REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – During the 23rd annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium, the leader of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Technical Center discussed his laser-focus on the future.
Thomas E. Webber, Technical Center director, participated with other leaders on an acquisition panel witnessed by a virtual audience during the symposium, Aug. 4.
“I am privileged to have been asked to discuss the Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center’s role in science and technology and how we intersect across the broader acquisition process,” Webber said. “The goal of every S&T effort is to transition new capability to the warfighter that provides technical superiority that enables their mission and gives them the advantage. The SMDC Technical Center supports the joint warfighter by providing disruptive and critical technologies that meet today’s requirements and address future needs, enabling warfighter dominance in multi-domain operations.
“The Technical Center contributes to the current fight and enables the next generation to prevail in conflicts to come,” he added.
Webber is responsible for managing research, development, and test programs for the Technical Center including space, missile defense, cyber, directed energy and related technologies. He is also responsible for the management of the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
“As part of the Department of Defense major range and test facility base, our Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site located on Kwajalein Atoll supports test and evaluation of tactical and strategic weapon systems and executes a vital space operations mission for the nation,” Webber said. “The Reagan Test Site provides a one-of-a-kind suite of sensors and instrumentation that enables (Department of Defense) and test customers to perform research and developmental testing as well as execute the operational testing required for validation of offensive and defensive weapon systems.”
Webber also participated in a “Fireside Chat” forum during the SMD Debrief: Modernizing Missile Defense on Aug. 5 where he discussed numerous projects the Technical Center is currently working on or planning for the future.
During his time, Webber explained how high energy lasers are one of the most anticipated technology advances emerging for future battlefields.
“I would tell you that they are ready for prime time,” Webber said. “We have demonstrated the ability to provide the power levels and lethality that we need. Obviously there are future S&T investments that still need to be made. Those will be critical to ensuring the continuation and advancement of the state of the art when it comes to high energy lasers.
“As we respond to an adversary’s advancements as they learn to adapt and counter what we are able to do, we need to always stay one step ahead,” he added. “The development and improving in that technology is really the key to make it a viable warfighting capability today. But we will continue to build upon that as we go into the future.”
The Technical Center’s new technology complex currently under construction on Redstone Arsenal will focus on developing directed energy, lasers and space technologies and will contribute to Army modernization goals.
“This is the first time in the Army’s history that it is fielding a high energy laser weapon system and organic space-enabled capabilities,” Webber said. “So our technology campus complex will provide the facilities and equipment that’s necessary to enable the scientists and engineers to continue to drive technological discovery for the Army, modernization priorities in space, directed energy and hypersonics. It will also provide the opportunity for those early warfighter involvements that we need to mature what we’re delivering, and it is what they need. We also have the opportunity to deliver it as rapidly as possible.”
Another effort of the Technical Center is taking old demilitarized Army rockets and giving them new life as low-cost targets to help missile defense customers verify new system capabilities in flight tests.
“We are saving the Army money by not having to destroy old boosters and give them new life,” Webber said. “Several years ago we looked at the ability to turn them into targets. We learned we could build targets significantly cheaper than buying new ones and provide customers with the ability to do both developmental and operational testing with a lower cost target.
“Customers liked that idea and we have been very successful,” he added. “It has been a tremendous boon for us to be able to provide more affordable, effective targets and support numerous operational test events. It has been a really good alignment of capabilities needed to be able to be validating and testing operational weapons systems with regular and recurring testing.”
Webber said his team has had to overcome recent challenges and handle hands-on testing and development in trying times.
“The work the Tech Center performs on a daily basis is absolutely critical to developing the best technologies for our warfighters,” Webber said. “Through hard work and dedication to the mission we have developed new state-of-the-art technologies that will change the way we fight and win wars. The Tech Center is focused each day on innovating and transforming the future Army through revolutionary research, development, test and evaluation.
“Our goal is to ensure we continue to deliver the relevant technologies our Army needs to maintain superiority now and in the future,” he added.