WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s future battle command system that will link sensors and shooters across the battlefield has been cleared for production, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to Defense News Jan. 13.
As part of a long and bumpy road, the Army delayed the production decision for the Northrop Grumman-developed Integrated Battle Command System in November due to administrative issues and the Defense Acquisition Board was scheduled to meet again Dec. 18 to determine whether the critical capability was ready to move into low-rate initial production.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, signed a formal acquisition decision memorandum for the program Jan. 13, just days before she expects to depart her post. She will step down Jan. 20, and Stacy Cummings, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, will temporarily fill the department’s top acquisition office once Joe Biden becomes president.
IBCS — which has cost the Army $2.7 billion to date to develop — was originally meant to serve as the command-and-control system for the Army’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defense System against regional ballistic missile threats. But the service has since expanded its role to tie together a broader array of sensors and shooters capable of defeating other complex threats such as cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft.
The program experienced an almost a four-year delay and struggled in a 2016 limited-user test, but following several soldier checkouts and other test events over the past few years as well as a successful limited-user test this summer, it was expected the battle command system would be approved for production by the end of 2020.
The decision to move into low-rate production, also triggers the start of the system’s initial operational test and evaluation phase this year. The Army plans to equip its first unit with the system in the third or fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.
The program is not only important to the United States but also Poland, which is the first international customer under contract to purchase the IBCS system for its Patriot batteries.
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.