The Army on Thursday morning successfully demonstrated the ability of its Integrated Air and Missile Defense (AIAMD) system to identify, track and destroy an incoming cruise missile.

Just before 10:30 am at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, a cruise missile surrogate target was intercepted by a Patriot Advanced Capability Three (PAC-3) missile defense battery using composite tracking data from both Sentinel and Patriot radars. The AIAMD allows for several radars and missile systems to link to a network that takes data from the first signal of an incoming threat and then fires a missile interceptor from the “best shooter.” Effectively, it aims to integrate an alphabet soup of systems with lengthy acronyms into a scalable, modular web of sensors and missile interceptor batteries linked to a single network with central command and control.

Raytheon scored a $2.4 billion order with Qatar in December for the Patriot air and missile defense system, boosting bookings. Photo: Raytheon
Raytheon scored a $2.4 billion order with Qatar in December for the Patriot air and missile defense system, boosting bookings. Photo: Raytheon

The PAC-3 interceptor is not new to the Army. It is the backbone of the Army’s ballistic missile defense system. What AIAMD introduces is a modular, open architecture system that can accept multiple radars and missile batteries and link them to advanced command and control systems. The Army calls it a shift from “system-centric” missile defense acquisition to a “component-based approach” to maintaining a “plug-and-fight” capability.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the IBCS prime contractor for the IBCS while Raytheon [RTN] builds and is responsible for the adaptation of the Patriot Radar. 

Thursday’s test involved an MQM-107 Streaker target drone playing the role of an incoming cruise missile that flew in low toward an area defended by an AIAMD task force. The air defenses included the Army’s battalion engagement operations center (BN EOC) and several Patriot batteries and missile-defense radars–a non-collocated Battery EOC with a Patriot radar, a remote IFCN Relay connected to two Patriot PAC-3 Launchers and two remote Sentinel radars connected to IFCN Relays–operating together on an integrated fire control network (IFCN).

“This test demonstrated the Army’s capability to identify, track, engage and kill a target using an interceptor from one Air Defense System and remote sensors from another Air Defense System operating on the Integrated Fire Control Network (IFCN) under the control of the IAMD Battle Command System (IBCS),” the Army said in a statement.   

The low-altitude trajectory of the target obscured it from the Patriot radar’s field of view, but the IBCS system correctly used the Sentinel composite tracking data to calculate the necessary engagement solution resulting in the PAC-3 missile successfully engaging and killing the target.  

AIAMD allows integration of various launchers, sensors and interceptors into an open network, which gives the Army the ability to constantly upgrade its systems and/or scale a missile defense system to the facility or area that needs protection from incoming missiles.

AIAMD provides for the movement of critical information and decision aids from missile defense sensors and weapons to the decision-maker supporting the AMD mission objectives. The IBCS EOC provides the common mission command capability, as well as the plug-and-fight kits, including fire-control connectivity that enables distributed operations.