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Warfighters Gain Missile Defense Capability

July 2007
By Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) will integrate sensors and weapons platforms such as this Patriot missile battery into a single battalion-level network.
Command and control tool weaves sensors, weapons into an integrated network.

The U.S. Army is developing a network-centric system to connect and manage its air defense systems. The capability will provide commanders with a dynamic, real-time picture of the battlespace through shared data feeding into the network. Dynamic software will permit warfighters to establish defenses quickly by selecting available weapons batteries and sensors across a theater of operations and linking them into a combat mission.

The Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) is an initiative to connect the various components of the Army’s air and missile defense systems. It will use a common command post developed for the Patriot and surface-launched advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (SLAMRAAM) systems, and it will be able to serve as a joint land attack cruise missile defense elevated netted sensor (JLENS) command node. According to IBCS program manager Col. Lloyd McDaniels, USA, Program Executive Office, Missiles and Space, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, the effort plans to integrate Patriot and SLAMRAAM batteries and Sentinel and JLENS radars into a single fire control network by 2011.

The IBCS will include plug-and-fight interface modification kits to connect the network’s various platforms such as interceptor missiles and radars. These systems and their sensors are linked to the IBCS to provide real-time information flow across a shared network environment.

The IBCS program is implementing a key network-centric method—applying existing capabilities such as the system-of-systems common operating environment (SOSCOE). This is the main software backbone used in the system architecture to provide capabilities for conducting engagement and force operations. The colonel explains that the IBCS is a transformational system because it offers a network-centric and open architecture environment that will allow warfighters to access data or to control directly any platform connected to the network. The open architecture also will facilitate the IBCS’ communications with other command and control and missile defense networks. He adds that one goal of the IBCS is to enable all of the other services’ air defense systems, such as the U.S. Navy’s Aegis system, to link into the network through the open software architecture.

The IBCS is designed to operate in the Army’s composite air and missile defense units at the platoon, battery and battalion levels. The system will permit battery and brigade commanders to access various sensors and weapons platforms on the network to meet immediate battlefield needs. Col. McDaniels explains that this operational flexibility is one of the objectives of the IBCS. “If [the warfighters] need Patriot to do something, they can do it from the battalion level. If they need a Sentinel to do something, they can do it. If they need a SLAMRAAM to take some action, they can do it. In all of our operations, we can delegate that responsibility down to the battery or platoon level—whatever the conditions require,” he says.

The system’s open software architecture will manage information flow to warfighters to prevent user overload. The program is developing a common warfighter machine interface to provide a shared environment for the entire air defense force in its command and control structures. Col. McDaniels notes that this common environment does not currently exist for Army air and missile defense systems. The program also is creating an integrated defense designer that will allow all command echelons to design integrated defenses in real time. “We’re providing real-time tools for soldiers to design defenses in very short time periods within the parameters of the capabilities of the systems that they have. We can tailor the force appropriately and move out,” he shares.

The IBCS project personnel have conducted extensive studies over the past year and a half on communications capabilities necessary for both system requirements and Army air defense needs. Col. McDaniels says that a key acquisition tenet was to integrate existing systems or those nearing deployment to keep costs down and maintain interoperability with the rest of the Army. In addition, the program office is exploring the use of components from the Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) system, specifically the C-band radio and antenna, for use in the IBCS.

The IBCS also will allow commanders to view their weapons coverage arcs as they are creating defenses. The colonel notes that both the air defense and signal communities use a variety of systems to determine line of sight for communications links and relays. However, these applications are often stovepiped, stand-alone capabilities. The integrated defense designer tool will permit warfighters to assess a number of variables when integrating a defense network. For example, an integrated defense network must accommodate missile battery radar systems operating in different frequencies, their locations, the types of targets they will engage and all of the other parameters necessary to optimize a defense. “When you have a mission, you can set up your defense appropriately and optimize the tools that you’ve been given for the entire composite battalion,” the colonel explains.

Regarding the integration of existing software, Col. McDaniels notes that the program has tried to follow the direction the Army is moving in through efforts such as SOSCOE, future command posts and other technologies, including Future Combat Systems. He explains that he must provide a capability in four years and adds that delays can be costly. To fit into the IBCS, technologies and programs must exist through 2020 and beyond.

The colonel says that the program’s request for proposal to the contractor community specifies that bidders develop a software open architecture environment to provide the system. He adds that the contractors will be evaluated on how well they design the software. The IBCS is scheduled to achieve initial operational capability in the 2011 fiscal year with an additional increment planned for 2017.

The major challenge facing the IBCS is integrating legacy systems, some of which date back to the 1960s, and new equipment that has not yet been through a critical design review. “We have a whole range of technology disparities that we have to integrate,” the colonel says.

Another issue is that the U.S. Defense Department and the Army have not had to develop system-of-systems capabilities in the past. “Our acquisition systems, our financial systems, our fielding systems—all of our ‘-ilities’ that support getting this stuff out there—are not necessarily set up and optimized for that capability. So we often have to look at how we can tailor our standard processes to support a system-of-systems process,” Col. McDaniels maintains.

The colonel notes that Army air defense resources had a degree of interoperability for many years before interoperability became a term. He shares that in the early years of his career, he operated Nike Hercules and Hawk missile systems. Both of those systems tied into NATO headquarters for common command and control because of the alliance’s need to coordinate operations for a potential confrontation with the Warsaw Pact.

But during the past 27 years, technological threats have become more sophisticated than those anticipated in traditional Cold War scenarios. Even developing nations now can acquire sophisticated technologies such as short-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Col. McDaniels states that in operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraqi forces fired short-range ballistic missiles at coalition forces in Kuwait. He explains that beyond the need for command and control for coalition and joint forces, there is a requirement to share air pictures to manage combat engagements dynamically. This capability also will provide more comprehensive protection to deployed U.S. and coalition troops.

Col. McDaniels notes that the U.S. Army has an advanced capability with its Patriot missile batteries, which was demonstrated during operation Iraqi Freedom when they intercepted incoming Iraqi missiles (SIGNAL Magazine, June 2003). However, gaps exist in defending against threats such as low-flying cruise missiles. The IBCS will attempt to address this deficiency through the JLENS system, which is specifically designed to detect low-flying threats.

Although the IBCS program’s goal is to develop a command and control system to manage air defense against ballistic and cruise missiles, it relies on existing technologies and infrastructure. The colonel observes that designing a command and control system from the ground up is less challenging than integrating existing systems. “It’s one thing if you start with a blank sheet of paper and build up. From a technical standpoint, it’s a lot less challenging. But if you’re trying to take legacy systems and tie them together to interoperate in a different way than they were intended, it’s a much more challenging technical task,” he says.

Web Resource
U.S. Army Program Executive Office, Missiles and Space: