The threat of enemy aircraft, drones is forcing the Army to field a solution fast.
The U.S. Army has taken note of the explosion of cheap, unmanned drones on the modern battlefield and is working to field a variant of the Stryker armored vehicle to shoot them down. The new variant will go to brigade combat teams fielding the Stryker vehicle, including an armored cavalry regiment in Europe.
The Stryker interim armored vehicle (IAV) is an eight wheeled armored fighting vehicle that carries up to nine infantrymen into battle. The Stryker is equipped with a .50 caliber machine gun, TOW anti-tank missiles, or a 105-millimeter gun system. At 18 tons the Stryker is on the lighter side of the Army’s combat vehicle inventory, capable of being sent anywhere in the world on short notice.
Stryker Dragoon with 30-millimeter cannon.
Recently, in response to Russian military aggression in Europe the U.S. Army began upgrading the firepower of Strykers with the Germany-based Second Armored Cavalry Regiment. The armored cav’s Strykers are being fiftted with an unmanned turret equipped with a 30-millimeter autocannons to destroy Russian light armored vehicles. Now, the Army is looking to field a new variant designed to engage aircraft, helicopters, and drones.
Thanks to U.S. air power, the U.S. Army has traditionally given short shrift to air defense. The ability of the U.S. Force to dominate the skies means Army hasn’t been attacked by an enemy air power since April 15th, 1953. However, as the prospect of conflict with Russia increases ever so slightly so does the possibility that Russian air power could be used against frontline U.S. troops.
A Stinger missile launching from an Avenger, an earlier short-range air defense missile system.
The new wave in weaponized drones is adding a new dimension to the air power problem. Drones, whether suicide drones packing an explosive charge or designed drop hand grenades on enemy troops are quickly becoming a norm on the battlefield. In eastern Ukraine, a rash of attacks on Ukrainian Army ammunition dumps, including one that killed two guards and destroyed a billion dollars’ worth of ammunition, is believed to have been at least partially the work of Russian military forces. In January 2018, Syrian rebels launched a coordinated drone attack against Russian air and naval bases in Syria.
Drones, which fly low and make a beeline for enemy positions, must be fought on the frontline. That means whatever the Army proposes to defend from them must also be on the front. As Warrior Maven points out, an anti-drone system on the Stryker using Hellfire anti-tank or Stinger anti-aircraft missiles is one option. Both have their advantages: Hellfire has a longer range and could also be used to destroy enemy tanks, while Stinger would also be useful against enemy aircraft such as the SU-25SM3 Frogfoot close air support jet. General Dynamics' concept for a Stryker-equipped SHORAD vehicle, at top, has both Hellfire and Sidewinder missiles.
According to Warrior Maven, the U.S. Army is looking at Hellfire, Stinger, various light gun systems, and the 30-millimeter cannon already mounted on Strykers to fulfill the Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) role. The Army plans to test its first Stryker SHORAD (short range air defense) system in 2019, with a planned purchase of up to 144 vehicles.