WASHINGTON — Even as Army leadership points to the great progress made toward interoperability of missile systems, the future could take that vision one step further.

During a Monday panel hosted by Defense News at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting, Col. John Rafferty, director of the Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, said the Army aspires to have “an integrated network, rather than interoperability, which is the work around" in the meantime.

"When we get into operational strategic fires we want to extend the systems approach across the fires warfighting function, offensive and defense,” Rafferty added.

Tom Karako, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Missile Defense Project, stressed that a more aggressive approach to integrating offensive and defense fires is required to defeat current and future near-peer threats. One area Karako has his eye on “is the degree of integration between Maneuver SHORAD, and frankly the whole rest of ARMY AMD, as well as offensive fires. Making sure that interoperability or integration is common as opposed to being another stovepipe of excellence.”

The Integrated Air and Missile Battle Command System (IBCS) is one Army program that will be key to achieving integrated fires. The brains behind the Army’s future air and missile defense command-and-control system, IBCS will improve the operational capabilities of current AMD systems like THAAD and Patriot by connecting the former disparate systems. When integrated, the Army can leverage THAAD’s AN/TYP-2 radar to extend Patriot’s effective range and provide a clearer picture of incoming threats.

Discussing the importance of integrated air and missile defenses, Karako said, “just as there is that full spectrum of air and missile threats, we’re going to need to have a full spectrum and integration of air and missile defense.”

Rafferty and his team have not overlooked the significant investment being made in long-range precision fires.

“I definitely feel like we are the number one modernization priority for the Army,” Rafferty said. “I also realize that with the investment comes a sense of cost consciousness because we know that hard choices were made ... across the Army to resource this number one priority.”

And while Rafferty’s cross functional team is receiving significant funding, the Army knows it has to work as a team to achieve its goals. As explained by Brig. Gen. Alfred Abramson, the program executive officer with PEO Ammunition, the Army has to put their heads together to figure out “where’s the juice worth the squeeze in terms of investment."

"Can we build a better mouse trap so to speak with some limited dollars, because you can’t spread it across everything,” said Abramson, adding that his organization has seen a significant spike of about $2.5 billion for fiscal years 2017 to 2022 funding for ammunition and armament systems products. "At the same time we have a conversation with Col Rafferty’s organization about what direction should we be heading. So it really is a discussion across these organizations to make sure everybody is focused on the same thing.”

Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.

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