Written by Major I. Kustov; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2021 #1, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
The US Army plans to significantly increase the air defence units’ capabilities by 2028 to combat cruise missiles, tactical missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as artillery shells and mines.
In order to comprehensively address the mission, measures are begin taken to modernise the Patriot PAC-3 long-range anti-aircraft missile system (SAM), improve military air defence systems, and implement the “Integrated Ground Force/Air Defence” programme.
The Patriot PAC-3 air defence system will remain the main means of intercepting and destroying cruise and tactical missiles until the 2040s. It consists of four M901 launchers with anti-aircraft guided missiles (SAM) of the Patriot PAC-2 type with four on each, two launchers M902 with 16 anti-missiles PAC-3 on each, AN/MPQ-65 radar station and AN/MSQ-132 command post.
By 2025, it is planned to complete the deployment of all the PAC-3 MSE anti-aircraft missiles with an extended range of operational and tactical missiles interception. For the use of these missiles, the control hardware and software are being upgraded to version PDB-8.1. This control hardware and software is designed to integrate with other air defence assets and, in the long term, with the Tactical Anti-Missile Complex (TAMC) of THAAD.
The PAC-3 will be launched from the new M903 version of launchers, each designed for 12 such anti-missiles. However, the Army leadership is considering the possibility of including the SkyCeptor anti-aircraft guide missile as part of the Patriot PAC-3 SAM. It is proposed to be based of the American-Israeli anti-missile system David’s Sling Stunner, designed primarily to combat unguided missiles.
The LTAMDS all-array radar with an active phased antenna array, whose receiving and transmitting elements are based on gallium nitride, is being developed to enhance the cruise missile detection capabilities of the PAC-3 Patriot system. Six prototypes will be delivered to the troops in 2022, and in 2024 they will be put into mass production, and by 2031 they should completely replace the old AN/MPQ-65.
In order to increase the air defence capability of the army, existing SAMs are being upgraded and new firing (IFPC programme) and reconnaissance-information assets are being developed.
The modernisation of the Avenger SAM, a key military air defence capability, is nearing completion. All combat vehicles in the army are to be fitted with interfacing equipment, which, upon external target designation, is to automatically rotate the firing unit in the firing direction.
In addition, it is planned to incorporate the FIM-92K modification of the Stinger SAM system. The use of a non-contact detonator will improve the missile’s anti-UAV and anti-missile capabilities. In addition, the missile’s lifespan is expected to be extended by 10 years, with a planned upgrade of the fire control system by 2023.
The Blade, a self-propelled anti-aircraft launcher (AAL) designed to counter different types of UAVs, is currently under development, and the use of programmable detonator projectiles is being considered. The SAM would include a multifunctional fire control station.
The multi-purpose mobile launchers MML is being developed to counter aircraft, helicopters, anti-missiles, UAVs and rockets.
It is planned to carry existing and developed guided missiles of various types: Sidewinder Block 2 aviation missile, the Stinger SAM, the Hellfire anti-tank missile, the Tamir missile, and the future MHTK (Miniature Hit-to-Kill) direct-attack missile. R&D is expected to be completed in 2021.
The MHTK anti-missile has low mass characteristics and low cost. It is equipped with a semi-active radar homing head. The maximum number of missiles for the MML launcher will be up to 60, four in a standard container.
In the future, the MML launcher could be equipped with a cost-effective, project SAM designed to engage cruise missiles. Flight tests are scheduled to begin in 2021 and serial production in 2025.
In addition, the IM-SHORAD anti-aircraft missile and gun system is being developed to protect troops on the march or in position against air strikes by aircraft, helicopters and UAVs, as well as artillery fire. Unlike the MML launchers, the advanced SAM will be capable of firing both on the move and immediately after stopping.
The system is mounted on the Stryker ACV and includes two Hellfire anti-tank missile launchers, a module with four Stinger SAMs and a 30 mm automatic cannon. The new weapon is expected to be operational in 2021 and will be available to the army’s air defence forces in the next few years. The new air defence weapon is expected to enter service in 2021.
In order to increase combat effectiveness in countering missiles, drones and artillery munitions, short-range SAMs are to be supplemented with laser weapons systems (LWSs). In 2022, it is planned to develop the M-MHEL LWS on the basis of the Stryker ACV, and in 2023 to start its pilot operation. A more powerful HEL-TVD firing system will be developed in 2025-2027 to combat extended-range anti-missiles.
The AN/MPQ-64A3 Sentinel radar will be the most widely deployed ground-based reconnaissance and information system for military air defence. It is intended to operate in difficult jamming conditions.
In contrast to the previous A2 version, the A3 version has adjusted the algorithms of the signal processor to speed up data processing.
In 2024, the A4 variant, which will provide targeting instructions from the radar directly to the firing units, is scheduled to be completed.
The fire and reconnaissance/information assets of air defence in the theater are to be integrated into the IF-C fire control networks (Integrated Air Defence/Interdiction Programme).
The core elements of the future networks will be unified command and control of the IBX that collect, automatically process and summarise data from surveillance and reconnaissance assets, form a unified picture of the aerial situation on the basis of this information and display it on an electronic terrain map. Its equipment will be housed in a container mounted on a tactical off-road vehicle.
The ability to combine several of these vehicles will make it possible to form the control of air defence/air defence units and formations at different levels (division, brigade, land force air defence zone commander). According to western military media reports, some $6 billion has already been spent on the development and construction of the IBX, and it is expected to be operational in 2022.
The universal interfacing equipment is now in place to enable rapid, automatic recognition and configuration for joint air defence operations (plug and fight technology). By 2022, elements of the Patriot SAM system (launchers, AN/MPQ-65 radar) and Sentinel AN/MPQ-64A3 station are scheduled to be integrated, and in 2025-2028 the IML launchers, IM-SHORAD and THADD complexes, and LTAMDS radar will be integrated.
Thus, the US Army intends to implement the formation of an echeloned air defence by 2028 to combat air targets of various types. Its creation is planned on the basis of unified fire control networks with the possibility of multiple target firing.