Several contractors are showing off and announcing their offerings for short-range air defense systems for deployed ground forces at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference in Washington, D.C. this week.
Ahead of the Army announcing SHORAD requirements, expected in the April to May 2018 timeframe, Raytheon [RTN] on Monday announced it is offering an integrated Stinger air defense missile mounted on a General Dynamics [GD] Stryker armored fighting vehicle.
The company has placed the Stinger on a Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS), which itself is mounted on a Stryker. Last month the Army fired Stingers from a Stryker and successfully intercepted airborne targets during a demonstration at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
This came after an earlier SHORAD demonstration also held at White Sands where four other companies brought their offerings to show off their SHORAD capabilities based on initial internal investments.
The Stinger is largely known for its Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS) variant, with a surface-to-air capability. It uses a high explosive hit-to-kill, blast fragmentation warhead.
Previously, Raytheon tested the Stinger in Very Short Range Air Defense System (VSHORAD) field trials in Finland years ago where gunners successfully simulated tracking and engaging targets like the F/A-18 fighter, NH-90 helicopter, and Banshee drone (Defense Daily, Sept. 10, 2013).
“With so many airborne threats in the battlespace, our ground forces need the protection of additional mobile air defense systems. Combining these two proven systems gives the Army an immediate, low risk, high-value solution,” Kim Ernzen, Raytheon land warfare systems vice president, said in a statement.
The company also showed off the U.S. version of the Israeli Iron Dome Weapon System, called SkyHunter, developed with Raphael Advanced Defense Systems. The system uses an ELM-2084 Multi Mission Radar to detect shells, rockets, and missiles, their launching points, and anticipates impact points. It then launches Tamir interceptors to defeat threats in the 2.5-44 mile range.
Other companies are also offering Stryker-mounted systems.
GD has worked with Boeing [BA] to offer a SHORAD option that mixes a Stryker and an Avenger air defense system. They take the back off of a Stryker variant and mount a Boeing-built TWQ-1 Avenger air defense system missile launcher on the back, calling it the Stryker Maneuver/Mobile SHORAD Launcher (Defense Daily, Aug. 9).
The GD-Boeing SHORAD option has a crew of three, an interface system allowing remote control of the Avenger from within the cab, and it can fire missiles like the Hellfire, AIM-9X sidewinder, and FIM-92 Stinger to defeat UAS, rotary wing, fixed wing, and cruise missile threats. It was one of the participants at the September White Sands test.
Separately, Lockheed Martin [LMT] touted the capabilities of its Q-53 counter-target acquisition (CTAR or counterfire) radars in a SHORAD mission.
The Q-53 is an advanced electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar first fielded in 2010. Its main mission is to detect and provide location data for incoming indirect fire, like rockets, artillery, and mortars, and the position they are fired from.
Lockheed is in full-rate production for the radar and has delivered 100 units so far under a contract for 170.
Previously, the company highlighted the radar’s open architecture software design allowing for updates with new mission capabilities. In 2016 Lockheed started developing a software upgrade to allow the Q-53 to detect and track small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for a counter-UAS (C-UAS) capability (Defense Daily, April 25). Lockheed demonstrated this capability at an exercise at Fort Sill in 2016.
Chris Murphy, in the company’s integrated air and missile defense team, told reporters Lockheed is trying to respond to shifting Army decision-making in this program by presenting a system they currently field and can be altered to fit a SHORAD mission.
Tish Rourke, from Lockheed’s radar systems business development team, said while the Q-53 is detecting projectiles for the Army in the field, “we are currently looking at that radar to say, hey it’s a radar, it’s a sensor, it’s already out in the battlefield, and we know that radar can do more.”
While the radar was not designed to detect UAS and land aerial threats, “it’s a radar. It sees those things and before we were throwing that data on the floor. Now we’re actually taking advantage of those detections,” she said. Lockheed is now processing those other detections and is working with the Army through serial test events and Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiments to demonstrate that capability.
Rourke added that changing the Q-53 detection capabilities is being done only through software modification. This does not change the hardware or degrade the current Q-53 mission for units in the field, she said.
