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This article was Originally Published on Aug 25, 2005 in Volume: 4  Issue: 2

Game Plan for Missile Defense

C2 battle management and communications system provides integrated picture of the Ballistic Missile Defense battlespace.

By Patrick Chisholm

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Scenario: North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il orders his top military officers to launch an all-out attack on the United States. One by one, his missile silos open, disgorging Taepo-dong-2 nuclear-tipped missiles.

Sensor data immediately alerts U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) of the critical situation. As dozens of missiles fly, officials there get a fused picture of the attack on their computer screens. A global integrated ballistic missile picture enables them to coordinate across multiple combatant commands, view missile launch and impact point prediction, and discern tracking data, threat priority and assets at risk.

In this possible future crisis, a key element of U.S. defense would be the command, control, battle management and communications (C2BMC) element of the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system. C2BMC integrates BMD information from innumerable sources and provides the combatant commanders (COCOMs) and DoD leadership with an integrated picture of the BMD battle space, providing a global warning of a potential ballistic missile launch. C2BMC also provides USSTRATCOM and the other commands with planning and crisis-action tools to facilitate courses of action.

Initial operating capability for C2BMC took effect in October 2004. Current C2BMC capabilities include global situational awareness of the BMD battle space and early warning of a ballistic missile attack on the homeland.

For the program manager of C2BMC, Air Force Brigadier General Robert Dehnert, the success of BMD depends on layered defense, or defense in depth. Layered defense involves sensors and interceptors that will allow multiple, overlapping opportunities not only to see an incoming threat, but also to intercept the threat. The more opportunities there are to see and intercept, the higher the likelihood to successfully eliminate the threat.

“Sensors and shooters must be positioned properly to capitalize on the individual strength of each of the pieces of the architecture and overcome the vulnerabilities,” said Dehnert. C2BMC provides the tool for the COCOMs to optimize their assets in a layered defense fashion.

Defense in Depth

Dehnert and Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Lieutenant General Henry A. Obering III like to illustrate defense in depth and C2BMC with football analogies. A team does not have all 11 players right up on the line, Dehnert pointed out, but instead has some players on the line, some players behind the line and then other players deeper.

“You have the large defensive lineman up front to form that initial hard crust that’s tough to break through, but then standing behind them you have a blend of size, strength and speed to plug any holes and then finally, smaller but faster guys that can quickly cover a wide range of area to do the final interception, if you will, of the defensive back to come through. And that layered defense strategy, both in football and in military history, has proven very successful,” said Dehnert.

Dehnert cited the French Maginot Line as a classic example of an ineffective defensive strategy that was the opposite of a layered defense. Once circumvented by the Germans, its heavily fortified bunker system along the Franco-German border proved useless.

For defense in depth to be effective, there must be a defensive coordinator armed with a game plan and able to see the whole field of action. The coordinator needs to assess the relative skills of his players against the skills of the opponent’s players and develop a strategy, depending upon the situations as to which players he has on the field, which players he does not have and the relative positions of those players.

The planner segment of C2BMC is like a defensive coordinator. It looks at possible enemy opposition, capabilities and their courses of action. It provides a tool for COCOMs not only in the theater, but also in the regional and intercontinental ranges, to optimize the positioning of their forces.

Like a defensive coordinator in the press box, C2BMC’s situational awareness capability provides a comprehensive view of the forces in play. But it also enables COCOMs to communicate with the players, as well as providing communications among the players themselves.

“Battle Management is what happens when the opponents unexpectedly decide to pass,” Dehnert observed. “The COCOM is able to rapidly adjust, for example to aim sensor energy in a particular area depending upon the fight as it unfolds, and choose a particular weapon.”

Program Components

The C2BMC program is grouped into five segments: planner, situational awareness, C2, battle manager and BMDS network.

The planner component enables COCOMs to examine the capabilities of the friendly forces in their area of responsibility as well as potentially unfriendly forces, and then field or deploy the friendly forces to optimize their effectiveness against the anticipated courses of action by an opponent.

“The planner provides a useful tool for the combatant commanders to do both deliberate and crisis action planning,” said Dehnert. “It mostly simulates the capabilities of the sensors and the shooters as they’re deployed in the field. And this year we’ll add the capability to plan sea-based X-band, forward deployed X-band, and other UEWRs [upgraded early-warning radars].” In the future, the planner will be the key tool to plan an integrated, layered BMD.

A goal of the C2BMC team is to have the ability to carry out dynamic preplanning, where COCOMs can go from deliberate planning to crisis-action planning, and/or lay out various courses of action, Dehnert said. The system will automatically sense what type of attack is ensuing and select a course of action that is highly tailored to the specific threat. “And so the line between the planner and the actual battle manager will tend to become somewhat gray,” he added.

Situational awareness allows the COCOM to examine the relative health, status deployment and effectiveness of friendly forces as well as the threat. The system will be designed to enable users to discover not only where problems are, but also recommend corrective actions or work-arounds.

C2 is the connection between the various pieces of the architecture, allowing specific sensors to inform and cue other sensors. “This year we begin the initial capabilities of actually providing a system-wide track from a high-resolution, X-band radar that can be moved to any part of the globe,” Dehnert explained. “And we will continue year-by-year to expand the capabilities of the sensors, not only to talk among themselves and to cue each other, but also for weapons systems and target pairing, and the ability for the combatant commanders to actually task the full range of sensors and shooters spread across the architecture and the echelons of command.”

