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US Army's Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) / (Image source: DVIDS)
To address the increasingly advanced weapons systems emerging in today’s battlespace and beyond, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has sought to obtain equally high-tech arms capable of protecting national security, including land, air, sea, space, and even cyberspace.
An integrated system that can provide a decisive advantage by allowing forces from all domains to effectively defend and strike, particularly in the face of simultaneous attack at tremendous speeds from all directions.
And after years of development and field testing, the DoD announced last Thursday that it had approved the full-rate production of the Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS).
Army’s Cornerstone Integrated System
Developed in partnership with Northrop Grumman, the IBCS program is part of the US Army‘s Space and Missile Defense Command efforts to modernize its capabilities beginning in the mid-2000s.
As a core Army system, this sophisticated system of sensors aims to bolster further the air and missile defense of the US military, especially against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill approach.
The IBCS is designed to sense, identify, track, and intercept air and missile threats. Moreover, serves as the fire control and engagement operation center that integrates all the service’s sensors, weapons, and mission command technologies, providing troops and the rest of the armed forces a state-of-the-art 360-view—a strategic advantage in the battlespace.
According to Northrop, the system seeks to facilitate an “efficient and affordable integration of current and future systems” used across domains, “including assets deployed over IP-enable networks, counter-[unmanned aerial systems], 4th- and 5th-generation aircraft, space-based sensors, and more.”
With full-rate production in place, the Army’s capacity to field the “paradigm-changing system” is scaled, which confirms its future role as the “cornerstone” of the service’s modernization defense strategy.
Rebecca Torzone, Northrop’s Vice President and General Manager of Combat Systems and Mission Readiness, explained the significance of the IBCS as it sits at the core of the Army battle operations.
“IBCS transforms the battlespace by fusing data from any sensor to create a single integrated air picture allowing commanders to see the battlespace and use the best weapons to defeat complex threats,” said Torzone via a press release statement.
This monumental milestone follows the completion of the “final, demanding assessment” last October, overseen by the Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E).
A Monumental Milestone
As a recap, the 10-month-long trial began in January 2022 after Northrop completed the assembly of the IBCS, which the Army awarded its $1.4 billion contract in 2021. Under the intense scrutiny of the independent evaluators, soldiers conducted a series of complex operational flight tests at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico using the IBCS “encompassing a broad spectrum of attack and defense scenarios under realistic operating conditions.”
Then, in November, the IOT&E provided positive feedback on the IBCS after witnessing the system’s flexibility. During the test, its modular, open architecture “successfully intercepted a cruise missile target using a Patriot interceptor” without requiring a Patriot radar.
As a result, the IBCS has demonstrated its ability to create a communication link with “any available network sensor and effector,” enabling not only versatility but also time efficiency and battlespace domination.
Besides the Patriot surface-to-air missile system, the IBCS has previously had operational field tests with other armed forces sensors as well, including Marine Corps Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR), Army’s Sentinel Aerial Surveillance Radar, and Air Force’s F-35 fighter aircraft, during a Joint Track Manager Capability (JTMC) demonstration in July 2021.
Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) also performed live testing at the receiving end of the IBCS, transmitting G/ATOR track data through its Integrated Fire Control Network. The JTMC functioned as the vital bridge between the two.
Overall, the IBCS tests successfully demonstrated its capabilities as a core system in the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2).
“The Army is proving it can and will succeed with its modernization plans as we continue to build momentum for the future,” said Army Executive Officer Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano of Missile and Space Program, via press release. “The sensor and effector integration this program brings to air and missile defense will ensure that our warfighters are best equipped to provide air defense against enemy threats. The success of this program is a testament to the incredible talent and capability of the Soldiers, civilians and industry partners whose work ensures the safety and security of our nation.”
Lozano also noted that the success of the IBCS program serves as “a testament to the incredible talent and capability” of everyone involved—soldiers, civilians, and industry partners—to ensure the safety, flexibility, and strength of the nation’s security.
Initial operational capability for the cutting-edge system is now on track, expected to be fielded this year.
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