Murphy said this could be combined with any other useful sensors the company makes for other platforms, like RF and electro-optical detectors. The modified sensor could then be paired with interceptors like miniature hit-to-kill (MHTK) missiles and directed energy/laser systems.
The MHTK is a 2.5 foot-long missile that weighs five pounds at launch and currently is designed to defeat mortars and rockets through kinetic impact.
Lockheed confirmed it is offering the MHTK for the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 – Intercept Block 1 program. IFPC is a mobile, ground-based system meant to defeat UAS and cruise missiles. It will use existing interceptors and sensors plus develop a Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) on an existing vehicle.
Regarding lasers, the company currently has a 30 kW test laser weapon system, the Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA). Chris Cupples, program manager for directed energy, said they see this capability as a compliment to kinetic systems.
Cupples said the Athena can be scaled for effect, ranging from dazzling to interfere with system to damaging/destroying a small UAS. ATHENA has already been demonstrated at the White Sands Missile Range as able to defeat Outlaw-class test UASs.
Iain McKinnie, also from the directed energy team, explained lasers could play into the M-SHORAD space by having a deep magazine capability, drastically increasing efficiency over kinetic interceptors.
The company said it is working towards an Army demonstration of a multi-mission high energy laser in the 2021 timeframe. McKinnie said this could be an onramp to a laser option for M-SHORAD.
BAE Systems, in contrast, showed its own Maneuver-SHORAD option incorporated on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The company told reporters that their concept vehicle can travel with current Army vehicles and go places other, slower SHORAD options could now.
Deepak Bazaz, vice president of programs for combat vehicle, highlighted their strength comes as a systems integrator working with mature technology.
He noted their offering comes with a “spectrum of defeat mechanisms” for the SHORAD mission. The Bradley SHORAD has search radars and a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor at the top of the vehicle to track and determine what a target is.
Bazaz said he thinks the system’s interception options “differentiates this capability, which he characterizes as free, cheap, and more expensive options.
The first “free” option is using RF emitter to jam a UAV, forcing it to crash or return to base. Next, it can use an Hughes M230 30mm proximity fuse chain gun, derived from Apache helicopters.
Finally, the most expensive option is to defeat targets with a multi-mission missile system. BAE took out the Bradley’s TOW missile and replaced it with a launcher that can use 4-5 missile sets including Stingers and Longbows.
Bazaz noted “we’ve really gotten some great feedback form the customer” through senior leaders in the Army. This includes systems they would want on the Bradley SHORAD, asking how long the RF and radar systems reach, and several space and missile defense officials who recommended additional missiles options they might integrate to the vehicle.
Bazaz said their demonstrator uses a Bradley A3 chassis and a standard turret. New systems are added to the turret but they use the existing Bradley fire control system. The system is designed to have a crew of four: commander, standard gunner, driver, and SHORAD operator.
Bazaz said whereas they brought a concept vehicle to AUSA, it would take them about 12-18 months to make it operational and ready for user evaluations. He noted this is mainly an integration job bringing mature subsystems together.
“For us it was an opportunity to show what the art of the practical could be,” Adam Zarfoss, vice president and general manager for U.S. combat vehicles, told Defense Daily.
“I say practical, not possible. We wanted the practical for the Army in the near term. Every system that’s on there is [technology readiness level] eight or nine. It’s ready to go. A couple of those systems are already fielded.”
“We wanted to get the Army thinking about what they might do, should they decide to do something on a platform within the ABCT. Within the ABCT, we think Bradley – potentially long-term AMPV – could be good carriers for those types of technologies that can provide short-range air defense,” Zarfoss added.
BAE said there is no technology risk in this design and they can begin to employ it once the Army issues a clear set of requirements.
This display vehicle does not feature a laser weapon option but the company said they are also maturing that platform and can bring it as an effector, depending on Army requirements and provider options.
BAE did not demonstrate at the Army’s White Sands “missile rodeo” mainly because it could not get missiles form the Army in time to participate, Zarfoss said.
“We’re going to see where the Army wants to go before we actually to the next step. There are pieces of it they may want us to demonstrate and other pieces that are not applicable.”