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Fort Sill soldiers first to test future military equipment

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

FORT SILL, OK (KSWO) - During the last few weeks, soldiers from around the country have flocked to Fort Sill to test never-before-used military equipment.

Soldiers experimented with drones, lasers and dune buggies. It's all part of the annual Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment, or MFIX, on post. For the 2017 event, contractors from all over brought the newest military hardware for soldiers to train and experiment, and give feedback on how it can be improved.

Specialist Brandon Sallaway is stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado and was actually the first soldier in the history of the Army to shoot down a drone with one of the lasers.

"It's mind-blowing stuff to think you are shooting a laser something,” Sallaway said. “I'm really excited to be a part of such a historical event, so to speak. It's so exciting as a soldier to see the Army working on the next generation of tools for us so that we can maintain our edge on everyone, be cutting edge."

Captain Theo Kleinsorg trained several of the soldiers participating in the experiments and said after a few weeks with the new equipment, he thinks it can have a huge impact on how soldiers operate in the field, not just with shooting down drones.

"A lot of us are pretty excited that now we can engage a target that we were never able to engage previously, but more than that, there's applications in this using it as breaching system, there's applications in the realm of the active defense we're working on, many programs that the Army is trying to solve right now that can find a use for directed energy, well beyond just shooting at drones,” Kleinsorg said.

They also tested out a pair of dune buggies designed to detect drones flying in the area and destroy the link between the drone and its operator. Soldiers also operated new drones that carry up to 600 pounds of equipment to troops in the field.

"Anytime you don't have to put soldiers’ lives in danger to deliver supplies, that's a benefit,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Erts, Chief of Experimentation and Wargaming for the FIRES Battle Lab. “If we can fly over the heads of the enemy and deliver the supplies without ever having to engage possible enemies along the way, that's going to save soldiers’ lives."

The equipment tested during MFIX is still five to 10 years away from being used in the field. None of it had ever actually been used by any soldiers before it made its way to Fort Sill.

"What is unique about Fort Sill is the soldiers,” Erts said. “We want to hear from the soldiers, what do they think about this system. Is it feasible, is it easy to use, what modifications need to be made, should we even be using it in the first place."

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