The U.S. Army has been laying the foundations to conduct large-scale combat operations against a near-peer adversary like Russia or China.
In addition to the development of logistics systems and the strengthening of the military power of armored formations, 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 Col. Mark A. Holler, commandant of the Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Sill.
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.
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.
The Avenger is a short-range surface-to-air missile that can be attached to a turret on top of a Humvee or they can be mobile and fired over the shoulder. This means they can shoot on the move and are very portable, and why White thinks they will play a big role in providing short-range defense.
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 30mm chain gun, a 7.62 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.