Recently, The United States Army tested a new interceptor for a concept called the Indirect Fire Protection Capability. The IFPC is a system that the Army describes as being able to take down mortars, rockets, artillery, drones and even cruise missiles at short range. Sound familiar? It should; in essence the IFPC is an Iron Dome. Except, not quite.
The Iron Dome is an Israeli weapon made to solve Israel’s unique problems related to defending it’s territory from rocket and mortar attacks. In that sense it is very much tailored for Israel’s needs as a small nation with major cities within range of enemy rockets.
Israels size and strategic position means that they don’t need to move their interceptors beyond their relatively small country. Strategic mobility is a non-issue. Moving an Iron Dome battery from Mt. Hermon in the northern Golan Heights to Eilat at Israel’s southern tip takes less than six hours and requires the use of only one road.
The American interceptor is designed with America’s unique requirements in mind. America has troops based around the world and may need to airlift the system to a remote location thousands miles away on short notice. The system would also be deployed to defend bases, not cities.
Unlike the Iron Dome, which is secured to the ground, the America version consists of a Multi-Mission Launcher mounted on the Medium Tactical vehicle. Another change is the subtraction of a row of launch tubes, which brings the total number of tubes down to 15 from the Iron Dome’s 20. The radar coverage is provided by a separate Sentinel radar module.
This mounting system gives the IFPC greater tactical and strategic mobility, enabling it to be more easily transported to more trouble spots around the world by planes like the C-130, rather than relying on heavy lifters that can’t land in as many airfields because of poor quality or length of the runway.
The idea of downsizing a system and mounting it to a truck isn’t new. The same five-ton truck is also used for the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system; which is a lightweight evolution of the MLRS concept.
Other improvements: The MHTK
The American system has other refinements as well. While Israel needs large missiles with enough range to cover it’s borders, the United States is usually tasked with defending smaller forward and main operating bases. Because it’s only defending a small area, the missile doesn’t need as much range or mass. Having a launcher that can protect a circle a few kilometers wide is good enough for most base defense applications.
The IFPCs Multi-Mission launcher can fire a variety of missiles from the Stinger to the AIM-9X. But because of it’s low range requirements for countering rockets and mortars the IFPC can take advantage of a new interceptor called the Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile .
While it’s intercept range is only 2.5 km, the new missile allows nine miniature interceptors to be packed into a single tube. That comes 135 missiles in a single launcher. Compare this to the 60 interceptors that an Iron Dome can field in an entire battery.
Iraq and Afghanistan
The IFPC would obviously be of great use to U.S forces in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting similar asymmetrical threats that the Iron Dome does in Israel. As experience has shown the situation inside a particular area can change dramatically. Last year U.S troops in Iraq were coming under regular mortar fire near Al-Assad air base in Baghdad while attempting to help Iraqi forces. A few weeks ago, a Marine died at a U.S firebase in Iraq came under rocket attack by ISIS militants.
In the future, anti-missile systems like the IFPC could be quickly deployed to conflict zones along with the troops to avoid these situations and dangers.
Uses against conventional adversaries
While it might be obvious to use this system against asymmetrical threat like the Iron Dome, the IFPC has potential against conventional adversaries as well. Because the MHTK interceptor is so small, hundreds of them can be launched from a battery before reloading. Whereas the Iron Dome is limited by it’s payload capacity and cost per intercept, the MHTK does have these limitations.
In South Korea, U.S forces are based in Yonsan in the heart of the city. The South Korean government is headquartered in Yeoeuido-dong, right across the Han River in central Seoul. In a potential war the DPRK’s heavy rockets and rocket assisted gun artillery could do significant damage to both these targets and result in significant casualties.
Given IFPCs massive short range MTHK interceptor capacity it could be very effective in blunting the North Korean threat to U.S personnel in Seoul. Just two batteries could cover the entire military base and the Republic of Korea’s National Assembly.
the DPRKs constant threats against Seoul have been a great source of deterrence for the North. If the system works well enough, it could even effect the political situation on the peninsula and rob the North of this ability to threaten and coerce the South.
With the MHTK interceptor, even Russia might have trouble utilizing their artillery to good effect. While a 200 round salvo of grad rockets would obviously overwhelm the system, the IFPC may be able to negate Russia’s artillery advantage in certain scenarios where the volume of artillery is not as high. Medium or longer range, less numerous rockets and gun artillery might be vulnerable to intercept.
The IFPC armed with the MHTK missile could definitely be game changer for the U.S much like the Iron Dome was for Israel. It’s mobility is more suited to the U.S military and would allow it to offer American troops protection in a variety of scenarios across the globe. If development goes well even conventional threats like Russian and North Korean may be mitigated.
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