Air Defense Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, headquartered at Fort Bliss, Texas, provided invaluable data and observations during operational testing of the Army’s newest Integrated Air and Missile Defense System during August, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. (U.S. Army photo)

By Lt. Col. David P. McCoy, Test Division Chief, Air and Missile Defense Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, New Mexico — Air Defense Artillery Soldiers recently entered the last phase for operational testing of the newest Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense (AIAMD) system.

The test, which validates the Army’s proposed command and control system for use with the Patriot Missile System, began in June 2020 and draws to a close during September.

“This new system will redefine the way that Patriot moves and fights on the battlefield,” said Staff Sgt. Ashton Boyd, a missile defender with extensive knowledge of both Patriot and the new Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) currently under test.

“It provides an increased footprint for the coverage of selected strategic assets, as well as an enhanced infrastructure for tactical data communications.”

Boyd, along with other Air Defense Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, headquartered at Fort Bliss, Texas, provided invaluable data and observations to the test team as they exercised the new system’s combat mobility and modularity from August 24 to 28.

The IBCS, which is a key component of the AIAMD strategy, provides improved digital command and control capabilities for the battlefield commander that vastly expands his — and his staff’s — ability to plan for current and future operations.

As demonstrated in the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Air Defense Soldiers might be called upon to move their system one or more times during combat to meet changing requirements, both operational and strategic, in the fight against enemy air threats.

“At first, we were surprised by the increased time required to prepare the system for cross country movement to a new location, but it forced us to leave our comfort zone and use our assigned personnel in a more efficient manner,” said Sgt. Kevin Melancon, an Engagement Operator with the unit.

“The new capabilities the system brings to the table require upgraded equipment that now require the focus of the entire unit to support.”

Earlier in the week, 3rd Battalion Soldiers found the new drills and procedures both difficult and time-consuming to master in the plus-100 degrees Fahrenheit desert heat.

As the week progressed, the Soldiers adapted to the labor-intensive requirements of the system under test, and quickly developed confidence in their newly-acquired weapon system.

“I feel I can safely speak on behalf of my soldiers when I say that we had a great experience during the test,” said 1st Lt. Octavio Magana, Platoon Leader for Fire Control and Engagement Operations. “Everyone was enthusiastic and worked through all challenges as a team. Overall, the test made us a more cohesive unit.

“The IBCS is a game changer,” Magana added. “It improves our existing Patriot system with an increased decision-making capability and added time to better analyze data for incoming threats.”