CHANDY RANGE, Thailand --
A heavy transport aircraft blows clouds of dust over a dirt airstrip as it touches down in Chandy Range with an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System primed to debark and fire its payload to any enemy targeted by its missiles. During exercise Cobra Gold 2020, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit rehearsed Combined Joint HIMARS Rapid Insertion at Chandy Range, Kingdom of Thailand March 2, 2020. The CJHIRAIN mission incorporated multiple nations and services in a coordinated operation that rapidly employed the HIMARS in a contested area in order to quickly fire in and exit a battleground.
After several successful executions of ship to shore HIMARS operations, the CJHIRAIN mission during Cobra Gold 2020 marked the first time the 31st MEU employed HIMARS with a joint, bilateral force. Taking on the challenge, the 31st MEU rehearsed CJHIRAIN with Royal Thai Marines and the U.S. Air Force 353rd Special Operations Command 17th Special Operations Squadron.
“During this evolution of Cobra Gold, the U.S. and Royal Thai Marine Corps team delivered HIMARS into the fight by both air and sea, improving our combined capabilities.” Maj. Brock Lennon, fires officer for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit
“The 31st MEU is the only MEU in the Corps with HIMARS,” said Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “Working with joint and multinational forces, we were able to rapidly deploy the HIMARS demonstrating our collective capability to respond to any threat under any circumstance.”
With bilateral security provided by Marines of the Royal Thai Marine Corps and the 31st MEU’s low altitude air defense detachment, the HIMARS was inserted by air on the AFSOC 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II, a modified version of the C-130 Hercules transport designed to fly special missions including infiltration and exfiltration. As the MC-130J touched down, the HIMARS quickly disembarked ready to execute a simulated fire mission. After initiating the fire mission, the HIMARS exfiltrated on the MC-130J from Chandy range to successfully complete a coordinated bilateral and multi-service operation.
Photo by Sgt. Audrey Rampton
“The interoperability we achieved with the Royal Thai Marine Corps provides true flexibility in the delivery of long range precision rocket fires,” said Maj. Brock Lennon, fires officer for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “During this evolution of Cobra Gold, the U.S. and Royal Thai Marine Corps team delivered HIMARS into the fight by both air and sea, improving our combined capabilities.”
Rehearsing rapid infiltration and exfiltration missions using the HIMARS improves the 31st MEU’s ability to respond to threats in the Indo-Pacific region with a long-range precision fire. The 31st MEU’s successful CJHIRAIN is a demonstration of the unit’s ability to employ lethal effects from air, land and sea.
Exercise Cobra Gold demonstrates the commitment of the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States to our long- standing alliance, promotes regional partnerships and advances security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.