WASHINGTON — The Army’s Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) was challenged in two operational flights tests as part of its initial operational test and successfully intercepted three threat targets, and, in some cases, amid electronic attack, Northrop Grumman, the system’s developer, told Defense News.
The critical battle command system’s Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, which was anticipated to begin in the fall, was pushed back to iron out some software deficiencies, and began at the end of January. The IOT&E is expected to wrap up in October.
IBCS will serve as the brains of the Army’s Integrated Air-and-Missile Defense System as well as connect a wide variety of other sensors and shooters together on the battlefield.
In the first flight test, the system tracked a “high-performance, high-speed tactical ballistic missile (TBM) target,” aided by Northrop’s Joint Tactical Ground Station, which delivered space-based sensor data to the system, a company statement described. The JTAGS provided early warning for IBCS before a ground-based sensor was able to detect the threat and pass the information to IBCS.
The Army was able to intercept the target using IBCS, according to the statement.
While similar flight tests have occurred, a Northrop spokesperson said, this TBM was more difficult to engage in the past, but could not offer more detail on what made that target harder to defeat.
IBCS demonstrated, during the second flight test, the ability to defeat two cruise missile targets “in a stressing electronic attack environment,” the statement notes. The system maintained “continuous track custody of the targets” by fusing data from multiple sensors that were degraded from electronic attack, the statement describes.
A similar test was conducted in July, but this flight test intercepted two targets as opposed to just one and one of the cruise missiles was equipped with airborne jamming capabilities, according to the spokesperson.
Sensors and effectors connected to the Integrated Fire Control Network were hit with airborne and ground-based electronic attack, the spokesperson added.
But even while the sensors and effectors were under attack, IBCS was able to fuse limited data continuously coming from a “ground asset” that was degraded by electronic attack in order to track both targets, the spokesperson explained.
The soldiers were given engagement solutions calculated by IBCS and then launched two missiles controlled by IBCS to intercept both threats, the spokesperson said.
“We continue to demonstrate our architecture’s power to leverage information from every domain, delivering unprecedented situational awareness and increased time and options to warfighters,” Christine Harbison, Northrop’s vice president of combat systems and mission readiness, said in the statement. “IBCS’s maturity and ability to connect legacy systems significantly helps to expand their mission capability.”
Both tests happened at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, with soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment operating the system.
A third and final flight test is expected for IBCS in the fall as part of the IOT&E, the spokesperson said.
The Army is expected to make a full-rate production decision at year’s end. IBCS has cost the Army roughly $2.7 billion in development funding.
While the service originally intended for IBCS to serve as the command-and-control systems for its air and missile defense system, it has exponentially expanded its mission set and sees it as the Army’s contribution to Joint All Domain Command-and-Control – or JADC2 – which aims to connect sensors and shooters across the joint force for speedier transfer of data, information, intelligence and communications.
IBCS was able to demonstrate expanded capabilities as recently as Project Convergence in the fall of 2021 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
The Army awarded Northrop a $1.4 billion contract for both low-rate initial production and full-rate production of its future battle command system in December 2021.
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.