Air and Missile Defense Prototype System Arrives

September 15, 2010
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Connections
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The U.S. Army received a prototype that will eventually integrate current and future air and missile defense capabilities into one overall command and control (C2) system. The Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS) is the first U.S. Defense Department prototype developed under a competitive prototyping acquisition strategy designed to save time and cut costs by validating each contractor’s approach in the early stages.

Current air and missile defense weapons and sensors are stovepiped systems with their own unique C2 architectures that make it more difficult for commanders to respond to incoming threats. IBCS unifies the C2 structure for all systems integrated into IBCS and will allow warfighters to use any sensor and any weapon to counter a complex array of air and missile defense threats. Systems that will be integrated into IBCS include Patriot, Surface-Launched Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor, Improved Sentinel radar, and possibly the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Medium Extended Air Defense systems.

IBCS is an open-architecture, mission-tailorable system that enables commanders to access tracking data from multiple sensors to gain a single, integrated air picture; acquire, assign, engage and eliminate coming threats; and select the best available weapon to address the threat. In addition, commanders are able to create task forces and teams that can be scaled and readily adapted to rapidly changing situations and that can choose how they fight rather than having the fight dictated by available equipment.

The Army celebrated receipt of the prototype in August at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. “This is an historic moment, not only for team Redstone, Huntsville, but also for the United States Army and the Department of Defense,” says Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, USA, Army program manager for missiles and space at Redstone Arsenal. He explains that just four years ago, the Army set up a charter for the IBCS program office and that the office used the first-ever competitive prototyping strategy within the Defense Department. “The accomplishments have been nothing short of phenomenal. This is the first program in the Department of Defense to go through the competitive prototyping strategy—in the whole department, Army, Navy, Air Force. This is the first. And it was quite successful.”

In 2007, the Army received approval for the acquisition strategy, and it issued a request for proposals in May 2008. In September of 2008, the service awarded competitive prototyping contracts to two companies: Northrop Grumman Corporation and Raytheon Company. The strategy required each to demonstrate a working solution during the first phase of the program. In December 2009, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $577 million, five-year contract to proceed, and the company delivered the prototype seven months later. “That’s unheard of,” Gen. Delarocco says. “It’s rare that we can actually have something that quickly, to have a prototype in hand.”

Brig. Gen. Roger Mathews, USA, commandant of the Air Defense Artillery Center, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, describes IBCS as a critical system. “The number one weapon system for air and missile defense, in my view, is right here. For some time we’ve been required to fight a full-spectrum threat. The enemy understands our weaknesses. They’ll take the path of least resistance, and when we have stovepiped capabilities, and we can’t fight them in an effective way, we’re setting ourselves up for failure,” Gen. Mathews explains.

The prototype is housed in a rigid shelter mounted on a 5-ton medium tactical vehicle. An initial operational capability IBCS is scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2016, and the prototype will be used to test technologies for later versions, according to Bob Thomas, the Army’s integrated air and missile defense project manager. “The prototype provides a testbed for the software and other equipment planned for the final product. In its final form, IBCS will provide the necessary equipment for the command and control of multiple Army air defense sensors and weapons in a net-centric environment. In addition, it will be coupled with net-enabled sensors and weapons operating on an Integrated Fire Control Network,” Thomas says.

In its pursuit of the contract, Northrop Grumman developed a training and simulation laboratory known as the Virtual, Interactive, Collaborative, Training, Resource/Environment (VICTR/E) lab. Using three-dimensional, computer-generated avatar characters to represent humans, the VICTR/E lab simulates a fully-operational system, which saves time and money. They move, talk and interact with soldiers in a scripted or non-scripted, realistic combat environment, allowing one or two soldiers to train with an entire virtual battle staff.

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