A Wyoming Army National Guard HIMARS rocket launcher from the Lander Armory was transported to Cheyenne Tuesday for a "hot panel" fire mission. The HIMARS will be returned to Fremont County    Thursday morning about 10 a.m. at Riverton Regional Airport by an Air Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft. (Kevin Lee photo)

HIMARS Rocket Launcher from Lander in “hot panel fire mission” at Cheyenne air base

(Cheyenne, Wyo.) – Soldiers of the Wyoming Army National Guard 115th Field  Artillery, and a combination of Wyoming Air National Guard 153rd Airlift Wing and 187th Airlift Squadron worked together to complete a rocket launcher drill Tuesday at the Air Guard’s airbase.
A crew of Air Guard pilots and loadmasters flew from the Wyoming Air National Guard base to the Riverton Regional Airport Tuesday, touching down shortly after sunrise.
Four soldiers drove the High Mobility Artillery Rockets System (HIMARS) launcher from the Lander Armory onto the tarmac and prepared to load. The vehicle rocket system was then checked by two advanced party airmen, ensuring the dimensions of the launcher fit on the plane, before instructing Spec. Zachary Sutherlin to start backing up the machine.
With the help of the loadmasters, Sutherlin was able to wedge the 32,000 pound vehicle into the cargo hold. When it was in place there was only one inch of room to spare at the top and very little on either side—a tight fit.
Capt. Casey Henry, commander of Bravo Battery, 2-300 Field Artillery Battalion, said this is the first time in Wyoming National Guard history the unit has flown a HIMARS launcher to Cheyenne. Also, this was the first time a hot panel fire mission was rehearsed with an actual debarkation from the aircraft.
A hot panel shoot, Henry explained, begins with loading a fire mission for the rocket system into a panel on the launcher before embarking on the aircraft. From there, the crew must maintain their fire systems, so when the aircraft lands the crew can pull out, fire their mission and reload within minutes.
“It was one of the coolest things I have ever seen,” said Henry. “Even though there wasn’t smoke and a real round going down range, it was a huge triumph for the Wyoming National Guard.”
“I’d love to see more missions like this,” said Henry. “I’d like to see the state of  Wyoming coordinate it so we can shoot live fire missions at Camp Guernsey.”