Air Defense Artillery: Short Range Air Defense

SHORAD (SHOrt Range Air Defense) means low altitude targets , like helicopters, aircraft and drones. In the past guns were used. they ranged from .50 caliber to 100 mm.

World War II was the swan song of the anti-aircraft gun. While radar made aircraft easier to hit, small jets could out fly the big guns unless they were close.

“Service trials demonstrated another problem however: that the problem of ranging and tracking the new high-speed targets was almost impossible. At shorter ranges, the “lead” required (aiming in front of the target because it is moving) is so small that it can be done manually while, at very long ranges, the apparent speed is so slow that simple mechanical slide rules could be used. For the ranges and speeds that the Bofors worked at, neither solution was good enough.”

Computers were developed to aim and fire the guns at jets. However a faster solution was need. Missiles shrank enough that they could be mounted on vehicles and eventually carried by soldiers. Today missiles rule HIMAD (High to Medium Air Defense). Patriot and the next generation SAM’s rule the skies.

But short range is still and issue. Air Defense must be able to follow troops. Patriot can’t be everywhere at once. Cruise missiles ans UAV‘s add to the headache.

Short range Air Defense is both guns and missiles. The guns are used against helicopters and UAV’s. Even then missiles are squeezing out the gun. The 20mm Vulcan is being phased out by the Rolling Airframe Missile as the Navy’s last ditch defense. The C-RAM is the land-based version of the Phalanx Close in Weapons System. It shoots down small rockets and mortars.

For over 20 years, the Stinger ruled the roost of SHORAD. Based off of the earlier Redeye missile, the Stinger was an improvement. Redeye was a tail chasing missile, meaning it locked onto the heat of the plane’s exhaust. Two problems with that: 1. The aircraft has already dropped its bombs on your friends, 2. the Sun or other heat source (like flares) can trick the missile. Stinger was all aspect. That meant any part of the aircraft could be locked onto. Stinger was small enough to be man-portable, yet be mounted on vehicles. The Navy used to keep them on ships as a last resort during the cold war.

The Army employed stingers in the following ways:

  1. 14M soldiers were the MANPADS, stinger teams. Carrying Stinger launchers on foot they would hide in the terrain.StingerMissile
  2. The Linebacker was a variant of the M2 Bradley. Tracked, it kept up with armored units and provided them with air defense. 14R soldiers crewed these vehicles.Bradley Linebacker
  3. The Linebacker was too heavy for Airborne and infantry units so the Avenger system was developed. Two four shot launchers were mounted on a HMMWV. 14S soldiers crewed that system.Avenger System

Along side the missiles used to be a Vulcan cannon, but after Desert Storm, it was withdrawn.

However new threats called for a new missile. Enter SLAMRAMM. . Brad has a nice video up showing the launch of AMRAAM missiles off of a HMMWV. But the launcher is only part of the system.

SLAAMRAAM launcher

SLAAMRAAM launcher

In addition to the launchers, the system used the Sentinel radar and a battery command post.

Complete SLAMRAAM SYSTEM

Complete SLAMRAAM SYSTEM

The Sentinel Radar is optimized for low altitudes. It can distribute data over Army radios. The battery command post can link into Army networks to receive targets and send target data out. E battery 2-43 ADA is currently testing the system for the Army.

Recently, Air Defense has moved to Fort Sill. The HIMARS system is used by Field Artillery. The Army wants a common launcher to ease maintenance and training, so it tested a HIMARS with SLAMRAAM missiles.

HIMARS fires SLAMRAAM

HIMARS fires SLAMRAAM

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4 Responses to “Air Defense Artillery: Short Range Air Defense”

  1. […] Defense History: Project Nike I talked about Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) before. Now let’s look at the high altitude air defense. After WWII the Army found that guns, […]

  2. […] The system has been phased out of U.S. service for some time. Most NATO countries don’t have it anymore, but countries like Japan, UAE and Israel still use it. Today the Army uses the Avenger system. […]

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  4. I just visited this page trough my iphone and the page messed up a bit for me, just to let the admin know. Anyway keep up the good work.

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