REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Hollywood director James Cameron may have made the term Aca,!A"avatarAca,!A? a hot commodity in the world of science fiction movies, but itAca,!a,,cs the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space that is using the concept of virtual personas in the real-life preparation of Soldiers for the battlefield.The Virtual, Interactive, Collaborative, Training, Resource/Environment laboratory, located at Northrop Grumman facilities in Huntsville, uses computer-generated avatars Aca,!" movable, three-dimensional images representing Soldiers in a cyberspace environment Aca,!" and simulated battle scenarios for war fighter training as part of the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System development effort.Aca,!A"The lab is a key element in the development of the IAMD battle command system, also known as IBCS, and the integration of Army air, missile and sensor weapons into that system,Aca,!A? said Bob Thomas, project manager for Integrated Air and Missile Defense.The Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space Integrated Air and Missile Defense Project effort includes a $420 million engineering and manufacturing development contract for Northrop Grumman and a major contract effort for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems to develop a common battle command capability that combines various weapons such as Patriot, Sentinel, SLAMRAAM and JLENS via an integrated fire control network to form a joint air and missile defense capability.Aca,!A"Right now, each Army system stands alone and is operated independently by Soldiers,Aca,!A? Thomas said.Aca,!A"But with the growing threats from countries like Iran and North Korea, there is the concern of mass attacks with a bunch of things flying at you that makes an integrated air and missile defense system important to our defense. In a mass attack situation, we need to make sure we can identify all the targets, and pair them up with sensors and weapons that can counter the attack. In any attack situation, you want to use the least expensive, more efficient and best fit missile system for the target.Aca,!A?The battle command system will involve modifying air and missile defense systems, including the Patriot, SLAMRAAM, Sentinel and JLENS, so they are part of an integrated system of weapons.Aca,!A"Right now, they have their own command and control system,Aca,!A? Thomas said. Aca,!A"And they are all different. Each of these systems when developed were stove pipe systems that are great systems by themselves. But we want to integrate them to provide greater capability.Aca,!A"We want to replace those with a single command and control system for all systems so that we can reduce training requirements for each system, and so our command posts can step up to a higher level of defense by being able to view the battlefield and control the systems for an integrated defense. This system will also help to eliminate redundancies on the battlefield and to close gaps between our defense systems.Aca,!A?The Integrated Air and Missile Defense Project Office stood up in 2006. The IAMD capability requirement came out of experiences in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom.The IAMD project office is working closely with the Lower Tier Project Office and the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, both PEO for Missiles and Space project offices, along with the Program Executive Office for Aviation to develop and field the IAMD capability. Currently, the Lower Tier Project Office is working to integrate the Patriot, MEADS and Pac-3 Upgrade while the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office is working to integrate JLENS, Sentinel and SLAMRAAM with IAMD.With the IAMD battle command system concept, the systems and the Soldiers who operate them will be controlled at the battalion level, which has a birdAca,!a,,cs-eye view of the battlefield and Army resources.Aca,!A"Everything will be networked,Aca,!A? Thomas said. Aca,!A"It will be a network-centric environment that will use wireless high band technology. IAMD will give us total coverage capability within the ArmyAca,!a,,cs systems and will allow us to talk to the NavyAca,!a,,cs military systems so that we can use their sensors to enhance defense.Aca,!A?Currently, the IAMD battle command system is in development, and is relying on Soldiers trained in air defense operations at the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Okla., and the Air Defense School, which recently relocated as part of BRAC 2005 from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Fort Sill, to test the system as it goes through its development phase. It is set to be fielded in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016.Aca,!A"On the battlefield, there isnAca,!a,,ct a lot of time for coordination. You almost have to have an automatic response to engagements,Aca,!A? Thomas said. Aca,!A"We want to create a single integrated air and missile picture so in a real-life engagement