HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The U.S. Army’s critical missile defense system will play a small role at the service’s major campaign of learning this fall — Project Convergence — in order to focus on the system’s progress through a challenging initial operational test, the head of Army Space and Missile Defense Command told Defense News.

The Integrated Battle Command System will not only link to sensors and shooters within a missile defense architecture, but also all sensors and shooters on the battlefield capable of defeating threats across the spectrum. Its success in the initial operational test and evaluation process is imperative due to the central role it’s expected to play in future operations.

While the Army cleared IBCS for low-rate production earlier this year, its been a long and difficult road for the Northrop Grumman-developed system.

The program experienced an almost a four-year delay and struggled in a 2016 limited-user test, but the Army has been able to complete soldier checkouts and other test events over the past few years as well as a limited-user tests in the summer of 2020.

The Army is concentrated on a successful completion of the initial operational test and evaluation, and the service did not want other activities to distract the team, Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, Space and Missile Defense Command chief, told Defense News on Aug. 10 at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium.

But because IBCS is critical to future battlefield operations and considered the centerpiece of the Army’s contribution to the Joint All-Domain Command and Control effort, under co-development with the Air Force, it will attend Project Convergence. The JADC2 effort is expected to be the network of networks that the joint force believes it needs to fight highly capable adversaries such as Russia and China.

The initial operational test and evaluation is set to begin next month, Karbler said, and will wrap up in February 2022.

While Project Convergence was an Army-only event in 2020, its inaugural year, it will now focus on joint interoperability, which will include experimentation with JADC2 capabilities.

Karbler said IBCS would participate in one “excursion” — or scenario — at the event.

More details on how IBCS would be used in the scenario are scant. An Army Futures Command spokesperson said details are not yet available on what will be accomplished with IBCS in the excursion because planning is ongoing.

Lt. Gen. James Richardson, Army Futures Command’s deputy chief, laid out overarching details on this year’s Project Convergence in a separate presentation at the symposium, including new focus areas. In addition to developing joint interoperability concepts and capabilities, the Army and its joint partners plan to focus on operating in delayed, disconnected environments or with intermittent network latency; enhance the ability to make decisions using all-domain situational awareness; and evolving the network into a resilient “data ecosystem.”

The services will work on further integration of artificial intelligence, autonomy and robotic systems into tactical formations, he added.

The effort is getting much bigger, Richardson said, and will include the injection of 107 different technologies. The officer also said the event will grow from several hundred participants to roughly 6,000-7,000, with 900 of those dedicated to data collection.

The road to Project Convergence is well underway: The Army has already rehearsed several mission threads and will continue to rehearse this month. Once those are complete, the service will begin a full-scale setup and field validation exercise in October.

Project Convergence will run Oct. 12-Nov. 10.

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.

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