US Army plans test for combining new air defense capabilities
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The U.S. Army is planning a major test that will tie its new command-and-control capability with a new air and missile defense radar as well as a system designed to defend against other aerial threats, according to a service official.
The service will combine its Northrop Grumman-developed Integrated Battle Command System with Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 launchers and the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor during a test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, at the tail end of fiscal 2024, said Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano, the Army’s program executive officer for missiles and space.
The Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor, or LTAMDS, will provide 360-degree coverage against air and missile threats. The IFPC Increment 2 will protect semi-fixed sites from rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles and drones.
The test will be a part of the LTAMDS operational assessment and the IFPC initial operational test.
“It’s going to be a very challenging event for us,” Lozano said Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium. “It’s an event that’s necessary to help inform” the Army’s path toward future air and missile defense formations.
“It’s really important and key for us to try to get all those systems out to the range all at the same time, working coherently and seamlessly through IBCS to see what kind of capabilities are in the realm of the possible,” he added.
The service is nearing a full-rate production decision for its Integrated Battle Command System, expected April 10. The IBCS is a command-and-control system designed to connect any sensor to any shooter on the battlefield. The plan is to declare the systems as operationally capable in 2024, Lozano said.
The Army is also preparing to receive the first two launchers for the IFPC program from Leidos-owned Dynetics in 30-45 days, Lozano noted. Over the next year, Dynetics will deliver a total of 16 IFPC launchers.
Maintaining the schedule has proved challenging due to supply chain issues and inflation, Lozano said, but “supplies are continuing to roll into Dynetics, and they’re continuing to get ahead and build up the rest of those [launchers].”
“We have always had a very aggressive schedule,” he added.
The Army plans to enter IFPC development testing and qualification efforts in the third quarter of FY23, Lozano said, and testing of the IBCS’ capability to integrate is expected at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The Army will enter more testing in the second quarter of FY24 followed by an initial operational test and evaluation effort at the tail end of the fourth quarter of FY24 into the first quarter of FY25, he said.
The LTAMDS radar will also go into an operational assessment at the same time.
The Army has struggled with the LTAMDS prototype delivery schedule. Raytheon Technologies ran into problems building the first radars during the pandemic, but the service still aims to deliver at least four of them by the end of 2023.
The LTAMDS effort has grown in ambition because now the Army must also deliver three LTAMDS to Guam for its air and missile defense architecture that will begin to take physical shape on the island in 2024. The architecture also includes IFPC launchers, and IBCS will tie all of the sensors and shooters together.