WASHINGTON — The first platoon of Stryker-based maneuver SHORAD systems has traveled through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to conduct a live-fire test in Estonia on the Gulf of Finland, part of an Army effort to fill a gap in short-range air defense capability in Europe initially identified in 2016.

The Mobile-SHORAD Stryker A1 combat vehicle with a mission package designed by Leonardo DRS was developed in record time. The service received the requirement to build the system in February 2018. It took just 19 months from the time the service generated the requirement to the delivery of prototypes for testing in the first quarter of 2020.

The Army outfitted a platoon within the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in Europe with four of the first prototypes. The Army is close to fielding the first full battalion set by the end of the year with the addition of production-representative M-SHORAD systems, Brig. Gen. Maurice Barnett, commanding general of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Europe, told Defense News in an interview at the Association of the U.S. Army annual exhibition.

The SHORAD systems are keeping up far better with the maneuver force than the Army’s old Avenger systems, said Barnett, who used to operate Avengers as an air defender himself. The platoon was able to prove that capability through its roughly 2,000-kilometer trek, first to Poland and then through the Baltic States.

The system offers more protection and soldiers are most excited about the “incredible shoot-on-the-move capability that really allows us to stay with the maneuver force and provide necessary air and missile defense protection for those forces,” Barnett said.

With the weapons systems on the Stryker, “it is more lethal,” Barnett added. The mission package on the M-SHORAD vehicle includes Raytheon Technologies’ Stinger vehicle missile launcher.

The training exercise, which culminated with a March live-fire event in Estonia using Stinger missiles, taught soldiers operating the systems how it performs in harsh conditions, and gave soldiers confidence in the system, according to Barnett.

As part of a larger effort to bolster air defense capability in Europe, the Army activated the 52nd Air Defense Artillery Brigade headquarters in Sembach, German, on Oct. 6.

“We’re looking forward to building new connective tissue at the tactical level with our allies and partners and expanding our combined capacity through interoperability,” Col. Bruce A. Bredlow, the 52nd ADA’s first commander, said last week.

The headquarters will tie all of Army air and missile defense forces together and will report directly to the 10th AAMDC, which was upgraded to a one-star command in 2019.

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.

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