SYNCHRONIZED, SIMULTANEOUS COMBAT: Missile Defense as a Model for Multi-Domain Warfare | World Defense

SYNCHRONIZED, SIMULTANEOUS COMBAT: Missile Defense as a Model for Multi-Domain Warfare


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Nov 25, 2014
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SYNCHRONIZED, SIMULTANEOUS COMBAT: Missile Defense as a Model for Multi-Domain Warfare


“A mechanized battalion task force secures a river crossing while engineers construct bridging sites. Meanwhile, an enemy unmanned aerial system hovers undetected just above the trees, sending video to a nearby control station ... which coordinates to launch two cruise missiles from a ship several hundred kilometers away. An enemy fighter aircraft also receives the target location and plots an attack route.”

This is the scenario laid out by two Army officers in a recent report to the Association of the United States Army. It describes a vision of combat unfolding simultaneously on air, sea, land and in the cyber realm, a mode of operation that has come to be known as multi-domain warfare.

United States military leaders increasingly describe multi-domain as the reality of the future for the armed forces. To unravel the complexities of that emerging paradigm, this paper will describe the multi-domain imperative; highlight integrated air and missile defense, or IAMD, as an example of multi-domain operations; delve into some of the latest emerging IAMD technologies; and look toward the road ahead.

Moving toward multi-domain

“The world I grew up in, during the Cold War, you would have ground forces fighting ground forces, air forces fighting air forces. Cyber didn’t even exist when I was a lieutenant,” said Gen. David Perkins, the senior commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. “What’s happening now is those lines are blurring between those domains.”

Russian surrogates have expertly exploited the cyber domain and UAVs to coordinate artillery fires in Ukraine.
Separatist ground forces elsewhere have gained air supremacy not by superior air strength but through strategic use of ground-based air defense assets. As the lines blur, “units are going to have to be combined arms, multi-domain capable,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. “We will still have to fight and destroy land-based enemy units and seize terrain, but the Army ... we’re going to sink ships. And we’re definitely going to have to dominate the airspace above our units from hostile air or missile attack.”

The multi-domain field of combat presents extraordinary challenges. Military leaders describe a near-term future in which enemies exploit the complexities of the battlefield by striving to fracture armed forces synchronization across air and land; by denying the U.S. and its coalition access to its area of operation; and by suppressing the maneuverability of U.S. and coalition partners.

The military has integrated multidomain into its core thinking. The Army Operating Concept references it repeatedly: “Operating simultaneously across the land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains allows Army forces to deliver multiple blows to the enemy while reassuring allies and influencing neutrals.

” The Army Training and Doctrine Command sponsors experimentation Missile defense as a model for multi-domain warfare GETTY IMAGES By Adam Stone “A mechanized battalion task force secures a river crossing while engineers construct bridging sites. Meanwhile, an enemy unmanned aerial system hovers undetected just above the trees, sending video to a nearby control station ... which coordinates to launch two cruise missiles from a ship several hundred kilometers away. An enemy fighter aircraft also receives the target location and plots an attack route.” be shared with THAAD and shared with short-range air defense,” said Brig. Gen. Clem Coward, head of the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization, or JIAMDO. “Then we want to build that out to have that same integration with our Navy brethren and even in the air domain.

” At present, scant cross-pollination exists. “At the most, you can do some things to those systems to allow them to share some information, and we call that ‘fires coordination,’ just so we’re not shooting multiple missiles at the same target,” said Brig. Gen. Rob Rasch, deputy program executive officer for missiles and space within the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. But true integration remains elusive. One Patriot battery’s radar cannot trigger another Patriot’s fires, nor can intelligence derived from a Patriot system inform the C2 systems of an Aegis unit.

Shifting geopolitics and an increased reliance on coalition methodology make such interchanges even more complex. “More than ever, international cooperation is of great value to share the costs and benefits of these complex systems, where the right balance between national industries shall be found,” suggests the international aeronautical association 3AF.

Without an ability to coordinate IAMD between or even within the U.S. armed forces, however, it seems unlikely that such a vision of an international approach could reach fruition. While the top echelons of defense call for tighter integration, IAMD faces certain inherent hurdles. Just as an anti-missile asset must hone in on a moving target, so is IAMD itself in a sense aimed at an object in motion. “Even as we integrate Patriot and break it into components, Patriot itself continues to evolve, so there is some need there in terms of knowing which technology to integrate,” Rasch said. What emerges from all this is a picture of an able multi-domain asset, or rather suite of assets: a highly capable assortment of tools but without a unifying toolkit to bring them all together and leverage their relative strengths toward a single, simultaneous objective. This problem “will not be solved by merely doing more of the same.

More dramatic and innovative steps will be required to reduce costs and provide a more effective and comprehensive strategy,” according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which goes on to encourage acceleration of diverse efforts to integrate intelligence, tactical data sharing and other forms of coordination among disparate IAMD assets. Clearly IAMD faces manifold challenges. Military leaders in the Department of Defense and across the services nonetheless are taking active steps to close the gap. They are seeking to take IAMD out of its historical silos, to foster interservice coordination, to work with coalition partners and most of all to implement new technologies that promise a new level of tactical interoperability in this critical multi-domain environment. Chief among these is the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, which many point to as the lynch pin of future IAMD integration efforts.

Closing the gap

Training plays a key role in integrating IAMD. The Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, for instance, recently hosted a re-blue, or requalification, training event to help IAMD implementers better understand how to coordinate their actions with others.

