All of America's Expensive Weapons Are Useless Without This One System

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"None of this will matter when you're dead. So you need air defense." General Mark Milley, then chief of staff of the U.S. Army, said these words when he defined the army's six modernization priorities in October 2017. General Milley's statements are accurate and recent fighting in Ukraine, Syria and Southwest Asia confirms them. His words clearly state that air and missile defense (AMD) is number 5 on his list of six modernization priorities, but air and missile defense is not his penultimate priority - it is the preeminent priority on a list of a few resources procured. This is a point that has to resonate with everyone.
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America's opponents have invested in low-cost, simple air forces and capabilities. Meanwhile, the United States has neglected our ground-based air defense forces, believing that our air forces were almighty.
Combat has shown that our assumptions are wrong. We have accepted extreme risk in air and missile defense and we must ensure that its modernization does not result in the death of COVID-19. Another army chief of staff often said, "You can't fix a problem once the crisis begins." We have an anti-missile defense problem that must be a priority in procurement before we are in a crisis with insufficient defense capabilities.
Current environment
If you cannot protect yourself from aerial observation or attacks today, you will not survive and all the tanks, artillery and aircraft in which the Pentagon has invested will be of little value or utility. If the warfighter cannot defeat a complex airstrike, the U.S. becomes strategic, operational and tactical assets and targets are at extreme risk. Without air and missile defense, a force cannot enter or operate effectively in any combat environment. It can rightly be said that the threat is currently focused more on relatively inexpensive air and missile systems than on key land, sea and air programs in the past.
In fact, the threat to air and missiles has continued to increase at both ends of its range of uses. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are widely used by both peers and non-state actors. The missile is the indirect firearm of choice for most non-state actors, and the United States simply cannot ignore the Houthis' use of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.
We cannot ignore the lessons learned from the 2019 cruise missile and UAS attack on Saudi Arabia's ARAMCO facility and cannot reject Iran's ballistic missile attacks on U.S. bases in Al Asad and Erbil. Was that deliberate failure or the randomness of circular error probabilities? If deliberate errors occur, the lesson is that the enemy has fairly accurate missiles. If the impact points were simply the result of circular error probabilities, we have to keep in mind that these warheads deal a heavy blow and that the United States was lucky.
Do we want to rely on luck in the future?
The variety of threats is increasing, enabling more complex attacks and challenging our defense designs. We are vulnerable to 360-degree attacks. In addition, the Warfighter must counter attack profiles at high and low altitudes, which are represented by small reconnaissance and weapon systems with a small radar cross-section and a long range, and at the same time defeat the maneuvering of ballistic missiles at closing speeds of thousands of meters per second. Our armed forces must also ensure that our air and air forces can operate safely in airspace.
Simply put, one-trick ponies that work in isolation with stovepipe architectures will neither survive nor improve friendly flight operations in today's air and missile combat.
It is important that the challenges facing the U.S. military go beyond technology. They include force structure. The peace dividends of the 1990s decremented the army and its anti-aircraft and missile defense forces. The Air Force Base's defense units and all Cold War HAWK battalions no longer exist. In 2004, the Army deployed air and missile defense as a biller to build more brigade teams than the Modular Force designed for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This decision reduced the entire short-range air defense forces by more than 60 percent and halted their modernization, as limited budgets and combat operations hampered the modernization of the air and missile defense forces. Today, the army has very limited capacities or capabilities to provide air and missile defense to the common force - one of its core functions.
Today's environment requires an integrated approach to air and missile defense. Air and missile defense operations are inherently interconnected and require a versatile and flexible architecture that uses all available information and uses. An integrated approach enables us to achieve the principles of air defense: unity of command, unity of efforts, centralized planning and management as well as decentralized execution. Stovepipe systems and parochialism are obstacles to achieving these principles, as are foreign disclosure guidelines that prohibit allies and partners from working seamlessly in our architecture.
Progress and the new challenge
General Milley also said in 2017: "We will reform our entire air and missile defense capabilities on the battlefield ... which has tragically deteriorated over the years." As one of the Army's original six modernization priorities, the Army has taken aggressive steps to rebuild the Army's air and missile defense capabilities. Key initiatives include restoring short-range air defense strength and capability (SHORAD) while further enhancing airborne combat capabilities, cruise and ballistic missile threats, combating the 360-degree threat, and achieving integrated air defense Command and control function that optimizes skills while reducing the potential for fratricide.
Now that the Department of Defense faces a possible budget cut to fund the COVID-19 response, the army has to make difficult decisions. As the Army weighs up its decisions, it should not lose sight of General Milley's words or ignore the excessive risk it has taken by allowing its air and missile defense capabilities to "tragically deteriorate". The Army has made significant progress on many anti-aircraft and missile defense initiatives and must continue to focus on these programs and provide resources to ensure that they can be opened, operated and survived in any combat theater.
