WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has chosen Leidos-owned Dynetics to build prototypes for its enduring system to counter both drone and cruise missile threats, sources tell Defense News.
The Army and Dynetics did not respond to requests for comment by press time. Rafael and Raytheon deferred comment to the Army.
Israeli-based Rafael and Raytheon offered up the Iron Dome launcher and Tamir interceptor (known as SkyHunter in the U.S.), while Huntsville-based Dynetics brought a launcher based off the Army’s internally developed, but later canceled Multi-Mission Launcher along with the Raytheon-produced AIM-9X Sidewinder interceptor.
The Army originally planned to develop and field its own multi-mission launcher as part of the enduring solution, but canceled that program in favor of finding a more technologically mature launcher.
Both teams had a chance to bring launcher and interceptor combinations to shoot against threat representative targets at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, earlier this year.
The Army is using Iron Dome as an interim cruise missile defense capability as it works to adopt an enduring Indirect Fires Protection Capability, or IFPC, system that will initially be able to counter unmanned aircraft and cruise missile threats and later be able to take out rockets, artillery and mortars.
The service intends IFPC to protect critical fixed- or semi-fixed assets and to be a more mobile solution than one that would suffice at a forward operating base. The system is planned to bridge the gap between short-range air defense systems, the Patriot air-and-missile defense system and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.
The Army has been trying to formulate its enduring IFPC system for several years. In the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress mandated the service buy two Iron Dome batteries, produced through a partnership between Rafael and Raytheon, to serve as an interim solution for cruise missile defense. Those batteries have been delivered to units and are on track to be deemed operational by the end of the year.
Iron Dome this month completed a live-fire event, operated for the first time entirely by U.S. soldiers. The Army deemed that test a success with the units engaging eight cruise missile surrogate targets.
According to the IFPC solicitation to industry, the Army wanted solutions that could tie into current and future versions of the Sentinel radar and be integrated with the service’s Integrated Battle Command System, or IBCS.
The Army plans to develop, qualify and deliver “fieldable prototypes” to enter into testing and support combat capability by FY23.
A single offeror would build prototypes, with a period of performance beginning in August 2021 and ending March 2024. This offeror would need to deliver prototypes for testing by the fourth quarter of FY22 and a complete system that can integrate with IBCS by the third quarter of FY23.
Following the prototyping phase, the Army may initiate a follow-on production contract for 400 launchers and associated interceptors, according to the solicitation.
According to the service’s solicitation, it planned to select the proposal “that is most advantageous and represents the best value to the [U.S. government] based on an integrated assessment of the evaluation results.”
More specifically, the Army said, whether proposals met capability requirements to counter UAS and cruise missiles was more important than countering RAM threats. Schedule and price were also factors the Army would consider, but ranked lower in priority, the solicitation noted.
“Capability is more important than schedule. Schedule is more important than price,” the solicitation stated. “However, price may be used as the determining factor when ratings of acceptable proposals are closely grouped.”
The Army planned to judge the systems’ lethality at required keep-out ranges as most important, followed by its ability to provide 360-degree coverage of a defended area. Then, in order of importance, the number of stowed kills, target service rate, load and reload time, the amount of time it takes to emplace the system, and operational availability — which factors in reliability and maintainability — were to be weighed in the decision-making process.
The service planned to also evaluate proposals based on how well they’d support future RAM capabilities.
Dynetics has relevant experience designing launchers — from its history on the Army’s MML program to current efforts to build the launcher for the Army’s ground-launched hypersonic missile. Dynetics is also building the first glide bodies for those hypersonic missiles.
According to FY22 Pentagon budget documents, the AIM-9X missile’s price tag has gone up from roughly $350,000 per missile in FY20 when the department bought 846 interceptors to roughly $500,000 per shot in FY22 when DoD plans to spend $250.8 million on 421 interceptors. The Tamir missile’s unit cost is $189,000, according to Army FY22 budget justification books.
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.