WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will wrap up developmental testing of its Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) system by June, paving the way for operational testing in the fall ahead of fielding, according to Col. Chuck Worshim, program manager for cruise missile defense systems with the Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space.
The Army selected a Stryker combat vehicle-based system that included a mission equipment package designed by Leonardo DRS. That mission equipment package includes Raytheon’s Stinger vehicle missile launcher.
The Army has been racing to bring an interim SHORAD capability to fruition since the service identified a capability gap in the European theater in 2016. The service received a directed requirement to build an IM-SHORAD system in February 2018.
The service went through a selection process that included a shoot-off at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, to determine the best collection of vendors to build nine prototypes.
The developmental testing includes just five prototypes, Worshim told Defense News in a recent interview. The vehicles are spread out across different installations to undergo a variety of tests and safety certification procedures.
One prototype is located at White Sands Missile Range undergoing weapons safety testing. Another two are going through automotive and road safety testing as well as some weapon safety testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Another one is located at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, undergoing cyber and electromagnetic spectrum testing.
The fifth prototype remains with lead integrator and Stryker-manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems, where logistics and technical manual validation is ongoing, Worshim said.
The developmental testing will wrap up in June, he added.
Through testing, “we are learning some things, which testing is all about,” he said. “We’re seeing where we will have to have some corrective actions put in place as we move forward into more operational testing.”
While he would not detail the corrective actions, Worshim emphasized they are not improvements, is “nothing that can’t be overcome in a short period of time” and “nothing that is so far out of the box that we have to go back to the drawing board.”
Needing corrective actions, he said, is expected given the accelerated timeline for the program.
The Army expects to receive safety releases, which will allow soldiers to drive and operate the vehicles, he said, adding that soldiers have been involved since the beginning of the process to provide input but have yet to get inside and put the entire system to the test.
The service anticipates beginning operational testing in the fall, likely in September, which will last roughly two months, Worshim said. Should everything go well, additional procurement of the vehicles will move forward, he noted.
If the solution meets requirements, production efforts to build 144 systems — a total of four battalions — will move forward, depending on funding.
While the original plan was to rapidly field the IM-SHORAD systems to Europe in response to the capability gap there, Worshim explained, “there are multiple options of where the vehicles or the capability would be sent. At this time, I know the Army is reassessing where the greatest need for these vehicles are.”
The Army intends to use SHORAD as part of a layered air and missile defense architecture to include Indirect Fire Protection Capability, which defends against rockets, artillery and mortars as well as unmanned aircraft systems and cruise missiles. Other parts of that layer include systems aimed to protect against regional ballistic missile threats like Patriot and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
With recent Iranian attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq, some have pushed to also see a SHORAD capability in that theater.
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 degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.