“I know the focus of the world right now is on North Korea, and it’s pretty satisfying to know that we have capability that’s in play today, that we have invested in, we have tested in, and it’s working in terms of creating stability in that situation today. So everyone of our territories, everyone of our states, Japan and as soon as THAAD becomes operational – which is pretty close to becoming operational over there [in South Korea] – the population of probably about 500 million people will have a defense and a deterrent on that. But the other side of the world is where we are going to focus on, because the other side of the world has gaps, in capability and capacity on air defense.” – April 24, 2017 during MDAA’s Congressional Roundtable titled “Air Defense for the U.S. Army and Europe”
On the other side of the world in Europe, there is a tremendous gap of capability and capacity of air and missile defense that has not been addressed, invested, tested, deployed and exercised by the United States and NATO in its defense of its army maneuvering forces deployed in Europe.
“Right now, the national training centers have been, over the last 15 years, have never had to work with air defense. So the skills that those people had, these young captains, they just don’t have anymore.” – Major General Glenn Bramhall, Commanding General, 263d Army Air and Missile Defense Command, April 24, 2017
We at MDAA addressed that gap and lack of capacity and capability by holding a Congressional Roundtable at the U.S. Capitol last Monday with presenters MG Glenn Bramhall and Lieutenant General (ret) David Halverson, former Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. (Link to the event and live recording).
Air and Missile Defense for the United States maneuvering forces have been neglected and deliberately taken out of the Army force and structure for over a decade. MG Glenn Bramhall discussed the post-Cold War divestment in the U.S. Army’s maneuvering short-range air defense (SHORAD) capability, “because of the domination of our Air Force [post-Cold War], we didn’t need certain weapon systems. And so SHORAD pretty much took the brunt of a successful Air Force and the lack of a near-peer [adversary]. So, 14,000 soldiers were taken [out of air defense] and turned into infantry or armor.”
Today, Europe finds itself with one NATO Rapid Response Force and three U.S. Army Combat Brigade Teams, and these land-based forces lack a maneuvering defensive capability against UAS (unmanned aerial systems), UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles), cruise missiles, rockets, or mortars.
MG Bramhall highlights the growing aerial threat to these allied forces in Europe, saying, “So along come the Russians in Ukraine…the Ukrainians were not able to defend their airspace. The Russians were using very successful UAS [capabilities] and long-range artillery and they dominated Ukrainian airspace…the bottom line was that the airspace was dominated by somebody else…We have a near-peer. We have the Russians. And the Russians have never, ever gone away, they just decided to take a step back, rebuild force, look at how they do their techniques and procedures, and they came out very strong.” As eluded to by MG Bramhall, Russia has taken advantage of our lack of investment in air defense over the past decade, and today, the Russians maintain an advantage in the skies over Eastern Europe.
There are three major obstacles to addressing the maneuverable air defense gap in Europe. First, the United States needs to have effective command and control for its SHORAD forces in Europe. Second, America need to exercise our SHORAD maneuvering force with Combat Brigade Teams. The third major obstacle is the pace of U.S. acquisition, and, to stay one step ahead of the aerial threat, U.S. forces in Europe require fast-paced development and deployment of air defense capabilities into the European theater.
When addressing these three major obstacles, LTG (ret) Halverson stated, “It’s not always getting the big brain out there to figure this thing out. It’s getting respect for the warrant officer and saying, here’s the problem, give me a solution. They’ll come up with a solution. It might be using stuff that was used 15 to 20 years ago. But there are ways of doing it.”
Click here for a full transcript from the event.