The Army hit a milestone in its continuing efforts to provide a capability to counter the indirect fire threat with the 100th successful intercept of a rocket or mortar round fired at high value Multi-National Corps-Iraq assets in late March.

Achieving its first intercept in March 2006 by disabling an inbound mortar round and precluding damage on the ground, the Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar capability has also provided over 1,500 localized warnings of incoming attacks allowing troops time to take protective cover - all since it initial operational capability was declared in July 2005, according to C-RAM Program director, Michael J. Van Rassen.

"Other possible engagements were automatically aborted to preclude endangering friendly aircraft from rounds fired by C-RAM's intercept system," said Van Rassen "There have also been many instances where the enhanced situational awareness and timely distribution of data has made it possible for Soldiers to kill or capture these threat forces," said Van Rassen.

The C-RAM capability is comprised of Department of Defense systems, most of which were already in existence and in use today. "The components have been uniquely integrated to provide our forces and coalition partners protection from the RAM threat," said Van Rassen.

Though the C-RAM program office is an Army office it works across the military branches and services to develop a capability from several component systems, creating what is in military lexicon a, "system-of-systems."

This system-of-systems includes field artillery and air defense sensors, a commercial industry produced warning system, and a U.S. Navy-developed interceptor. It is tied to various response systems via U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and Army battle command systems.

"Our office is a unique entity within DoD," said Van Rassen who described the C-RAM effort as "cross-branch, multi-service." "We serve as an integrating project manager and the office itself is the lead system integrator for the effort. Its focus is on providing a capability and collective training as opposed to building a specific system."

"Seventy to Eighty percent of the funding we receive, we spend with other Department of Defense project management offices," said Van Rassen. Working with its partner, the U.S. Air Force 642nd Electronic Systems Squadron, the C-RAM program has developed an Integrated Base Defense System of Systems, which was fielded to Army training base, combat training centers and selected U.S. and Coalition forward operating bases in Iraq.

The capabilities of C-RAM are tailored specifically to the threat location. "We work with theater commanders to tailor the integrated solution that best meets the operational need and environment at various locations, balancing technology, available equipment and personnel, training, tactics with how quickly the capability can get into the hands of the warfighter," said Van Rassen.

"The priority of systems and locations change constantly with the ebb and flow of the threat, but we concentrate on our largest and highest priority locations," said Van Rassen.

"Defeating the RAM threat is not accomplished by any one piece of equipment, tactic, organizational or individual effort, but by a comprehensive effort with many contributing sources," said Van Rassen.

Reflecting this multidimensional challenge, the C-RAM program office logo covers seven areas - known as pillars - each titled to highlight an aspect of the challenge: Shape, Sense, Warn, Intercept, Respond, and Protect, all tied together by Command & Control.

The C-RAM program was initiated at the request of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff in May 2004. C-RAM has been on a rapid development path, conducting its proof of principle test in November 2004 which was followed by a series of spiral developments, operational demonstrations, and staged deployments beginning in 2005.

The program continues to develop and enhance its capabilities as an evolutionary development program. The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Fires Center of Excellence is the lead combat developer. The U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Tactical, the lead materiel developer. Significant support comes from PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, PEO Missiles and Space, PEO Ammunition, U.S. Air Force PEO for Command and Control and Combat Support Systems, and U.S. Navy PEO Integrated Warfare Systems, according to Van Rassen.

"The Army Test and Evaluation Command has been instrumental in rapidly getting this capability to the warfighter and the continuous improvement of the capability," said Van Rassen.

Using the forensics data from theater, the Program Director C-RAM, an element of PEO C3T, working with ATEC and the Fires Center of Excellence, has conducted six major demonstrations and 10 smaller test events over the last three years.

"Each event has resulted in added or improved capability over the various C-RAM Pillars and in turn the rapid fielding of the improved capability to the warfighter in the combat zone," said Van Rassen.

The C-RAM program office is located in Huntsville, Ala.