The Army’s new missile defense brain is set to enter initial production in 2016, establishing a critical baseline command-and-control architecture that can tie together various air defense systems into a common network.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is wrapping up live-fire testing of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS) and expects a milestone C decision to start production this year, said Dan Verwiel, the company’s general manager of missile defense and protective systems.

The system represents a next generation C2 technology that links the various systems adopted by the Army over the past decade or so through a standards-based network archictecture.

Patriot Fire Unit Photo: Raytheon
Patriot Fire Unit
Photo: Raytheon

“We’re taking assets that were never intended to work together and tying them to other assets that were not intended to work together and doing something phenomenal,” Verweil said recently at a forum on Army missile defense hosted outside Washington, D.C., by the Association of the U.S. Army. The challenge that we’re really going to have to get after is not necessarily on the network side. It’s going to be establishing those standards on the application side so we can do the level of integration.”

Various legacy ground-based air defense radars can be linked through IBCS to most of the missiles in the Army’s arsenal, which gives commanders the option of responding to incoming threats with the appropriate kill vehicle. Patriot , the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) missile, the Aegis system and Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) all are candidates , Verwiel said.

IBCS is designed to replace and consolidate seven legacy command-and-control (C2) systems to a single, common operating system that provides a comprehensive view of an air-defense network, rather than simply linking them. Its open systems architecture design will allow IBCS to integrate current and future sensors and weapon systems and to seamlessly operate with joint C2 and the ballistic missile defense system.

Maj. Gen. John Morrison, chief of Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), said establishing a baseline architecture standard for command and control of missile defense systems will allow the service to keep pace with technological advances made by industry.

“What you want to do and what we are doing with this modernized network…is establish a standards-based network so that you can rapidly spin in and spin out capabilities so we can actually ride industry’s coattails.”

That baseline architecture is being established at all levels of the Army’s C2 and communication networks, from the Joint Regional Security Stack (JRSS) computing processors being installed at bases to tactical radio systems, Morrison said.

“Once you establish that foundation, you are able to rapidly spin in not only network capabilities but also cyber capabilities,” he said. “That standards-based infrastructure is absolutely critical…at the strategic level, the operational level and at the tactical level and then integrating it end-to-end.”

“That’s the journey we’re on right now is establishing that foundational piece,” he said.

Once the baseline is established, the Army must continue to upgrade IBCS itself and its components as the system is adopted more widely by the Army and as new technologies emerge, Verwiel said. If the system delivers what it promises, it risks becoming the victim of its own popularity as did the Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system after the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Initially designed to provide data on the position of friendly and enemy forces to between 600 and 1,000 platforms, FBCB2 quickly grew in popularity, Verwiel said. It just as quickly overtaxed its rudimentary satellite-based beyond-line-of-sight processing capability and “came to its knees” before it was installed on 2,000 platforms, Verwiel said.

“It was received so well that over the course of just a handful of years it was adopted by the force and the intent was to get it on over 180,000 platforms. That network that we built was never intended to handle that much traffic, but as people started using it they demanded more and more information over that network.”

Brig. Gen. Bill Burleson, director of the Army’s Mission Command Center of Excellence, said the network architecture capabilities provide to commanders cuts down on the personnel needed to operate the system, he said.

“We tend to focus on the bright-shiny parts of IBCS, but IBCS has many legs,” he said. “The other idea of integrating capabilities is in a stovepiped environment where you have these individual elements that are out on the battlefield, you have to man them with a pretty large force and keep them maintained. Now that you’ve networked them, you have taken a lot of the manpower requirement away. You really do get a much more effective force.

IBCS allows commanders to use legacy radar and other systems that are at hand, like the Q-36 or Sentinel radar, and accomplish many missions, eliminating the need for a news sensor.

“Same thing with shooters,” he said. “Imagine a day right now where we would use a Patriot, but if I can use my radar assets through the C4I and determine that I don’t need a set of Patriot missiles to pick up the target, that I can shoot it with a Stinger or an Avenger…There is huge economic and manpower savings that you can leverage by tying a lot of these pieces together.”