The Army’s new air and missile defense framework is intended to give commanders more flexibility to better protect assets and maneuver forces with the new battle command platform, sensors and anti-missile systems the service will field over the next decade, a top official said Tuesday.
Col. Chad Skaggs, chief of air and missile defense integration for Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told attendees at a CSIS event the new strategy will look to demonstrate rapid deployment of air and missile defense capabilities and better scale resources to improve current inefficiencies.
“The nirvana, if you will, is integrating all these systems into a single system of systems with shared fire controls, shared sensors, potentially shared interceptors to allow us to have much better layered, tiered air and missile defense,” Skaggs said.
In March, the Army released its new air and missile defense framework, its first strategy update since 2015, which is meant to synchronize modernization efforts happening across the service and work toward providing maneuver forces with multi-mission capabilities to better prepare for emerging threats (Defense Daily, March 28).
Skaggs said officials will measure the strategy’s success based on the ability to deliver future air and missile defense systems and sensors on time and and bring them along with legacy capabilities in a network-centric approach.
New projects currently being worked by the air and missile defense cross-functional team include the Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS), Maneuver Short Range Air Defense System (M-SHORAD) and the Lower-Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS).
Northrop Grumman [NOC] is currently developing IBCS, which will serve as the Army’s future integrated command and control platform, with plans to move into limited user tests in 2020 and initial production in 2022.
“IBCS when it comes to fruition will be a gamechanger. The ability to take any sensor with any interceptor into a single integrated fire control now gives you unprecedented flexibility to design a defense for the battlefield,” Skaggs said. “Right now we have to deploy a Patriot battalion to go defend a single asset, which is a huge waste of manpower, when maybe it’s just a single battery mission. IBCS will allow us to tailor that to scale to exactly what’s required for a given mission.”
Skaggs said IBCS will serve as the foundation for the multi-mission capability goal laid out in the new framework as officials look to give commanders the ability to select the defense system best suited for the specific mission.
M-SHORAD is intended to provide maneuver forces with an improved capability to defend against a growing range of threats
“The threat’s evolving with the ability to use UAS capabilities to target with indirect fires. There’s been advances in cruise missiles. Unmanned fixed- and rotor-wing systems are threats again. We found the fact that we had really decimated the air defense force in terms of short-range air defense capability, which left our maneuvering forces, the brigade combat teams, virtually unprotected,” Skaggs said.
The Army is currently working on the interim SHORAD (IM-SHORAD) capability with a plan to field 144 systems integrated on Strykers starting in 2020, while officials are still working through requirements for the objective SHORAD (OM-SHORAD) system.
“The Objective M-SHORAD capability is still a decision to be made in the future based on the continuing appetite for growth, and as new capabilities come online we’ll take a look at those,” Skaggs said, adding the platform will likely include directed energy and electronic warfare capabilities.
LTAMDS will replace the Patriot missile defense system’s current sensor with a next-generation capability, with the Army bringing in several vendors this summer to test their offerings in a “sense-off” and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Skaggs noted the Army has decided to make a 360-degree capability an objective requirement for LTAMDS.
“Right now 360 degrees is an objective for the system, not a threshold requirement. I do think many of the vendors are bringing a pretty good capability beyond what is considered the Patriot’s normal sector,” Skaggs said.
The Army is also looking to the future Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC), set to protect more fixed assets, as a critical option to providing commanders with flexible defense options.
“That enduring capability has not been decided yet. What we’re going to need is a missile-based platform that will be fielded specifically with fixed and semi-fixed assets in support of maneuver forces. It will work in concert with M-SHORAD. It will be a layered, tiered capability,” Skaggs said.
The Army is currently set to field two of Israel’s Iron Dome batteries as an interim IFPC solution.