The United States Air Force has recently awarded a $39 million contract to Raytheon, a leading defense technology company.
The contract aims to develop a cutting-edge command and control software prototype for an air-based air defense system.
This groundbreaking initiative represents a pivotal step towards safeguarding smaller air bases across the Pacific from potential threats posed by small drones and cruise missiles.
Revolutionizing Air Base Defense: The BC3 Software Prototype
Raytheon’s Battle Management Command and Control (BC3) software will serve as the cornerstone of this ambitious project.
According to its press release, the innovative BC3 prototype will revolutionize the way the US Air Force manages and responds to threats in today’s rapidly evolving airspace using the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
The BC3 software will be designed to analyze targeting data collected from an array of sensors, including radar systems.
This data will be meticulously processed and then relayed to the Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace Fire Distribution Center, where it will undergo a comprehensive threat evaluation in real time. Subsequently, the software will assign weapons and efficiently close the kill chain, ensuring the highest level of air base defense readiness.
Moreover, this contract underscores the Air Force’s commitment to expanding its air base defense capabilities, traditionally a domain led by the US Army.
Enhanced Threat Analysis
According to Air and Space Forces Magazine, the need for such advancements arises from the necessity to protect smaller air bases scattered across the Pacific region, particularly from the ever-present threat of small drones and cruise missiles.
Raytheon’s President of Air Power, Paul Ferraro, emphasized the significance of this project, stating, “Raytheon will develop a prototype that is ready to meet current threats and has the ability to easily integrate with the best sensors, effectors, and algorithms as technology advances.”
Furthermore, he highlighted the intent to streamline operations, reducing the workforce required to operate the system while concurrently enhancing its efficiency and effectiveness.
“We’ll bring our unique decision aids along with many partner components to allow for increased efficiency and effectiveness in a complex attack, while decreasing the manpower burden to operate the system,” said Ferraro in a press release.
Raytheon’s involvement in this groundbreaking project, in partnership with Norwegian company Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace, follows a successful showcase of an Air Base Air Defense solution in Andoya, Norway, in collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab in 2022.
The lessons learned from last year’s successful experiment have served as instrumental in shaping the development of the BC3 software prototype moving forward.
During this period, command and control software was tested on a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), capable of firing various types of missiles to engage targets at short, medium, or long range.
The successful test involved US Army radars feeding targeting information into Raytheon’s BC3.
During the test, the BC3 software demonstrated its capability to connect sensors and weapons systems seamlessly in response to real-time threat analysis before relaying recommended defense options at a Kongsberg Fire Distribution Center for decision-making. As a result, the operator on the receiving end had the ability to close the kill chain by selecting and firing the most effective missile from the NASAMS multi-missile canister launcher.
One of the most remarkable features of this system is its open architecture, which enables it to integrate with future sensors and weapons seamlessly.
Although the test conducted last year primarily involved AIM-9X and AMRAAM missiles, the Air Force is actively exploring electronic warfare and directed energy solutions to counter the rising threat posed by large numbers of small drones. These alternatives offer a lower per-shot cost compared to the AIM-9 or AMRAAM, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each.
The recent press release reaffirmed Raytheon’s commitment to building upon the valuable insights from the NASAMS experiment.
The company is dedicated to refining its BC3 software further, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of air-based defense technology. This dedication to continuous improvement reflects the dynamic nature of modern air defense systems, which must constantly adapt to new challenges and evolving threats.
Thus, the $39 million contract awarded by the US Air Force marks a significant step forward in bolstering the nation’s air-base defense capabilities.
Through the development of the promising Battle Management Command and Control (BC3) software prototype powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, Raytheon aims to provide the US Air Force with a cutting-edge solution that can effectively analyze targeting data, assess threats, and recommend defense options.
This initiative will play a pivotal role in safeguarding smaller air bases, particularly across the Pacific, and will be a crucial component of the nation’s defense strategy.
As technology continues to advance, Raytheon’s commitment to adaptability and innovation ensures that the BC3 software remains a formidable asset in the ever-evolving landscape of air-base defense.