During this past month, one of our MDAA Board Members was under fire from rockets and mortars multiple times at a forward operating base (FOB) in the Middle East. His life and the lives on that base were defended by the Land Based Phalanx Weapon System (LPWS) that uses a six barrel Gatling gun, shooting 75 rounds per second to intercept these rockets and mortars with an average of 300 rounds used per engagement. The LPWS receives target tracks from the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) command and control (C2) that is linked into the Ku-band Radio Frequency System (KuRFS) and Sentinel radars as well as multiple indirect fire (IDF) radars which are correlated for sense and warning, as well as targeting. The C-RAM C2 can instantly pick up both point of origin of where these threats were launched from and points of impact of where they are headed. It is an invaluable lifesaving defensive asset that has saved thousands of lives in forward operating bases in the Middle East since its first deployment and is saving lives today as our Board Member can attest to and be grateful for. C-RAM without question should be on every FOB where rockets and mortars are a threat.
The C-RAM since 2006 under the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) has deployed on multiple FOBs throughout the Middle East, some of those FOBs have both sense and warn as well as LPWS for both passive and active defense while the majority just have the Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (RAM) sense and warn systems for passive defense. In 2010 the Army National Guard Field Artillery Battalions began a rotation to operate and man those systems with the active Army Air Defense Branch (ADA) of the 5-55 ADA out of Fort Sill, Oklahoma and the 2-44 ADA out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The Hawaii National Guard are just now returning from Afghanistan after operating and carrying out this critical mission.
The C-RAM is a U.S. Army system, that is not a program of record, converted from the Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems (CIWS) developed and deployed by the U.S. Navy for its ships as a last line of defense. There is simply not enough C-RAM/LPWS active defense capacity in the United States Army to put on every FOB that is threatened by rockets and mortars in the Middle East. The United States Army is waiting for its program of record, the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) to be developed, tested, and deployed in the 2025 – 2026 timeframe to replace and adjunct the C-RAM capability. The United States Army bought two Iron Dome batteries under Congressional direction from Israel to look at doing this mission but there are major issues with integration of this system into the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) that has prevented this system from being more than a standalone system that would not be interoperable with the United States Army.
This week the United States announced the movement of four U.S. Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to Iraq to defend U.S. FOBs, two of which were attacked by Iran using ballistic missiles on January 8th this year. Similar to C-RAM, there is a limited Patriot capacity and taking from one location to another location leaves a gap of vulnerability for where it left. The Patriots deployed to FOBs in Iraq will have to have active C-RAM defense capability because these FOBs have also come under rocket and mortar attacks from Iranian backed Shia militias in the country, which recently killed two American and one British soldier. Patriot is not intended or capable of defending against these smaller rockets and mortars and could then be disabled or destroyed if there is not adequate C-RAMs on the FOBs to provide defense.
U.S. missile defense systems in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait have to be able to defend their FOBs against missile threats from Iran from one direction and against missile threats from the Houthis in Yemen from another direction, who are also supported by Iran. Just this week, Saudi Arabian air defense units intercepted with the Patriot missile defense system three ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis and targeting Riyadh and Jizan. Iran continues to use these Houthi missiles attacks against the defense designs that include U.S. missile defense systems and these same systems operated by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, to test and learn how the U.S. and its Gulf Coalition Council (GCC) allies operate these systems. With the recent missile attacks on the Saudi Arabian Aramco oil facilities and the greater precision and distance of the Iranian ballistic missiles into U.S. bases in Iraq demonstrated, the United States must put forward a multi-domain and layered 360 degree cruise missile, ballistic missile, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), rocket, and mortar point defense around its FOBs.
Current land-based missile defense systems have limitations and leveraging the existing United States Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper as a sensor and to warn as demonstrated by the Missile Defense Agency’s (MDA) MQ-9 Block 5 Airborne Tracking & Targeting System (ATTS) during testing. Potential kinetic interceptors could also be put on the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle and other similar types of UAVs to fill the gaps along with existing systems such as the C-RAM and the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), which both are not program of records. U.S. Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) currently has capability to put aircraft on combat air patrols (CAPs) equipped with both sensors and Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) for 360 degree cruise missile defense of FOBs. The Air Force’s future Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) and Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) will allow FOBs to use the best sensors and interceptors from the cross domains of space, air, land, and sea to defend best against current and future missile threats.
The U.S. Joint Force and the U.S. Army needs more capacity of C-RAM and Patriot, as well as air defense Soldiers, to meet the high demand to defend against these threats over the next few years until future systems of JADC2, ABMS, IBCS, IFPC, and the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) are fully deployed and integrated into the force.
We are under fire.
MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.
MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.