WASHINGTON --- The Army conducted a third successful missile intercept demonstration Thursday, as the force continues to evaluate the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, before a significant milestone decision in November.
Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment further demonstrated the system's capability by stopping two targets -- an MQM-178 cruise missile surrogate and Black Dagger/Boosted Zombie ballistic missile surrogate, said Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team director.
The live-fire event at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, is part of a broader IBCS limited-user test that started in July. Last week, the Army successfully shot down two MQM-178 surrogates, flying at low altitudes in close proximity, said Col. Philip Rottenborn, a project manager with the Program Executive Office of Missiles and Space.
This week, the Army focused solely on the system's performance against the two different targets, Gibson said. Both the ballistic and cruise missile surrogates are considerably different in terms of "speed, altitude, characteristics, and complexity," he added.
Cruise missiles are known as "air-breathing targets," said Col. Anthony Behrens, the Army capability manager and director of Army Air and Missile Defense Command. They are capable of flying masked behind terrain to avoid detection by radar.
"This [IBCS] system will allow us to put radars forward and use that data to inform a Patriot firing unit -- something we cannot do today with the current Patriot system," Behrens said.
Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, are fired in an upward-angled trajectory until the propulsion system cuts off, sending the system downward toward an objective, he added.
Anecdotally, a ballistic missile is similar to a fly ball in baseball, sailing at a high-arching angle toward the outfield, Behrens explained. Once the "ball" is in the air, the Patriot interceptor cuts across the battlespace like an outfielder catching a target before it hits the ground.
During the previous demonstration, the interceptor successfully identified and eliminated the trailing missile surrogate, which was intentionally shrouded by some form of debris. The evaluation also included a ground-based electronic jamming element to evaluate the IBCS' ability to seamlessly transition data between networked nodes, Rottenborn said.
Testing officials did not duplicate the previous conditions during Thursday's live-fire demonstration, he added.
The Army has a range of weapon systems and sensors strategically positioned around the globe, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph M. Martin. The future fight will require the force to link current and future systems to generate a layer of redundancy throughout the Army's air and missile capabilities.
"In terms of air and missile defense, [the IBCS] will be one of our many contributions to the Joint All-Domain Command and Control system," Martin said. "[The system] is not only critical for the air defense community, it is also critical for the Army, the joint force and our multinational partners."
At the conclusion of the limited-user test in September, Army Test and Evaluation Command will look through terabytes of information to ensure that the system performed as expected, Rottenborn said. The data collected, combined with feedback from Soldiers and evaluation officials, will help shape future iterations of the IBCS.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, is slated to make a “milestone C” decision by late November, Rottenborn said. The 3-43 ADA will move into the initial operational test and evaluation phase of the program in fiscal year 2021, before a full-rate production decision projected in fiscal year 2022.
"We will continue to learn," Martin said. Delivering this capability is the "utmost importance to the United States Army."
This IBCS capability "is critical as we go into the future and face a near-peer adversary in a warfighting environment that none of us have seen before," he added.