According to Yaakov Lappin, Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent, the Israel Ministry of Defense (MoD) unveiled on 4 August a new Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) concept, dubbed Carmel, that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), autonomous capabilities, and enhanced situational awareness to achieve new levels of battlefield effectiveness.
The goal of the programme is to reduce the number of onboard personnel in AFVs like the Merkava tank from four to two and enable them to operate under closed hatches, with the vehicle driving itself, detecting threats in real time, and providing recommendations to the crew on critical decisions.
The vehicles will also be able to control unmanned air and ground vehicles, as well as operate as part of a network that builds a shared picture of the battlefield and co-operate to efficiently engage targets.
The programme will not immediately produce new vehicles, according to the MoD, but will develop capabilities that will gradually be installed on the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) Merkava Mk-4, the next-generation Barak tank, the Namer tracked Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), and the Eitan wheeled APC. The MoD will also begin developing an AFV that incorporates the new capabilities at an unspecified time in the future.
Brigadier General Yaniv Rotem, head of research and development at the MoD’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development (DDR&D), told journalists that the programme began around three years ago after the MoD decided to revolutionise the ground forces’ manoeuvring capabilities.
Israel’s three largest defence companies – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit Systems, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems – were asked to develop their own Carmel prototypes using M113 APCs. These were unveiled on 4 August following a month of trials by a DDR&D team in northern Israel.
The challenge was proving the feasibility of two soldiers conducting closed-hatch operations and integrating technological capabilities that would enhance mission efficiency for the IDF’s manoeuvre forces.
The United States Army recently awarded Lockheed Martin three contracts to produce additional Q-53 systems and outfit the radar with enhanced capabilities, including extended range and Counter Unmanned Aerial System (CUAS) surveillance. The flexible architecture of the Army’s most modern radar allows for these upgrades, which support adaptable growth of the system to address aircraft, drone and other threats in the future.
«We realize the warfighter needs new and improved capabilities. The Q-53 represents a fast path to respond to current and emerging threats», said Rick Herodes, director of the Q-53 program at Lockheed Martin. «The flexibility of the architecture continues to allow the Q-53 to provide capabilities far beyond the original mission and allows for additional upgrades in the future».
Full Rate Production
The Army awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for a third lot of 15 Full Rate Production systems. Once this contract is delivered the Army will own 189 Q-53 systems. The Lot 3 systems will continue to be produced using GAllium Nitride (GaN) transmit-receive modules. This will provide the radar with additional power, reliability and the possibility for enhanced capabilities including extended range, Counterfire Target Acquisition (CTA) and multi-mission, which delivers simultaneous CTA and air surveillance.
Lockheed Martin was also awarded a contract to enhance the Q-53’s CUAS capability. This true multi-mission capability delivers simultaneous counterfire, CUAS and air surveillance.
Lockheed Martin was also awarded a contract by the Army that will extend the operating range of the Q-53 system by utilizing recent next-generation technology insertions already available in the radar.
About the Q-53
The primary mission of the Q-53 is to protect troops in combat by detecting, classifying, tracking and identifying the location of enemy indirect fire in either 90 or 360-degree modes. The Q-53 has protected warfighters around the world since 2010.
Lockheed Martin uses an open GaN foundry model, leveraging relationships with commercial suppliers that utilize the power of the expansive telecommunications market to provide military-grade GaN modules while taking advantage of commercial cost efficiencies.
Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract for the U.S. Army Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) directed energy prototyping initiative. The initiative includes integrating a directed energy weapon system on a Stryker vehicle as a pathfinding effort toward the U.S. Army M-SHORAD objective to provide more comprehensive protection of frontline combat units.
«Northrop Grumman is eager to leverage its portfolio of innovative, proven technologies and integration expertise to accelerate delivery of next-generation protection to our maneuver forces», said Dan Verwiel, vice president and general manager, missile defense and protective systems, Northrop Grumman. «Our flexible, open systems approach offers an end-to-end solution for the Army’s growing and ever-changing mission requirements in today’s complex threat environment».
Under the initiative from the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office and a contract from Kord Technologies, Northrop Grumman will build and integrate a suite of advanced sensors; target acquisition and tracking; a 50-kilowatt class laser system; and battle-tested command-and-control on an Army Stryker combat vehicle. The effort will culminate in a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration that informs M-SHORAD requirements.
The directed energy M-SHORAD prototypes are part of the progression of an Army technology maturation initiative known as the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL).
