US military’s short-range air defense efforts face review panel

The Joint Capabilities Board is scheduled to consider approving requirements for the U.S. Army’s maneuverable short-range air defense system this spring, according to Col. William Parker, the agency’s air and missile defense modernization chief.

The board makes recommendations to the Joint Requirements Oversight Board, which oversees new capability development and acquisition efforts, for final approval of program requirements.

The development of the M-SHORAD system took place in record time as a result of an urgent operational need identified in 2016 for the European theater. The Army received the requirement to build the system in February 2018. It took 19 months from the time the agency created the requirement to delivery of the prototypes for testing in the first quarter of 2020.

The first platoon to receive M-SHORAD, a Stryker combat vehicle-based platform that includes a mission equipment package designed by Leonardo DRS and RTX’s Stinger vehicular missile launcher, deployed in Europe in 2021.

The Army is now recruiting its third M-SHORAD battalion at Fort Cavazos, Texas. The first M-SHORAD battalion remains in Germany and the second is based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

“When we’re looking at Increment 1 of M-SHORAD, that originally came up as part of a directed requirement, so we’re currently tracking it through the requirements process,” Parker told Defense News in a recent interview.

Parker’s team updated the protection capability to the Functional Capability Council in December. This organization falls under the jurisdiction of the Joint Capabilities Board. Now JCB will review the Increment 1 capability development document in April, Parker said.

“As we continue to codify these requirements,” he explained, the agency is taking a hard look at maintaining the capability. Upon completion, “this will really put us in a good position to be able to fully port this thing and bring this capability to the warfighter.”

Two more variants of the M-SHORAD are coming. The Army is simultaneously working on a version of the 50-kilowatt laser weapon, known as the Directed Energy M-SHORAD, and is in the process of holding a competition to bring in a new and improved interceptor replacement for the current Stinger missile. DE M-SHORAD is considered the second increment of the program.

The directed energy variant was initially set to become a program of record in 2023, with the possibility of opening a new competition for suppliers to provide alternatives to the current prototype solution from Kord Technologies using a laser developed by Raytheon, an RTX company.

But the Office of Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies, which is leading the effort, decided the system would take more time to develop. The new plan is to move the program to the Executive Office of Missile and Space Program in fiscal year 2025.

Parker said the rapid capability office continues to work on the technology and wants to keep the transition of DE M-SHORAD to a program of record on the same schedule.

The third increase in the program is primarily focused on providing a next-generation Stinger missile and 30mm proximity fuze munitions, which will help “capability within that SHORAD maneuver and again the opposite[unmanned aircraft systems] space,” Parker said.

The agency wants the Stinger missile replacement for SHORAD to be faster, survive jams and more easily hit harder targets like drones, the agency’s missile and space program executive officer, Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano, told Defense News last fall.

In September 2023, the Army awarded RTX and Lockheed Martin contracts to competitively develop the Stinger replacement. RTX is the provider of the legacy Stinger missile currently used in the Army’s SHORAD capability and also in a man-portable arrangement. The Army no longer produces Stinger missiles, so the agency is drawing from its current inventory to meet the mission.

While the military sent some of its refurbished Stingers to Ukraine as an answer Russia’s invasion of the countryand is no longer building new Stinger missiles, it still plans to take five years to develop and certify the new interceptor and move into low-rate production.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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