Battle management coordinates the activities of BMDS elements—surveillance, detection, tracking, classification, engagement and kill assessment—in order to best leverage sensors and weapon systems to combat enemy threats. Given that an actual battle is rarely identical to the plan, the COCOM will then need to adjust the aiming and/or nodes of the sensor energies to better see the threat as it evolves; making decisions as to which interceptor will have the greatest success depending on the range and geography of the threat.

“Our interceptor numbers are limited and so combatant commanders, certainly, for the next few years, will want to be very judicious about what they shoot at,” Dehnert noted, while also acknowledging that battle management is the least-mature of the technologies.

Currently, one of the primary focuses for battle management is tools to optimize sensor energy. C2BMC developers plan this year and next to provide COCOMs with the ability to task the forward-based X-band, and probably the sea-based X-band radars. In 2007 and 2008, they plan to enable weapons systems target pairing, which is the final step in the process, according to Dehnert. Many of the manual commands that delay real-time operations will be automated.

Underlying all of this is the BMDS network, which will enable the sensor information to flow to the weapon systems as well as to the battle manager, providing system-level discrimination, correlation, and weapons-engagement coordination. C2BMC plans to leverage the capabilities of network-centric warfare to include the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion to evolve the BMDS network.

Fred Seitz of Lockheed Martin, the software development lead for the Missile Defense National Team B, offered this observation: “We actually have that software built in our systems right now—where it comes up and shows you engaging windows, when you will see that target, when it will penetrate your sensor coverage. And we pass that information to the shooters for them to use, but also to the combatant commanders so they can fight the missile more effectively.”

Shakedown Exercises

The system is being developed, Dehnert said, a piece at a time: “design a little, develop a little, field a little, learn a lot.”

The functional capabilities of C2BMC, which is currently in release 4.3.5, include collaborative, deliberate and crisis planning to enhance situational awareness, and summary displays showing the status of the current engagement as well as the overall missile defense.

Since last October, the BMD system has been undergoing a series of shakedown exercises. “As we discover problems through the shakedown phase—the testing phase—we are rapidly fielding those fixes to prove the overall functionality of combatant commanders,” Dehnert said. The shakedown phase tests how the individual components interact with each other; if any of the layers are ineffective, the strategy tends to erode.

A big challenge is ensuring that all of the stakeholders--spread across eight time zones—are adequately trained. There is a training center at the Joint National Integration Center in Colorado Springs, CO, where operators are commonly brought in for their initial training. There are also distributed, multi-echelon trainings where COCOMs are able to train their crews on various scenarios.

“That’s something that we have an initial capability to do now, but in ‘06, when we get duplicate servers at all locations, we want to be able to allow the combatant commanders to flip a switch, if you will, and go from operational real mode into a training mode, where a training scenario can be injected, giving the crews the ability to practice live missile defense scenarios to help keep their skills honed,” explained Dehnert.

Coordinating with other entities is another huge task. “To have a layered defense, the more access we have to more layers, the more multiple layers you can add, the greater the probability of success is going to be,” the program manager pointed out. “The key is that those layers need to interoperate with each other. And so the vast majority of my day is spent working on that—on integrating with the services, integrating with combatant commanders, integrating within the individual pieces of the Missile Defense Agency and now, integrating with our international partners.”

“We’re working with the Army and the Navy to ensure that the process by which we do our joint track management is common to all [stakeholders] so that, depending upon things such as the echelon, the geography of the fight, or whether it’s short-range or mid-range, all of our systems have the ability to share tracks, share sensor data, to give us a truly layered defense,” Dehnert continued. “So we’re very much of like minds on the absolute need for our systems to be interoperable or at least interchangeable.”

MDA is also actively working with Britain and Japan, and Dehnert was recently selected as chairman of NATO’s Missile Defense Program Group.

Next year, Dehnert anticipates the standup of the European Command and possibly Central Command.

National Team

The C2BMC program has come on line with impressive speed, commented Gary Abercrombie, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s missile defense program. Although the initiative got underway only about three years ago, he noted, “The team has made enormous progress going from almost nothing to a product that’s in various command centers today.” While systems with similar concepts already exist, “certainly nothing is on the scope of the C2BMC,” he added.

The developers of C2BMC, called the Missile Defense National Team for C2BMC, consist of MDA government civilian and military personnel, a defense contractor team, federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs), university affiliated research centers and scientific engineering and technical assistance providers. In addition to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, the main industry partners include General Dynamics, Boeing and Raytheon.

“The team took a concept and designed, developed and fielded in only 21 months the ability to provide the situational awareness and planning to the combatant commanders and the White House,” Dehnert said. “They literally plucked the geniuses out of the FFRDCs and other organizations and put them here with us to help us solve our difficult problems. And it’s not just the government team, but also our industry partners, which have reached back into their organizations and pulled out the very latest technology that these companies are developing and pulled it forward so that we can experiment with it, use it and field it.”

“This is the most amazing group of people that I have an opportunity to work with,” Dehnert said. “And it’s the only reason why we not only were able to field the system that we have in 21 months but are virtually on the cutting edge of technology.”

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