Army’s New Missile Defense Software Did The Last Thing You’d Want It To

Russ Read | Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

The U.S. Army’s new high-tech air defense command system ran into some substantial software problems during testing, temporarily halting its roll-out, according to a report by Defense News.

Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Battle Command System, or IBCS, is poised to become the featured command-and-control system for the U.S. military’s air and missile defense weapons. The new system will replace old software for defense systems like Patriot — the missile famous for shooting other missiles out of the air in the Gulf War — but not before some kinks are worked out.

The Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation found that the IBCS “was neither mature nor stable as evidenced in numerous software problem reports,” after user tests were conducted in the spring of 2016. A report stated that software problems led to “reduced reliability” and that operators were unable to “effectively coordinate with engagement and identification authorities, a key function of air defense.”

A failed workstation took around 13 minutes to repair, according to the report, creating a time window which could lead to “multiple failed engagements and loss of critical defended assets.”

IBCS is slated to go operational in 2019, according to the Pentagon, but the system hit a roadblock in August before it was supposed to enter production in November. The system was put on hold “until IBCS software deficiencies are resolved in accordance with contracted requirements.”

WATCH:

Northrop Grumman allayed any concerns with the program, telling Defense News that the anti-missile program and the command element “are well down the path to meeting all key performance parameters.” The company added the team made “significant progress in maturing the IBCS capability during 2016.”

An Army spokesman seemed to reaffirm Northrop’s statement, noting that it is not “uncommon” to find “unanticipated results” during testing.

The IBCS setbacks come at a time when missile defense is a top priority for the U.S. and its allies. Iran’s missile build-up continues to threaten U.S. interests in the Middle East, while North Korea also continues to develop and test long-range missile technology. Israel made great strides in missile defense, as seen with the deployment of the Iron Dome during the 2014 war in Gaza.

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