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Fort Sill tests the Army's new Paladin

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FORT SILL, Okla._History was made on Fort Sill as the Army's new Paladin Weapon System had its first operational firing for soldiers and staff to see.

"I am pretty fired up today because we are gonna see the first operational firing of this. We have done some test firing but here we are on an installation, not at a test range, with regular soldiers shooting it. It's a pretty good day for Fort Sill and for the Field Artillery," said Major General Mark McDonald.

It may look the same as the current Paladin, but it's not. For the past five years the Army has been working on ways to turn it into a better fighting machine. The old Paladin was prone to having parts break down that weren't easily replaced in combat, the new Paladin is more reliable and the result of years of hard work.

There was general excitement in the air for both the soldiers involved with the project and the commanding staff of Fort Sill. Both sides were excited to see how it would perform.

"It's like going from a Ford Escort to an Escalade."

That’s how Staff Sergeant Gerardo Figueroa compares from this Paladin to the one of old. He's been part of the Paladin Integration Management project for the past two years and requested to stay on to keep providing input to make the paladin better.

"I was hand selected for this, we went through a lot of competition and each and every one earned this job, so I would say it was pretty well earned and we actually love it to be part of this program," said Staff Sgt. Figueroa .

A big change to the new Paladin is in the suspension to make it that Escalade he calls it.

"It will actually be able to clear higher obstacles, it's got a higher suspension and the terrain in combat is obviously not like riding on the road so you want to have that smooth ride wherever you go," explained Staff Sgt. Figueroa .

Part of his role as the Section Chief is to work with the design team to make changes to make the vehicle better.

"A screw was on the door that didn't make sense, like 'why don't we just move that screw and put it over here,' they just take it completely out. One, you save money, you budget more money for something else and it just makes sense,” said Staff Sgt. Figueroa .

It's team work between the civilian contractors and the military that soldiers say make this vehicle special.

“Whatever we say and we try to tell the engineers to do, they are going to do it,” said Staff Sgt. Figueroa . “And it's going to affect everybody in the Army within the next 50 years."

The inaugural firing on Thursday was a complete success. Production of this new Paladin is expected to start next year. The U.S. Army is expecting unit testing of the vehicle sometime in 2017.

This is the same Paladin that is going to be rolling out of the BAE Elgin facility in January of next year.

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