WASHINGTON — Raytheon has taken its Stinger missiles and mounted them on a Stryker, turning the combat vehicle into a short-range air defense system, which successfully took out an unmanned aircraft system target on the first try, according to the company’s director of growth programs for Stinger.
Two weeks ago at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the government gave Raytheon three missiles to fire and told the company to fire until it hit a target, Dave Buckley told Defense News in an Oct. 6 interview. “So we hit the first one and that was that.”
The test came on the heels of another SHORAD demonstration also held at White Sands where four other vendors brought SHORAD offerings on their own dime to show the Army what is available now for interim solutions to fill a capability gap identified in Europe to be able to defend against air threats from aircraft to UAS.
The maneuver force does not have SHORAD capability now because the Army was dealing with very different kinds of threats during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as air threats are proliferating, particularly in the form of small UAS, a mobile SHORAD system is seen as a capability that needs to be fielded urgently.
The Army has already begun to deploy to Europe Avenger air defense units that are only resident in the Army National Guard, but is looking for both an interim and long-term solution for a mobile SHORAD capability.
Raytheon approached the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) with a solution, taking what is already in the Army inventory and marrying up capabilities, according to Buckley.
It was suggested, he said, that perhaps a shoulder-fired Stinger could be put in the back of a Stryker and then a soldier could come out and fire the missile at a target. But, Buckley said, Raytheon acknowledged the limitations of the human eye when going up against smaller targets like UAS that are cropping up in both Russian hybrid warfare and used by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Therefore, the company decided to take the air-to-air launcher used on AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and mount it to the Stryker’s Common Remote Weapon Station (CROWS), which has a site that can detect smaller air threats much farther out. And by putting the Stingers outside of the vehicle, it allows the soldiers to stay inside where they are not exposed to ground fire, Buckley explained.
AMRDEC liked the idea of putting Stinger on Stryker and asked Raytheon to produce the solution in 95 days as well as fund the initiative, he added.
“We cobbled together some money, threw together some very, very talented engineers and so we did something really out of the ordinary in that we were able to pull it off in 95 days,” Buckley said.
Raytheon spent those 95 days working on a mechanical interface to bolt the launcher onto CROWS and then programmed the mission computer inside the Stryker so soldiers inside could use the gun. The company worked through, “how do you get a signal from outside from the radar and make that all make sense and appear on the screen so the soldier can [fire],” Buckley said.
“We worked weekends, long hours, and we did all that and we went to White Sands to prove that what we said we did, we actually could do,” he said.
And since Raytheon successfully demonstrated the capability, the Army is now considering how to potentially field it to Europe within the next two years, Buckley said.
The company is expecting a decision on the way forward sometime early next January or February, following the service’s review of its five-year budget plan.
If approved, Raytheon will have 15 months to produce 24 units initially that would go first to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker-based unit permanently stationed in Germany.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.