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JBLM to test fire rocket system

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:48PM January 21st, 2016
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To read the Environmental Assessment, visit lewis-mcchord.army.mil/publicworks/sites/envir/eia.aspx

Joint Base Lewis-McChord announced Tuesday plans to fire nonexplosive High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Reduced Range Practice Rockets over a three-day period during the week of March 14 to 18 to measure the noise from the rocket firing.

JBLM officials plan to capture noise data while the weather is cold when sound waves travels the most, in order to measure noise levels throughout the test area. The rockets will be launched from the Hayes Hill firing point on JBLM Lewis Main, and land about six miles away on the Lewis Main artillery impact area. The Hayes Hill firing point is located about a half-mile east of I-5, and south of I-5 Mounts Road exit 116. With each rocket launch a smoke trail may be visible from I-5.

“I have decided that the information and data we will obtain from a series of test firing of the RRPR at JBLM is valuable enough to authorize this action to move forward,” said Col. Daniel S. Morgan, JBLM commander.

JBLM has two HIMARS-equipped units: the 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment and 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment. They must certify HIMARS crew launch procedures every six months at the Yakima Training Center – a trip that costs more than $225,000 each time a battalion travels to YTC.

"Current fiscal challenges have provided an opportunity to find innovative ways to maximize our Soldiers’ time and units’ resources,” said Col. Andrew Gainey, 17th Field Artillery Brigade commander. “We remain mindful of the importance and consideration of the noise test to the local community, while pursuing the best possible training for our Soldiers,” he said.

After the tests are done and the data assessed, a determination will be made whether it’s feasible to move forward with additional environmental study.

Weather permitting, during the week of March 14 to 18 up to 27 practice rockets will be fired over the three-day period. Approximately nine rounds per day will be fired – three each in the morning, afternoon and evening.

RRPR rounds are nonexplosive, blunt-nosed, high-drag rockets. Each 13-foot-long by nine-inches-wide round carries about 675 pounds of concrete and metal. Since RRPR rounds do not carry any explosives there is no explosion at impact.

Rockets reach supersonic velocity in about one second and remain supersonic for nearly four miles. For the test firings at JBLM, the rockets will peak at 1,300 feet above ground level, and it will take about five seconds to reach the artillery impact area – landing like a lawn dart.

During the test firing on JBLM, noise monitors will be strategically placed at various locations around the rocket’s flight path and at some locations off base. The devices will capture decibel readings to get definitive noise data from the RRPR firings.

In March 2015, JBLM initiated an Environmental Assessment to measure noise levels that would be created by a field artillery unit firing the RRPR round at JBLM.

JBLM hosted an open house event at Eagles Pride Conference Center Aug. 13 to share information and answer questions from the community; about 70 people attended. During the public comment period from July 27 to Aug. 25, 111 comments were received.

Base officials received all input regarding potential environmental impacts and weighed the risks concerning operational costs, readiness and community relations. A Finding of No Significant Impact was signed Tuesday by Morgan.

“We will announce and publicize the firing schedule well in advance,” said Joe Piek, JBLM Public Affairs Officer. “We will also have another open house prior to the test firing to explain the testing and noise monitoring process prior to the scheduled live fire dates in March.”