WASHINGTON — Software deficiencies prevented the U.S. Army from beginning its critical initial operational test of its Integrated Battle Command System last fall, but it is now underway ahead of a full-rate production decision due at year’s end, the service’s program office told Defense News.
The Northrop Grumman-developed IBCS, which has cost the Army roughly $2.7 billion in development funding, is intended to link sensors and shooters across the battlefield.
A report on the program from the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester released last month indicated the IBCS’ initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E, was pushed from September 2021 to January 2022 due to “deficiencies in some critical capabilities identified during software testing.”
During the IOT&E pilot testing last fall, “there were issues observed in both tactical and simulation software that, if unresolved, would have made it difficult to accurately assess tactical system performance,” Program Executive Office Missiles and Space said in a statement.
“The project office determined the root cause and implemented fixes in October, and the Army tested this configuration throughout November,” the program office said. “Data analysis completed in December and confirmed readiness for IOT&E.”
The program, working with the Pentagon’s weapons testers and the Army’s Test and Evaluation Command, was able to improve modeling and simulation efforts over the last four months “and will continue to do so over the life of the program,” the office added.
The IOT&E officially kicked off Jan. 31.
The delay ultimately will not “adversely” affect the schedule for the test, according to the program office, and “we anticipate completion of IOT&E, declaration of Initial Operational Capability (IOC), and Full Rate Production well within the established Acquisition Program Baseline dates.”
The IOT&E does not need to be truncated to stay on schedule, the office added, and it is slated to wrap up in October with an expected full-rate production decision in mid-December.
The small delay in the testing is a minor blip compared to the program’s previous struggles. IBCS experienced an almost a four-year delay and struggled in a 2016 limited-user test, but following several soldier checkouts and other test events over the past few years as well as a successful limited-user test in the summer of 2020, it has made progress.
The Army originally intended for IBCS to serve as the brains of its air and missile defense system, but exponentially expanded its mission set, which accounts for one of the reasons for the programmatic delays. IBCS was able to demonstrate expanded capabilities as recently as Project Convergence in the fall of 2021 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
The Army awarded Northrop a $1.4 billion contract for both low-rate initial production and full-rate production of its future battle command system in December 2021.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.