The integrated platform allows early involvement with warfighter users to develop tactics, techniques, procedures and concepts of operations for future high energy laser weapons.
The Army’s future M-SHORAD protection for forward-deployed soldiers includes laser weapon systems as an effective complement to kinetic capabilities in countering rockets, artillery and mortars; unmanned aircraft systems; and other aerial threats.
The M-SHORAD directed energy prototyping initiative is managed by the U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
Raytheon Company will deploy two prototype high energy laser weapon systems to troops overseas under a U.S. Air Force contract. The Air Force experimentation includes 12 months of in-field operation against unmanned aerial systems and operator training.
Raytheon’s High-Energy Laser Weapon System (HELWS) uses pure energy to detect, identify and instantly take down drones. It can target a single drone with precision. The HELWS is paired with Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System. It uses invisible beams of light to defeat hostile Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs). Mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, the system detects, identifies, tracks and engages drones.
«Every day, there’s another story about a rogue drone incident», said Stefan Baur, vice president of Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems. «These threats aren’t going away, and in many instances, shooting them with a high energy laser weapon system is the most effective and safest way to bring them down».
The contract follows successful demonstrations of Raytheon’s directed energy systems for the Air Force and the U.S. Army.
Rheinmetall is taking on a key role in equipping the NATO spearhead Very High Joint Readiness Task Force 2023 (VJTF 2023), which will be furnished by the German Bundeswehr. Contracts have now been awarded to a consortium for the «System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023» project, in which Rheinmetall’s share comes to over €470 million, including value added tax. Work has already begun and is set to continue through to the end of the VJTF readiness phase in 2024.
On 11 July 2019, the Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-service Support awarded a corresponding contract to ARGE Puma, a consortium consisting of Puma manufacturer PSM Projekt System Management GmbH – a joint venture in which Rheinmetall holds a 50% stake – and Rheinmetall Electronics GmbH. Subcontracting within ARGE will take place shortly.
«System Panzergrenadier» links the Puma infantry fighting vehicle – the mainstay of the German Army’s mechanized infantry – with the modular Future Soldier – Expanded System (IdZ-ES) soldier system, in an advanced, network-enabled warfare environment.
Included in the «System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023» package is a comprehensive combat performance upgrade of forty-one Puma infantry fighting vehicles, coupled with additional measures for improving communication between the infantry fighting vehicles and dismounted infantrymen. For Rheinmetall, the total value of this order comes to €258.3 million, including value added tax. The systems will be delivered at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021.
Among other things, the package also encompasses complete logistic support of the VJTF Pumas for a period of five years, i.e. spare parts, special tools and spare parts logistics. Also included is a new generation of digital radios for the infantry fighting vehicles as well as integration of the MELLS multirole light guided missile system, significantly expanding the capabilities spectrum of Puma. New daylight and thermal imaging cameras and a color display feature in the upgrade too. Optimized day and night vision will increase the range of reconnaissance, while simultaneously widening the crew’s field of view. Furthermore, new training resources will enable the unit to train in a highly realistic manner.
Closely linked to the hardware of the new optronic systems and monitors for the infantry fighting vehicles is the contract for development of the «Vision Enhancement, Chassis», which is already underway. Including value added tax, it represents sales of €67.2 million, including value added tax.
Furthermore, Rheinmetall is equipping the mechanized infantry companies of the VJTF 2023 with «TacNet», its Battle Management System (BMS). In addition, an initial lot of ten platoon versions of the «Future Soldier – Expanded System» soldier system will be brought up to modern VJTF 2023 standard. Improved communication between the Puma crew and the dismounted infantry section will result in a continuously updated, uniform common operational picture. This way, Rheinmetall gives mechanized infantry a command-and-control capability that extends from the company commander to the individual rifleman on the ground. These modernization moves will mean incoming orders for Rheinmetall worth €146.5 million, including value added tax.
«System Panzergrenadier VJTF 2023» substantially enhances the fighting strength of the VJTF 2023. At the same time, Rheinmetall views these measures as a template for further modernization and digitization of the Bundeswehr.
Modernizing the command and control capabilities of complete mechanized infantry companies and bringing the IdZ-ES up to VJTF 2023 standard involves modifying the hardware and software. Dispensing with the «electronic backbone» is one key innovation. Others include advanced new radio systems for dismounted troops and infantry fighting vehicles, which result in improved command capabilities as well as enabling secure transmission of large amounts of data.
