WASHINGTON — The Army’s once-problem-plagued air-and-missile defense battle command system took out two cruise missile threat targets nearly simultaneously using Patriot missiles in a major live fire event Aug. 13, according to service officials in charge of the effort.

The cruise missiles flew at a low-altitude, maneuvering through a mountain range. The Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) took real-time data from Patriot and Sentinel radars and tracked the threat. IBCS sent engagement options to air defenders on the ground and two Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles controlled by IBCS intercepted both threats.

The success of the limited user test for IBCS, which began several weeks ago in the New Mexico desert, is like “night and day,” compared to a previous attempt in 2016, Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, who is in charge of Army air-and-missile defense modernization, told Defense News during its Space and Missile Defense Symposium Debrief event Aug. 5.

“We didn’t even get through phase one,” which lasted “just days,” in the first limited user test, Gibson said.

Space and Missile Defense Command Commander Lt. Gen. Dan Karbler had overseen the Army Test and Evaluation Command during the first IBCS limited user test and told reporters Aug. 5 that during the first attempt “the system performance was so unstable, we really couldn’t even get it started. We couldn’t collect any good data. There was multiple software challenges within the system just to try to get it into the network. So it was a very, very difficult endeavor and so, honestly, couldn’t pass LUT and there was a lot of work to do.”

Due to those problems and the Army’s new plans to expand IBCS capability to tie to any sensor or any shooter on the battlefield delayed the entire program by roughly four years.

The live fire marks the first time an entire operational battalion was involved in an IBCS test along with multiple sensors, shooters and mission command platforms, making it the most complex test the system has seen to date, Gibson told reporters Aug. 13 shortly after the test event.

The cruise missile targets were defeated by PAC-3 missiles coming from entirely separate launchers at the same battery site, Col. Phil Rottenborn, IBCS project manager within the Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, said.

IBCS also made it possible to move Sentinel radars more forward on the battlefield, providing more time to track the target, which allowed the commander on the ground to engage a single interceptor per target, said Col. Tony Behrens, Army capability manager and director of the Army Air & Missile Defense Command. Typically, two interceptors, one following the other, are deployed against a single missile target in case the first misses.

With IBCS, the Army will be able to use fewer interceptors in engagements, Behrens said.

The system was also challenged by electronic attack during the live fire where one of the seven integrated fire control network relays was taken out of the mix by a jammer. The system was able to operate and defeat challenging target sets through debris even with a relay removed from the game.

The Army will conduct another live fire test next week with senior officials attending, a presence that will up the ante. IBCS will go up against both a cruise missile and a ballistic missile during that event, according to Army Futures Command Commander Gen. Mike Murray.

Once the limited user test wraps up in mid-September, the Army will need to go through “terabytes, lots and lots of data” over the following three months, Murray said.

The service will then go before a production decision board, currently scheduled for Nov. 20. And if IBCS is approved to move forward, the service will conduct an Initial Operational Test and Evaluation of the system in a year.

The Army plans to equip its first unit with IBCS — the same battalion executing the LUT — in fiscal 2022.

IBCS will not only serve as the brains of the Army’s future Integrated Air-and-Missile Defense System, but will also be the command-and-control system for its future Integrated Fire Protection Capability that will defend against rockets, artillery and mortars as well as cruise missile and unmanned aircraft threats. And IBCS is likely to play an integral part in the next generation program called Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), which is expected to provide an information architecture across all services and domains for warfare.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

More In Space and Missile Defense