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thedrifter
08-01-09, 06:31 AM
2/2 trains with new Saber ITAS system

7/31/2009 By Lance Cpl. Dwight A. Henderson , 2nd Marine Division
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. —

A Marine sits in the turret of his humvee sweating in the hot afternoon sun and eyeing his target – a tank sitting motionless 1,000 meters away. He leans over, pressing his eyes to the black rubber eyepiece that covers the optics that allow him to clearly see his target and aim his weapon.

Checking the backblast area directly behind the humvee to ensure it is clear of stray personnel, he returns to his optics, takes a deep breath, and with the pull of a trigger, sends a 50-pound Tube-Launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) anti-tank missile hurtling toward its target at nearly 300 meters per second. Seconds later, the missile impacts on the gunner’s target in a flash of debris, fire and smoke.

This was the scene repeated more than 20 times aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 19, 2009, when Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, tested the new M41 Saber Improved Target Acquisition System [ITAS] which replaces the decades-old M220 TOW weapon system.

“The [firing] range, overall, went very well,” said Gunnery Sgt. Edward Palacios, the Weapons Company platoon sergeant and who doubled as the range’s safety officer. “It gave us a chance to make sure that all the systems coming into the battalion function properly.”

The Marines practiced with the new weapon system for five weeks, including classroom instruction and time in the field before getting the chance to fire the weapon.

“I feel a lot more comfortable now that I’ve actually shot the Saber,” said Pvt. Andrew R. Visscher, a TOW gunner with Weapons Company. “You can do all the training you want, but actually getting behind it and feel that blast as it takes off and hear how loud it is; it’s pretty cool.”

Normally a unit only fires four to five live missiles during training, so it was a unique opportunity for the Marines of Weapons Company to fire more.

“It’s very difficult to fire live TOW missiles here at Camp Lejeune,” said Capt. Matthew J. Kutilek the commanding officer of Weapons Company. “In order to do so we had to close down a quarter of this side of the base. It’s rare to have 20 live missiles in one range.”

Palacios said that the weapon is designed for use primarily against tanks and other armored vehicles, but is now being used in Afghanistan to destroy enemy fortifications.

The shoot was considered a success in preparing the Marines to use and trust the weapon system in upcoming deployments.

“We gained a lot of confidence in the weapon system and the sights, and it validated all the instruction that we received in the past weeks of training,” said Kutilek. “It was a safe shoot, it went very well.”

For more information on the II Marine Expeditionary Force, visit the unit’s web site at www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil.

Ellie