During development of the new vision systems and their integration into the Puma, an initial lot of five sets of prototype assemblies will be fabricated and integrated into five standard vehicles. These tasks are to be complete by 2021. Verification will then take place at the Bundeswehr’s technical centres by 2023.
Furthermore, digitization of the vision technology will proceed in tandem with implementation of NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA) in the Puma. It forms the foundation for the future sensor-to-shooter nexus. Already underway, the networking of sensors and effectors in individual vehicles will soon enable the networking of sensors and effectors in entire units and formations. As a result, the Puma will be one of the world’s first digitized combat vehicles.
Indra has revealed the strategy that will protect critical infrastructures, airports, official buildings and public events from the ever-increasing threat that the next generation of drones will bring.
The popularity and, accessibility of these aircraft continues to grow. The systems will also have increasingly advanced range, navigation and loading capabilities.
To counter them «the rapid and constant development of anti-drone systems is necessary, a pace that only few companies in the world like Indra will be able to match», the company explained last week in the specialized event Countering Drones in London, attended by leading European technology, regulatory bodies and end users.
Indra leads this market with the ARMS system, a mature technology that it has already supplied for military use, making Indra one of the leading companies in this field.
Incidents such as those experienced at the Gatwick and Heathrow airports have highlighted the losses in the millions that can be incurred by the mere presence of such aircraft, either by pilot error or with hostile or illicit intent.
For Indra, the strategy to follow to defend any space must be based on three basic principles: adaptation to the specific needs of the environment being protected; integration and combined use of different sensors and countermeasures; and redundant use of sensors in terms of both number and location.
This will be the way to deal with increasingly intelligent and autonomous drones, which can swarm and make coordinated attacks.
To counteract them, there must be surveillance systems capable of detecting and identifying small drones. These systems must cope with different strategies of deception, concealment or even jamming that specialized attackers can develop.
The anti-drone systems must identify their type fast, even the drone model, and classify it as a friendly or enemy model.
They will incorporate highly targeted and effective soft countermeasures, something especially important for their use at airports to avoid interfering with radar and electronic systems, including their own aircraft.
The collaboration of governments, security forces and operators, regulators, system manufacturers and researchers will be essential.
The regulatory framework must clarify who can use an anti-drone system, under what conditions and to what extent. The procedures to be followed in each scenario must be agreed upon depending on the type of threat.
The company paid special attention in its analysis to the case of airports, in which the anti-drone system will have to be integrated with Air Traffic Management (ATM) and Unmanned Aircraft Management (UTM) systems to discriminate the authorized ones from those which may constitute a real threat.
The countermeasures that are used in this environment must be especially precise so as not to affect security or interrupt the service. In the military environment, the same applies to its integrated use with air defense systems.
Indra is one of the few companies in the world that masters all the technologies involved in the development of anti-drone systems. It is one of the leading manufacturers of radar and air defense systems in the world, it also leads the development of electronic defense systems, sensors of all kinds, communications and it develops its own drones. It is also one of the main suppliers of ATM systems, with projects delivered in 160 countries and which has the Indra Air Drone solution for UTM management.
The Council of Ministers has approved the conclusion of a contract for the manufacture of 8×8 wheeled combat vehicles.
The object of the contract is the supply of manufacturing of the first production batch of 348 Vehiculos de Combate a Ruedas (8×8 Wheeled Combat Vehicles, VCR 8×8) in 13 different configurations, including the respective components of mission systems (armament, level of protection, sensors, communications and command and control systems) as well as Logistic Support (AL) products derived from the corresponding Logistic Support Analysis (AAL). The VCR 8×8 is a Mowag Piranha 5 armored vehicle adapted to Spanish Army requirements.
The attack suffered in June 2007 in Lebanon, in which six soldiers died, showed the vulnerability of the vehicles then in use, which motivated defense minister José Antonio Alonso and, later, Carme Chacón to initiate the program to replace the fleet of wheeled armored vehicles.
It was later decided to also replace the vehicles used in peacekeeping operations (BMR) with others that better meet conditions.
Thus, the object of this contract is to renew the fleet of combat vehicles in service with the Spanish Army (BMR, VEC, Lince, RG-31, TOA M-113, VCZ) with a single, modular vehicle based on an open architecture.
These vehicles will provide the capability to protect the Forces that cannot be achieved at present with the Army’s BMR vehicles, which are already obsolete and have fully completed their life cycle.
