U.S. Army modernization officials have fielded the first Mobile Short Range Air Defense, or M-SHORAD, Stryker vehicles in Europe as part of a larger effort to beef up service's ability to defend its forces against enemy drones and other aerial threats.
Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in Germany recently received four M-SHORAD Stryker A1 vehicles, which are equipped with weapons such as rockets and missiles along with special sensors that help it track and destroy incoming enemy aircraft, according to a news release from Army Futures Command last week.
The Army will field 144 systems to four air and missile defense battalions beginning this year, according to the release.
In October, the Army awarded a $1.2 billion contract to General Dynamics Land Systems for Stryker combat vehicles equipped with Raytheon Stinger missiles for the M-SHORAD effort.
Fielding the new systems to the 5-4 ADA is "truly a testament to our Army's commitment to increase air and missile defense capability and capacity to the joint force, and especially here in Europe," Brig. Gen. Gregory J. Brady, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, said in the release.
The 5-4 ADA, which is a subordinate unit under the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, has played a major role in testing M-SHORAD system prototypes. In 2020, 18 Air and Missile Defense crewmembers from the unit were selected to undergo a six-month initial operational assessment with the prototype systems at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, according to the release.
Sgt. Andrew Veres, a crewmember with 5-4 ADA, said working with the new technology on the M-SHORADs is unlike anything he has operated in his career.
"Everything in these systems is an improvement -- the survivability, mobility, dependability, off road ability -- it gives us the ability to stay in the fight longer," Veres said in the release.
The Army is also developing M-SHORAD Strykers that will be equipped with a mix of directed energy, or laser, weapons and improved missiles to defend units from enemy rockets, artillery and mortars, as well as enemy aircraft.
The Army selected Northrop and Raytheon in July 2019 to develop competing prototypes of 50-kilowatt laser-equipped Strykers as part of a $203 million deal that includes Kord Technologies as the prime contractor. Army program officials are now supporting both companies as they assemble components of the laser-equipped Strykers at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
This spring, the service will hold a shoot-off event at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to select a design that will be manufactured to equip the Army with an initial operating capability of four Stryker Directed Energy-Mobile Short-Range Air Defense (DE-M-SHORAD) systems by fiscal 2022.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.