The Army is planning to start initial operational test and evaluation for the Northrop Grumman [NOC] Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) in September, a service official said this week.

Speaking during the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC), talked about IBCS as a game changer that will help the Army provide greater joint air and missile defense effectiveness.

“If we want to effectively support the joint force, the Army must see, sense, predict, move and communicate at the time, speed, and scale necessary to defeat our adversaries. That makes our top priority the integration of current and future ground and space-based capabilities. Integration is what will allow us to communicate interchangeably and share data automatically when and where needed,” Karbler said.

“Our plan to realize this vision of space and missile defense integration is centered on the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense program. At its core, is the [IBCS] with a fire control and engagement operations center capability that provides greater defense effectiveness than our current single sensor fire unit systems,” he continued.

He argued that by fusing together sensor data from both offensive and defensive fires, IBCS “will bring together these previously independent entities into the foundational elements of integrated deterrence.”

“We’ll be able to use this integrated deterrence approach to simultaneously deny benefits to and impose costs on our adversaries. With missile defeat operations to prevent the launch of adversary missiles, active missile defense to intercept them in-flight and provide credible messaging to our allies and adversaries. In short, classic deterrence calculus,” Karbler said.

He reiterated that there was a “flawless” IBCS flight test in July that proves “we are closer than ever to harnessing this game changing capability by demonstrating our ability to intercept a cruise missile target in a highly contested electronic attack environment using joint sensors to provide the tracking necessary to defeat the threat with a PAC-3 missile.”

The test occurred at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and including incorporating the Marine Corps’ Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) system, Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability, two F-35 fighters, two Army Sentinel radars, and one Army Patriot radar integrated with the IBCS (Defense Daily, July 15).

Karbler said the IBCS Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is scheduled for the third quarter of fiscal year 2022, followed by full rate production starting in fiscal year 2023. 

In January, IBCS was first approved for Milestone C, allowing it to move into low-rate production (Defense Daily, Jan. 13).

Karbler confirmed the Army does not plan to have IBCS participate in the next Project Convergence event in 2021 to make sure they focus on IOT&E.

Project Convergence is the service’s ongoing campaign to determine how the Army’s future weapon systems and capabilities can form a new “sensor-to-shooter” network needed for multi-domain operations.

“Because we do not want to be distracted, frankly, from IOT&E, I believe that any of the IBCS – any kind of excursion we might do with Project Convergence is going to hold off until we complete IOT&E,” Karbler said.

Karbler argued capabilities like IBCS are necessary because U.S. adversaries’ missile and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) continue to increase in numbers, complexity, range and accuracy, particularly Russia and China.

“Most disturbing is the ever increasing normalization of adversaries using ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and UASs in complex attacks. In the last 15 years, ballistic missile test flights have increased by 200 percent worldwide while UAS usage has risen dramatically across many combatant command theaters in the last two years,” he said. 

Karbler also underscored China and Russia are also actively developing and testing new hypersonic weapons while “at the same time, our adversaries are persistently testing our dominance in space by trying to neutralize, deny or eliminate our space-based services. These capabilities include kinetic, anti-satellite directed energy weapons, as well as electronic warfare systems to deny, degrade and disrupt GPS signals and satellite communications.”

“Our adversaries continue to operate on orbit space platforms in ways that have been characterized by [Gen. Jay Raymond, head of the Space Force] and [Gen. James Dickinson, head of Space Command] as disturbing and unusual,” Karbler said.

He said this means U.S. adversaries are “growing increasingly bold in their hostile acts of using ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and UAS. They’re increasingly bold in their conduct of irresponsible space activities. It means the Joint Force will demand more from the Army’s space and missile defense capabilities and expertise going forward. And if we want to effectively support the joint force, the Army must see, sense, predict, move and communicate at the time, speed, and scale necessary to defeat our adversaries. That makes our top priority the integration of current and future ground and space-based capabilities.”