Fixing Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD)
The Maneuver SHORAD ability (M-SHORAD) is critical to the forwarding of area and maneuvering force operations and begins to close the gap that has arisen after the resulting modularity efforts. The integrated sensor suite and the ability to network across platoon operations and into the division's air defense network represent the tactical level of integration and are critical to countering today's forward threats. To support General Milley's priorities, the Army must restore this ability in all of the Army's maneuvering departments, not just the four that it currently funds.
The Avenger air defense system was added to the army's inventory in 1988 and has seen no major improvement since 2004. It is an air defense system in the rear that is not designed to support a maneuvering force and would neither survive nor be effective in defending a heavy force in motion. M-SHORAD is the right solution to meet these operational needs.
The Sentinel A4 sensor upgrades are essential to address the threat of UAS and cruise missiles. when building the integrated aerial image of the front area; and contribute to the shared aerial view. This sensor plays a key role in reducing fratricides and provides SHORAD units with early warning and situation awareness. Sentinel is also a key sensor in the home country's air defense architecture and will be M-SHORAD's area sensor. In addition, the A4 upgrades will enhance Sentinel's contribution to the missile defense, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) mission.
In 2005, after just one year of development and testing, the Army deployed a C-RAM interception function to protect our modular forces in OIF base camps. It is not an impressive-looking weapon system, and its first test scores were only in the 'C range of an alphabetical rating scale', but as an Army officer general said to one of the authors of this paper: "If you don't have it." For any skill, a C is a pretty good grade. "
C-RAM was deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2005, and the demand for its capabilities has ensured that the two US-based SHORAD battalions in service have had almost consecutive deployments in Iraq or Afghanistan, which occasionally need to be reinforced by the National Guard . C-RAM has been improved over time and has recently been deployed with Patriot and Avenger units in Iraq. In 2005 it was anything but exquisite, but it was good enough and it is still on a mission 15 years later.
The advent of the C-RAM mission led to the development of the Indirect Fire Protection Program (IFPC). Unfortunately, the threat is dynamic, and the gap between unmanned aerial systems and cruise missiles took precedence, converting IFPC to IFPC Increment-2 to address these critical gaps. IFPC Increment-2 (hereinafter referred to as IFPC) should not be a development item and should use a multi-rocket launcher developed by army laboratories and manufactured in army depots, using existing interceptors and missiles to defeat cruise missiles and UAS. The Sentinel radar is the primary sensor of the IFPC, and the Army's Integrated Air and Missile Defense Command System (IBCS) would serve as a command and control center and gateway to integrated architecture.
IFPC is designed to replace Avenger as the rear air defense system capable of handling the cruise missile and UAS threats, and ultimately missile, artillery and mortar threats. IFPC has been challenged - in some cases by technology and possibly operational requirements associated with "unreachability".
The gap in U.S. anti-UAS and cruise missile capabilities is real, as is the ability of our military to use multi-layered defense against these threats or to adequately defend assets in the rear or at a maneuvering force's air base. The contribution of the IFPC to closing these gaps and to achieving anti-missile and anti-missile principles for mass and mixture and to laying the foundation for the creation of a multi-layered defense is crucial. The Army cannot avoid this requirement, and the Army's IFPC shoot-off for 2021 is a solid approach to addressing the challenge. We don't need an exquisite solution - we need effective weapons.
The formation of the Army Air & Missile Defense
The venerable Patriot air defense system has been the mainstay of the army's air and missile defense for more than 35 years. Patriot batteries were the first US ground forces to be used for Desert Shield in 1990, and Patriot has had a continuous mission in Southwest Asia for almost 30 years. Patriot is a tactical weapon with strategic value and influence. As Lieutenant General of the US Air Force at the US Embassy in Israel, he said to one of the authors of this paper in December 2002 when the 69th ADA Brigade was stationed in Israel: "If you park an aircraft carrier in a region, it will send one powerful signal, but positioning a purely defensive Patriot battery in a partner country is an equally strong signal for our national intent. "
Today, more than nine of the Army's 15 battalions are deployed, at least five of them in Southwest Asia. Patriot is expected to continuously improve through software upgrades and technology incorporation. With a family of versatile and effective interceptors, Patriot is expected to stay with us for another 20 years.
Patriot is the only real anti-aircraft and missile defense system in the army's inventory, and 16 partner countries use it. Patriot was designed to fight as integrated battalions. It should integrate into THAAD and act as an air and missile defense task force. Unfortunately, this requirement was lost during the transition from THAAD development from the Army to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and is currently being followed up.
