(Washington, D.C.) If a long-range ballistic missile or descending ICBM traverses over the ocean en route to a sensitive land target, certainly ground commanders might wish to find and see the threat as quickly and as early as possible to enact the proper defensive countermeasure.
Perhaps the missile can be jammed by a Navy ship, detected or even shot down by an SM-3 or SM-6 interceptor before it reaches land?
Perhaps ground commanders can receive a beyond-the-horizon early warning of the approaching threat as it closes in on high value coastal land areas in need of being defended?
Daryl Youngman, Deputy Director of Army Futures Command Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, says the Army is indeed pursuing ways how its Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) of integrated “nodes” across an interconnected network can connect land-based threat sensors with Navy ships.
“We have several exploratory efforts,” Youngman told Warrior in an interview.
Integrated Battle Command System
During a recent test of the fast-progressing Army Integrated Battle Command System, a networked “meshed” series of ground nodes integrated to share air and missile defense target track data between otherwise disaggregated defensive nodes and command and control systems.
While taking place on land, the test showed the emerging prospect of bringing IBCS fully into a joint, multi-domain warfare environment to include maritime platforms.
“We sent a track that came out of IBCS to a Navy Aegis system so we could engage in a future Naval engagement with this capability,” Jerome Dunn, Director, Strategy and Technology for Combat Systems and Mission Readiness, Northrop Grumman, told The National Interest.
The IBCS assessment also succeeded with efforts to create a broad, joint, multi-domain network by connecting a Marine Corps GATOR radar and F-35 to ground-based Patriot and Sentinel radar ICBS Integrated Fire Control networks, something which of course ads air-domain synergy and additional joint maritime sensing capability.
The AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR), is a Marine Corps system which Northrop Grumman is upgrading with software to migrate the systems from analog to digital surveillance technology and expand its targeting range and aperture.
“With the kill web we are using different sensors to engage a missile they were never designed to work with. Data from the G/ATOR radar and the F-35 fused into an IBCS track to initiate the launch of Patriot missile,” Dunn said.
Joint All Domain Command Control
This kind of cross-domain synergy, linking threat sensing nodes from air-land-and sea in real time, represents the principle thrust of the Pentagon’s fast-evolving Joint All Domain Command and Control effort (JADC2).
JADC2, which draws from networking progress being made by all the services, is designed to break down otherwise disparate or separated information networks to massively expedite sensor-to-shooter decision cycles across the entire joint force.
“IBCS is seen by the Army as a significant contributor to JADC2, as it will replace multiple disparate systems. It will provide friendly protection, shared understanding, common mission command, improved combat ID and improved joint integration,” Youngman told The National Interest in an interview.
Using something called Joint Track Management Capability, a Missile Defense Agency funded engineering development initiative between networks, Army IBCS was able to share target-track information with the Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability which links maritime assets to one another in real time through advanced networking.
Cooperative Engagement Capability
As a result, a ship-integrated air and cruise missile defense system and fire control technology such as Aegis was able to share data across domains in real time, creating the possibility of massively increasing threat awareness and decreasing sensor-to-shooter time.
CEC is engineered to create a “netted” web of sensors to share key intelligence and threat information across the force. Now, much like IBCS, CEC supports joint, multi-domain missions to a much greater extent, enabling JADC2 goals sought after by the Pentagon.
“Each of the services has its own C2 system. For the Air Force it is ABMS (Advanced Battle Management System), and the services are trying work on how JADC2 works with them. The core mission of IBCS shows that a modern open system has the ability to connect systems in a way that is very attractive to any service. This provides expanded mission sets that boost value without requiring modification,” Dunn explained.
Analyzing, organizing and knowing how to find key information when so much data is gathered across domains can introduce a new set of challenges, some of which are now being addressed successfully through the use of AI.
“Industry can deliver seekers, warheads, propellants and radar systems, yet there is a point at which you get cognitive overload at the soldier level. We can use AI to reach out and query a sensor to determine what we want to bring in,” Maj. Gen. Robert Rasch, Program Executive Officer, Missiles and Space, told an audience at the 2021 Space and Missile Defense symposium.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.