PGZ and its subsidiaries, PIT-RADWAR, JELCZ and WZU, working hand-in-hand with MBDA have been making rapid progress on the SHOrt-Range Air Defence (SHORAD) solution, known as «Mała NAREW», with the first two Polish iLaunchers of the system already in Poland undergoing integration and trials ahead of delivery to the customer.
This project aims to deliver rapidly two SHORAD-class fire units equipped with Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) missiles, integrated with SOŁA radar stations and the Polish Command and Control (C2) system.
The «Mała NAREW» units are being adapted to work within one SHORAD class solution. Functional integration of the radar stations, C2 systems and CAMM missile fire control software is going hand-in-hand with the physical integration of subsequent iLauncher with JELCZ trucks chassis. The first training sessions for operators of iLauncher and Polish components of the «Mała NAREW» system has already been conducted.
Sebastian Chwałek, CEO of PGZ S.A. said: «By implementing this program, we strengthen our credibility as a strategic partner for the army, ready to provide advanced air defence systems at record pace. We treat «Mała NAREW» as a test ground before the NAREW program, showing what our capabilities are and how to cooperate with major foreign partner MBDA UK on a joint project. We believe that this relationship will translate into further successes, both for our companies and the armies that will trust us to bring their air defence into XXI century».
Chris Allam, Managing Director of MBDA UK, said: «We’re proud that the co-operation between MBDA and PGZ achieved the arrival of the first air defence hardware into Poland in an incredibly short timeframe. The successes of the «Mała Narew» project are a very positive indicator for the success of PGZ-MBDA co-operation on the wider NAREW project that will include extensive transfer of technology and knowledge to Poland on missiles and launchers».
The «Mała NAREW» program, in addition to the fire units themselves, also includes a training and logistics package. Under the project, PGZ and MBDA are conducting integration of selected British and Polish elements of air defence systems as well as provide technical support for the ordered equipment at the operational stage. The contract provides for the delivery of the first «Mała NAREW» fire unit this year, and the second in 2023.
General Dynamics Land Systems, a global leader in providing innovative, high technology and next-generation ground combat solutions to customers, announces on October 25, 2021 a Strategic Teaming Agreement with Epirus, Inc., a high-growth technology company developing directed energy systems that enable unprecedented counter-electronics effects. GD and Epirus will collaborate to integrate the Leonidas directed energy system and broader high-power microwave technology into the U.S. Army’s Stryker and other manned and autonomous ground combat vehicles for enhanced mobile Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) capabilities.
«General Dynamics Land Systems continues to evolve the Army’s largest and most reliable ground combat vehicle fleet with next-generation innovation and high-tech solutions», said Danny Deep, President of General Dynamics Land Systems. «This partnership with Epirus benefits the Army’s Stryker mobile SHORAD formations by offering cutting-edge, counter-electronics and counter-swarm capabilities».
In addition to Stryker upgrades, the company also is developing a class of robotic combat vehicles that feature modular architecture to maximize scalability and support future mission needs, Deep said.
Leonidas’ integration with Stryker enables a fully mobile counter-electronics solution and demonstrates the system’s flexible Application Programming Interface (API) and ability to integrate with existing ground-based, airborne and maritime systems for operation across domains. The system’s open API allows for maximum interoperability to meet the mission needs of multiple customer sets. Leonidas delivers unprecedented power and performance in a dramatically smaller form factor and is the only directed energy weapon with a proven ability to counter swarming drones and execute precision strikes at range.
«Having the support of one of the largest, most innovative and technologically advanced defense contractors further deepens our industry credibility and the market appeal for Epirus’ directed energy product portfolio. With Leonidas integrated into GD’s combat vehicle fleet, we are unlocking new SHORAD and counter-electronics capabilities to equip our warfighters with combat effective systems that dismantle the threats of today and tomorrow. I look forward to continuing our partnership with our General Dynamics Land Systems colleagues and know that, together, we can deliver on our customers’ mission needs», said Leigh Madden, Epirus Chief Executive Officer.
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.