In an effort to update and upgrade its air defense systems, the U.S. Army delivered the first four operational Stryker anti-aircraft vehicles.
The 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment (5-4 ADA), 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. The 5-4 ADA is based at Shipton Kaserne in Ansbach, Germany.
The M-SHORAD is placed on the lightly armored 8×8 Stryker vehicles. These variants are fitted with an autocannon and a missile launcher capable of firing Hellfire or Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. They will replace the 1980s-vintage Avengers, a variant of the 4×4 Humvee that can only fire Stingers. The Avenger was less mobile and much more vulnerable.
At one point, the Army had 26 battalions of Avengers. But during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy had little to no airpower, the military neglected its air defense capabilities. By 2017, active-duty units were down to just two battalions, with National Guard units having seven.
The Skies Are Once Again Dangerous
But things began to change. In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea it used drones to great effect. Furthermore, the Syrian civil war witnessed the Turkish military forces using drones. Russian and Turkish drones were also used during the war in Libya.
The threat of drone attacks on heavy troop concentrations was brought to the forefront last year during the war over Nagorno-Karabakh. In that conflict, Azeri military forces used Turkish and Israeli drones to devastating effects on heavy Armenian armored formations.
Iran has also developed a large drone fleet. Crucially, it is beginning to show up with its proxy forces in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen where Houthi rebels have launched drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and airbases.
China is likewise developing its drone fleet.
The Army Realizes the Need for Upgraded Air Defence Systems
Thus, with near-peer competition heating up, the new threat needed to be addressed.
Therefore, the Army began fielding offers to test upgraded air defense systems in 2017. A year later, it awarded a contract to Leonardo DRS Land Systems. The Leonardo DRS system was placed on the available Stryker A1 platform. It provides maneuver Brigade Combat Teams with a full “detect-identify-track-defeat” capability. This is a requirement to defeat Unmanned Aerial System (UASs), rotary-wing, and fixed-wing threats.
Additionally, the Stryker armored vehicles are better equipped to keep up with armored vehicles when moving cross-country. Thus, they will provide better protection at increased ranges for maneuvering forces.
Last year, the 5-4 ADA selected 18 Air and Missile Defense crewmembers to conduct a six-month initial operational assessment with the prototype M-SHORAD systems. The assessment took place at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
And it’s Loving it!
“I developed a passion for this system,” said Spc. Andy Mendoza, a crewmember from the 5-4 ADA in an interview with the Army’s Defense Visual Information Delivery Systems (DVIDS). “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, to DVIDS. “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 Army plans to add the M-SHORAD system to four additional Air Defense battalions beginning this year.
“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,” General John Murray, the commander of the Army’s Futures Command said.
Given General Murray’s comments, it is no surprise that the first upgraded anti-aircraft vehicles were delivered to a unit in Europe.