General Dynamics presents the first IM-SHORAD for close anti-aircraft protection of American forces

In recent years, the American armies have made a specialty of programs launched urgently to make up for a major operational failure. This was the case of the modernization of the M109 Paladin self-propelled guns, the reinforcement combat capabilities of the Stryker armored vehicle, FFG/X frigates, hypersonic missiles and FARA program, to name only the most notable. But one of the most glaring failures of the American forces, and with them of all Western land armed forces, consisted of the absence of close air protection for combat units, with the exception of portable missiles, such as the American Stinger, or the French Mistral. Marked and conditioned by 20 years of low-intensity conflicts, from Kosovo to Afghanistan, via Iraq and Mali, Western armed forces had simply put aside the hypothesis of engagement against an adversary who , he would have an air force. Russia and China, but also Iran and North Korea, led the Americans to reconsider their paradigms.

This is precisely why in 2017, the US Army launched the IM-SHORAD program, for Initial Maneuver Short Range Air Defense, a mobile system to ensure close protection of land forces. The program was entrusted to General Dynamic which mounted on a Stryker A1 armored vehicle an anti-aircraft turret supplied by the Italian Leonardo, and which uses 4 Stingers anti-aircraft missiles, 2 Hellfire anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, a 30 mm cannon, and an M299 grenade/smoke launcher, the whole being controlled by a Sentinel radar and an Electro-optical aiming system. Thus provided, IM-SHORAD can engage enemy aircraft, helicopters and drones within a 5 km bubble surrounding it, and armored vehicles up to 4 km away. The US Army has ordered 144 copies of the IM-SHORAD, the first to be delivered in 2020, the last in 2024. It is the first copy of the IM-SHORAD which was presented in Washington during the AUSA 2019 show.

Pantsir S2 Defense News | CIWS and SHORAD | Construction of armored vehicles
The Pantsir S2 and TOR M2 systems provided close protection of the Khmeimim air base where Russian aircraft are stationed against attacks by drones and rockets

If the need is indeed urgent for the US Army, IM-SHORAD only constitutes an interim solution until new, more efficient systems are available. Indeed, the American armored vehicle is far from approaching the level of protection offered by the Russian SHORAD systems, such as the old Tunguska, the TOR M2 system or the Pantsir S2. Thus, the 2K22 Tunguska M1, an evolved version of an armored vehicle which entered service in 1984, carries 8 9M311-M1 missiles with a range of 10 km, with beam guidance controlled by the 3D pulse Doppler radar 1RL144M, and 2 auto 30 mm cannons, and is mounted on a tracked chassis ensuring the armored vehicle has great all-terrain capability. The TOR M2, latest version of the TOR system, does not have a cannon, but carries 16 9M338 missiles with a range of 16 km, guided by a radar set Scrum Half (NATO name), and, again, mounted on a tracked armored vehicle. The Tor M2 seems to have given great satisfaction to the Russian forces deployed in Syria in the protection of the Khmeimim base against attacks by drones and rockets. Finally, the Pantsir S2 system, already presented, combines two 2 mm cannons with 30 16E57M-E missiles with a range of 6 km (30 km on the SM version), controlled by a couple combining a radar system capable of detecting its targets at 40 km, and an electro-optical system. The Pantsir is not intended to support land forces strictly speaking, but to protect infrastructure against cruise missiles, bombs, shells and rockets, as well as against drones, aircraft and helicopters. However, it remains very mobile, mounted on an 8×8 Kamaz truck.

As we can see, compared to Russian-made close protection systems, IM SHORAD fares poorly. But today it remains the only system of this type in the West, with the exception of South Korean Biho. NATO armies have long neglected this dimension, having the assurance of having air superiority against any adversary. But with the entry into service of systems like the S400 and the upcoming S500 and devices like the Su35 and soon the Su57, and especially with the new drone and guided missile systems, not only does it no longer have the assurance of having this air superiority at all times, but above all, even having it, it is far from ensuring the protection of land forces against strikes from the sky. In fact, for the European armed forces, it is now imperative to have such a system as quickly as possible.

French Roland System German Defense News | CIWS and SHORAD | Construction of armored vehicles
The French and German armies no longer have mobile short-range anti-aircraft systems since the withdrawal of the Roland 2

Unfortunately, no program, neither national nor European, has yet been announced in this regard. Germany had declared that it wanted to take the lead in such a program, but no confirmation or official program has yet come to corroborate this announcement. In a Defense system, the defensive capacity of the whole is determined by its most severe failures. There is no point in developing an MGCS and a FCAS if, at the same time, the land forces have no close protection against swarms of drones and cruise missiles….

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