A new air defense system under development was demonstrated in a series of events at White Sands Missile Range the week of March 15.
The Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept, IFPC Inc 2-I, Block 1 program is a new missile-based system currently in development by the Army’s Cruise Missile Defense Systems, CMDS, Project Office part of the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space. While still in the early stages, the IFPC Inc 2-I Block 1 program is coming together to become a next generation short and medium range air defense system with a wide and expandable mission set.
“The IFPC Inc 2-I program is designed to engage a variety of threats, ranging from cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems, to rockets, artillery, and mortars,” said LTC Michael Fitzgerald, IFPC Inc 2-I, Product Manager. “The IFPC Inc 2-I program will address those threats by developing an open architecture Multi-Mission Launcher capable of integrating multiple different interceptor types and integrating it with the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System for mission command and linkage to system of systems sensors.”
Designed with modularity in mind, the IFPC Inc 2-I system is composed of four key components: (1) existing mission command and control (C2), (2) existing sensors networked via the C2, (3) existing interceptor(s) and (4) a new Multi-Mission Launcher (MML). Taking advantage of the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Systems of Systems network, the IFPC Inc 2-I system is integrated into the IAMD open network architecture enabling an ‘any sensor, best shooter, optimal interceptor’ capability to address a variety of targets.
The IFPC Inc 2-I product office is developing an integrated system for engaging a variety of air threats, including cruise missiles and unmanned aerial threats. There are also plans for it to be able to intercept rockets, artillery, and mortar threats as part of a second block. To accomplish such a broad mission the IFPC Inc 2-I MML is designed to carry up to 15 missile tubes on a standard Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles truck chassis. Each tube is a self contained component, allowing the launcher to carry a different interceptor in each tube, based on the needs of the mission. As the program moves forward, standard interface specifications are being developed by the Government, allowing for new technology and weapons to be easily integrated into the IFPC Inc 2-I platform.
The Army’s IAMD system allows different air defense weapons and sensors to share information, allowing many different air defense sites to operate as a unified defense system. This allows air defenders to better protect a region by allowing multiple sensors to overlap with one another, giving the Soldier better situational awareness and a clearer picture of the skies he or she is responsible for. Sharing this information it also allows for a better economy of force. In a non-integrated air defense plan, each air defense unit operates on its own, using the tools and weapons it has available on any threats that may enter the area they are responsible for protecting. This can sometimes mean firing a weapon that dramatically exceeds the requirements to neutralize a threat, or firing a weapon that is not well positioned to engage a threat. In an IAMD environment, the air defender has access to a network of sensors and weapons, allowing the Soldier to leverage the best systems to engage threats to increase the odds of success while reducing costs.
The March 2015 IFPC Inc 2-I event conducted at WSMR used a demonstrator version of the MML to launch three different interceptor types from the platform, which allowed the program to collect data to inform and verify engineering designs to reduce overall program risk. While the MML demonstrator was not connected to C2 or sensors, the multiple different interceptor launches served to evaluate how MML components held up under the stress of missile firings, as well as to demonstrate the program’s maturing open systems architecture design. Two of the three missile launches were ballistic in nature, meaning they were fired out of the tube and landed in the WSMR impact area. One of the missile launches successfully engaged an airborne target.
Developmental programs tend to require several years to reach a point where they can begin engineering demonstrations similar to what the IFPC Inc 2-I Block 1 program accomplished in less than 1 year. To accomplish this feat, the IFPC Inc 2-I Block 1 program identified knowledge points, leveraged a comprehensive metrics process, and openly collaborated with program stakeholders to allow for rapid and smart development. The use of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) is a primary example of the program’s unique acquisition strategy.
“AMRDEC is the MML developer, in most Army acquisition programs that is done by a prime contractor, so essentially AMRDEC is acting as a prime contractor, and we’re developing the launcher in-house,” said LTC Christopher Whitmark, program director for the AMRDEC MML project. “It’s a government to government relationship and it’s been working very well.”
With the MML development, the Army is leveraging existing technologies and experience from programs like the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to reduce risk and quickly develop the IFPC Inc 2-I Block 1 capability.
“The IFPC Inc 2-I program is one that’s taking a different approach to the acquisition process, we’re leveraging a lot of existing technology and integrating it together,” LTC Fitzgerald said. “Using the government as the lead integrator, we’re truly taking a new approach to developing this system and we’re seeing great results.”
As a government owned product, it will be easier to allow different sources and manufacturers to contribute to the development of future capabilities as the core requirements, component interfaces, and specifications of the system can be given to potential developers without the restrictions and licensing that would be required of a privately developed system.
White Sands Missile Range, an Army Test and Evaluation Command testing range, was chosen as the site of the test because of its experienced support teams, extensive facilitates and range area dedicated to the support of testing missile systems like the IFPC Inc 2-I. As the Army’s premiere missile test range WSMR is considered military airspace from ground to space, allowing for the test of air defense weapons, as well as other complex systems, without concern of civilian air traffic.
“White Sands is undeniably one of the best places to shoot a missile in the country, and PEO Missiles and Space has a legacy of doing a lot of testing out here,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re able to leverage a lot of the existing knowledge and ability the range has to offer, and our folks are familiar with the range as well, so there’s a good working relationship that has already been established.”
IFPC Inc 2-I also leveraged WSMRs extensive site monitoring and range control systems, allowing the test officials to collect important test data. While test officials are always happy to see a system perform as expected, as was the case with the IFPC Inc 2-I demonstration, without the collected data test officials can’t be certain the system was indeed working correctly. WSMR’s Optics, Telemetry, and Documentation branches, to name just a few involved, collected extensive data for program engineers to analyze and help further develop the system.
Gaining the most praise from the test officers was WSMR’s experienced staff. As a missile test range with a history dating back to some of America’s earliest missile programs, the range boasts an experienced workforce. As a reimbursable entity, WSMR has a very customer focused operation with lots of test capabilities and a friendly workforce.
“We had nothing but positive feedback,” Roberts said. “Not only about the range, facilities and data collection, but the hospitality they got while they were here.”
The program continues to execute on time and on budget, and is expected to return to WSMR in about a year to conduct an Engineering Demonstration with the entire IFPC Inc 2-I Block 1 system.