South Logan and Franklin county residents on Saturday can expect to hear a "boom" or two from the Fort Chaffee area.
The sound will come from three Howitzer M-777 A-2 artillery guns that will be tested in live fire practice at the Fort Chaffee Joint Maneuver Training Center that day. The guns are new to U.S. military personnel in Arkansas, said Maj. John Chase with Arkansas National Guard.
The guns will give the troops that train with them and possibly use them in combat increased firing range, Chase said.
"We can fight the deeper fight in the battlefield if needed," he said.
The Howitzer M-777 A-2 has a maximum firing range of 45 kilometers, Chase said. He said the gun fires 115-millimeter rounds that weigh 98 pounds apiece at targets.
Troops can transport the gun by lifting it with a CH-47 helicopter, Chase said.
"It enhances their mobility, lethality communications, and obviously, flexibility," he said of the gun.
Though the M-777 A-2 is new to the military in Arkansas, it has been technologically upgraded along with other Howitzer artillery weapons that were already in Arkansas. Chase said the new digital fire control system that has been implemented for Howitzer weapons enhances communication between troops when using them in combat or practice.
The new system also helps keep troops spread out in battle, Chase said.
"You look at it from an enemy perspective of, if we’re close together, it doesn’t take much to take out a whole lot of people," he said. "You want to have space in between you, because that gives you that survivability.”
Chase said Wednesday the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Arkansas National Guard is in its annual training at Fort Chaffee. He said the Combat Team had been without any Howitzers for about six months during the upgrades.
"We’ve been here since the beginning of July, and this has been longer just because we’ve been receiving new weapons systems and additional training just on the upgraded forms," he said.
Troops with the Combat Team on Wednesday morning tried out the new control system during a live fire practice with 12 Howitzer L-119 A-3 artillery guns. They used the new system to launch 105-millimeter rounds into Potato Hill, which sits four kilometers east of where they were firing, said Stephen Wright, a specialist with Arkansas National Guard.
“Based on our radars downrange, everything has been within fire for effect standards, which means it’s within 50 meters of the target," Chase said of the firing.
The troops closed out their practice with the L-119 A-3 guns on Wednesday morning by firing nine consecutive rounds out of each of the 12 guns. The staging area was at times filled with the sound of multiple guns firing at the same time during the exercise.
The troops cheered while firing the rounds during the exercise.
“We apologize for the noise, but this is stuff we love to do," Chase said.