HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — While the Army National Guard has retained the service’s only Short-Range Air Defense capability in its Avenger Battalions for years, the Army is now pushing to prioritize SHORAD in the active force.
But with that effort underway to bring an interim SHORAD capability back into the active component, the National Guard has wondered what that would mean for its force.
The Army National Guard has seven Avenger Battalions which are all deployed 365 days a year, particularly to defend the National Capitol Region. That mission is changing now that SHORAD capability is becoming relevant again.
Brig. Gen. Timothy Sheriff, the National Guard’s 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command chief, stressed the need for another battalion “just to keep up with what we have on the plate in the next five years,” during a recent Association of the U.S. Army conference on air and missile defense.
And Brig. Gen. Randy McIntire, who is in charge of the Army’s air-and-missile defense modernization efforts under the new Army Futures Command, said at AUSA’s Global Force Symposium last week, the ANG will get that eighth battalion.
Meanwhile, the Army’s active component will have 10 SHORAD battalions, McIntire said, making the balance between the active and Guard relatively equal.
McIntire acknowledged the intense level of work in which the Guard has been engaged to shore up the SHORAD gap in the Army.
Then-U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges began sounding the alarm to fill the SHORAD gap in Europe in 2016 and the service has quickly found ways to bring the capability back to Europe.
Until it fields an interim maneuver SHORAD capability, the Army is entirely dependent on Guard Avenger battalions and Stinger capabilities in Europe.
The first Guard Avenger battery that deployed to Europe with an Armored Brigade Combat Team in February is from the South Carolina National Guard’s 263rd AAMDC and subsequent units will rotate in on a heel-to-toe basis.
The unit will participate in assessments at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and will also work with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the two permanently forward-stationed Army units in Europe, to develop plans for incorporating SHORAD back into formations, McIntire said.
Wherever possible, McIntire added, SHORAD capability is worked in to Combat Training Center rotations as well.
A massive effort is already underway to restore mothballed Avengers to fill out active units until a new capability is fielded.
Army Materiel Command has been overhauling legacy Avenger systems that were sitting in a field in Letterkenny, Pennsylvania, set to be trashed. The Army plans to overhaul 72 fully functional Avenger sets in order to support U.S. European Command mission requirements.
The Army is ahead of schedule to deliver two Avenger battalion equipping sets to Europe this year in support of the European Deterrence Initiative. And personnel and infrastructure to establish an active component Avenger battalion will fall in next year.
McIntire noted the plan is to ensure SHORAD battalions in both the active and reserve components are the same. The battalions will have both SHORAD capability as well as Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) which is designed to counter rockets, artillery and mortars as well as unmanned aircraft systems and cruise missiles but will be more stationary than the highly-mobile SHORAD.
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.