WASHINGTON — A maneuver system for short-range air defense may be fielded five years faster than normal as the Army tests a new modernization process.
Air and missile defense is one of six Army modernization priorities that is supported by one or more of eight specialized Cross-Functional Teams, or CFTs. The eight CFTs will be part of the Army’s new Futures Command, which aims to break the mold on acquisition.
Brig. Gen. Randy McIntire heads up the Air and Missile Defense CFT. He’s also commandant of the Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and chief of Air Defense Artillery.
He sees a possible “quick win” for his new CFT in development of the maneuver system for short-range air defense, or SHORAD.
“We were able to get the directed requirements signed in two and a half months, which was pretty rapid speed,” he said, adding the Maneuver SHORAD requirements could have taken a year or longer to develop under the old process.
CFT: SYNCHRONIZE AND STREAMLINE
Through the CFT, he was able to get the right people in the room to approve the requirements, he said. The CFT brings together program executive officers and project managers with schoolhouse representatives, industry, support commands and combatant commanders. Once four-star commanders gain confidence and endorse, the process moves very fast, said McIntire.
“Essentially, we’re making the organization a little bit flatter,” he said of the CFT pilot program. “We’re able to get to key decision-makers sooner in the process.”
The recently signed requirements document for Maneuver SHORAD calls for a vehicle such as a Stryker A-1 variant with a 50-caliber automatic weapon or 30mm cannon on top, along with a pod of missiles, and eventually a 50kw laser.
The first battery will be fielded in fiscal year 2020 with a dozen systems. A full battalion will be fielded the following year with another soon afterward. Under the legacy process, McIntire said that first battery wouldn’t even have been fielded until at least 2025.
McIntire hopes to actually field four entire battalions with Maneuver SHORAD by FY22, and he predicts high-powered lasers will be added to the systems when the capability matures. Those are being tested now.
“This is probably a very good news story, I think, for the Army of how you actually can go fast, when you put your mind to it,” he said of Maneuver SHORAD.
It’s none too soon either, he explained, because the new units will fill a critical need.
Over the past 15 years, the Army inactivated many of its SHORAD units because leaders didn’t see a compelling need for them. “We were told that we would always have air supremacy,” he said.
Then the Russians showed what they could do in Ukraine, attacking with drones, rockets and missiles, and setting up considerable anti-access, aerial denial. “I call it the period of awakening,” McIntire said, “when the Army woke up and realized we really don’t have much in the inventory that we can use to protect ourselves.”
In 2004, Stinger-based systems such as the Avenger were starting to be overmatched and outpaced, he said. “So we needed to divest and re-invest.”
THAAD, PATRIOT INTEGRATION
Another “quick win” that McIntire hopes to achieve for his CFT is integrating the Patriot missile systems and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, systems.
Patriot systems have been in South Korea for a while, and most recently a THAAD battery deployed there to defend against mid-range threats. McIntire says THAAD has a lot of strategic significance.
“I will tell you that the THAAD battery in my mind is equivalent to an aircraft carrier moving into a region,” he said, explaining that it elicits the same kind of reaction from a potential enemy.
There’s work that needs to be done, though, to better integrate the radar systems and networks for the Patriot and THAAD, McIntire said. “So the big idea is: why can’t I take the THAAD radar that can see large, long distances and use that sensor to further optimize Patriot?”
The CFT is working to integrate THAAD and Patriot so they can leverage each other’s capabilities to create an even more impenetrable defensive wall.
TIERED AND LAYERED APPROACH
The greatest threat to air and missile defense, McIntire said, is the enemy launching a “complex, integrated attack.” That’s when the enemy combines attacks with tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
One system at a time is relatively easy to defend against, he said, but it’s the complex, integrated attack that keeps him up at night. In order to defend against all the different types of threats from ballistic missiles to mortars, he said a tiered and layered approach is used.
“When you take a look at the air domain, there’s really no single silver-bullet solution,” he said. “Different tools are needed in the toolbox to counter different threats.”
At the far strategic end of the spectrum, his team is looking at how to defend against an emerging technology called the hypersonic glide vehicle. This vehicle would launch into a high altitude, then come down extremely fast into areas where it’s difficult for radars to track it. “It’s a cat and mouse game,” McIntire said, but added his engineers have “Yankee ingenuity” and he believes they can solve the problem.
Then for other long and mid-range threats, the improved Patriot and THAAD integration will be key to protecting the force.
Against shorter-range threats, the Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC, will protect fixed areas such as airfields or semi-fixed areas such as a division main. The IFPC will be a multi-missile launcher, or MML, mounted on a flatbed behind a medium tactical vehicle.
The Maneuver SHORAD, on the other hand, will be a Stryker-type variant that moves with combat formations. Its job will be to get after the rotary and fixed-wing aircraft that maneuver forces would have difficulty dealing with otherwise.
Since a typical brigade combat team has about 175 different platforms, McIntire said there’s never going to be enough air defense to cover all of them. So, a combined-arms approach is necessary with some tanks and Bradleys having aerial gunnery capability, and electronic warfare ability, especially when it comes to defending against swarms of drones.
“It’s going to take everybody to have an effective defense,” he said.
“It’s really going to be the network that’s going to allow us to tie all that together,” McIntire said. The Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, will tie all the different sensors and shooters together, he said.
“That’s the centerpiece of our future,” he stressed. “We can really no longer have these stove-piped single-weapon systems. We’ve got to be able to integrate better and IBCS is really the path to opening the door for us to be able to do that.”
Getting IBCS fielded in a timely manner will require an aggressive approach such as the CFTs, he said. And overall success of the multi-domain battle will depend on integrating the various CFTs laterally.
For instance, high-powered lasers are being developed for the Maneuver SHORAD, but they might also be used for the next-generation combat vehicle.
“We’re definitely seeing the value of the CFTs,” he said. “I look forward to continue to be able to matrix these teams together, to take on challenges.”
“I think it’s going to be the wave of the future.”
(Editor’s note: This is one of six articles covering the Army’s six modernization priorities. Those priorities are long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and Soldier lethality.)