March 2, 2018

Layered air, missile defense critical to U.S. security

David Vergun
Army News

Exercise Artemis Strike is a German-led tactical live fire exercise with live Patriot and Stinger missiles at the NATO Missile Firing Installation in Chania, Greece from Oct. 31-Nov. 9, 2018.

In addition to peer competitors China and Russia, North Korea and Iran are posing a rapidly evolving threat, said Lt. Gen. Jim Dickinson.

To counter that threat, the U.S. must enhance its layered air and missile defense capability, said Dickinson, who is commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense.

The general discussed those enhancements Wednesday during an Association of the U.S. Army-sponsored forum on the Army’s air and missile defense capabilities.

Last year, the Missile Defense Agency successfully demonstrated a ground-based, mid-course defense, intercepting an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile target, Dickinson said. MDA also plans to conduct the first-ever GMD salvo operational flight test next year.

According to a Feb. 13 Department of Defense press release, MDA requested $2.3 billion in the fiscal year 2019 budget for the GMD program. There are currently 40 ground-based interceptors deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska and four GBIs at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. By 2023, 20 additional GBIs are expected to be at Fort Greely, Alaska.

The Army anticipates adding a Long Range Discrimination Radar by about 2020, Dickinson said. It is said the radar will effectively detect incoming ballistic missiles. Its location has not yet been specified, but it will likely be in Alaska.

A new air and missile defense command and control system, known as the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, will enhance aircraft and missile tracking capabilities by making the C2 mission command system more “flexible and agile,” he said.

Furthermore, the IBCS will eventually link Army with the joint force mission command node sensors and launchers, he added.

The Patriot missile system is getting new software upgrades to be distributed to 15 Patriot battalions, he said. “The recent upgrade for the 1st Air Defense Brigade is a big win.”

A mobile, ground-based weapons system for indirect fire protection capability is being developed, he said, and it is going to Increment II. This system will defeat cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems and is scheduled for fielding in the fiscal year 2020-2021 timeframe.

The C-RAM Intercept program defends against indirect fire threats. It was originally developed and deployed to forward operating bases in Iraq and some systems are currently deployed to Afghanistan. The primary component for the C-RAM Intercept program is the Land-based Phalanx Weapon System, a modified U.S. Navy Phalanx Close-In Weapon System mounted on a commercial semitrailer for land-based operations. The 20mm Gatling gun is capable of on-board target acquisition and fire control. LPWS barrels are optimized for use with self-destruct ammunition to minimize collateral damage. Integrated search and track radars detect and engage a wide range of IDF threats. The C-RAM C2 system integrates the sensors, weapons, and warning systems for C-RAM Intercept.

A counter rocket, artillery and mortar system will be fielded in the fiscal 2020 to 2023 timeframe with full C-RAM capability by 2030, he said.

C-RAMs defend against indirect fire threats, like mortars. Some systems are currently deployed to U.S. Central Command. The C-RAM C2 system integrates the sensors, weapons, and warning systems for C-RAM intercept.

A lot of developmental work is going on in the fields of electronic warfare and directed energy technologies, he said.

For example, a 5-kilowatt Mobile Experimental High-Energy Laser mounted on a Stryker has successfully shot down targets, including UASs, during exercises last year, he said.

This year, a 50kW laser will be demonstrated and a 100kW laser is expected to be tested by 2022, he added.

To date, 208 Soldiers have received Man-Portable Air-Defense System training, for 104 MANPADS teams (two per team), he said. These Soldiers will deploy in support of U.S. Forces Command the U.S. European Command, he said.

MANPADS are shoulder-launched weapons used in short range air defense against threats like aircraft, particularly helicopters.

Another SHORAD system is the Avenger missile system.

In order to create 72 fully functional Avenger sets to support EUCOM mission requirements, Army Materiel Command inspected and overhauled legacy Avenger systems that were stored in Pennsylvania and had been awaiting disposal, he said.

In conclusion, Dickinson said air and missile defense isn’t just about new systems, it’s also about people and building relationships with allies and partners.

An example of that effort, he said, is Exercise Nimble Titan, which will kick off March 12. A record 28 nations will participate in this exercise, which is expected to enhance interoperability.

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