WASHINGTON -- The new Army Space and Missile Defense Command chief -- now a month into his job -- is seeking a way to balance near-constant air-and-missile defense force deployments and engaging in major modernization efforts.
High operational demand, especially of Patriot air-and-missile defense units, has put stress on the force and affected current and future readiness as well as modernization initiatives, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson said at the Association of the U.S. Army's missile defense forum on Feb. 7. Over 50 percent of the AMD force is either forward-stationed or deployed, making these units some of the most highly used in the entire Army.
But Dickinson said he hoped the implementation of the "Sustainable Readiness Model" will help reduce the stress on his forces in the future. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Allyn said, during a House Armed Services Committee readiness hearing on the same day, that the Army is running a pilot with units across the total force using this new model in order to move away from the Army Force Generation model that is no longer working with a shrinking force.
And Dickinson said a recent study that looked at striking a balance between operational demand and modernization led to a number of initiatives including the activation of an AMD test task group and the addition of "dismounted Patriot information coordination centers."
The Army is also normalizing Patriot unit rotations to nine-month long deployments rather than 12 months.
Last year, Lt. Gen. David Mann, the previous commanding general of SMDC, said the Army was trying to alleviate the burden on Patriot units deployed around the globe by looking to increase reliance on allied contributions.
Patriot battalions are distributed throughout the Middle East, South Korea, Europe and elsewhere. Fourteen countries have already bought Raytheon’s Patriot and several are buying upgrades to it while other European countries are in the market for new air-and-missile defense systems.
Dickinson said -- echoing Mann -- that building partner capacity is especially important as more foreign military sales cases to buy US Army AMD equipment -- such as Patriot -- are pursued by partners.
The commander added the service has completed forward-stationing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System in Guam to alleviate stress on units rotating in to operate the system deployed several years ago to defend against possible attacks from North Korea.
The Army has struggled over the years in determining how it will deploy THAAD batteries. Col. William Darne, an Army Training and Doctrine Command capabilities manager, said there's talk about deploying THAAD on a rotational basis to the U.S. Central Command area of operation and forward-stationing one in the U.S. European Command area of operation.
And with shorter AMD unit deployments, the Army will have more time to rapidly modernize systems such as a major upgrade effort to Patriot among other endeavors to prevent enemy overmatch.
The Army is working to update its 2012 AMD strategy, but what won’t change are the service's priorities to obtain network mission command, defeat a full range of AMD threats, build partner capacity and forward presence and transform the AMD force, Dickinson outlined.
Amid continued modernization of Patriot and bringing the Integrated Battle Command System online to achieve a networked Integrated Air-and-Missile Defense system, the service is also reinvigorating its Short-Range Air Defense capability, Dickinson said.
The Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhanced missile achieved initial operational capability last year, Dickinson noted.
The Indirect Fire Protection Capability system is on track to achieve initial operational capability in 2020 to mitigate unmanned aircraft systems and cruise missile threats and will then be upgraded to defend against rocket, artillery and mortar threats.
And the High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator is being developed to accommodate a 50-kilowatt laser and then a 100-kilowatt laser, Dickinson said.
Counter-UAS solutions are being demonstrated, Dickinson said, including one in exercises in the European theater -- the C-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability. The demo used existing programs-of-record to provide ground-based lethal and non-lethal counter-UAS capabilities against "selected" UAS, Dickinson said.
The Missile Defense Agency is also on track to install 44 total ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to complete the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System that defends against possible intercontinental ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or Iran. An Army National Guard unit operates the GMD system and improvements to various parts of it continue.
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.