PABRADE, Lithuania — Members of 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment took advantage of an opportunity to demonstrate their mortar weapon systems to increase interoperability with Lithuanian mortar counterparts Jan. 13, 2021, despite language barriers and snow.
A U.S. M1064 120mm Mortar Carrier System and Q-50 Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar System were line hauled early morning to begin a three-hour trek to Kazlu Ruda, Lithuania, where the 22nd Battalion of the Lithuanian Land Forces Motorized Infantry “Griffin” Brigade are based.
Upon arrival, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division vehicles were off-loaded, and the mortar team was met by the Lithuanian 24th Artillery Battalion commander Lt. Col. Tomas Nauduzas and his staff. The troopers and allied soldiers finally met face to face after several weeks of planning by phone calls and emails.
“I think its important to have shared understanding with all of our NATO allies. The more understanding we have of each other’s capabilities, the more we increase our lethality as a unified fighting forces,” said Capt. Spenser Swafford, the U.S. battalion’s fire support officer.
Swafford was escorted to the firing line to hang and fire a mortar round utilizing the Lithuanian mortar system. There, he was able to truly understand the similarities and differences between each system.
“I didn’t know their 120mm mortar had a string you pull to fire the system,” Swafford said. “For us, you just hang the round and it fires automatically.”
As the allied forces fired mortar rounds, Q-50 radar operators demonstrated the capability of the radar to track the origin of the fired rounds. The radar system is employed on the battlefield to locate the exact location indirect fire originates from to help create accurate coordinates for a counter-fire mission.
“As far as tracking indirect fire, it’s highly important,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Adams, battalion fire support noncommissioned officer. “It tells us where indirect fire comes from, where it’s landing and the type of munition that was fired. It’s a valuable piece of equipment on the battlefield for tracking counterfire.”
Currently, Lithuanian Land Forces do not own the Q-50 radar system. According to Swafford, Griffin Brigade is looking to purchase the system to add to their artillery battalion assets.
“They are interested in the capabilities our radar brings to the fight,” Swafford said. “They are looking to incorporate the system into their military.”
The day ended with Lithuanian mortar men taking the opportunity to experience the U.S. mortar system that is housed in a small track vehicle. They were able to explore the mortar track and ask questions through a fellow soldier who acted as an interpreter.
“It was a good experience,” said Staff Sgt. Stephan Hudson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company mortar section sergeant, who answered questions from the Lithuanian mortar men. “It was good to train with the Lithuanians after so much time apart because of COVID-19 and speak the same language when it comes to the mortar system.”
All possible measures to mitigate the potential risk of spreading coronavirus was taken to include the use of masks, maintaining social distancing, no physical contact and reducing the necessary amount of physical closeness times to less than 10 minutes.