Patriot Table VIII
Table VIII (table eight) is the highlight of your Army career if you are a Patriot soldier. I am a 14E, Patriot Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer. That means I am trained to operate and maintan the computers that fire Patriot missiles. I was a 14J Air Defense Tactical Operations Center Operator/Maintainer. My job was early warning and battery command post operations. Those are 50 cent words for working on the radios and making coffee for the commander. Mostly I took reports and coordinated with the battery during table VII.
As a 14E I have more responsibilities. Table VIII comes from field artillery. They call it gunnery tables. Four times a year Patriot air defense units must be able to prove that they can move from the motor pool to the field. Once at the field we must be able to fire missiles. Unlike field artillery, live missiles cost several million American dollars a piece, most of the time we just simulate missile launch with dummy missile canisters and computer simulations. Field artillery units can fire live rounds more often because their rounds are cheaper than ours.
The 14T PATRIOT Launching Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer (we call’em tangos) have it easy. Missile canisters go on launchers, from there they are raised into position to be fired. During training, most of the “cans” are empty dummies. A missile can looks like this:
Those are PAC-3 cans. They have four missiles per canister.
The can get loaded by crane:
After the missile are loaded, the 14 Tangos drive the launchers out to a launch site. it’s a remote site because the blast radius of the missile means we have to be far away. Through a fiber optic or VHF data link, we can fire the missiles remotely.
While the 14 Tangos go to their launch site, the main crew is setting up the rest of the equipment, “the Big 4”:
- The AN/MPQ-53 and AN/MPQ-65 Radar Set
- The AN/MSQ-104 Engagement Control Station (aka “the Van”)
- The OE-349 Antenna Mast Group
- The EPP-III Electric Power Plant
Each piece of equipment has cables that must be connected. The EPP is a big truck with two massive generators : “two 150-kilowatt, 400-hertz diesel engines which are interconnected through the power distribution unit. These generators are mounted on a modified M977 HEMTT. Each EPP contains two interconnected 283.9-liter (75-gallon) fuel tanks, and a fuel distribution assembly with grounding equipment. Each diesel engine can operate more than eight hours with a full fuel tank. The EPP delivers its power to the Radar and ECS through massive cables stored in reels alongside the generators.”
The radar the ECS van get connected to each other and to the EPP and AMG. The AMG is a pair of big antennas that provide communications (both unencrypted and encrypted). Before you had digital cable and fiber optics routed to your home to watch teh pr0n, the U.S. Army had digital radio and fiber optic modems (but no on demand pr0n).
Maintenance is very important. That soldier in the photo with the open hood is checking the coolant levels on a HMMWV. Just like you car, generators and army vehicles need their fluids checked. Bolts must be tightened, cables inspected and other equipment checked. The battery maintenance officer (typically a Warrant Officer) must report to the commander and exercise evaluators that we are good to go. ALL vehicles and generators must be in good working order.
There is other equipment too. The battery maintenance officer and his enlisted lackeys get a truck so that they can fix our stuff. The commander gets his HMMWV and a command post tent. The medics and cooks have their tents. They have nothing to do while we train, they usually watch DVD’s. No joke, most of what does go on is classified and these folks have no clearance. After we hook up the power and data cables the fun begins.
The ECS has computers that fire the missiles. they can also simulate firing missiles, diagnose problems, recommend fixes and run canned training missions. evaluators score us on how well we do on training missions. If we are a go the first time we are “Q1” and can wait another three months. If we have problems but make it after a restart we are Q2. We stay out in the field UNTIL WE PASS THE EXERCISE. Yes. That is because the air defense mission is so important. Units have stayed out so long that commanders have ordered extra rations to feed the unit. We must pass, failure can kill.
Now once a year we fire live missiles. Nothing beats a live fire. It’s like a giant bottle rocket (only you feel the sound in your kidneys). Here is an account of 5-7 ADA’s live fire in Crete (they are stationed in Europe).
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Donald Hendricks from the brigade’s Headquarters Battery, the officer-in-charge of the mission, said the exercise was the culmination of more than four months of training by Soldiers of the 5-7th.
“All of the certification these guys go through … this is the capstone to that, the icing on the cake,” Hendricks said.
Soldiers from the Hanau, Germany-based battalion began training for the live-fire exercise in October. Hendricks explained that the training was an intense and sometimes stressful process monitored by the battalion’s electronic missile maintenance officer.
and a missile fired for real in OIF
the sirens you hear are real air raid sirens
UPDATE: most of the images here are taken from the 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Unit homepage (U.S. Army in Japan)