The contract that has now been authorized has its origins in the decision by the Council of Ministers of November 2, 2007, which approved the ‘Armed Forces Renewal Plan’ that called for procuring a new wheeled armored vehicle to replace the obsolete Blindados Medios sobre Ruedas (Medium Wheeled Armored Vehicle, BMR). However, the program was interrupted due to lack of funding.
The requirement to provide our Armed Forces with an operational vehicle that guaranteed both the efficiency of military operations and the safety of its crew determined the need to resume the program. The Council of Ministers of July 31, 2015, authorized the award of the contract for the development of technologies for a future 8×8 wheel combat vehicle (VCR 8×8) that led to the acquisition that has now been approved.
It is also important to note that by agreement of the Council of Ministers of December 14, 2018, the limits established in article 47 of the General Budget Law were modified to acquire expenditure commitments, in order to enable the Ministry of Defense to reschedule the annuities of the Special Programs of Modernization of the Armed Forces derived from the acquisition of 348 units of 8×8 Wheeled Combat Vehicles.
The authorized administrative contract is within the legal business excluded from the scope of application of Law 24/2011, of August 1, of public sector contracts in the fields of defense and security under article 7.1.b., according to the declaration of the Ministry of Defense’s defense and essential security interests, dated July 1, 2019, and the estimated value of the contract amounts to € 2,083,275,262.81, distributed in annuities which extend from 2019 to 2030.
Currently, Santa Bárbara Sistemas is the main contractor and the Technical Integration Authority, together with the companies Indra and SAPA as first-level subcontractors, as it is the only option with sufficient industrial capacity to complete the contract.
The development of the program will strengthen the Spanish industrial base by obtaining a national product, integrated and with the design authority in Spain, technologically advanced and world-class, with many export possibilities because it is in high demand in all Armies.
In addition, it will have a significant impact on the economies of Alcalá de Guadaira (Seville), Trubia, (Asturias), Aranjuez (Madrid) and Andoain (Guipúzcoa), towns in which the companies participating in the project have production plants.
In total, it is estimated that the production of the new armored vehicle will generate some 650 direct jobs, and another 1,000 indirect ones.
Soldiers are slated to fire at targets next year using a platoon of robotic combat vehicles they will control from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
The monthlong operational test is scheduled to begin in March at Fort Carson, Colorado, and will provide input to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center on where to go next with autonomous vehicles.
The upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25-mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.
Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four Soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level maneuvers with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62-mm machine guns.
«We’ve never had Soldiers operate MET-Ds before», said David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office. «We’re asking them to utilize the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before».
After the tests, the center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team (NGCV CFT), both part of Army Futures Command, will then use Soldier feedback to improve the vehicles for future test phases.
«You learn a lot», Centeno said at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference on June 26. «You learn how they use it. They may end up using it in ways we never even thought of».
The vehicles are experimental prototypes and are not meant to be fielded, but could influence other programs of record by demonstrating technology derived from ongoing development efforts.
«This technology is not only to remain in the Robotic Combat Vehicle (RCV) portfolio, but also legacy efforts as well», said Major Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicle lead for the NGCV CFT.
One goal for the autonomous vehicles is to discover how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting Soldiers in danger.
The vehicles, Centeno said, will eventually have third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a target range of at least 14 kilometers/8.7 miles.
«You’re exposing forces to enemy fire, whether that be artillery, direct fire», he said. «So, we have to find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrite their systems and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver. These platforms buy us some of that, by giving us standoff».
PHASE II, III
In late fiscal year 2021, Soldiers will again play a role in Phase II testing as the vehicles conduct company-level maneuvers.
This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which industry will provide.
Before these tests, a light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe next May.
«The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations», Wallace said at the conference.
Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.
«This is the first demonstration which we will be out of the surrogate realm and fielding purpose builts», Wallace said, adding the vehicles will conduct a combined arms breach.
The major said he was impressed with how quickly Soldiers learned to control the RCVs during the Robotic Combined Arms Breach Demonstration in May at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.
«Soldiers have demonstrated an intuitive ability to master controlling RCVs much faster than what we thought», he said. «The feedback from the Soldiers was that after two days they felt comfortable operating the system».
There are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence in order to reduce the cognitive burden on Soldiers.
