The Pentagon has formally cleared the production of the IBCS, the Army’s long-touted but long-delayed multi-functional battle command system, DefenseNews reports, citing a DoD spokesperson.
Pentagon undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment Ellen Lord is said to have signed a formal acquisition memorandum for the system Wednesday, approving it for low-rate initial production following a defence acquisition board hearing last month.
The IBCS promises to serve as a do-it-all integrated air defence system nerve center for the US Army and – eventually, allies such as Poland, and is said to be capable of taking on everything from ballistic missiles to cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by linking fire systems such as Patriot missiles to sensors, including radar, and even friendly air systems, to detect and engage threats.
The Army expects to outfit at least one unit with the system by late 2022.
Once operational, IBCS will replace legacy command-and-control systems including Raytheon’s Patriot missile Engagement Control Station (ECS) and provide users with a single integrated air defence environment.
The Pentagon has committed at least $2.7 billion to develop the programme since 2009, with Northrop Grumman becoming its prime contractor in 2010. The system has been undergoing tests since at least 2015, but its introduction had been long delayed from a planned 2018 rollout amid software issues and cost overruns.
Grumman describes ICBS as a “revolutionary command-and-control system developed to deliver a single, unambiguous view of the battlespace,” featuring “significantly enhanced aircraft and missile tracking,” which is said to dramatically improve “the ability of combatant commanders and air defenders to make critical decisions within seconds.”
The Army successfully tested the IBCS in a limited-user test last year, shooting down a low-flying cruise missile and a high-altitude, high-speed, short-range ballistic missile at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in August 2020. The cruise missile was shot down by an older Patriot PAC-2, with the ballistic missile downed with a newer PAC-3. That test was said to have included complications, with the PAC-2 used for the cruise missile after a PAC-3 set for the task misfired.
Major military powers have contributed substantial resources into upgrading their air and missile defence systems, particularly as small states and non-state actors such as Yemen’s Houthis have worked to achieve advanced drone and missile capabilities. However, these same powers –including Russia, China, and the United States, have also sought to develop new maneuverable hypersonic missiles capable of evading any existing or prospective enemy air defences.