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Game-changing command and control

Bolstering Patriot’s Defense with Modern 3-D Tech

Engineers compare the Raytheon-proposed Patriot command and control interface (left) and legacy software (right) during an air and missile defense simulation.

A Raytheon-proposed upgrade for a critical component of the Patriot™ air and missile defense system promises more flexibility as the U.S. and its allies face growing threats across the globe.

The newly proposed Patriot control system introduces video game-style 3-D graphics in a portable console that packs into a few travel cases, replacing a heavy metal shelter that must be moved by truck. Soldiers can now operate Patriot from a tent, an office building or anywhere that has power.

The proposed changes reflect integration of gaming and personal computing technologies, said Joe DeAntona, a vice president for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems who once commanded a Patriot battalion in the Army.

“We’re taking that same kind of philosophy and applying it to a very sophisticated weapon system,” DeAntona said.

From a Flat View to 3-D

There's no mistaking national defense for a video game. But advances in game technology, from controls to information sharing, tactics and visuals, can be used to quicken and improve the decisions that are needed for missile defense. 

“Young recruits grew up in the gaming age, giving them an instant familiarity with these advancements,” DeAntona said. “The threat has gotten pretty sophisticated, too, so when you’re decision-making with the system, it allows much greater detail, much more inclusiveness, because you’ve got to be able to process everything in a timely manner.”

The proposed user interface provides a total view of the battlespace, with 3-D visuals, easy-to-read status pages, search functions and natural interfaces. 

Before, operators would have to memorize where hundreds of different types of information were stored in the software. With this potential new software, they can perform a simple search with modern, drop-down menus. Spending less time learning the system provides more time to master it, especially when there’s constant turnover.

“In Korea, you get a one-year tour, so every six months you’re swapping out 30–40 percent of your operators. The proposed software will streamline training for those new soldiers out of basic and for the units actually deployed,” said Bob Kelley, a senior manager at Raytheon IDS. 

From Needing a Truck to Just the Trunk

For decades, Army battalions could set up their Patriot batteries one of two ways. If the battery was near enough its control shelter, it would be integrated into the larger battlefield command picture. Or, in a different location, it would operate autonomously, which complicated operations.

Both Kelley and Nate Jones became familiar with these choices during their respective Army careers. During Iraqi Freedom in the early 2000s, Jones deployed with his Army battalion from Germany to Israel to aid in that country’s defense. They brought along one control shelter and three of their five Patriot batteries. When the remaining two batteries got sent to Turkey to form a NATO Patriot Task Force, there was no extra control shelter to go with them, leaving them in an autonomous method of control.

“The proposed, smaller hardware would’ve solved that,” said Jones, a Raytheon product support senior manager. “It’s a game-changer in terms of flexibility and the scalability options it provides to a commander during a deployment, when they don’t have enough capacity … right now, when you take (a control shelter) and move it to a different battalion, you didn’t fix the problem, you just moved it.”

Unlike the heavy control shelters, which require a separate airplane to move, the newly proposed system’s five transit cases can be tossed into nearly any car, truck or plane. Throw in access to a household power supply, and you’re good to go. It’s also the same hardware soldiers train on, leading to limited real-world adaptation. 

“For a rapid deployment scenario, you’ll need less airplanes to get this on the ground, up and running,” Kelley said. “To sustain the truck-mounted version, you need mechanics, spare parts, fuel and much more … With these cases, they can just go in a small corner of a plane, allowing for a cut-down on airlifts.”

As Jones puts it, “That’s a huge difference. When that battery lands and the new hardware is with it, it’s going to be ready to fight.”

It’s Just About Go Time

Raytheon is ready to deliver five of the hardware systems to the Army in November, followed later by proposed software upgrades to the potential new interface. The systems are currently undergoing final testing by the company and the Army, but they’re already being used in deployment exercises.

Jones supported a recent exercise in Sweden that marks the third time this capability has been used in Europe. It’s also been used in one in the Pacific.

“It included an initial buy of five of the systems, but there’s been strong interest in the Pacific and Europe by those who have used it and exercised it,” Kelley said. “There’s a growing desire for more.”

Last Updated: 10/12/2017

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