(Washington, D.C.) The Army Stryker is firing Hellfire missiles, 50kw lasers and Stingers to ensure maneuvering infantry in fast-advancing armored units are sufficiently protected from lethal enemy threats such as drones, helicopters and even some fixed wing aircraft.
Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD)
It is all part of the Army’s ambitious and fast-moving Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) program intended to bring crucially needed air-defense technology to forces on-the-move in combat.
Mr. Daryl Youngman, Deputy Director, Air & Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command, told The National Interest that the SHORAD program is progressing well in alignment with three designated increments, each successively expanding functionality.
Arming Stryker with Guns, Missiles and On-board Sensors
The first increment, now already operational, is arming the Stryker with guns, missiles and on-board sensors such that it can find, track and shoot to kill enemy targets in the air quickly. As part of this first phase, the Stryker is already armed with Hellfire and Stinger missiles.
Arming Stryker with High-Powered Laser Technology
The 2nd Increment involves arming the Stryker with high-powered laser technology to offer Stryker crews additional offensive and defensive weapons capability. The Stryker already has fired 5kw lasers on multiple occasions and is now being engineered to fire a 50kw laser, something which represents a breakthrough in mobile power generation and sustainment.
Laser are of course low cost per shot, yet they also bring the possibility of unparalleled precision and less explosive destruction options. Should an approaching enemy drone in route to attack over an urban area be discovered, a laser weapon might be preferred because incinerating or disabling and enemy drone will cause much less collateral damage to nearby civilians given that there will be much less explosive material and fragmentation potentially quite dangerous for non combatants.
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Replacement of the Stinger Missile
The third increment, Youngman said, would be the eventual replacement of the Stinger missile in the system for both mounted and dismounted operations.
All of this has required some minor adjustments within the Stryker vehicle in the realms of sensing, targeting, computing and fire control systems, something which Youngman explained is going smoothly and requires only minor adjustments.
“The Strykers are being modified appropriately,” Youngman told me in an interview.
In total, the Army will field four battalions of SHORAD-armed Strykers, yet that number could go up as demand for air defense expands across the Army force. It would certainly not be surprising if other armored vehicles were similarly armed with a SHORAD capability.
Interestingly, the Army’s integrated support plan for M-SHORAD does not stop with innovation and production but also incorporates a specific sustainment plan, given its growing importance to the Army.
Gen. Edward Daly, Commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command, said his force was working closely with Army Futures Command Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team to “ensure sustainment of the platform with a critical focus on maintenance. We are currently refurbishing vehicle-mounted launchers in support of M-SHORAD."
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.