Is military C-RAM development as efficient as it could be?

The Pentagon is spending substantial time, effort, and money for counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) technology to protect U.S. warfighters on the front lines and on invasion beaches from enemy airborne threats.

Jun 20th, 2017
John Keller New

The Pentagon is spending substantial time, effort, and money for counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) technology to protect U.S. warfighters on the front lines and on invasion beaches from enemy airborne threats. It's fitting that military leaders should develop these kinds of technologies in this era where enemy threats to deployed warfighters can take so many forms, from conventional military forces to concealed terrorists wielding weapons ranging from improvised explosive devices to smart munitions.

U.S. military forces have several systems deployed or in development to help form an umbrella of protection over vulnerable U.S. and allied warfighters operating well within the range of most enemy weapons.

In development is the U.S. Air Force Raytheon Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) system to detect, identify, and track objects at great distances in conflicts that could involve large numbers of enemy advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and ballistic and cruise missiles. Also in development is the U.S. Marine Corps Northrop Grumman Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR), designed to protect Marines on attack beaches from low-observable targets with low radar cross sections, such as rockets, artillery, mortars, cruise missiles, and UAVs. Northrop Grumman, moreover, is enhancing G/ATOR capability to counter enemy rockets, artillery, and mortars.

Another battlefield radar system in the works is the U.S. Army SRCTec AN/TPQ-49 and AN/TPQ-50 lightweight counter-mortar radar (LCMR) to help defend deployed warfighters from rocket, artillery, and mortar attacks using 360-degree surveillance and 3D rocket, artillery, and mortar location using non-rotating, electronically steered antennas.

Already deployed is the U.S. Army Lockheed Martin AN/TPQ-53 radar system to protect against rockets, mortar rounds, and artillery shells. This radar also is designed to pinpoint the location of enemy launchers to direct counter-battery fire.

In addition to battlefield air-defense and C-RAM radar systems, some Army and Marine Corps programs intend to fuse data from sensors and slave them to weapon systems layered from close-in to long-range distances to destroy or disable enemy airborne threats.

Northrop Grumman, for example, is providing hardware and services for Army C-RAM capabilities to protect brigade combat teams from enemy airborne attack. Northrop Grumman is integrating existing field artillery and air defense sensors, a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) warning system, and a U.S. Navy-developed interceptor to protect forward-deployed warfighters.

Lockheed Martin is developing Extended Area Protection and Survivability (EAPS) Integrated Demonstration (ID) technology to counter incoming enemy rocket, artillery, and mortar rounds, as well as enemy cruise missiles and UAVs.

Other military research projects seek to fuse battlefield radar systems, other kinds of sensors, and weapons to enhance C-RAM capability. One is the Office of Naval Research's Target Processing Center Sensor Correlation and Fusion project, which seeks not only to detect enemy artillery, rocket, and mortar rounds and reduce false alarms, but also to speed counter fire to destroy enemy projectiles, artillery emplacements, and launchers.

This sounds like a lot of different projects intended to protect military forces from, you guessed it, rockets, artillery, and mortars. I'm not suggesting this is a bad thing, yet I do wonder if U.S. military C-RAM efforts might be duplicative or otherwise potentially wasteful. I have to ask if there's any way that at least some of the enabling technologies of these different programs could combine to enhance efficiencies, while not compromising on capabilities.

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