The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launches from the flight deck of the USS Anchorage (LPD 23) during Dawn Blitz 2017, Oct 22. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Matthew Dickinson)

PACIFIC OCEAN - The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) was fired from the flight deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23) during Dawn Blitz 2017, Oct. 22.

The HIMARS is a weapons system made up of the M142, five-ton chassis vehicle and can carry either a launcher pod of six rockets or one MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

It enables Marines to engage targets within minutes after firing and features an advanced targeting system that strikes with an extremely high accuracy rate. The system also features a greater range than traditional artillery, allowing smaller units to cover a larger area.

The demonstration on Anchorage consisted of HIMARS engaging a land-based target with a Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System Unitary (GMLRS-U).

“We had two training objectives for today’s shoot,” said Army Maj. Adam Ropelewski, I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), lead planner for sea-based expeditionary fires. "The first training objective was demonstrating this capability, and second, we wanted to have good effects on the target. We achieved both objectives. We destroyed the target at 70 kilometers while at sea."

Developing sea-based fires alternatives such as the HIMARS afloat and proving them to be effective provides an opportunity for our Navy and Marine Corps team to evaluate, refine, and improve processes to be ready for the future fight.

“In an environment where we are operating in contested waters, we are finding a way to be able to support the land force with deeper strike capabilities,” said Capt. AJ Kowaleuski, an artillery officer with I MEF.

This ability provides flexibility while the Navy and Marine Corps are supporting each other in combined operations.

This portion of Dawn Blitz validated the commander’s ability to integrate HIMARS with ships to conduct a sea-based strike.

“What we demonstrated not only was its capability, but we further demonstrated capabilities from the blue-green team and Amphibious Force Three,” said Ropelewski. “They performed very well, and were able to come together and work hard to make the mission successful.”

The shoot was a success from the operator’s perspective as well. “We shot a rocket off Anchorage to validate that we, as HIMARS operators, can shoot off an LPD and successfully hit the target,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Irving, a HIMARS operator assigned to 5th Battalion, 11th Marines.

Exercises like Dawn Blitz are another way to strengthen and continue the interdependent relationship between the Navy and Marine Corps.

Irving concluded, “It’s nice to have a force integration, where we can work with the Navy and learn from each other in these situations.”

Dawn Blitz is a scenario-driven exercise designed to train and integrate Navy and Marine Corps units by providing a robust training environment where forces plan and execute an amphibious assault, engage in live-fire events, and establish expeditionary advanced bases in a land and maritime threat environment to improve naval amphibious core competencies.