Continuous improvement of Patriot is as important as integration with THAAD and other common and combined AMD functions. In addition, the US should take advantage of collaborative development opportunities with our partners as sales of Patriot and THAAD continue to grow abroad. By building the capacities and capabilities of the partners, you have the opportunity to integrate the partners into the defense and to act as a combined integrated air defense force.
The LTAMDS (Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor) will significantly improve Patriot's performance and contribute to the combined fight against air and missile defense. LTAMDS replaces Patriot's sector radar with a 360-degree radar that uses gallium nitride (GaN) technology to achieve greater range, precision, and search volume. A 360-degree search and tracking function combined with increased sensitivity meets the challenges of today's unmanned aerial and cruise missile threats and provides a modern platform to counter the emerging hypersonic threat.
The ability to locate and track an aerial threat at 360 degrees is not a "nice skill" - it is important to survive in today's battlefield, and it cannot become a budget feed. A 360-degree radar is also critical for expeditionary operations, where individual armed forces arrive early in an immature theater and must complete their mission as soon as other theater skills arrive. A typical example: One has to wonder how different the attack on the Saudi ARAMCO facility last September could have been if the UK's air and missile defense had had a 360-degree sensor with LTAMD capabilities.
LTAMDS is the army's large-scale air and missile defense sensor and makes an important contribution to combat as an integrated air and missile defense system. The proven performance at a sensor competition in 2019 and the fast acquisition path will provide four sensors for testing and first use in 2025 by autumn 2022. They are dynamic and promising and must remain at the top when it comes to procurement.
The final element in the reform of the air and missile defense of the army is the integrated air and missile defense combat command system (IBCS). Command and control systems are called "the glue that connects a family of systems - the element that connects capabilities to create synergies and greater capabilities that could not be realized if skills were operated in isolation." IBCS is the command and control system that has demonstrated the ability to do so
Accept data from a common family of sensors (including the F-35) to create a single integrated aerial photograph that provides improved situational awareness and protection for friendly aircraft.
Providing an integrated fire protection network that optimizes the individual aerial photo and enables the optimal weapon to attack a threat and to enable and defend previous missions, possibly multiple missions (if necessary);
implement integrated defense planning to minimize gaps in coverage; and
Provision of automated combat management aids for operations.
IBCS got off to a rocky start, but it has made tremendous progress and is now illustrating the language of the Army's 2019 modernization strategy: "[We] may not be successful in the first demonstration and experimentation ... but we will learn and adapt quickly. " 3 IBCS has had five successful flight tests and its development has been informed by soldier check-out events, in which soldiers were included in the system much earlier than with conventional acquisition programs. When running the Limited User Test (LUT) this summer and considering a production decision by the Army, it is important not only to assess how well IBCS is performing the test, but also to assess the operational value of its performance and how early this capability is used Improves air and missile defense and the protection of the armed forces. It is important to implement the IBCS functions as quickly as possible while drawing lessons from the LUT.
IBCS has demonstrated the joint integration and ability of a Patriot battery to defeat multiple cruise missiles from a distance using Sentinel radar track data. During a recent test, the Patriot battery's radar never saw or tracked the cruise missiles - it performed the intervention from the fire network's composite route data, with the stretches occurring in a range never before proven. This is the power of combat as an integrated air and missile defense system.
Imagine the following: Sentinel radars operating in the front with M-SHORAD detect and track a flight of cruise missiles that arrive but are out of range of M-SHORAD or an IFPC battery in the front . These tracks are forwarded to Patriot units in the rear of the division via the integrated fire control network. Patriot engages and intercepts part of the cruise missile flight. At the same time, the cruise missile data is forwarded to a control and reporting center of the Air Force, which instructs the F-35 to carry out a second mission against the flight of cruise missiles and to defeat part of the flight again. Finally, the few remaining cruise missiles are defeated by the IFPC, which defends the division's aerospace brigade, the intended target of the cruise missiles, at the rear of the division. Meanwhile, LTAMDS and Patriot shut down the division's critical assets with ballistic missiles, contribute critical data to the single integrated aerial view, and made trajectories available to the control and reporting center.
Way ahead
Integration is powerful - and this type of integration is necessary. The integration transforms point defense weapons into a networked system to ensure area defense. It enables multi-layer defense and deep defense. It enables earlier target assessment, weapon allocation and deployment, and significantly reduces the potential for uncoordinated deployments and waste by interceptors. Integration overcomes the challenges of earth curvature, which confuses terrestrial sensors, reduces terrain masking, and allows the joint or combined mission commander to use the best weapon options. It also closes the seams - which all operators want to use.
