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Army artillery's new 'giant sniper rifle' tech is already in the field

US Army Field Artillery soldiers recently wrapped up testing of the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Location Designation System on the rugged terrain of the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely in Alaska.


The JETS handheld targeting system "is a paradigm shift" in how field artillery can be used on the battlefield, Lt. Col. Michael Frank, product manager for Soldier Precision Targeting Devices, said in October. The system could turn a howitzer or the Paladin self-propelled artillery weapon "into a giant sniper rifle," he added.

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Twenty soldiers from the 8th Field Artillery Regiment and 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment recently put the system through its paces in a wide range of scenarios at Fort Greely, the Army said in a release.

The troops used the system's infrared imager and color-day imager to detect and identify vehicles and personnel at various distances, determining whether each was a friend or adversary. They also tested the system in a simulated urban environment, clearing buildings, rooftops, and rooms in order to observe enemy forces in the area.

Spc. Tyler Carlson gets ready to scan for targets using the Joint Effects Targeting System Target Location Designation System during testing at the Cold Regions Test Center, Fort Greely, Alaska. (Photo by Scott D. McClellan/US Army Operational Test Command)

"Since the system is smaller, you don't have to worry about bumping it around when clearing a building," Sgt. Nicholas Apperson, of the 377the Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, said. "If you have to switch buildings, disassembling and reassembling the system is much quicker than other targeting devices."

Soldiers were also placed at random rally points anywhere from 500 meters to 2 kilometers from their designated observation posts. After moving to their observation posts, they set up their systems and found targets all around them. They then set up fire missions and sent them to a simulated fire-support team using the new Precision Fires-Dismounted system, an app on the Nett Warrior device, which is an Android-enabled smartphone.

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The soldiers were also deployed with maneuver units to walk ridgelines. Upon receiving simulated intelligence reports about enemy targets along their routes, the soldiers had to set up their systems and quickly acquire targets.

They averaged 40 fire missions on each 10-hour day.

Frank praised the system's accuracy and compact design, and the soldiers testing it at Fort Greely lauded it for similar reasons.

"Its light weight makes it easy to take it out on a mission and utilize it to its fullest capability," said Pfc. Anthony Greenwood of the 8th Artillery Regiment.

"The JETS system is definitely much lighter and a lot easier to pick up and learn all the functions quickly," Staff Sgt. Christopher McKoy, also of the 8th Field Artillery, said in the Army release. "It is so simple that you can pick it up and learn it in five minutes."

Soldiers set up the Joint Effects Targeting System at the Cold Regions Test Center, Fort Greely, Alaska, in 2017. (Photo by US Army)

The Army currently has the Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder for targeting purposes, but it is larger and heavier than the JETS, weighing about 35 pounds. It's also considered a crew-served system, though it is operated by a single soldier.

The JETS target-locator module weighs less than 5.5 pounds and the entire system, including a tripod and batteries, weighs about 20 pounds.

JETS underwent testing during 2017, including airdrop tests at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in August as well as operational testing at Fort Greely in October 2017.

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The Army said at the end of 2017 that it expected to wrap up JETS testing in early 2018 and have the system in the hands of every forward-observation team by the middle of the year.

The soldiers at Fort Greely, who spent a month with the system, looked forward to using it in the field.

"This system is definitely a major jump from what forward observers are used to and makes our job much more efficient," said Spc. Tyler Carlson of Battery D, 2-377 PFAR.