The United States Army has recently announced its intention to award Northrop Grumman a 1.4 billion dollar contract for integrated missile defense. This money will buy 160 so-called Integrated Battlefield Command Systems (IBCS).
The announcement came on the 23rd December 2021 and the contract will begin with initial low-rate production and full-rate production for the program. Northrop Grumman's Integrated Battle Command System aims to link disparate missile defense assets to bolster command and control, and ultimately fully integrate into the joint force’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control effort, in a five-year project.
To this end, it will link a vast array of sensors and missile launching systems across the battlefield.
“This award represents the first significant competition for this major defense acquisition program since the 2009 award of the engineering and manufacturing development contract,” an Army press release on the matter revealed.
The system will be a "keystone" of all-domain operations, in which the service must confront adversaries across all the warfighting domains.
IBCS “will provide a decisive battlefield advantage through weapon and sensor integration and a common mission-command system across all domains, delivering an integrated fires capability to the warfighter while improving battlespace awareness, decision timing, and protection against threats in complex integrated attack scenarios,” the Army statement added.
The project will, as previously stated, develop 160 systems for the U.S. Army, but will also provide systems for strategic foreign partners as well. What's more, Northrop Grumman will increase IBCS production after a full-rate production decision is finalized in fiscal 2023. The contract was awarded by Program Executive Office Missiles and Space.
ICBS will prove critical on the modern battlefield
To date, the program has cost the U.S. Army around 2.7 billion dollars to develop and was originally meant to serve only as the command-and-control system for the Army’s future Integrated Air-and-Missile Defense System against regional ballistic missile threats.
However, the service has since had its remit expanded to tie together a broad array of sensors and shooters that are capable of defeating other complex threats, such as cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft.
It has also been plagued with technical issues. For example, the program experienced an almost 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, the system had a successful limited user test in summer 2020.
Northrup Grumman was one of two official bidders for the program, with a second unnamed contractor pipped to the post. The project is expected to run until its completion on the 22nd of December, 2026.
The IBCS has, thus far, proved very capable and reliable in testing. Over the summer, for example, it downed a cruise missile in a test that included electronic warfare attacks on radars and tied together with data from multiple different platforms from other services, including the data from F-35As and a PAC-3 anti-missile battery.
Operational testing for the system began in September of this year.
“Our adversaries are growing increasingly bold in their hostile acts of using ballistic missiles cruise missiles and UAS. They’re crucially bold in their conduct of irresponsible space activities. It means the Joint Force will demand more from the Army’s Space and Missile defense capabilities and expertise going forward,” explained Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commander of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, stressed in a speech in August.
This comes amid an, as quoted by Karbler, a 200 percent increase in ballistic missile testing by adversaries in the last 15 years. Karbler also warned of adversaries growing electronic warfare, artificial intelligence, and directed-energy capabilities.