I’m in this business to help soldiers save lives.
I was in the U.S. Army for over 26 years and retired as a colonel in 2006. For most of that time I was involved in air defense, serving as commander of a Patriot missile battery and the Army’s first Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Battalion, among other things, helping protect soldiers, civilians and assets from missiles and other airborne threats.
I was also the Army’s lead investigator for two “friendly-fire” incidents that occurred in the early months of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. In both cases, we learned the soldiers at the controls of Patriot anti-missile systems involved did not have the information necessary to make the right decisions in the time needed. They had acted precisely as they were trained to act based on the information the system provided. They had responded according to all the rules of engagement to shoot down what were identified as incoming threats but were in reality U.S. and British aircraft, killing the pilots aboard each. We found that data had been available in the field that could have led them to a different decision on those days, but that information wasn’t available to the air defenders in the time they had to act.
As I interviewed the soldiers involved, who were struggling to accept and understand what had happened, I had two great realizations. One was knowing, as I looked in their eyes and asked difficult questions, that we were asking young men and women every day to carry the tremendous burden of split-second, life-and-death decisions.
And the other was knowing that we can do better for them. We can provide them with better technology that integrates the information available from all the systems operating in the battlespace, then delivers it in a more meaningful, comprehensible way.
The accidents were among many forces that ultimately led the Army to embark on a comprehensive modernization of air and missile defense (AMD), an effort I was proud to champion while in uniform. Upon my retirement, I was thrilled to join Northrop Grumman and work on the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), which we are developing in partnership with the Army as the cornerstone of their AMD modernization.
In tests with soldiers, IBCS has already demonstrated its ability to give air defenders around the world the high-tech tools needed for decisive advantage against enemies, and the information they need to avoid tragedies. Our soldiers deserve no less. And that’s why I do what I do.
Rob Jassey is a former Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command Systems (IBCS) program director who now heads Northrop Grumman’s IBCS global advocacy efforts.
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