we know what systems are on the battlefield and in the air, where they are and what is attacking them. We are using open modular architecture so systems developed in the future can be quickly recognized as a new capability.Aca,!A?As part of that goal, Northrop Grumman is providing the Army with ownership of the software.Aca,!A"It is a unique approach,Aca,!A? Thomas said. Aca,!A"The system does not use proprietary software. That makes it possible for us to update and maintain it independently from the contractor.Aca,!A?The IAMD battle command system contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman in December, after a competitive prototyping phase that included Northrop and Raytheon. It involves employing up to 400 employees to develop the IAMD battle command system.Raytheon is still a Aca,!A"critical part of the team,Aca,!A? Thomas said, because they will be modifying the weapon systems Aca,!" including the Patriot, Sentinel and SLAMRAAM Aca,!" that they have developed for the Army so they can be integrated into the IAMD battle command system.Weapon system integration is essential on a joint battlefield where various air and missile defense systems are protecting the force and allowing freedom of maneuver for land and sea force, said retired Col. Mark McGee, who now works for Northrop Grumman. In 2003, during the initial months of Operation Iraqi Freedom, McGee managed Army air defense programs at the Pentagon.Aca,!A"In the air defense world, during Operation Iraqi Freedom we did not fight as we had trained nor were air defense forces employed as they have been traditionally organized,Aca,!A? he said.Aca,!A"Air defense brigades didnAca,!a,,ct fight with their habitually associated corps and battalions did not fight with the brigade they were associated with in garrison. Operation Iraqi Freedom was the largest deployment of Army air defense since World War II with every available Patriot battalion being deployed in support of OIF. Patriot battalions were deployed to support a Marine Expeditionary Force, and five countries in addition to protecting U.S. maneuver forces. U.S. air defense forces were spread over multiple countries in the Middle East and were working with people we had never trained with. We had to fight, organize and maneuver in ways we had never done before. The battle command systems we had at that time were not adequate for the distance and conditions we had to fight in.Aca,!A?Although efforts were successful, some mistakes on the battlefield did occur because air and missile systems could not be fully integrated.Aca,!A"In those kinds of situations, you are making decisions on the information at hand. The information needed to make the right decision was not available immediately, easily or timely,Aca,!A? McGee said. Aca,!A"We want to provide better situational awareness and better interoperability between systems in order to allow the war fighter to make the best possible decisions in a chaotic environment. Our battle command systems must be designed to be adaptable to any mission and any environment, and not force our war fighters to adapt to the limitations of the system.Aca,!A?Soldiers can learn faster and understand better how integration of the battlefield works when they use simulation laboratories such as the one developed for the IAMD battle command system, McGee said.Aca,!A"The Simulation Integration Lab leverages our young SoldiersAca,!a,,c experience with current day gaming devices and provides them hands-on instruction and training at the individual and collective levels during simulated war scenarios,Aca,!A? he said.Aca,!A"We want to allow young Soldiers to learn the way they play. WeAca,!a,,cre bringing what is available in commercial industry and leveraging commercial concepts to develop better capabilities for the military. And once they are in the battle command system on the real battlefield, they can still use simulations for day-to-day training so they can stay proficient even if their unit is deployed over great distances.Aca,!A?Those simulations along with the technology being developed in an IAMD battle command system will allow Soldiers to launch and manage an integrated defense against a multitude of threats simultaneously. And thatAca,!a,,cs what will make the system successful and revolutionary, said Thomas, the IAMD project manager.Aca,!A"We want to create joint interdependence so we can defend larger areas against threats, so we have flexibility in the choice of air, sensors and missile defense systems, so we can manage the battle across the entire area of sensors and shooters and so we have better leverage of our joint platforms,Aca,!A? he said.Assisting Northrop Grumman with the IAMD battle command system contract are the following subcontractors: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Harris, Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa., Schager, nLogic, Numerica, COLSA Corp., Millennium Engineering and Integration Co., SMDT, Applied Data Trends, Rhine Corps, and Cohesion Force Technology and Services.