US to Field IM-SHORAD, Competitor to Russian Pantsir-S1 Air Defence System by 2023

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The United States’ Army will field the Interim Maneuver, Short-range Air-defense (IM-SHORAD) starting 2023, its first direct competitor to the Russian Pantsir-S1 air defence system (ADS).

The (US) Army is investing in the interim maneuver, short-range air-defense platform to provide soldiers with 360-degree protection from unmanned aircraft systems and other low-altitude aerial threats,” US defence secretary, Mark Esper announced at the Association of US Army Event in October 2020 adding, “This system will most likely be integrated into four battalions in Europe in 2023.”

The IM-SHORAD consists of Leonardo DRS’ Mission Equipment Package (MEP) mounted on a General Dynamics Stryker A1 platform to provide soldiers with protection using guns, missiles, rockets and onboard sensors. Earlier General Dynamics had been awarded a $1.2 billion contract to deliver a short-range air defense system.

The need for an IM_SHORAD was identified several years ago by NATO as Russia fielded the Pantsir-S1 to defend its S-300 and S-400 long range missile batteries against short range threats.

However, with no direct competitor in sight, the Pantsir-S1 went on to become a huge commercial success with some 11 countries opting for it. Several of these countries procured the Pantsir-S1 and its variants to protect vital installations and not long range air defence missile systems.

According to Leonardo DRS, the IM_SHORAD  detects, identifies and tracks air threats with on-board sensors providing 360 degree aerial surveillance; Defeats ground and air threats using cannon fire and missiles; Integrates with existing Army networks and interoperable with Sentinel radar ; Defeats smaller air threats (Group 1 and 2 UAS) at closer ranges with direct fire.

The IM_SHORAD’s main weapons are a 30mm cannon besides Hellfire and Stinger missiles. Its stand-out feature is the Multi-Mission Hemispheric Radar (MHR). Based on an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) antenna the MHR provides 360 degree coverage of threats.

The Pantsir and its variants (Pantsir-S1, S2) is intended to defend ground installations against threats such as drones, helicopters, precision missiles, ground-attack aircraft and even tanks and armored vehicles.

The big sales successes of the Pantsir and its variants (Pantsir-S1, S2) includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Syria, Jordan and Algeria among others. In May 2000, the UAE ordered 50 Pantsir-S1 systems, mounted on MAN SX 45 8×8 wheeled vehicles. The order was worth $734m.

Syria procured 50 Pantsyr-S1 systems. Deliveries began in June 2008. Jordan has also placed an order for an undisclosed number of systems. The Pantsyr-S1E systems for the UAE is fitted with a new MRLS fire control radar. MRLS is a phased array radar, with a range of up to 28km. Algeria’s Pantsir-S2 too is believed to come with an advanced AESA radar.

The most notable success of the Pantsir-S1 system came in 2018 when a battery of it repelled a drone swarm that attacked the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria. Since then however, it has come under fire from Turkish armed drones in Libya and from Israeli air-launched missiles in Syria.

Pantsyr-S1 carries 12 57E6 surface-to-air missiles on launchers. The missile has a maximum speed of 1,100m a second. The range is between 1km and 12km. Two 2A72 30mm guns are fitted with 750 rounds of a variety of ammunition such as high-explosive, fragmentation and armour-piercing.

The Pantsyr-S1 fire control system includes a target acquisition radar and dual waveband tracking radar, which operates in the millimetre and centimetre waveband. Detection range is 30km and tracking range is 24km for a 2cm² to 3cm² target. This radar tracks both targets and the surface-to-air missile while in flight.