US Army’s new fire protection system launches interceptor in test

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability System completed a risk-reduction flight demonstration, launching a Raytheon-made AIM-9X Sidewinder interceptor and sending it to a target, developer Dynetics announced Tuesday.

IFPC is designed to protect fixed and semi-fixed sites from rockets, artillery and mortars as well as cruise missiles and drone threats.

Enduring Shield, the company’s name for the IFPC launcher, validated “end-to-end launch functionality of the weapon system, including sending the AIM-9X interceptor to a designated target location,” said Leidos-owned Dynetics.

A simulated Integrated Battle Command System interface was also used as part of the test. IBCS, which is meant to connect air and missile defense sensors and shooters on the battlefield, will serve as the command-and-control system for IFPC.

Now that the risk reduction demonstration is complete, the first set of 12 launchers will enter the Army’s developmental test program beginning in January. An operational assessment is planned for later in the year, the company said. Data from the demonstration this year and the 2024 testing will be used to “improve” the next round of launchers the company builds, it added.

“This is a major milestone for our team to cross,” Larry Barisciano, Dynetics’ weapon systems operations manager, said in the statement. “Being able to say these prototypes are ready for government testing by succeeding at this demonstration is a huge win for us as well as our warfighters.”

The program has previously experienced several delays. The Army decided to reformulate its enduring IFPC system in 2019 to ensure it could fend off rising cruise missiles and drone threats. As it shifted its plans, Congress mandated the purchase of two Rafael and Raytheon-developed Iron Dome batteries to serve as an interim solution for cruise missile defense.

The Army had also originally planned to develop and field its own multi-mission launcher as part of the enduring IFPC solution, but canceled that program in late 2019 in favor of a more technologically mature launcher.

The service held a shoot-off for two teams at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, in 2021 between Dynetics and a Raytheon-Rafael team.

Dynetics then won a $247 million contract in September 2021 to build a total of 16 prototype launchers for the Army’s enduring IFPC system.

In August 2023, the Army’s program executive officer for missiles and space, Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano, told Defense News that while Dynetics was experiencing some supply chain challenges, the service was still expecting to receive the first set of launchers by the start of 2024.

While the launcher’s first chosen interceptor is AIM-9X, the Army will soon begin the process to competitively acquire a second interceptor, making it a true multi-mission system. The Army is seeking to include funding in its five-year budget plan to begin development of the second interceptor, Lozano said in October.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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