Defending America with battlefield management

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - Right this moment, there are soldiers on duty in Afghanistan.  No doubt they'd tell you that their experiences are a great teacher, and make them better at their job. The soldiers aren't the only students, though.

"I think the lessons we've learned in Desert Storm, the lessons we've learned in the current battles, and the 14 and a half years we've been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, showed us some limitations of our systems," said Mike Chandler, the Project Manager for Integrated Air and Missile Defense at the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space at Redstone Arsenal.

Mike is talking about the system that controls air and missile defense over a battlefield. In the past, each defense system, like the Patriot Missile for instance, was essentially by itself. What its radar detected is what it could intercept and destroy.

The Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense changes that. It combines all the sensors on the battlefield, radars if you will, for one air defense picture. The integrated systems would then use the appropriate defensive measure.

"In the future, it allows us to be much more adaptive. It allows us to better utilize our assets so that we, in economies of scale... we don't have to spend a multi-million dollar missile to bring down a UAV," said Chandler.

The project office at Redstone Arsenal has been managing work on the Integrated Battlefield Command System since 2006. The final product is expected to be operational in 2018.  Why so long?

"The seriousness of our business. We can't follow the commercial model of software development where we can put something out there with bugs and then send out patches, because lives are at stake," said Chandler.

With software that's much more complicated than that used by some of our most complex missile systems, there is a lot to consider. "We have to make sure that as we field this new system, that's we're doing things as efficiently or better than they did. We don't want to take a step backwards," said Chandler.

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