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White Sands Missile Range > Featured News > Test Detachment Paves Way for Future Air & Missile Defense

​A Patriot missile launches for a test of the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense program. (U.S. Army Photo/White Sands Missile Range Visual Information)

Test Detachment Paves Way for Future Air & Missile Defense
By Chuck Roberts / White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs
August 07, 2018
Londoners looked helplessly to the sky during World War II as German V-2 rockets plummeted into a city defenseless against ballistic missiles.
Before the war ended, an estimated 2,754 Londoners died as a result of more than 1,400 V-2 rockets launched more than 700 miles from Peenemunde on the northern coast of Germany.
During the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein fired ballistic Scud missiles against Coalition Forces and citizens in Saudi Arabia and Israel. However, during this war, the U.S. Army deployed the Patriot missile defense system for the first time in combat, proving its effectiveness.
As citizens and Soldiers watched incoming Scuds approaching, they witnessed the Patriot guided interceptors destroy them in mid-air.
Today, an Army Air and Missile Defense Test Detachment (AMDTD) at White Sands Missile Range is helping pave the way for a future air and missile defense system that broadens and enhances the playing field.
 
Instead of selecting from among separate anti-air and missile defense systems such as the Patriot, Sentinel, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, the battlefield commander will have simultaneous and instant access to a myriad of anti-air and missile defense systems and their radar sensors all linked together. 
“Any sensor, any shooter is what the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (AIAMD) concept is about,” said Capt. Christopher Barber, Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Air and Missile Defense Test Detachment at White Sands Missile Range.
"It’s going to completely change the paradigm and the way we conduct air defense operations.”
As with most major military technological changes and developments, there is a small army of engineers and subject matter experts tasked with taking a project from the drawing board to the battlefield.
At White Sands Missile Range, that task falls to Barber, who leads the detachment of 132 Soldiers. Their focus the past two years has been integrating the Patriot system with the Sentinel, a radar system that can automatically acquire, track and identify enemy targets such as cruise missiles, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The integration of the two previous independent systems will enable an integrated, layered defense design. Where each entity is then able to complement each other, creating a system of systems.
“We’re putting this portion of the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense system through its rigors to ensure all the software and hardware is running like it’s supposed to before pushing it out to the operational force, and I think our unit is making great strides in getting there,” said Barber, who is the third commander for the 3-6 ADA AMDTD since the detachment was stood up at White Sands Missile Range in 2014.
The 3-6 ADA AMDTD conducts software testing at the Tobin Wells training area at Fort Bliss, Texas, about 50 miles from White Sands Missile Range. Live fire testing takes place on the White Sands testing range not too distant from where the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.
During a live-fire test in November 2015, Barber said a Patriot missile shot down a drone that was detected, tracked and engaged using a Sentinel radar, thus validating the significance of the AIAMD program.
 
“We provide the practical application piece,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Trevino, a Senior Test Officer with the 3-6 AMDTD. Sometimes it’s not only a matter of testing and verifying what the software engineers have developed, Trevino said, but to see how it would react if unexpected real-world events on the battlefield required an Engagement Operator to re-posture the system.
“So the Soldier here is bringing that tactical significance and practical application that the software engineer just isn’t privy to,” said Trevino.
To the casual observer, an interceptor taking out a drone during a test takes only a matter of seconds, but Barber said each phase of testing requires
months of meticulous preparation and planning. Attention to detail is paramount.
“I stress this every day with my Soldiers, especially the new ones coming in,” said Barber. “I need these guys here to give their best effort because this is the future of our national security, both here in the United States and globally.”

Barber also gets his point across with Soldiers by putting it on a more personal level about the significance of their work.
“If you have a bad day and aren’t giving your best efforts, then that increases the likelihood that a mistake could get fielded, and you could wind up using the very same air and missile defense system that is supposed to be protecting you and the fellow Soldiers around you,” said Barber.
The fact that the Test Detachment is living, working and testing at the birthplace of America’s missile and space program isn’t lost on Barber, and he tries to instill a sense of belonging to that history with monthly educational staff rides for his Soldiers to learn more about the local history that surrounds them.
 
“They are a part of history,” Barber said of his Soldiers. “We are on the forefront right now to defend against tactical ballistic missiles and air breathing threats and possibly change an outcome at some point.”
As his tour of duty nears an end with the 3-6 AMDTD, Trevino also reflected on serving at White Sands and being part of the AMD community.
 
“What I like is the relevance of anti-missile defense,” said Trevino. “Air Defense Artillery assets are strategic chess pieces and strategic global assets. When there’s a ground war going on and our brothers and sisters are in harm’s way, we provide that level of comfort for those guys on the ground. That’s the reality … If you want to be relevant at all times. If you want to have a mission at all times, air defense is where you want to be.”
Related Links:
Patriot System - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIM-104_Patriot
Sentinel Radar - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AN/MPQ-64_Sentinel
THAAD - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminal_High_Altitude_Area_Defense
V-2 Rocket - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-2_rocket


This page was last updated on 10/26/2018 2:15 PM