WASHINGTON — The second soldier test of a Northrop Grumman-developed anti-missile command-and-control system demonstrated it can perform in a highly complex and joint environment, according to Kenn Todorov, company vice president for missile defense solutions in its missions systems sector.
The Soldier Checkout Event, or SCOE, follows another successful one conducted in August. “This is really a master’s level sort of exercise. The first one was maybe just an undergraduate level,” Todorov told Defense News.
The second checkout was a live-air exercise which took place over three weeks in October at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and involved soldiers from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and a task force with the Marine Corps.
Fort Sill soldiers used Northrop’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS — being developed for the U.S. Army’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defense system — to direct Army air and missile defense sensors and weapons in “complex, multi-domain air defense operations,” according to a company statement.
Todorov said Yuma Proving Ground provided a “realistic environment” for the system to be put through its paces.
The checkout included maintaining tracks on objects when sensors working alone are unable and could discern dozens of airborne platforms from unmanned aircraft systems, fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, attack aircraft, tankers, early warning aircraft, tilt-rotor aircraft and electronic attack aircraft, and then tag them as friend or foe.
“I think this SCOE II did really take things to the next level in complexity and the different kinds of tracks, different speeds, different altitudes,” Todorov said. “If there was any doubt in our mind that we had addressed this software, you know the software was going to perform beautifully in a complex environment.”
The checkout proved that IBCS will not only be an effective system for the U.S. Army, but as a joint asset and — as is the case with Poland, which is planning to buy IBCS to beef up its defenses against Russia — will prove effective against adversaries that are equipped to bring complexity to the battlefield, according to Todorov.
The second soldier checkout also proved IBCS can maintain a complete picture of the battlefield even when sensors and weapons systems networked into the system are under electronic attack or down for another reason.
There were “a lot of electronic attack elements that were put to the test,” Todorov said, including sensors being shut down due to simulated electronic attack.
“Through the use of IBCS, because we were now linking feeds and tracks from different sensors, if another sensor wasn’t subject to that sort of element of the attack, it would maintain situational awareness on either the threat or the asset,” Todorov explained. “So sort of proving the value of this networked, open architecture approach.”
IBCS showed it has the ability to “maintain the picture for the war fighter, which is really the exciting part for me as someone who’s been out in a [combined air operations center] in a joint fight and watching the air defense commander try to struggle with systems that would go down either in an exercise or sometimes real world if there was spoofing going on, and now this system lets you work around that,” Todorov said.
Todorov retired from his military career when he was deputy director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The test, again, proved out ease-of-use of the system. Some soldiers from the first checkout in August participated, but some new soldiers were brought in and rapidly trained.
The next IBCS milestone is another soldier checkout expected in the spring that will continue to test the system in different mission threads.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.