Courtesy U.S. Army

Army names air-defense vehicle for Medal of Honor recipient

“Sgt. Stout” will refer to a missile-and-gun variant of the service’s M-SHORAD effort.

The Army will name a new air-defense system for a Vietnam War hero amid a broader push for weapons that can ward off drones and other airborne threats.

The name “Sgt. Stout” will apply to the Increment One variant of the Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense System, or M-SHORAD, Army acquisition chief Doug Bush told reporters on Thursday. 

The Army has announced development work on several versions of M-SHORAD, which Bush called “enhancements” of the base platform. In May, the Army announced it was seeking an “Increment Four” version that can be airlifted and integrated onto robotic vehicles. 

The Sgt. Stout is named after Sgt. Mitchell William Stout, the only Army air defense soldier to earn the Medal of Honor. Stout died in Vietnam in 1970 at the age of 20 after using his body to shield other soldiers from an enemy grenade. 

The Sgt. Stout is meant to counter fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and class one through three drones, a category that covers everything from small quadcopters to long-range loitering munitions. It consists of a Stryker vehicle, onto which are attached Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, a 30mm auto-cannon, a machine gun, and a radar system. 

Divisional commanders are responsible for assigning Stout units to their brigade combat teams, putting the system on par with artillery and other key assets controlled at the divisional level. The Sgt. Stout is deployed in battalions of 40 vehicles, manned by 550 soldiers. 

“It allows the division commander the flexibility to place those Sgt. Stout platforms in the most critical place on the battlefield,” said Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano, the Army program executive officer for missiles and space. 

The Army has fielded two Sgt. Stout battalions so far and is working on equipping a third, according to Lozano. The plan is to start equipping a fourth battalion in the third quarter of 2025, finishing by the end of the second quarter of 2026, he added. 

The Army hopes to eventually field 361 systems across four active Army battalions and four Army national guard battalions. Only 162 systems are approved so far, said Lozano, which are meant for the four battalions, as well as to serve as training units and spares. If all 361 are eventually approved, the Army would likely distribute them to units by fiscal year 2031, Lozano said. 

Ukraine supplemental funding bills have been helpful for acquiring Sgt. Stouts, Bush said, as funds for replacing 1980s-era Avenger systems go toward acquiring them.

“This is an example of ‘send old, buy new’,” said Bush. 

The Army had largely divested itself of short-range air defense after the Cold War, but has launched a number of efforts in recent years to revive its capabilities amid the aerial threats seen in the war in Ukraine and in the Middle East. 

Besides the Stout, the Army is also equipping soldiers with more hand-held counter-drone tools, acquiring the drone-centric Mobile-Low, Slow, Small Unmanned Aircraft Integrated Defeat System (M-LIDS), buying Coyote drone interceptors, and investing in directed energy weapons. 

The Army is also exploring the possibility of equipping units with proximity-fused munitions, which the Army-led Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) has identified as useful for countering drones, Bush said. The Army is also potentially interested in APKWS laser-guided rockets, following JCO tests, Bush added. 

“I can see the Army, if it works, procuring those,” Bush said.