The Army shot down a missile surrogate using new command-system tech
Topping a missile requires a complex operation that requires a team of machines. To better protect soldiers in the field from enemy attack, the Army is currently testing a system that coordinates sensors and interceptors. On November 17, the Army successfully used this new system to shoot down a cruise-missile stand-in at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
To do this, soldiers from the Army’s 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment used two Patriot and Sentinel radars, Patriot missile launchers, and Patriot interceptors, all coordinated through a new command system. The Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (or IBCS) is the connective tissue between sensors and interceptors. It allows the Army to coordinate missile interceptors and radars over a large area, detecting all incoming threats, and then making sure that those missiles are stopped without overcommitting interceptors or depleting vital stockpiles.
This effort “had a testing objective of demonstrating Army Integrated Air & Missile Defense capacity to execute [a] kill chains against a ground-launched cruise missile surrogate,” said the Army in a release .
In short, soldiers used sensors and interceptors in order to track and destroy a drone that was mimicking a cruise missile in flight. Although the test was conducted using Patriot and Sentinel radars and Patriot interceptors, it is clear that the IBCS can be used to incorporate any future or existing sensors as well as any interceptors the Army may have.
“Preliminary evidence suggests that the flight test objectives against cruise missile threats were met, and that the target was successfully intercepted,” stated the release.
Cruise rockets pose a persistent threat to modern battlefields. This is due to their low trajectory and maneuverability, which makes them difficult to detect from afar. Patriot missiles are deployed in battery with fire command stations and radars to track targets. They have been used for decades to defend against cruise missiles. However, the missiles significantly underperformed in intercepting targets during 1991 Persian Gulf War ..
One way to improve targeting is to integrate and coordinate more sensors over a larger field. This allows missiles to be detected earlier and can be stopped by the most appropriate ways. These tools can include missiles such as the Patriot interceptors or the older HAWK missiles that the US is currently preparing to send to Ukraine.
Other ways of stopping an attack may be rockets, like the Vampire anti-air and anti-drone system. Laser weapons, like one tested by PopSci, are another component of modern anti-missile tech, and could be incorporated into a command system.
There are many ways to stop a drone or missile from flying. In military and industrial parlance, “effectors” are a grouping of jammers, guns and missiles, as well as lasers and other solutions to aerial threats. The effect can include anything from an explosion by missile, puncture with bullet, melting by laser or electronic disruption by jammer. However, what is crucial to the IBCS is that a commander can use the sensors to determine where the attack is taking place and how to stop it.
“Once fielded, IBCS will extend the battlespace beyond what a single sensor tied to a single effector can provide, allowing the use of a sensor or effector’s full range and enabling the warfighter to quickly see and act on data across the entire battlefield,” said Northrop Grumman, maker of IBCS, in a release.
Many legacy weapons systems were designed to work with a particular sensor. This resulted in a compact, self-contained kit that was compatible with the limitations and capabilities of the technology at the time. This meant that commanders could only work within the system’s information and weapons. It can be designed to integrate information across sensors so that it matches the Army’s desired plug and play information environment of the future. The tools available are used to share information and the coordinating node matches the signal to weapon.
The testing of IBCS at White Sands started in January, and over 10 months soldiers learned how to use the system in a range of scenarios designed to resemble what might be seen in combat. This included two flight tests prior to November 17 where “IBCS detected, tracked, and intercept threats that included: a high speed, high performance tactical ballistic missile and two cruise missile surrogates during a stressing electronic attack,” according to Northop Grumman.
Provided that the system can resist electronic attack in the field at the same level as in testing, the coordinated system will allow the Army to better protect soldiers from a variety of incoming attacks. The Army can use whatever tools they have to build a defense that is stronger together.