target."
Indirect fire can come from beyond the horizon, making it difficult to detect how far away the enemy is. The radar has unique ranges that can help counter that.
"We can reach out to 50K in a 90-degree fan or a 60K in a narrower fan, said Dupre'. "It can also do 360 degrees and pick up anything from any direction, but that has a much shorter range."
The Michigan National Guard's largest joint forces, multinational exercise enabled units to gain additional training and experience.
"A lot of things were learned as our Soldiers with us are in new positions," said Childs. "All the leaders are new to the level of leadership they were given, and they were given time with their Soldiers to learn how to lead —especially in the technical side of their role. Even to understand proper preparation as far as equipment comes to getting here and being successful."