The Army is fast-tracking newly configured Stryker vehicles armed with helicopter and drone-killing weapons to counter Russia in Europe and provide more support to maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams in combat.
“We are looking for a rapid solution for the near-term fight,” Maj. Gen. John Ferarri, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The Strykers will fire a wide range of weapons to destroy close-in air threats attacking maneuvering ground units, to include Hellfire or Stinger missiles. The program, which plans to deploy its first vehicles to Europe by 2020, is part of an Army effort called short-range-air-defense (SHORAD).
Senior leaders say the service plans to build its first Stryker SHORAD prototype by 2019 as an initial step toward producing 144 initial systems.
Given that counterinsurgency tactics have taken center stage during the last 15 years of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army now recognizes a need to better protect ground combat formations against more advanced, near-peer type enemy threats - such as drones, helicopters or low-flying aircraft.
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“We are looking for an end to end system that is able to detect and defeat the rotary wing fixed wing and UAS (drone) threat to the maneuvering BCT (Brigade Combat Team),” Col. Charles Worshim, Project Manager for Cruise Missiles and Defense Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Worshim said the Army has sent a solicitation to a group of more than 500 weapons developers, looking for missiles, guns and other weapons like a 30mm cannon able to integrate onto a Stryker vehicle.
Although drone threats have been rapidly escalating around the globe, US enemies such as the Taliban or ISIS have not presented air-attacking threats such as helicopters, aircraft or drones. However, as the Army evaluates it strategic calculus moving forward, there is widespread recognition that the service must be better equipped to face technically sophisticated enemies.
"We atrophied air defense if you think about it. With more near-peer major combat operations threats on the horizon, the need for SHORAD and high-tier weapons like THAAD and PATRIOT comes back to the forefront. This is a key notion of maneuverable SHORAD - if you are going to maneuver you need an air defense capability able to stay up with a formation," the senior Army official told Warrior Maven in an interview.
As part of its emerging fleet of SHORAD Stryker vehicles, the Army is exploring four different weapons areas to connect with on-board radar and fire control, Worshim said; they include Hellfire missiles, Stinger missiles, gun capabilities and 30mm cannons.
The SHORAD effort has been under rapid development by the Army for several years now; last year, the service held a SHORAD “shoot-off” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., where they fired a number of emerging platforms.
Some of the systems included in the demonstration includes Israel's well-known Iron Dome air defense system, a Korean-build Hanwha Defense Systems armored vehicle air defense platform and a General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker Maneuver SHORAD Launcher.
US military officials familiar with the demonstration said the Hanwha platform used was a South Korean K30 Biho, called the Flying Tiger; it is a 30mm self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon which combines an electro-optically guided 30mm gun system with surveillance radar on a K200 chassis.
Several General Dynamics Land Systems specially-armed Stryker vehicles were also among the systems which recently destroyed enemy drone targets during the demonstration at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. - according to Army officials familiar with the event.
One of the Strykers used was an infantry carrier armed with an Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon; this weapon can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, Army officials said.
Worshim emphasized that those vendors who participated in the shoot-off will not necessarily be the technology chosen by the Army, however the event did greatly inform requirements development of the weapons systems. Also, while SHORAD has been integrated onto a Stryker, and tested, for several years now, the Army only recently decided that it would be the ideal armored combat platform for the weapon.
At the same time, building similarly armed Bradleys or infantry carriers is by no means beyond the realm of the possible as the service rushes to adapt to new ground war threats.
“There could be an air and missile defense mission equipment package integrated onto other combat vehicles,” Worshim said.