CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines with 2d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion honed their skills during a Stinger Fire Exercise at Onslow Beach here recently.
The mission of 2d LAAD is to provide close in, low altitude surface-to-air weapons fires in defense of forward combat areas, vital areas and installations. The unit can also provide support for units engaged in special and independent operations.
To accomplish this difficult mission the Marines rely on the Stinger missile, which may be fired from the shoulder, or the Avenger weapons system that is mounted atop of a Humvee.
According to Capt. Eric R. Drown, 'A' Battery commanding officer, it isn't often that the Marines have an opportunity to conduct a live fire with the Stinger missiles so they are taking full advantage of the training they are receiving here.
"We only get a chance to fire the Stinger system bi-annually so we take this training seriously," said the Woodsville, N.H. native. "We've ensured that each Marine has been through our simulator prior to this exercise and we've conducted numerous rehearsals."
The Stinger missile is 60 inches long, weighs 34.5 lbs., and has a range of five kilometers. It travels at mach 2 speeds and uses Infra Red, and negative ultra violet rays as target locaters. The gunner must lock onto the target by maneuvering the Avenger in its direction with the help of his assistant gunner.
Each Avenger holds up to eight ready missiles and is operated from inside a turret or by remote control. Also attached to the Avenger is a .50 caliber MP3 that fires at a quicker rate than the standard .50 caliber machine gun and is used for aircraft too close to be taken down by the Stinger missile.
Before firing the Stinger missiles, the Marines exercised their techniques with the machine gun by firing at Remote Control Model Aircraft Trainers. Each RCMAT is made of Styrofoam so that the impact of the rounds may be seen when it is landed.
With this practice complete the Marines progress to firing the Stingers, but at a more advanced remote controlled aircraft operated by Continental, a contracted company out of Barstow, Cal. specializing in aerial targets. The aircraft is an approximate model of a Soviet bomber reduced to a fifth of its size, which may be operated at a distance of 8 kilometers by remote. It is powered by an eight horsepower modified go-cart engine and flies at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
"Our planes are the only certified targets for the Stinger missile because they put out good heat from the exhaust," said Wallace Tharp, a Continental employee. "This is as real as it gets for these Marines before actual combat," he added.
"We want to instill confidence in each of the gunners here by showing them the abilities of this weapons system," said Drown. "And there's no better way than doing a live fire."
For Capt. Drown and 'A' Battery, the importance of this exercise has extra meaning as they are scheduled to participate in Battle Griffin, a Norway-based cold weather warfighting exercise.