The integration made possible by IBCS is not service-specific. It goes into joint and combined operations. Countless war games and table exercises point to the need for an integrated command and control system for air and missile defense. Unfortunately, the army is only financed for the integration of its systems. This plan must be expanded to include THAAD, AEGIS and other AMD functions as well as those of our partner countries and must be implemented as soon as possible.
In 2003, 95 percent of our patriot forces were deployed, the majority of which was used for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The partner countries contributed 16 additional Patriot batteries to this operation, but overall only 50 percent of the Joint Force Commander's critical assets were defended. Integrated defense would have increased that value by 50 percent and improved defense effectiveness, most likely defeating the five Iraqi cruise missiles fired at Kuwait and preventing the two fratricides. Integration is one of the four principles of anti-aircraft and missile defense and has been a commander's planning task since World War II and perhaps even World War I.
Today we are close to being able to work in an integrated manner. The upcoming IBCS LUT will only inform the Army field decision for army systems. There is no plan or funding for the integration of THAAD or AEGIS or any element of the home country's air and missile capabilities. The success of the test this summer and the decision to use IBCS should be the catalyst for developing and funding a plan to integrate these systems and open the door for partners. It will also be important to resolve all of the latency issues associated with integrating different systems while ensuring cyber protection for the entire integrated air and missile defense architecture. Congress has a hard time fighting and paying for the COVID-19 response, and the defense budget may need to be cut. If lawmakers make defense a biller, they should use a language that protects the air and missile defense capabilities and initiatives of the army and sets out the plan for integrated air and missile defense capabilities that go beyond the army.
If COVID-19 has taught our nation anything, you may not be able to fix a problem when you are in crisis. The United States has significant gaps in air and missile defense, and we intend to close those gaps. Pentagon and Congress leaders must procure, implement and expand this plan before our warriors are in crisis and unable to meet their challenges.
The poor man's air force is now much more than just ballistic missiles. They are unmanned aircraft, missiles, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. Today there are more poor men with air forces than ever before. Our opponents always take the path of least resistance and use our skill gaps to their advantage. The army has accepted an extreme risk in the air, and missile defense and its capability gaps are serious and vital to successful exploitation by an enemy.
None of our other modernization initiatives will matter if we are all dead. And the likelihood of this increases the longer the holders of the federal wallets restrict and delay the modernization of our air and missile defense forces. The United States simply cannot allow the pursuit of the perfect solution to be the enemy of a solution that is good enough - especially if good enough is today's skill set and is ready to be used. You can't fix a problem once the fight has started - and we have a significant problem.
Lieutenant General David L. Mann (U.S. Army, retired) is the former commanding general of the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command. His duties in air and missile defense also included Commanding General, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense (USSTRATCOM), Commanding General, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command and Commanding General, White Sands Missile Range. Dave has more than 35 years of experience in all areas of space, air and missile defense. He has commanded US Army air and missile defenses in Iraq, Southwest Asia and throughout the United States. Dave is currently an independent aerospace defense contractor and Stellar Advisor for Stellar Solutions, Inc.
Maj. Gen. Roger F. Mathews (U.S. Army, retired) is a former deputy general commander of the U.S. Army Pacific. His duties in air and missile defense also included the general commander of the Army's 94th Air and Missile Defense Command, the U.S. Army Commandant Air Defense Artillery School, and the deputy general command of the U.S. Army Air Defense Center. Roger has more than 36 years of experience in all aspects of combined and combined integrated air and missile defense. He has commanded US Army AMD forces and has conducted operations in Israel, Germany and the United States. Roger is currently an independent aerospace defense contractor and Stellar Advisor for Stellar Solutions, Inc.
Maj. Gen. Francis G. Mahon (U.S. Army, retired) is a former director of strategy, politics, and planning at NORAD-U.S. North Command. His missions in air and missile defense also included the Missile Defense Agency's test director, the general commander of the Army's 32nd Air and Missile Defense Command, and the deputy general commander of the U.S. Air Defense Artillery School and Center. Fran has more than 34 years of experience: in joint, combined and inter-agency operations; Development of operational requirements; Testing and integrating new technologies; and development of tactics, techniques and procedures for AMD operations. He has commanded US Army air and missile defenses in Southwest Asia, Korea, Germany and the United States. Fran is currently an independent aerospace defense contractor and Stellar Advisor for Stellar Solutions, Inc.
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This article by David L. Mann, Roger F. Mathews and Francis G. Mahon was first published in Real Clear Defense on June 16, 2020.
PICTURED: Specialist Tevin Howe and specialist Eduardo Martinez take part in a training session on a U.S. Army Patriot surface-to-air missile launcher at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on January 12, 2019. The picture was taken on January 12, 2019 / Technology. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady / Handout on REUTERS.
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