USA — 101st Airborne Soldiers test howitzer upgrades

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — An often under-appre­ci­at­ed aspect of equip­ment upgrades is the need for revised tech­ni­cal man­u­als, which are crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant because they pro­vide Sol­diers with the pro­ce­dures to trou­bleshoot and repair life-sav­ing equip­ment in the field.

Sol­diers from the 101st Air­borne divi­sion (Air Assault), Fort Camp­bell, Ky., assist the M119A2 How­itzer logis­tics Team com­plete the last phase of logis­tics train­ing. The M119A2 is sched­uled to be field­ed in 2013.
Click to enlarge

To ensure that Picatinny’s new dig­i­tized M119A2 How­itzer tech­ni­cal man­u­al will ade­quate­ly sup­port main­te­nance repairs, Sol­diers from the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion (Air Assault), Fort Camp­bell, Ky., recent­ly assist­ed the M119A2 How­itzer Logis­tics Team com­plete the last phase of logis­tics train­ing.

The M119A2 is a light­weight 105mm How­itzer that pro­vides sup­pres­sive and pro­tec­tive fires for Infantry Brigade Com­bat Teams.

“The upgrad­ed M119A2 How­itzer will be equipped with a Dig­i­tal Fire Con­trol Sys­tem that inte­grates an iner­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem with guid­ed-pre­ci­sion sys­tem tech­nol­o­gy to give the weapon the abil­i­ty to self locate and accu­rate­ly place rounds on tar­get,” explained Deb­o­rah Le Vitin, M119A2 Logis­tics Man­ag­er, for the Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office for Ammu­ni­tion.

Pri­or to next year’s field­ing, the M119A2 must pass three logis­tics phas­es.

For the recent third and final phase, the Sol­diers vis­it­ed Picatin­ny Arse­nal to com­plete the On-Sys­tem Main­te­nance Tech­ni­cal Man­u­als. This phase demon­strates the safe­ty, ade­qua­cy and accu­ra­cy of the tech­ni­cal man­u­als and ini­tial spares sup­port.

Since new equip­ment has been added to the M119A2, new tech­ni­cal man­u­als are need­ed and include instruc­tions on the oper­a­tion, han­dling, main­te­nance, and repair of the equip­ment.

Dur­ing this phase, the Sol­diers respon­si­ble for fix­ing bro­ken how­itzers and main­tain­ing the how­itzers received the new train­ing man­u­als and were asked to per­form tasks using only the new man­u­als as a guide.

While the tasks are being per­formed, observers from var­i­ous mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tions eval­u­at­ed the Sol­diers’ per­for­mance to deter­mine if the tech­ni­cal man­u­als are ade­quate.

Some tasks were timed or per­formed with bio-haz­ard gear to see how these con­di­tions affect­ed per­for­mance. The tasks includ­ed assem­bling and dis­as­sem­bling the equip­ment sled in case the low­er rack has to be emp­tied and replaced.

Sgt. Jere­my Smith, who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the logis­tics demon­stra­tion, per­forms small arms and towed artillery repair.

“The past cou­ple of weeks we’ve been work­ing on the M119 with the dig­i­tal con­trol sys­tem,” he said. “The first part was the train­ing por­tion of the gun and show­ing us the ins and outs of all the new stuff they’ve put on the guns — the parts of the dig­i­tal con­trol sys­tems. The sec­ond week was the hands-on por­tion, where we got record­ed for the log demo actu­al­ly tak­ing apart of the gun. We take it apart and reassem­ble it, check­ing the TM (tech­ni­cal man­u­al) and mak­ing sure every­thing is good to go and every­body can under­stand it.”

Spc. Justin George also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the event. He said the most notable dif­fer­ence between the two M119 How­itzers is that the dig­i­tized M119 has a lot more parts.

Although George had not received train­ing on the dig­i­tized M119, he had expe­ri­ence work­ing on the M777A2 dig­i­tal fire sys­tem from a pre­vi­ous deploy­ment. The M119A2 and M777A2 fire con­trol sys­tems are sim­i­lar, so gun crews can eas­i­ly nav­i­gate between the dif­fer­ent can­nons.

“They’ve got the same basic sys­tem, so I came in and knew a lot about the sys­tem, but not every­thing. It’s a real­ly good sys­tem,” George said. “It’s going to make it eas­i­er for us to quick­ly get rounds down-range on ene­my tar­gets.”

George added that if the dig­i­tal fire con­trol sys­tem were to mal­func­tion, Sol­diers can still fire the how­itzer through the con­ven­tion­al method of optic sights.

Sol­diers from the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion com­plet­ed the first phase of the logis­tics test­ing, the Oper­a­tor Logis­tics Demon­stra­tion in Novem­ber 2011.

In Jan­u­ary 2012, Sol­diers from the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion com­plet­ed the sec­ond phase of the logis­tics test­ing, the Val­i­da­tion and Ver­i­fi­ca­tion of Main­te­nance Tech­ni­cal Man­u­als.

The M119A2 upgrade is a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort between Pro­gram Man­ag­er-Towed Artillery Sys­tems; the Arma­ment Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter; Tank-Auto­mo­tive and Arma­ments Com­mand; Train­ing and Doc­trine Com­mand; Com­bined Arms Sup­port Com­mand and the Army Eval­u­a­tion Cen­ter.

U.S. Army