LONDON — The U.S. Army just wrapped up demonstrations of short-range air defense systems at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., while several companies at DSEI, a defense conference in London, featured wares that could help fill what the U.S. and many European countries have called a major capability gap.
As the U.S. Army and its European allies are shifting their focus from Iraq and Afghanistan back to Eastern Europe, where Russia continues its aggressive behavior, SHORAD has become an increasingly hot topic and rebuilding the capability left to atrophy during the wars in the Middle East has drastically accelerated.
Four vendors brought SHORAD solutions to the U.S. Army’s demonstration as the service rapidly tries to put together requirements for immediate and interim solutions to fill the capability gap in Europe.
Defense News broke the news that Israel’s Iron Dome would be demonstrated at the two-week White Sands event, and it is widely known that Boeing and General Dynamics Land Systems teamed up to bring an Avenger on a Stryker as a mobile SHORAD solution.
Defense News has also learned, according to several industry sources, that a South Korean defense company called Hanwha brought its BIHO “Flying Tiger” air defense system to the demonstration.
According to the company’s website, there are two variants of the Flying Tiger. One has twin 30mm guns and another, referred to as a hybrid, combines the guns with a portable surface-to-air guided missile system.
The company could not be reached for comment and was not present at DSEI.
Lockheed Martin also had a presence in the SHORAD demonstration in some capacity, but the company has been tight-lipped about its participation.
At DSEI, Saab displayed a full-up mobile SHORAD solution at its booth.
The solution uses light tactical vehicles with a Giraffe Enhanced Low, Slow and Small (ELSS) X-band gallium nitride radar, which weighs 120 kilograms, making it highly portable, Mats Palsson, Saab’s vice president of marketing and sales for surface radar solutions, told Defense News at DSEI.
The radar is capable of detecting even very small drones and has successfully demonstrated that it knows the difference between those drones and birds, Palsson added.
On the launcher side, Saab integrated its existing RBS 70 next generation missiles and launcher — which includes a thermal camera to guide the missile to the target — onto a gyro-stabilized weapons platform on a vehicle, Fredrik Asbrink, Saab’s director of technical sales support for air defence missile systems, said, adding the missiles are unjammable.
Both the radar and the RBS 70 system are man-portable and can be removed from the top of the vehicle easily and transported elsewhere to a hill or roof, which is handy in an urban environment.
While DSEI was “light” on full-on SHORAD solutions, there was more of an emphasis on effectors that could bring the right lethality to various air threats, particularly drones, according to James Tinsley, an analyst at Avascent.
He noted there were at least a dozen kinetic and nonkinetic options and short- and medium-range systems comparable to Kongsberg’s Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System.
Raytheon discussed at DSEI its development of a proximity fuze for its Stinger missile already used in SHORAD Avenger systems, which allows the Stinger to explode on or near the target to knock it out.
Thales featured Starstreak, a MANPADS air defense system with missiles that can travel beyond Mach 4. Kongsberg had ground-launched versions of advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and AIM-9Xs.
DSEI showed, again, that “it is less about new products and more about adaptations,” Tinsley said. “This is a good approach for rapidly fielding capabilities and reducing investment when [research and development] budgets have been dedicated to other activities, but the solutions are likely to be sub-optimized for the [SHORAD] role.”
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.