«This is not how we’re used to fighting», Centeno said. «We’re asking a lot. We’re putting a lot of sensors, putting a lot of data in the hands of Soldiers. We want to see how that impacts them. We want to see how it degrades or increases their performance».
The family of RCVs include three variants. Army officials envision the light version to be transportable by rotary wing. The medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 Hercules aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower «light tank», could influence the development of the RCV heavy.
With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries, Wallace said.
Ultimately, the autonomous vehicles will aim to keep Soldiers safe.
«An RCV reduces risk», Wallace said. «It does so by expanding the geometry of the battlefield so that before the threat makes contact with the first human element, it has to make contact with the robots. That, in turn, gives commanders additional space and time to make decisions».
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Thursday, July 4 attended the first handover of Griffon multi-role armored vehicles (Véhicule Blindé Multi-Rôle, or VBMR) on the site of Nexter in Satory (Yvelines), to the General Directorate of Armaments (DGA), which pronounced the vehicle’s technical qualification, and in turn delivered them to the Army.
The Griffon is the new VBMR of the Scorpion program, developed to modernize the medium combat capabilities of the Combat Arms Tactical Group (GTIA). Griffon will replace the Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé (VAB). A robust and versatile vehicle, the Griffon will notably improve the protection of soldiers engaged in combat thanks to more efficient armor protection, a remotely-operated turret and latest generation sensors. It will also take part in digitally-enhanced networked combat for which the French Army is preparing.
Commenting the event, the Minister spoke of the Griffon as a «new face of the Army: an exceptional program by its ambition, its coherence and its magnitude […] a true technological and operational leap […] the fruit of nearly 15 years of work» conducted jointly with industry.
These new vehicles, recalled Florence Parly, will allow «our soldiers to keep the advantage on the ground» by offering «unprecedented protection against ballistic threats, mines and improvised explosive devices, one of the main weapons of our opponents in the Sahel».
The Minister also emphasized the interest of the international partners in the Griffon, and noted that together with the Jaguar armored reconnaissance and combat vehicle (Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance et de Combat, EBRC) it also attracted Belgium, which has adopted the French system on which it has based the Belgian Army’s CaMo (motorized capability) next-generation equipment.
Finally, she took advantage of her visit to announce that an additional 150 vehicles will be ordered, bringing the total to 1,872 units by 2030; in parallel, delivery rates will be increased so that fully 50% of the vehicles of the program are delivered to the Army by 2025.
In accordance with the Military Planning Law (LPM) for 2019-2025, a total of 92 vehicles are to be delivered to the Army in 2019. The first deliveries of the Army Griffon vehicles are scheduled for the summer, with the aim of being able to project a Griffon-equipped GTIA as early as 2021.
The Army is now standing up SHOrt-Range Air Defense units, known as SHORAD battalions, and offering a five-week pilot Stinger course for Soldiers in maneuver units.
It’s part of a critical effort to defend maneuver units against the threat of aircraft, drones and cruise missiles, said Colonel Mark A. Holler, commandant of the Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Sill.
Most of the SHORAD battalions in the active component were deactivated a decade ago because the U.S. Army needed this force structure to grow maneuver brigade combat teams for counter-insurgency operations, Holler said.
The Army is now reshaping its capability and capacity to conduct large-scale combat operations against a near-peer adversary like Russia or China, he said, so SHORAD units are once again needed. He added the Army was given a «wake-up call» when it observed the conflict in Ukraine.
BRINGING BACK AVENGERS
In the 1990s, every Army division had a SHORAD battalion to protect it. In 2017, none of the 10 active divisions had one.
Last year, the Army re-established an active SHORAD battalion in Germany. The 5th Battalion of the 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment was stood up with Avengers – modified Humvees with a turret on top and two pods of Stinger missiles.
The Avengers were first used by the Army in 1990, but in recent years most had been relegated to the National Guard or stored in depots.
A total of 72 Avengers were pulled out of mothballs last year from Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania, Holler said. Half are now with the 5-4 ADA and the others are ready for issue at a pre-positioned equipment depot in Germany.
GROWING THE FORCE
The plan is to eventually have 10 SHORAD battalions again to defend maneuver units and other critical assets within each of the Army’s divisions, Holler said. These will be stood up incrementally over time, he explained, with the next four between now and 2024.
Eventually these battalions will upgrade from Avengers to the new Maneuver SHORADs on a Stryker platform with two hellfire missiles, a 30-mm chain gun, a 7.62-mm machine gun and four Stinger missiles. The first M-SHORAD prototypes are expected to roll off the assembly line in late July.
