Lawmakers support Army efforts to fast track short-range air defense capabilities to the field to counter enemy missiles and unmanned aircraft but are concerned that the service may need more Stinger missiles than it has on hand to fulfill that mission.
Stingers, made by Raytheon [RTN], are being fielded in two-man teams to restore SHORAD capability against emerging threats from fixed-wing aircraft, rotary-wing aircraft, and unmanned air systems (UAS). As of April, the Army has trained 208 soldiers to operate Stinger man-portable air-defense missiles, which comprises 104 MANPADS teams that are being deployed as needed.
In its mark of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces said it “has significant concerns regarding the adequacy of the Army’s Stinger missile inventory, as well as the resiliency of the associated industrial base that produces key components, including those required for the Stinger missile seeker.”
Demand for Stinger missiles likely will increase as demand for SHORAD ramps up, it says.
The Army has no plans for new production of Stinger missiles, instead favoring a service life extension program (SLEP) for its existing stockpile. The last new Stinger missile made came off the line in 2001 and each year the weapons are decommissioned because of decay.
That SLEP program is designed to extend the missile’s life by 10 years and improve its counter-UAS capability by adding a proximity detonation fuse, but does not restock expended missiles or grow the Army’s inventory. Improvements also are needed to the missile’s guidance, electronics and seeker systems, the committee notes.
The committee directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee by Dec. 3 on the Army’s strategy to mitigate the decline of the Stinger missile inventory, how much money is needed to do so, maintenance of the Stinger industrial base, and modernization of the Stinger program in the out-years.
The committee also recognizes the Army’s need for both SHORAD and counter-unmanned aerial systems (CUAS) capabilities for its maneuver forces and that the Army already has formalized requirement to initiate integration and procurement of an initial Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) capability on a Stryker combat vehicle.
The committee directs the Secretary of the Army to provide a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee by Sept. 14 on the Army’s accelerated acquisition strategy for the IM-SHORAD initiative, and to identify requirements that are similar to both the SHORAD and CUAS missions.