Earlier this month, the Army conducted a set of missile defense flight tests that used a new prototype communications device that connects the battle management system to a Patriot missile interceptor.

During Integrated Flight Test-2 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., on Nov. 17, Army Integrated Fires Mission Command and members of the 3rd Battalion 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment successfully tested the Lockheed Martin [LMT] prototype Remote Interceptor Guidance – 360 (RIG-360) device to communicate with an in-flight Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptor missile. 

The Army Integrated Fires Mission Command and Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment conducted a successful missile flight test with the Integrated Air & Missile Defense Battle Command System at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. on Nov. 17, 2022. (Photo: U.S. Army, Darrell Ames)
The Army Integrated Fires Mission Command and Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment conducted a successful missile flight test with the Integrated Air & Missile Defense Battle Command System at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. on Nov. 17, 2022. (Photo: U.S. Army, Darrell Ames)

This element of the test sought to test the RIG-360 data link capabilities. The RIG-360 was connected to the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS).

The prototype RIG-360 “enables a 360-degree PAC-3 engagement capability utilizing target data from various sensors,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement.

IBCS is the Army’s future missile defense command platform, aimed at integrating and connecting the service’s sensor and shooter capabilities.

The Army said the “Special Test Event,” directed by the Air and Missile Defense Test Directorate Operational Test Command, had the objective of demonstrating Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense capability to execute a kill chain against a ground launched cruise missile surrogate.

Soldiers successfully engaged with a cruise missile threat surrogate by connecting the IBCS, Patriot defense system, Sentinel radars, adapted Patriot launchers and PAC-3 interceptors, the Army said.

The Army noted preliminary data indicates the target was successfully intercepted and planned flight test objectives against the cruise missile target were achieved.

This test comes weeks after Northrop Grumman said the Army finished the 10-month initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) period for IBCS, which marked the last main test event before moving to full-rate production (Defense Daily, Nov. 8).

Northrop Grumman underscored this event included two separate tests.

The first live target engagement involved a Raytheon Technologies [RTX] AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radar tracking an unspecified cruise missile target through the desert.

IBCS engaged the target using Lockheed Martin’s RIG-360 prototype as the uplink to the PAC-3 Interceptor. The company said the RIG-360 to Patriot connection was developed via internal Northrop Grumman research and development efforts “to perform the engineering necessary to integrate RIG-360 with IBCS.” 

The company did not disclose how much internal funding this required.

Northop Grumman argued the first test proves IBCS is no longer dependent on the Patriot radar to provide communication links to the interceptor and shows the system can be quickly integrated with new technology because it uses a modular, open and scalable architecture that allows the Army to disaggregate sensors and shooters.

“IBCS’ ability to integrate with any available networked sensor and effector provides the warfighter flexibility, time and dominance in the battlespace. With every unique system test, the IBCS architecture has proven that the system is defining the possibilities of providing command and control across domains,” Christine Harbison, vice president and general manager of combat systems and mission readiness at Northrop Grumman, said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 missile, part of the Patriot air defense capability. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The company said the second test had the IBCS detect, track, engage and destroy a ground-launched cruise missile surrogate, using a Patriot interceptor for a fire quality track and common operating picture.

“This successful test confirms our RIG-360 prototype as one of the many ways we continue to deliver technology to ensure our customers stay ahead of the full spectrum of 21st century threats,” Scott Arnold, vice president of integrated air and missile defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in a statement.

“The success of this test confirms that IBCS is advancing along the right path in becoming the foundation of our nation’s modernized Air & Missile Defense capabilities,” Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano, Army Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space, said in a statement.

Army Col. Chris Hill, Project Manager of the Integrated Fires Mission Command Project Office, agreed.

“This successful test confirms that IBCS is well positioned to combat the present and future threats to our Nation and allies…We will continue to be responsive to Warfighter requirements and work as an integrated team committed to modernizing our Army,” Hill said 

Last year, the Army awarded Northrop Grumman a potential $1.4 billion production contract for low-rate initial production and full-rate production of IBCS, covering up to 160 IBCSs. At the time, the Army said a full-rate production decision for IBCS is expected in fiscal year 2023 (Defense Daily, Dec. 23, 2021).