In May, Northrop Grumman announced the delivery to the US Army of the first production-representative engagement operations center (EOC) for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS). Northrop Grumman will deliver 11 IBCS EOCs and 18 IBCS integrated fire control network (IFCN) relays in 2019. When the Space and Missile Defense Symposium (SMD 2019) convened this week, the company had delivered eight EOCs and 16 relays, with plans in place to complete deliveries of the systems by the end of the third quarter of this year. The articles will support the Army’s initial operational test and evaluation process, which will inform future production decisions.
IBCS, at the tactical level, will deliver a net-centric solution to better address an evolving array of threats: it integrates disparate radars and weapons to construct a far more effective IAMD enterprise. The system will also provide strategic benefits to the military customer. “We think it is important to look at why IBCS has been described as paradigm-shifting and revolutionary. Instead of looking at each threat and how to detect it with a specific radar and how to defeat that with a specific weapon, the idea of IBCS is to break existing systems into components for networking that builds a new enterprise of IAMD assets,” explained Northrop Grumman’s Vice President, Integrated Fires and Protective Systems, Chris Williams. To that end, IBCS has unique abilities to provide significantly improved battlespace situational understanding by delivering an unambiguous, single integrated air picture with unprecedented accuracy. “In addition, IBCS will present warfighters with the ‘best-shot’ solution from all networked effectors for the most efficient engagement. With this approach, IBCS maximizes the combat potential of sensors and weapons and fills gaps in today’s air defense capabilities,” Ms Williams observed.
Integration of various radars and missiles within IBCS has been accomplished to various stages – from research and development lab integration to soldier-operated events in near-operational environments, with simulated and live assets, to flight tests. Ms Williams told MON that, through these milestones, IBCS has proven the programme’s ground-breaking objectives are achievable and that the architecture is sound. “IBCS successfully intercepted on its inaugural flight test and accomplished a more difficult ‘engage-on-remote’ on its second flight test […] During its third flight test, IBCS simultaneously intercepted two threat types (cruise and ballistic missiles) with two interceptor types, demonstrating command-and-control for sensors and weapons not designed to work with each other.”
In soldier-operated events under dynamic, stress-inducing threat conditions, IBCS has confirmed its ability to be a truly joint warfighting system: in one instance, integrating radars and weapons over a vast area, efficiently and effectively maintaining voice and data connectivity, while also consistently delivering integrated air pictures and target information with unprecedented accuracy and contributing to a Link 16 network with US Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Army participants. Ms Williams added that, in its early events to date, IBCS has also, “enabled resilient, net-centric operations as counter to electronic attacks; and provided much higher success and effectiveness handling multiple and complex engagements than existing legacy systems.”
Asked to provide an industry insight on the IBCS value proposition, she responded, “What we can tell you is that in an operational environment that included electronic attack, we have demonstrated the value of IBCS to resolve ambiguity in the air picture and deliver more accurate target tracking data to support joint integrated air and missile defence. IBCS maintains tracks on objects even when individual sensors could not. IBCS net-centric operations are valuable counters to electronic attack. IBCS has also demonstrated the ability to correct radar biases and decipher closely-spaced objects to significantly enhance the accuracy of the integrated air picture for the benefit of joint Link 16 message users.” Furthermore, during complex, live-air soldier-operated events with a dozen airborne platforms participating – including unmanned aircraft systems, fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, attack aircraft, tanker aircraft, early warning aircraft, tilt-rotor aircraft and electronic attack aircraft – “IBCS successfully identified the aircraft as ‘friend or foe.’”
To develop and produce the IBCS capabilities that address the complex challenges of next-generation IAMD, Northrop Grumman leads a team of large companies as well as small businesses in all categories. “Our diverse teammates include traditional defense prime contractors and what would be considered non-traditional defense capability providers. Our teammates contribute various niche and domain expertise, ranging from network cybersecurity through communications devices and weapon systems interfaces to shelter design and manufacturing,” Ms Willams told MON.
Following the acquisition of IBCS for Poland’s WISLA program, Northrop Grumman is also seeing significant interest in the IBCS system from government and industry in other international markets.