Our Little House on the Prairie

July 26, 2011

Dear Members and Friends,

In the blistering Oklahoma heat of Fort Sill, several thousand United States Army soldiers in the 6th and 31st Air Defense Brigades train daily to protect and defend air space of up to 10,000 feet above the deployed, forward United States military operating bases.  This training focuses on the critical defense against the number one killer of U.S. soldiers deployed today in Afghanistan and Iraq:  mortars and rockets. It also involves defending U.S. bases from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), cruise missiles, aircraft, and ballistic missiles.  Ballistic missiles in particular are deployed in substantial numbers in countries like North Korea and Iran directly threatening U.S. bases in South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

These mobile defensive systems being trained at Fort Sill can operate in all types of weather and terrain; they can be air-lifted to protect and supplement movements of U.S. troops anywhere in the world. The critical technical component of these systems is their complete integration within a command and control structure that can quickly access a threat and then track and target it to provide the best interceptor to negate it. This process becomes even more complicated considering the many objects that could be identified as threats by the multiple defensive systems at hand.

The short ranges and multiple firings demonstrated by Iran earlier this month, illustrate that decisions by the soldiers trained at Fort Sill, aided by processors linked into sensors and shooters, have to be made in seconds. Thus the air picture has to be defined and shared quickly in the Army, between the U.S. Joint Services and Coalition Partners, linking all of their defensive systems together in a “system of systems�?.  This “system of systems�? is the biggest need, requirement, and concern to be able to protect of our forces and allies. There is no substitute, as the limitations of the existing antiquated system cannot provide the broadband width for data in addition to integrating firing solutions. This action must come with a joint military common command and control structure to allow the benefit of force multiplication of these defensive assets rather than the current practice of single units fighting with closed architectures.

Capability gaps remain within the air defense needs for the United States war fighters, especially the need for more deployed theater and regional sensors and shooters.  These gaps need to be addressed adequately in order to fully deter and defend against multiple raids of missiles, like those demonstrated by Iran and North Korea, but also against the mortar and rocket attacks on our forward operating bases that don’t have C-RAM defenses. Another notable missing capability within the Army air defense is the absence of a sole cruise missile and unmanned aircraft defense system.  This capability gap needs to be addressed before further unmanned aircraft proliferation by other countries and non-state actors that would threaten the United States. The responsibility to adequately defend our forces and allies is critical to stabilize crisis regions of the world and to ultimately enable peace.

Beyond the 31st ADA Brigade, which is the most modernized Air Defense Brigade in the world that deploys regularly to the Middle East from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the United States missile defense school also houses the 6th ADA Brigade at Fort Sill, which is home to each and every new U.S. Air Defense soldier who must train on the current U.S. Army air defense systems:

The Patriot System (Ballistic Missile Defense)

The Avenger System (Aircraft Defense)

The C-RAM and Sentinel System (Rocket, Artillery and Mortar Defense)

The JLENS System (Land Based blimp-like Sensor)

Missing from the 6th Brigade school (but soon to be incorporated) are the THAAD and AN/TPY-2 defensive radars. One of the biggest issues and challenges the Army faces with training of the Patriot-3 and the THAAD systems is not having enough of the actual equipment because it is so needed in the combat commanders’ regions, and there are so few of the systems being made. There is no substitute for hands on training; both THAAD and Patriot-3 need to be placed at Fort Sill.  Without trained soldiers these systems cannot function.  However, iPhone applications are being used to supplement the training of these systems at Fort Sill, highlighting the U.S. Army’s innovation in training programs.

The 6th ADA Brigade is also home to the International School of Air Defense Artillery. Over 30 allied countries participate in training at Fort Sill; Germany and the Persian Gulf countries have an especially high level of representation.

We are eternally grateful as a nation and humbled by the unrecognized valor of those soldiers from Fort Sill that save lives of soldiers and make our world a safer place.

MDAA was very fortunate to have the honor to be with these men and women of our nation’s military at the Missile Defense school house at Fort Sill, Oklahoma last week. For more photos of MDAA’s visit to Fort Sill, click here

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