Raytheon’s [RTN] Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS) and the Patriot Air and Missile Defense System and its Lockheed Martin [LMT] PAC-3 missile demonstrated the ability to work together to detect, track and shoot down a test target simulating a hostile cruise missile during an exercise at the Utah Training and Test Range.

Moving closer to a “plug and fight” system, the test reinforced the ability of the systems to integrate in support of an Army capability for a comprehensive air and missile defense strategy involving multiple sensors and interceptors.

“When systems like JLENS, Patriot and others work together, the capability of our nation’s air and missile defenses is significantly improved,” said David Gulla, vice president of Global Integrated Sensors for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business. “In simple terms, our defenses are tighter and harder to penetrate, resulting in greater protection for warfighters, civilian populations, critical assets and infrastructure.”

“Every time we do one of these we show how it can be done…and we’re getting closer to plug and fight,” Richard McDaniel, vice president, PAC-3 Missile Program for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in an interview. The point for the Army is to have its not necessarily related shooters and sensors talk to each other and prosecute the fight.

In addition to destroying the target drone, initial indications are that the JLENS-Patriot systems integration met test objectives.

The JLENS surveillance system was evaluated on its capabilities to detect and track a long-range threat and then cue the fire control radar.

In turn, the fire control system was evaluated on its ability to track and transmit target data to Patriot computers. All data from the exercise will be analyzed closely against test parameters.

JLENS is designed primarily to detect and track hostile cruise missiles. However, it is also capable of detecting and tracking low-flying aircraft and unmanned aerial systems. JLENS also can detect and track ballistic missiles, large caliber rockets and surface targets on land and sea.

A JLENS system, referred to as an orbit, consists of two tethered 74-meter aerostats each with radar and communications systems. The aerostats elevate the radar and communications systems to 10,000 feet. The surveillance radar provides 360-degree coverage and the fire control radar provides sectored precision tracking for hundreds of miles over land and sea.

The Patriot Air and Missile Defense System, the other major player in the integrated fire control exercise, is combat-proven and a key component in the air and missile defenses of 12 nations. Patriot is effective against a full range of advanced threats, including enemy aircraft; tactical ballistic missiles; cruise missiles, as demonstrated in this exercise; and unmanned aerial systems.

Most of the Patriot’s tests are traditionally conducted at White Sands Missile Range. Working at the Utah range was unique, McDaniel said, because it is an Air Force range more designed for bombing, it had different instrumentation, infrastructure and communications than at White Sands. That meant in Utah, there was more of a "tactical flavor," a more tactical environment than that found at the New Mexico range. JLENS has been operating at the Utah range for some time.

Raytheon is the prime contractor for JLENS and domestic and international Patriot systems, as well as systems integrator for Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles.

More interoperability tests are coming, something similar to the Utah test could come in the next 12-24 months, while the Missile Defense Agency plans an interoperability test this fall involving the Patriot system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, and Navy Aegis.

Patriot returns to White Sands for its next PAC 3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) test, likely in the second half of the year. This would be the second such test this year, following a successful test in March (Defense Daily, March 30).