Tag Archives: M-SHORAD

Air Defense Capabilities

In continuing efforts to revitalize and update the U.S. Army’s Air and Missile Defense forces and systems, the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment (5-4 ADA), a subordinate unit under the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, is the first battalion in the Army to test, receive, and field the Mobile Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) system.

M-SHORAD
The 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment (5-4 ADA), 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, is the first unit in the Army to receive the Mobile Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) system. The M-SHORAD integrates existing guns, missiles, rockets and sensors onto a Stryker A1 vehicle. The system is designed to defend maneuvering forces against unmanned aircraft systems, rotary-wing and residual fixed-wing threats (Captain Jordan Allen)

The M-SHORAD, which integrates existing guns, missiles, rockets and sensors onto a Stryker A1 vehicle, is the Army’s newest addition in a variety of modernization efforts. The system is designed to defend maneuvering forces against unmanned aircraft systems, rotary-wing and residual fixed-wing threats.

The 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command is U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s executive agent for all theater air and missile defense operations and force management. Since activating the battalion in 2018, 5-4 ADA has played a major role in supporting Allies and partners through their involvement in various joint and multinational training exercises across the European theater.

«This is truly a testament to our Army’s commitment to increase air and missile defense capability and capacity to the joint force, and especially here in Europe», said Brig. Gen. Gregory J. Brady, Commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. «Just under 3 years ago 5-4 ADA was the Army’s first SHORAD battalion activated in almost 13 years, and now they are proud again to be the first to lead the Army’s Air and Missile Defense modernization initiatives with M-SHORAD. The 10th AAMDC is proud to be a part of this Team effort and remains engaged, postured and ready to assure, deter, and defend the maneuver force in an increasingly complex Integrated Air and Missile Defense environment, shoulder to shoulder with our NATO Allies».

The Army utilized a rapid prototyping strategy to accelerate the timeline for M-SHORAD initial operating capability by four years, resulting in the delivery of a prototype system in approximately one year. In 2020, 18 Air and Missile Defense crewmembers from 5-4 ADA were selected to undergo a 6-month initial operational assessment with the prototype systems at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

«I developed a passion for this system», said Specialist Andy Mendoza, one of the crewmembers from 5-4 ADA to assess the first prototypes. «We learned how to operate in every position on these, but also how to take care of them. Being one of the gunners selected to be part of that, it was really a huge honor. I’m really proud to be able to bring what I learned back home to the rest of the crew».

«There’s really no comparison to anything I’ve operated in my career», said Sgt. Andrew Veres, an Air and Missile Defense crewmember with 5-4 ADA. «Everything in these systems is an improvement – the survivability, mobility, dependability, off road ability – it gives us the ability to stay in the fight longer».

The addition of the Stryker-based M-SHORAD system will provide better protection of maneuver forces at increased ranges and with improved mobility, allowing a stronger defense of U.S. forces, Allies and partners against adversary air threats. The unit initially received four systems in April, and is expected to receive more later this year, beginning its transition from an Avenger-based battalion to the first fully-operational M-SHORAD battalion in the U.S. Army.

«Our adversaries have invested heavily from their indirect fire up to their strategic missile assets, necessitating the modernization of our air and missile defense capabilities», said Brady. «M-SHORAD is a critical part of the Army’s comprehensive dedicated Air Defense Artillery capacity and augmented combined arms approach to be able to provide a multi-layered defense against all aerial threats».

The Army’s modernization strategy ensures continued overmatch in a fundamentally different future environment, part of which includes prioritizing the development of Air Defense systems to ensure a more capable force.

«All modernization efforts are focused on our ability to fight and win as a joint force – along with our allies and partners», said Gen. John M. Murray, Army Futures Command commanding general. «If we do not have the capability to fight and win, we do not have the capability deter. The speed through which our Army can deliver effects and get the right equipment to Soldiers in the field is critical».

The Army intends to field the M-SHORAD system to four additional Air and Missile Defense battalions beginning in 2021. Future development of follow-on M-SHORAD systems will incorporate technology insertions, to include directed energy and improved missiles, utilizing a mix of complementary DE and kinetic interceptor systems to protect maneuver forces.

«The Army’s air and missile defense force structure is growing and modernizing significantly to meet the threats of peer competitors and our obligation and commitment to providing air and missile defense forces to the joint fight», Murray said.

Air Defense

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 has been selected to develop and integrate a directed energy prototype solution on a Stryker combat vehicle for the U.S. Army to better protect highly mobile frontline units. The effort will culminate in a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration that informs Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) requirements

«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.

Air Defense

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.

Two soldiers load Stinger missiles into an Avenger pod on top of a modified Humvee. 72 Avengers were pulled out of mothballs last year to equip two new short-range air defense battalions until the new M-SHORAD Strykers are fielded (U.S. Army photo)

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.

 

SOLDIERS QUADRUPLING

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».

 

MANPADS COURSE

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.

 

UPGRADED AVENGERS

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.

«It’s a massively-growing MOS», she added.