Protect, Defend, Exploit: Air and Missile Defense Evolves for Multidomain Operations
In response to increasingly complex threats from our near-peer adversaries, the Army must chart a clear path to provide flexible, agile and integrated air and missile defense forces capable of deploying, fighting and winning against any adversary.
The Multi-Domain Operations concept emphasizes the importance of active engagement by the Army in competition to defend U.S. interests, deter conflict and, when needed, create the most favorable conditions for rapid transition to armed conflict. To that end, critical resources of the air and missile defense enterprise are focused on synchronizing efforts to execute multidomain operations, defending the homeland and succeeding in future operational environments.
The recently released “Army Air and Missile Defense 2028” provides the overarching vision for future air and missile defense forces and describes how they are postured to support the Army and joint forces. This plan also articulates what must be accomplished to prevent and defeat an adversary’s complex and integrated air and missile attacks through a combination of deterrence, active and passive defense, and support to attack operations.
Air and missile defense forces are critical enablers within the Multi-Domain Operations concept. For the Army to succeed in large-scale combat operations, our air and missile defense forces must be able to execute three essential tasks across the multidomain operations framework.
First, air and missile defense must protect maneuvering forces and their fixed and semifixed assets. This protection requires fielding Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD), Indirect Fire Protection Capability, and an integrated, common, networked command and control capability, the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System.
Next, air and missile defense forces must defend critical assets in theater and operational support areas. Defense against these attacks requires fielding the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, the Patriot/Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS), and Indirect Fire Protection Capability.
Finally, air and missile defense capabilities must converge to help create windows of opportunity in the air domain for joint forces to exploit. This requires fielding the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System at all echelons and employing a joint fires mix of sensors and shooters to defeat the range of aerial threats.
Protecting Key Assets
Air and missile defense capabilities will span the multidomain operations framework, providing ballistic missile defense capabilities to protect assets in strategic and tactical support areas;
cruise missile and aircraft defense capabilities to protect assets in operational, tactical support and close areas; counter-unmanned aircraft systems; and counter-rocket, artillery and mortar capabilities to support the fight in the close area.
Looking ahead, the Army needs integrated fires, both offensive and defensive, across domains, regions and missions, using multimission, high-demand, low-density assets. Our future architecture will be layered and integrated utilizing the full suite of space, cyber and electronic warfare, and land and air sensors to match the best shooter with the best sensor. Offensive and defensive integration during multidomain operations will enable neutralization of enemy missile forces prior to launch.
Army air and missile defense must provide combatant commanders with a flexible, agile and integrated force capable of executing multidomain operations while defending the homeland, regional joint and coalition forces, and critical assets in support of unified land operations. To do this, the air and missile defense enterprise will execute four lines of effort: Modernize and develop capabilities, build capacity for multidomain operations, provide trained and ready forces, and maintain forward presence while building allied and partner capacity.
Air and missile defense is one of the Army’s top six modernization priorities. To ensure readiness, the enterprise remains focused on modernization while balancing fiscal resources to ensure timely development and implementation of those priorities. To achieve the air and missile defense force of 2028, the Army is developing capabilities to overmatch adversaries by prioritizing protection of the maneuver forces with the ability to defeat complex integrated attacks through the air domain.
Continued modernization of air and missile defenses, including development and fielding of LTAMDS, M-SHOR-
AD, Indirect Fire Protection Capability and the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, will result in a multimission air and missile defense force capable of providing protection throughout the multidomain operations battlespace framework. The Army has begun production of the interim M-SHORAD system and has selected Iron Dome as the interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability solution.
Investments in personnel and increased force structure must be commensurate with investments in capability. The Army is making investments in personnel and increasing air and missile defense force structure by activating an air defense artillery brigade in Japan and a SHORAD battalion in Europe. These new forces, and those to come, will contain a mix of capabilities that are agile, rapidly tailorable and scalable.
With modernization, a significant shift in future Army air and missile defense formations will be multimission battalions with a mix of capabilities like Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, Patriot systems, M-SHORAD and Indirect Fire Protection Capability. Additionally, future formations will employ tailored, composite force packages at the battalion, battery or platoon level as missions dictate. The goal is for force packages to seamlessly integrate horizontally and vertically with each other and with the supported force.
Underpinning all we do, the Army focuses on developing flexible and adaptive leaders and soldiers who can master air and missile defense’s core competencies, expertly employ fielded systems and fully exploit new capabilities. Leaders and soldiers must be masters of their craft and be able to understand new doctrine supporting employment of new capabilities. Leveraging the 2018 Air Defense Artillery Training Strategy, training will be tough, realistic, interactive and battle-focused. It will integrate into the synthetic training environment and leverage virtual, constructive and gaming applications.
By maintaining an extensive forward presence, Army air and missile defense assures allies and partners with a credible deterrent to adversaries. Continued cooperation toward interoperability with allies and partners significantly increases the capabilities of the combined defense. To that end, air and missile defense units will participate in firings and exercises with allies and partners in Europe, the Indo-Pacific region and the Middle East, building trust and increasing integration to maximize collective capability and capacity.
Additionally, Army air and missile defense forces will continue to reduce barriers brought by foreign disclosure considerations to increase technical integration and interoperability, all necessary to emphasize a shared commitment to combined defense.
Finally, to meet the demands of multidomain operations, we are focused on ensuring that Army air and missile defense forces of 2028 will be ready to deploy, fight and win decisively against any adversary, anytime, anywhere. They will do so in a joint, multidomain, high-intensity conflict, while simultaneously deterring others and maintaining the Army’s ability to conduct irregular warfare.
Multidomain operations require the evolution of air and missile defense forces. To successfully sustain mission readiness while simultaneously modernizing and transforming the force to overcome shortfalls in capability and capacity, the Army must make sure resources are aligned and executed to priorities. This starts with consistent, predictable funding, investments in force structure and technology maturation.
That said, there is no silver bullet to counter rapidly changing and complex threats. Rather, an assortment of capabilities is needed to counter threats in any weather and in denied, degraded or contested environments. The Army owes this to our fellow warfighters and to the nation.