“Tactical knowledge is perishable since tactics, techniques and procedures are constantly evolving to counter agile and proficient adversaries,” said Capt. Jim Jones, director of IAMD Division at SMWDC. The Navy is looking to the coalition to better coordinate IAMD efforts. Last year the service conducted a series of cooperative air defense exercises with the Spanish Navy, which included live events, such as Unified Challenge 17.1 and the Joint Warfighter Assessment. Perhaps the clearest example of the U.S. military’s approach to multi-domain conflict can be found in IAMD. By its very nature, missile defense cuts across all combat silos: Air, sea and land can all serve either as launch points or targets.

The need for high-speed communication networks puts missile defense in the cyber realm as well. To get a better understanding of what the future multi-domain battlefield will look like, it’s worth examining in greater depth the evolving state of IAMD.

The IAMD landscape

Missile threats respect no domain. “They can come from space, from the exo-atmosphere. They can come from cruise missiles or from airplanes, or they can be shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles,” said Kenneth Todorov, a retired Air Force general, former deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, and now director of global air and missile defense at Northrop Grumman. “The mission of IAMD is inherently joint, all the services have a role, and it is inherently multi-domain.” It’s also inherently siloed, at least in its present configuration. The Navy floats the Aegis anti-missile system, while the Army mounts the Patriot system. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, originated in the Army and is now under the umbrella of the Missile Defense Agency. Military leaders would like to see closer synchronization between these disparate systems.

“I believe that Army missileers should incorporate their air defense systems into the Navy’s integrated fire control,” Adm. Harry Harris recently said. He described a future in which Army sensors could inform Navy shooters and vice versa. Others echo this view. “We would like to have the Army missile defense systems, from short range to THAAD, to have full capability to integrate so that a Patriot can missile firing events using the latest Aegis Weapon System baseline. The U.S. Air Force likewise has forged international partnerships in this arena, training the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force in ballistic missile defense, and engaging European partners in training on systems including U.S. and allied Army Missile Defense Systems, Aegis-based systems, long-range radars, communication networks and space-based sensors. The Army meanwhile is focused intensively on development around Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, described by some as the brains that will drive the future of IAMD. Where today we see a landscape of disconnected IAMD sensors and systems, “eventually IBCS will replace all of that,” Rasch predicted.

“There will be common command and control for all Army air and missile defense echelons, they will all be using the IBCS interface.” Built on a modular, open-systems architecture, IBCS provides for a wider surveillance area by networking sensors and interceptors and allowed them to share tactical data. As envisioned, it would replace seven legacy C2 systems, thus reducing the number of potential failure points. A single C2 architecture would streamline logistics and training, while also establishing the means for connecting coalition systems for cooperative, multinational missile defense. Working in a collaborative environment, soldiers could jointly plan and execute surveillance, identification, weapon management and engagement activities. “There is an operational imperative to link these systems together,” Todorov said. “With the battle systems getting more complex, you will be overwhelmed if you go at it on a one-to-one basis. You cannot wait for the missile to fly overhead. You need to link the systems to create exponential power across the battle space.” That’s just what military leaders say they are looking for. “We need to seamlessly consolidate, to tailor the assets we deploy in a very complex environment,” Coward said. “We want a composite capability, the ability to fuse all those assets into a joint architecture.

” Analysts say IBCS could help to smooth over some of the current sticking points that keep IAMD from being as fully effective as possible. Such a system would “offer a new air and cruise missile defense capability that we believe is extremely useful,” note analysts with the think tank Rand. “[W]e believe that they would greatly complicate any efforts to attack air bases or to suppress artillery fires. When used with other operational responses, these defenses could even change an adversary’s fundamental calculus on the outcome of a conflict.” Such a capability is more than merely speculative. The Army in spring 2016 demonstrated IBCS’ ability to utilize sensors and interceptors from different air defense systems connected at the component level. Calling on tracking data from only Sentinel radars, the system directed a Patriot Advanced Capability Three interceptor to destroy a ballistic missile target and a PAC-2 interceptor to destroy a cruise missile target. The test incorporated the Marine Corps Tactical Air Operations Module for joint C2 situational awareness.

The road ahead

If IBCS simply made for a more effective Patriot system, that alone would be a win. Now let’s pull the camera back again to return that broader view of integration within the larger sphere of IAMD operations. The vision presented here takes in that entire scope. Closer coordination between Army assets is just the starting point. The long game here is multi-service, with IBCS eventually forming the backbone of IAMD communications across the different branches: See it from a ship, shoot it down from a land unit, all handled seamlessly across a common architecture. Technical hurdles remain. As Rasch points out, such a capability requires networks that are incredibly fast and virtually flawless. “It’s the fire control loop between the sensor that sees the threat, and the missile you are guiding into that threat.

In the past those things were very close together. Now we are spreading them out over a large area, so you have to be very tight on your latency of information,” he said, adding that the Army is constantly fine-tuning its IAMD networks for optimal performance. Network speeds, software integrity, cybersecurity and a range of other issues remain to be solidified. Nonetheless, with all services rowing in the same direction, it seems likely that a new, more deeply interconnected era of IAMD will be arriving sooner rather than later. This in turn allows us to pan out still further, to recall the bigger-picture issue that initiated this discussion.

“With the battle systems getting more complex, you will be overwhelmed if you go at it on a one-to-one basis. You cannot wait for the missile to fly overhead.” Kenneth Todorov Director, Gobal Air and Missile Defense at Northrop Grumman.

IAMD serves here as the quintessential exemplar of the multi-domain engagement. Missile warfare respects no terrain, bridging land, sea, air, space and cyber in a continuum of operations not in the least bound by the conventional lines drawn on a battlefield map. It requires a multidomain response, one that is equally unconstrained by the historic territoriality and siloed thinking of battlefield planners.

IAMD responds to that challenge today. Powered by integrative software that brings divergent systems and even disparate services under a single C2 yoke, missile defense may also prove the future exemplar for how best and most effectively to fight in tomorrow’s multidomain battle space.

Credit @Adam Stone