Canada, not too long ago, was in the process of updating it’s Air Defence Anti-Tank (ADATS) systems (1). The update would place the modernized SHORAD (SHOrt Range Air Defence) ADATS turret on a LAV III chassis, expand the weapons available, and modernize the radar and electronic systems. This upgrade was known as the Multi Mission Effects Vehicle (MMEV). The goal was a flexible system that could engage air targets at ranges up to 20 km, and ground targets at up to 8 km. ADATS missiles would be carried, but other options included IRIS-T, CRV-7 (in laser-guided precision attack variant), and a Protector RWS. The inclusion of IRIS-T suggests that inclusion of a ground-fired variant of the AIM-9 family could also be carried. An impressive system, but one that died on the budgetary cutting table in . With no ADATS/MMEV systems in use, the Canadian Army was left without a SHORAD capability to protect troops in the field.
Canadian Defence Review
The Canadian Defence Review seeks to address the lack of capability in Air Defence for the Army.
“Acquire ground-based air defence systems and associated munitions capable of protecting all land-based force elements from enemy airborne weapons.” (2)
Strangely, MMEV was not mentioned. As a LAV III based system it would seem to be a natural fit for the Canadian Forces. Most concerns raised about MMEV were not an it’s air defence capability, but on the secondary missions the system was expected to carry out. MMEV could be brought back into consideration easily, if we limit those secondary mission concerns. Yes, it has the capability, but there is no reason that it has to carry out those missions. Leave MMEV as an air defence system that can be configured, if circumstances warrant, for other roles.
US Army SHORAD
The US Army has also realized that a shortfall in SHORAD capability exists in their maneuver forces. Boeing has teamed with General Dynamics Land Systems to offer an updated Avenger turret on an modified Stryker vehicle (3). The system is somewhat less capable than envisioned for MMEV, lacking much of the sensor capability conferred by the ADATS turret/radar. That shouldn’t be taken to mean that the system is not well suited to the desired role, more precisely it has a narrower design that eschews much of the secondary considerations that Canada had been looking at.
Combined Arms for Allied Armies?
With Canada and the US Army both looking at similar needs, and perhaps at similar solutions to fulfill those needs an opportunity arises. Both countries may see benefits in a form of joint acquisition or development. This would be highly desirable, offering interoperability and cost savings. A more interesting possibility arise though, both nations acquiring both systems. For the US Army there is no real block to acquiring or operating the MMEV. The basic technology is a version of the sensor package used on the AH-64 Apache helicopter. The radar would be new, and perhaps the US Army would prefer to integrate a different radar. That isn’t a critical issue.
For Canada, acquiring the Boeing/GDLS Avenger-based system isn’t a hard sell at all. The system is bound to be somewhat less costly than the MMEV.
So, why operate both systems? MMEV has the complete sensor package to allow the Stryker Avenger to make best use of it’s weapons. An AD platoon operating both types might be comprised of one MMEV and 3-5 Stryker Avengers. The MMEV radar can reach out much further than the SHORAD capability of the Stryker Avenger which would provide greater defence in depth for the maneuver units being protected. MMEV would “see” the targets and Avengers would kill them. The AD umbrella would be stronger than either nation has planned.
Canada doesn’t often get the opportunity to cooperate with our allies so closely on combined needs, in fact the original ADATS system was one such case where we tried. We now have a second chance to interest, possibly, the US Army in an improved version.