HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - From creating high energy lasers to destroying ballistic missiles aimed at the United States, the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command is working to keep our country safe and our troops equipped with the latest technology.
SMDC is headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, but provides operational forces all around the world both in space and missile defense. Their senior civilian leader provided a glimpse of some of their latest innovations and discussed how the demand for their work continues to grow.
James Johnson, USASMDC/ARSTRAT’s deputy to the commander, talked about their Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.
“If you watch the news, North Korea has been very active in ballistic missile testing, offensive capabilities. So our command operates the ground-based midcourse defense system which is in Colorado Springs, California and Alaska. Our soldiers that operate that system would defeat any ballistic missiles that would try to do harm to the United States. That’s foremost in our mission right now,” he explained.
At the other end of the spectrum, they’re also working on some short range air and missile defense capabilities against rockets, mortars, artillery and unmanned aerial vehicles.
As for the space arena, Johnson went on to state, “We have to ensure that the Army has use of space to build and communicate and navigate so our job is to make sure that the enemy cannot take away those capabilities from the United States because we rely on heavily on them for military purposes.”
An arm of the command called the Technology Center develops science and technology capabilities that eventually turn into military capabilities.
“Some of the things we’re working on is our high energy laser. We’re using that technology to defeat rockets, artillery and mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles. It’s a very inexpensive way to defeat those threats compared to very expensive missile system,” Johnson said.
It’s been developed in the lab for many years and now it’s being integrated onto military vehicles.
“It is at a major range out West and we’re allowing soldiers to get time on the system and they’re delighted with the capability we’re developing,” Johnson added.
As far as satellite technology, the Army is the biggest user of space of all the military services. It’s used to do satellite communication, navigate, and to collect imagery to keep our soldiers prepared and prevent them from walking into an ambush, for example.
SMDC is developing small satellites to collect imagery. In the past, the large, expensive, elaborate satellites were used and soldiers would have to wait in line to get images off of them.
“What we’re developing are small satellites where a soldier can directly task those small satellites and get those images in near real time. They don’t have to wait days or weeks. Another benefit of the small satelittes is that some of our adversaries are working on capabilities to shoot down or deny our use of the larger satellites. It’s hard to do with the smaller satellites because they can’t see where they are,” Johnson said.
SMDC also has a Future Warfare Center, another major element of the command which works hand in hand with the Tech Center.
“They’re looking at what our potential adversaries are developing and what their future capabilities are. They compare those with what the Army’s current capabilities are and if they see our adversaries developing capabilities that we don’t have a good answer to, then that creates a gap,” Johnson stated.
They give it to the Tech Center to develop science and technology applications for. When they come up with a breakthrough, then the Future Warfare Center takes it and turns it into a military relevant system.
In addition to that, they also develop all of the tactics, techniques, and procedures on how soldiers will use the capability and then they train warfighters on how to use the new system.
They are a recognized Army Study Center of Excellence so they are funded by the Army to do studies related to space and missile defense to inform senior Army leaders on what they should be investing in and any changes that need to be made to docrine, techniques and procedures.
Continuing their important work takes funding and they’re getting the support they need. The FY18 budget has a 100 percent increase for air and missile defense, going from $1.7 billion to $3.6 billion.
“Everything that SMDC is working on is a very high priority for the Army. Both air and missile defense, as well as space, are funded very well. The top Army leadership continues to commit funding for those capabilities and so we’re excited about our future,” Johnson said.
When it comes to the Army Futures Command, the big modernization effort, Johnson says SMDC is not a part of it but is a major contributor to it.
An SMDC senior executive is leading the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing Cross-Functional Team and expertise is also being given to the air and missile defense team.
“We’re always watching our potential adversaries and the capabilities they’re developing. We’re making sure our soldiers, our warfighters, have the very best capabilties in their hands that they can have because we want them to always overmatch any of our adversaries,” Johnson said.
“We want everyone to sleep well at night knowing that we can defeat things like ballistic missiles that could be aimed at the United States. We feel very good about the capabilities that are developed right here in Huntsville and the future is very bright for this command,” he added.