PHOTOS: The US Army’s new Strykers blasted drones out of the sky with missiles during first live fire in Europe

Crews from Alpha Battery, 5-4 ADAR perform digital rehearsals with the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system in preparation for the first live-fire of M-SHORAD at the tactical unit level and the first-ever live-fire of the system in Europe on Oct. 7, 2021
Crews from Alpha Battery, 5-4 ADAR perform digital rehearsals with the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system in preparation for the first live-fire of M-SHORAD at the tactical unit level and the first-ever live-fire of the system in Europe on Oct. 7, 2021.

  • The first US Army unit to receive the service’s new short-range air defense system put it to the test last week.
  • Soldiers in Germany fired missiles from an M-SHORAD Stryker for the first time in Europe, blasting drones.
  • The M-SHORAD came about amid concerns about Russian unmanned assets and other aerial threats.

US soldiers fired off missiles from the Army’s new M-SHORAD Strykers last week, blasting drones out of the sky as they became the first to fire the weapon system in Europe, the Army announced recently.

Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, which is part of the 10th Army Air & Missile Defense Command, knocked out aerial drones with Stinger missiles fired from the Army’s new Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) Strykers while hammering ground targets with the 7.62mm machine gun at Putlos Bundeswehr range in Germany, the Army said in a statement.

A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021
A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021.

A Stryker is an 8-wheeled armored infantry vehicle. In 2018, the Army made the decision to arm some of these vehicles with sensors and missiles for an air defense role, specifically to defend maneuvering forces from unmanned assets, fixed-wing aircraft, and other aerial threats. The Army decision followed warnings about Russian drone use in Ukraine.

A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021
A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021.

Soldiers from the 5-4 ADAR were the first to get their hands on the M-SHORAD Strykers when they tested a prototype system at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in November 2020. The testing wrapped up in February the following year.

A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021
A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021.

The Army began fielding the M-SHORAD Strykers in April of this year, delivering four units to the 5-4 ADAR operating out of Ansbach, Germany.

A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021
A Stinger missile launches from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021.

M-SHORAD is a replacement for the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger, which is a short-range air defense system that was mounted on a Humvee. Comparatively, the M-SHORAD Strykers are better armored and better armed for high-end combat.

M-SHORAD gunner Spc. Lilly Allen said in an Army statement that she thinks the “Stryker platform overall is one of the best things we could have added to ADA. The maneuverability, the capabilities, everything about it definitely gives our branch an upper hand.”

A drone target breaks apart over after a successful intercept by a Stinger missile fired from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021
A drone target breaks apart over after a successful intercept by a Stinger missile fired from the new Maneuver Short Range Air Defense system on Oct. 7, 2021.

“With SHORAD in general, our job is to protect the maneuver force, and being on the Stryker platform gives us that key capability to move with them wherever they go and protect from enemy rotary and fixed-wing attack,” Capt. Connor Knapp, the commander of Alpha Battery, said.

Potentially highlighting concerns about threats posed by Russia, the next major exercise in which the M-SHORAD Strykers will participate is Saber Strike 22 in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. The large multinational training is focused on responding to regional emergencies, border security challengers, and other threats.

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The Army is getting new air-defense weapons to deal with deadlier threats from above

Army Stryker Mobile Short Range Air Defense M-Shorad
Mobile Short Range Air Defense system-equipped Strykers with the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

  • The US Army delivered the first four operational Stryker vehicles equipped with the Mobile Short Range Air Defense system.
  • The new Strykers are part of an effort to rebuild the Army’s air-defense capabilities after decades of fighting enemies with little to no airpower.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In an effort to update and upgrade its air defense systems, the US Army delivered the first four operational Stryker anti-aircraft vehicles.

The 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment (5-4 ADA), under the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, is the first battalion in the Army to test, receive, and field the Mobile Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) system. The 5-4 ADA is based at Shipton Kaserne in Ansbach, Germany.

The M-SHORAD is placed on the lightly armored 8×8 Stryker vehicles. These variants are fitted with an autocannon and a missile launcher capable of firing Hellfire or Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

They will replace the 1980s-vintage Avengers, a variant of the 4×4 Humvee that can only fire Stingers. The Avenger was less mobile and much more vulnerable.

At one point, the Army had 26 battalions of Avengers. But during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy had little to no airpower, the military neglected its air-defense capabilities.

By 2017, active-duty units were down to just two battalions, with National Guard units having seven.

The skies are once again dangerous

Army Stryker Mobile Short Range Air Defense M-Shorad
A Mobile Short Range Air Defense system-equipped Stryker.

But things began to change.

In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea it used drones to great effect. Furthermore, the Syrian civil war witnessed the Turkish military forces using drones. Russian and Turkish drones were also used during the war in Libya.

The threat of drone attacks on heavy troop concentrations was brought to the forefront last year during the war over Nagorno-Karabakh. In that conflict, Azeri military forces used Turkish and Israeli drones to devastating effects on heavy Armenian armored formations.

Iran has also developed a large drone fleet. Crucially, it is beginning to show up with its proxy forces in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen where Houthi rebels have launched drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and airbases.

China is likewise developing its drone fleet.

The Army realizes the need for upgraded air-defence systems …

Army Stryker Mobile Short Range Air Defense M-Shorad
Mobile Short Range Air Defense system-equipped Strykers.

Thus, with near-peer competition heating up, the new threat needed to be addressed.

Therefore, the Army began fielding offers to test upgraded air defense systems in 2017. A year later, it awarded a contract to Leonardo DRS Land Systems.

The Leonardo DRS system was placed on the available Stryker A1 platform. It provides maneuver Brigade Combat Teams with a full “detect-identify-track-defeat” capability. This is a requirement to defeat Unmanned Aerial System (UASs), rotary-wing, and fixed-wing threats.

Additionally, the Stryker armored vehicles are better equipped to keep up with armored vehicles when moving cross-country. Thus, they will provide better protection at increased ranges for maneuvering forces.

Last year, the 5-4 ADA selected 18 Air and Missile Defense crewmembers to conduct a six-month initial operational assessment with the prototype M-SHORAD systems. The assessment took place at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

… and it’s loving it!

Army Stryker Mobile Short Range Air Defense M-Shorad
Air and Missile Defense crew members with 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, work on the M-SHORAD system.

“I developed a passion for this system,” said Spc. Andy Mendoza, a crewmember from the 5-4 ADA in an interview with the Army’s Defense Visual Information Delivery Systems (DVIDS). “We learned how to operate in every position on these, but also how to take care of them. Being one of the gunners selected to be part of that, it was really a huge honor. I’m really proud to be able to bring what I learned back home to the rest of the crew.”

“There’s really no comparison to anything I’ve operated in my career,” said Sgt. Andrew Veres to DVIDS. “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.”

The Army plans to add the M-SHORAD system to four additional Air Defense battalions beginning this year.

“The Army’s air and missile defense force structure is growing and modernizing significantly to meet the threats of peer competitors and our obligation and commitment to providing air and missile defense forces to the joint fight,” General John Murray, the commander of the Army’s Futures Command said.

Given General Murray’s comments, it is no surprise that the first upgraded anti-aircraft vehicles were delivered to a unit in Europe.

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