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ABM -- Microchips Support The `Umbrella'.

There are some weapons that can rarely be used in training, (or maybe never fired at all) and ballistic missiles, as well as the weapons developed to destroy them before they reach their targets, fall within this category. Yet the very nature of the threat which could cause extensive destruction and casualties demands a response from anti-ballistic missile (ABM) operators that must be of the very highest order.

There are comparatively few ballistic missiles in service (discounting the thousands in the armouries of the former Cold War protagonists) but many more are under development. Thankfully, few can boast a `combat proven' record and consequently that also applies to ABMs. Indeed, malfunctions, design faults or inadequate training may account for the mixed results recorded by the Patriots fired during the Gulf War. Hence the Pentagon's efforts to develop the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system to afford protection over a much larger area than can be provided even by the latest Patriots.

With George W. Bush finally declared the winner of last year's disputed election, the National Missile Defence (NMD) is likely to be given a boost as `son of Star Wars', despite widespread disquiet among America's allies. Seeing this to be a violation of the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile treaty, some predict that a go-ahead for the NMD will enlist a response from Russia and China. Nevertheless, Lockheed Martin will be dusting off its Eris system proposed for Star Wars concepts.

With India and Pakistan having joined the `nuclear club' and both developing ballistic missiles as a means of delivery, the future need for ABM defences is clearly going to spread to many parts of the world. To the growing list of ballistic missile operators, Iran, Iraq and Israel must be added as well as North Korea. Clearly their neighbours will be looking to acquire or to develop an ABM capability, although by no means have all of the ballistic sources of delivery been fully developed.

Thus it can be said that, although ballistic missiles capable of delivering NBC threats also have the potential to rain down fragmentation, fuel-air explosive, cluster or high-explosive warheads onto enemies thousands of kilometres away, their actual deployment may be some years away. Nevertheless, the need to develop the Patriot Advanced Capability (Pac)-3 missiles, for the US Army and doubtless other Patriot users, was made evident during the Gulf War.

To be deployed initially for operation alongside the Pac-2 and Guidance Improved Missiles, the Pac-3 developed by Lockheed Martin has twice the range and altitude capability of the original Raytheon-produced missile. This poses a challenge to Sanders (now part of BAE Systems), which produced the Operator Tactics Trainers for the Patriot systems supplied to Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United States and others. Comprising replica radar consoles for use by up to eight students and a single instructor, the simulator-equipped classroom will now be required to replicate the performance of the Pac-3 in addition to other missiles deployed with Patriot batteries.

A developed Pac-3 is intended for use by the Medium Extended Air Defence System (Meads) under development by Germany, Italy and the United States. However, Germany's demand for a three-year risk-reduction phase could jeopardise the programme because it evidently doubts whether Meads will be capable of dealing with evolving threats. As a company with a track record in developing training devices, Alenia Marconi Systems (one of the partners on the Meads programme along with Eads and project leader Lockheed Martin) could be regarded as a candidate to undertake the task.

However, even if funding and political obstacles are overcome, it seems unlikely that Meads will achieve the aim of replacing Improved Hawk systems in less than a decade. As prime contractor for the US Army's Thaad system Lockheed Martin is once again heavily involved with a major ABM programme. But with initial deployment not expected until 2007, the design of a training system is unlikely to begin for some time.

The Thaad missile had a poor track record in flight tests, but a couple of successful target interceptions in 1999 have put the programme back on the rails. With Raytheon supplying the X-band fire control radar and Litton Data Systems providing command, control and communications, there is no obvious candidate to source training in the form of simulation. For the Meads project, all three partners are contributing to development of the X-band fire control radar, so each may also share in development of training systems.

As a country near the front line in terms of ballistic missile threats, Israel has been anxious to improve on its ABM defences against Scud and other missiles. The result is the Arrow, which is already in service following a series of successful tests and substantial American government funding. With IAI's Elta Electronics division providing the early-warning and fire control radar and Tadiran Electronics supplying the battle management centre, the Arrow is the subject of intensive training to ensure that Tel Aviv and other targets will be less vulnerable to ballistic missile attack.

The Arrow joins the Patriot and the US Navy Standard Missile (SM) as in-service ABM systems. While the US Navy has developed dummy missiles for crew training and fire control system testing, other simulators have also been produced to support the Aegis radar and vertical launch system, as well as SM operation. Developed under the leadership of the US Naval Surface Warfare Center, the simulators have paced improvements incorporated in the SM-2 Block IV, which has a ballistic missile engagement capability. However, a full Theatre Missile Defence capability will not become operational until 2004.

Meanwhile, the US Air Force is pressing ahead with its Airborne Laser Attack system in which a Boeing 747-400 fitted with a powerful oxygen-iodine laser will be tasked with intercepting Scud-type ballistic missiles. This could become operational by 2007 if current development milestones are achieved. With Boeing as the prime contractor, the Airborne Laser will pose another challenge to developers of simulation and training devices.

To provide realistic target training for operators of tomorrow's ABMs, Coleman Aerospace makes use of decommissioned Minuteman and Pershing missiles to produce a range of target configurations. By contrast to this use of discarded hardware, the Colsa Corporation is an important source of software support to the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. For example, the company played an important role with the Advanced Research Centre in the development of a Telecommunications Interface Console.

Called the Arctic Gateway, this was used to support long haul communications when the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command deployed to Kuwait during Operation Desert Thunder. Use of the Gateway enables exercises to be undertaken at remote sites in order that operators may train as they will fight. Such varied means of support are important but it is the tiny microchip that will form the heart of simulation and training when ABMs currently in development finally reach operational status.
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Author:Walters, Brian
Publication:Armada International
Date:Feb 1, 2001
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