New radars and missile interceptors in program for Army air defense

New radars and interceptors are headed to soldiers for testing in 2024 as the Army seeks to upgrade its air defense capabilities.

After decades of relying on limited short-range air defenses and Patriot batteries with technology dating back to the early 1980s, the Army has pushed resources into new systems to defeat the growing threat of enemy missiles and drones.

Defense News reported in November that the radar poised to replace the current Patriot radar system defeated a cruise missile threat in a test.

The Low Level Air and Missile Defense Sensor, or LTAMDS, can detect and defeat ballistic missiles and other threats from all directions. This is an improvement on cross-sectional radars of the past, which could leave gaps uncovered.

In the test, Defense News reported, LTAMDS detected and tracked a missile that mimics the speeds and maneuverability of a cruise missile. The sensor passed data to the Army’s Integrated Combat Command System, or IBCS, which acts as the “brains” of the entire air defense complex.

The IBCS fired a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile to launch as the LTAMDS guided the missile to hit the target.

Testing at the time led to the LTAMDS system reaching initial operational capability in late 2023.

Six radars have been built and will continue testing in 2024. They are scheduled to reach full operational capability by the end of 2024, Raytheon officials told Defense News.

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While LTAMDS detects threats and guides missiles, the Army is also improving its air defense capabilities, primarily through its indirect fire protection, or IFPC, capability.

This is necessary because today’s interceptors cannot keep up with the range of improved munitions and anticipated threats of hypersonic weapons being developed by Russian and Chinese militaries.

The IFPC system can hold 18 AIM-9X missiles in the launcher. The Army plans to take delivery of 12 IFPC launchers by early 2024, said Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano, program manager for missiles and space.

The Army also plans to launch a second interceptor program to replace the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile, Lozano told Defense News.

The military needs this missile to achieve certain altitudes and ranges with a rocket motor that can reach the target faster, Lozano said. The weapon must also defeat electromagnetic warfare countermeasures and include improved seeker performance.

The military expects to field the interceptor between 2025 and 2030.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government, and the military for multiple publications since 2004, and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Prize finalist for a co-authored work on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine from the Iraq War.

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