Air Defense: January 14, 2005


U.S. Army Air Defense troops have been largely unemployed for the past sixty years. The air force has dominated the air, and U.S. ground units have rarely been threatened with attack from the air. This has put the air defense people at an increasing disadvantage when it comes to getting money for new weapons and equipment. Increasingly, the army air defense community has been having success in expanding their mandate to include all airborne threats. This means missiles, rockets and even shells. The army is asking industry to present any ideas they might have to provide reliable, affordable and practical weapons for this more expansive form of air defense. This is more than just budget politics. Potential enemies are well aware of the U.S. Air Forces ability to sweep the skies of hostile aircraft. So many nations are investing in ballistic and cruise missiles, knowing that these weapons have a better chance of hitting American ground troops than do warplanes. There are also improvements in artillery and mortar ammunition. Artillery shells now have extra long range capabilities (via a rocket motor in the back of the shell). Mortar shells and rockets can be equipped with GPS guidance. 

The new research efforts have actually been going on for a while. The U.S. Army has, after over a decade of effort, made its Patriot anti-aircraft missiles a reliable anti-ballistic missile system. Working with Israeli scientists, a laser based anti-rocket and artillery/mortar shell system has been developed. This system (THEL) is a few years away from being combat ready. But using the Patriot and THEL technology, its possible to develop smaller and cheaper air defense systems. This all this stuff can be gotten to work, U.S. Army Air Defense troops will have plenty of work in the future. 


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