The Army is also planning to stand up Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC units, in both the active component and National Guard to defend fixed and semi-fixed assets at corps and division-level, Holler said.
These battalions, currently fielded with the Land-based Phalanx Weapons System, or LPWS, used to counter rockets, artillery and mortars – also known as the C-RAM system – will eventually transition to a new IFPC capability as well, he said.
The Army currently has 519 positions for Soldiers with the 14P air and missile defense crewmember military occupational specialty. That number is expected to quadruple over the next five years, said Sergeant 1st Class Arianna Cook, senior career advisor for 14Ps at the ADA School.
«We will have one of the fastest-growing MOSs in the Army», Cook said.
Two years ago, the ADA School had only one 14P instructor and most of the students were National Guard Soldiers, as the Guard kept seven Avenger battalions, she said. Now there’s eight 14P instructors at the school just for the new Man-Portable Air Defense System or MANPADS Stinger course.
«We’re making a comeback», Cook said. «That’s kind of where we’re at with our MOS».
Maneuver forces had not seen short-range air defense in a long time, Cook said. So, the first goal of the new course was to show Infantry and Cavalry troops what SHORAD looks like, she explained.
«I spent two years at Fort Benning with 19 kilos, with tankers … none of them had ever heard of short-range air defense», Cook said. «All they knew was Patriot launchers».
So, a MANPADS pilot course was developed in late 2017. The focus was on creating two-man Stinger teams for units rotating into Germany or Korea as an interim solution to provide short-range air defense.
«You can’t flip the switch overnight and fill a critical gap», Cook said.
But since the Army has determined that SHORAD is a critical gap, the ADA School is attempting to fix it as soon as possible with the five-week course.
So far, six brigades have sent 156 Soldiers through the course and the graduates have been awarded the A5 Additional Skill Identifier, or ASI. This means they are certified to operate the Stinger MANPADS missile launcher in two-man teams to defend their unit against enemy aircraft.
The course includes practice in the Stinger Dome where the teams simulate firing at enemy helicopters that fly across terrain on the circular walls. It also includes Identifying Friend or Foe aircraft, or IFF programming with the Sentinel radar that maneuver units have. And it includes instruction on visual aircraft recognition. The course concludes with a tactical employment practical exercise.
Soldiers have completed the course so far from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division and 210th Fires Brigade.
What maneuver troops learn at the five-week course is termed «degraded» Stinger operations, Cook said, because firing the missiles from an Avenger system is more accurate.
The Avengers have multiple optics, range-finders and a Forward-Looking Infrared Receiver or FLIR monitor. It’s difficult to see some of the smaller drones with the naked eye, Cook said, whereas radars can pick them up and direct the Avenger turret to lock onto them.
When the Avengers were pulled out of depot storage last year, some were modified with a new «Slew-to-Cue» Avenger Targeting Console. This enables the turret to automatically turn and lock onto targets provided by remote radars, Cook said.
«A Soldier still needs to pull the trigger though», she said.
The remainder of the Avengers that didn’t get Slew-to-Cue last year will receive it as part of an ongoing two-phase Modification Service Life Extension Program known as SLEP, said Holler. All Avenger consoles should be upgraded by the end of September 2020, he said.
The second phase of the SLEP upgrade includes installation of a Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe, a new fire-control computer, and converting analog communications equipment in the Avengers to digital communications. It also includes a new air-conditioning and heating unit and a new .50-caliber/12.7-mm machine gun. The Phase II upgrades are scheduled to begin in the 4th quarter of FY 2020 and continue through FY 2023, Holler said.
Along with the battalion of Avengers that stood up last year in Germany, the active Army also has four separate Avenger batteries: one in Korea, one at Fort Sill, one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and one with the Global Response Force at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In addition to Avenger upgrades, proximity fuses are being installed in some of the Stinger missiles, Holler said. Stingers with proximity-fuse warheads will have greater lethality against small drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, he explained.
Cook said Soldiers who hold the 14P MOS actually need to know how to operate three different systems: Avengers, Stinger shoulder launchers and the C-RAM system that shoots up to 90 rounds per second at incoming rockets and mortars.
«We’re one of the only MOS’s in the Army that has to understand and operate three platforms», Cook said.
When the new M-SHORADs come off the assembly line, 14P Soldiers will need to know four platforms, she said.