Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Army is again training its men to effectively use the legendary FIM-92 Stinger, the Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS) that gained fame as the unrivaled destroyer of Soviet aircraft during the Soviet-Afghan War from 1979 to 1989.
This time, however, Army combat infantry are being trained to use their Stingers to shoot down airplanes, helicopters and drones operated by the Russian Ground Forces in the event of an European war breaking out.
The Army’s days of fighting ill-equipped but agile terrorists are over. Replacing guerilla war will be a more lethal conventional war in Europe that will likely be triggered by a Russian invasion of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
And in a conventional war, the fight for air superiority and supremacy will be vital to victory on the ground. The Army’s renewed focus on the next great-power war in Europe has seen it devote more attention to a neglected warfighting doctrine: short-range air defense or SHORAD.
In January 2018, the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) for the first time in 15 years started training with Stingers, which are now also used to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Individual U.S. troops are being trained to use individual Stingers while Army SHORAD units such as the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern German use the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger Air Defense System.
Mounted on a specially modified Humvee, an Avenger can carry from four to eight Stingers mounted on pods connected to a gyro-stabilized turret. It provides mobile, short-range air defense protection for ground units against cruise missiles, UAVs, low-flying fixed-wing aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-24 and attack helicopters such as the Mil Mi-24 gunship.
The 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment consists of five Stinger-equipped batteries. The recent activation of this unit in USAREUR returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” said Col Shank at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”
Currently taking place in Germany is Combined Resolve XI, a biannual U.S.-led exercise aimed at making U. S. forces more lethal while improving the ability of NATO militaries to fight together.
The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from Jan. 13 to 25, 2019, at the Grafenwoehr training area,.
Army Air Defense Artillery units were embedded in Army divisions for a long time. The Army, however, began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.
In 2016, the Army found it had an air-defense-capability gap since the Air Force could no longer guarantee air superiority over an European battlefield in the face of advanced Russian air-defense missile systems such as the S-400 Triumf.
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