During a joint military exercise at Qatar's al-Udeid base that kicked off Friday (April 12th), US and Qatari forces demonstrated the rapid deployment of a mobile multiple-launch rocket system, military sources said.
The drill showed how a piece of equipment -- a vehicle-mounted multiple rocket launcher known as the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) -- can be quickly transported from one combat zone to another via military aircraft.
The Qatari-led exercise (HI-RAIN) demonstrated the ability of the participating troops to rapidly move the HIMARS to the desired firing location, and was designed to increase their proficiency in the use of the rocket-launcher system.
US trainers helped Qatari forces master the proper loading of the HIMARS into the C-17 military transport aircraft used to move them by air, while the training demonstrated the interoperability between US forces and regional partners.
This interoperability includes the UAE and Kuwait, which also own C-17s.
The joint exercise "underscores the mutual trust between the two sides with regard to potential terrorist threats, whether they stem from Iranian intervention and plots or other sources", said Qatari military expert Riyad al-Ali.
Exercises with live ammunition
Qatar has a similar artillery system, the ASTROS ll, al-Ali said, "so it was necessary for the two sides to exchange experiences and expertise to ensure full readiness and avoid potential errors and vulnerabilities".
Both of these rocket-launcher systems, ASTROS ll and HIMARS, "are characterised by their high speed and maneuverability", he told Al-Mashareq.
The joint training included the first live-fire exercises with HIMARS and ASTRO ll, and focused on ensuring the teams that operate the systems were ready to act quickly in order to reach the ideal firing positions.
The training also sought to enhance the skill of the officers and soldiers manning the operations room, who issue orders to the HIMARS units, he said.
"These operations rooms are an essential part of the tracking and guidance process," he said, noting that the system requires precision in identifying targets, launching rockets and maneuvering to different locations.
These systems "use the most advanced tracking and communication technology, making it possible for one person to handle and operate the system if necessary", al-Ali added.
Unconventional fighting tactics
Military operations carried out in response to terrorist threats "require unconventional fighting tactics", said military expert Abdul Karim Ahmed.
The HIMARS system is well-suited to address these kinds of threats, he told Al-Mashareq, as it can be rapidly deployed to conflict areas in an emergency.
The system is designed to target concentrations of enemy troops and artillery, he said, in addition to air defence systems and transport and armoured vehicles.
It is capable of moving and maneuvering at high speed, and moving away quickly after carrying out its orders, before its launch position can be located.
It can move at up to 85 kilometres per hour on the ground, and can be transported by air, he said. It is capable of locking onto a new target and launching its rockets within 16 seconds.
The HIMARS can strike targets from a distance of more than 160 kilometres.
An advantage of the system is that "it needs only three or four individuals to operate it, and only one person in the event of an emergency, owing to the sophisticated technology with which it is equipped", he added.
"The new joint training is a message to those who contemplate threatening or undermining the security of the Gulf," said international affairs researcher Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim.
It also "affirms the strategic ties between the US and its partners, including Qatar", he told Al-Mashareq.