MIHAIL KOGĂLNICEANU, Romania – A Royal Air Force A400M Atlas transport aircraft conducted trials in Romania to rapidly deploy NATO capabilities, using a Romanian mobile artillery rocket system.
A showcase of NATO’s ability to draw on the Allies’ cooperation and combined capabilities to safeguard and protect Alliance territory, populations and forces
The week-long trials started on November 8 and involved an Atlas A400M aircraft crewed by 30 air mobility specialists that flew out of RAF Brize Norton to test the ability to load and transport the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) weapons system. The expeditionary character of the test was underscored by conducting all activities at Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base in Romania and using a HIMARS operated by the 8th Tactical Operational Missile Brigade of the Romanian Army.
The trials concluded with the weapons system being loaded, flown, unloaded to then fire a simulated missile strike, before reloading and returning to base. Also taking part as advisors were personnel from the United States Special Operations Command Europe.
“The greatest challenge is the initial assessment of any unfamiliar vehicle,” said Flight Sergeant Tom Ellery from the Air Portability Section of the Trials Management Office at the United Kingdom's Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit. “Gathering all the data required to clear it – what are its dimensions, tyre pressures, weight, dangerous goods contained within?” he added. “Then we can ascertain whether the vehicle physically fits, isn’t going to strike any part of the aircraft as it’s loaded, isn’t going to overload the floor capacity or aircraft compartment and can be restrained sufficiently for flight,” he concluded.
A Romanian Army HIMARS system being loaded into a Royal Air Force A400M transport aircraft at the Romanian Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base on the Black Sea Coast. The trial comprised loading, deployment by air, unloading and firing a simulated missile, before reloading and returning to base, Photos Crown Copyright.
Currently in service with several NATO Allies, the M142 HIMARS is a light multiple rocket launcher developed in the late 1990s for the United States Army and mounted on a medium tactical truck. The system carries one pod with six Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rockets.
“Moving around large vehicles is routine business for the A400M and its crew,” said Sergeant Ben Worley who was the aircraft loadmaster overseeing the loading of the HIMARS. “In this case, however, it was highly valuable to be part of the initial assessment and to be involved in each step of the clearance process,” he added.
The successful trial once also demonstrated that the RAF Air Mobility Force has the capability to operate at range with NATO allies to rapidly move unfamiliar equipment from other nations if called upon to do so. It also showcases NATO’s ability to draw on the Allies’ cooperation and combined capabilities to safeguard and protect Alliance territory, populations and forces flexibly and responsively.