Waste and battle-deployed ammunition are topics that normally do not get talked about in the same sentence. And yet, ammunition waste is a very real thing. The U.S. Army knows that, which is why they are now working on a project with Northrop Grumman to develop new sensor technology that will ultimately lead to fewer missiles being used in combat.

Northrop Grumman has come up with what they call the Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) for deployment alongside Patriot missiles. By combining new sensors with existing Patriot radar, engineers believe they can reduce the number of missiles necessary to take out the approaching target by half. Tests have produced good results thus far.

  More Time Equals Better Plans

Patriot missiles are designed to be interceptors. They are fired with the intent of downing incoming missiles. Until now, Army personnel had only a limited amount of time to determine the course of an incoming missile and respond with their own defense. Northrop Grumman’s new sensors make it possible to link Patriot radar with Sentinel radar to give defense forces more time.

More time allows them to better plot a defensive strategy. By extension, a better defense strategy increases the likelihood of successful interception with just one Patriot instead of two. More time essentially makes each Patriot more accurate.

Army officials say that the success of the program is really up to the sensor technology that powers it. The more sensors they can deploy to track and predict incoming missile trajectory, the more information they can feed into the Patriot system for interception purposes.

     Sensor-Based Defense

California’s Rock West Solutions is a sensor specialist whose work often has military applications. Rock West engineers agree with the military’s assessment of sensor volume. These days, military networks are alive with a full array of sensors that can track everything from U.S. military assets to enemy movements. To say that modern defense is sensor-based is to understate the obvious.

It is not exactly clear how the new sensors being tested by the Patriot system to do what they do. But the Army has said that the project has two goals: to better guide intercepting Patriot missiles and overcome enemy efforts to jam communication signals.

As time goes on, U.S. missile defense systems should get better commensurate with sensor technology and better signal processing. Rock West says that signal processing needs to advance at the same rate as sensor technology if new sensors are to offer maximum effectiveness.

     Filtering out the Noise

Scientifically speaking, signal processing is the process of removing unwanted information from a given data stream. This unwanted information is known as ‘noise’. Understanding the implications of enemy forces jamming communication signals should make clear why signal processing is so vital to the success of the new Patriot sensors.

In addition, sensors themselves return plenty of information that only constitutes noise. Filtering out that information provides more accurate data to apply to the task at hand. Improving the kill ratio of intercepting Patriot missiles relies on having the cleanest possible data stream to work with.

Warfare has certainly come a long way since the days of hand-to-hand combat with swords and shields. It is all about technology. Just as Roman soldiers carried the latest weaponry in their hands, armed forces in the 21st century are going to battle with the most advanced weapons and systems ever made.

At the heart of it all are the sensors that collect information, send it back to computer systems, and ultimately increase the chances of battlefield victory. If they reduce ammo consumption at the same time, that is even better.