The job of soldiers who defend against missile threats on the battlefield will only get more demanding, and training must change to meet that challenge, officials said.
Gone are the days of focusing only on your weapon system’s role, said William Lamb, a unit director with Northrop Grumman, a former Army battery commander and both program and project manager with the Missile Defense Agency.
Lamb spoke to a crowd of more than 100 on Wednesday at an Association of the U.S. Army event on air and missile defense.
“The hardware and software has evolved,” Lamb said. “The training is still focused on the individual weapons system.”
That will soon change, with the fielding of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, which is being developed by Northrop Grumman.
The IBCS gives commanders a single view for sensors and tracking everything from drones to jets to missiles. Putting those pieces together will mean dramatic changes in how missile-focused soldiers do their jobs, Lamb said.
“When IBCS fields, it’s really going to drive a new paradigm for how testing and training are conducted,” Lamb said.
Whether they operate the Short-Range Air Defense, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, the Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar, or the Patriot surface-to-air missile system, soldiers will need to see the entire battle space and become master tacticians in putting all those pieces together.
“This requires soldiers to think beyond the capabilities and limitations of individual systems,” Lamb said.
Current testing of the IBCS system incorporates lessons learned as humans interact with these complex tracking systems and is creating a “body of data” for building the right kind of training for soldiers entering the Army’s training pipelines in the future, he said.
The training gap isn’t lost on those in charge of building the future missile defense force.
Col. Thomas Moore, task force commander for the Joint Air Defense Operations Center, said leaders are reworking the much smaller force, down from a height of 26 battalions down to nine in recent years, for “mastery of skills to enhance interoperability.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Finis Dodson, who also spoke on the panel Wednesday, said the new soldiers must be more agile and adaptive.
One tool Finis referenced is the now available “digital rucksack,” which allows noncommissioned officers to download through an Android-enabled smartphone or tablet application tools for their training.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.