Navy hones the NIFC-CA to improve its prowess in the outer-air battle
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
The Navy has scheduled a demonstration next
year of an integration program that will enable
the service to counter hostile air threats and
knock them down over the horizon, well before they are
in position to strike friendly forces.
The program, called the Navy Integrated Fire
Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), will expand the service’s warfighting capabilities in several ways. For
example, it will link the Navy’s forthcoming E-2D
Advanced Hawkeye battle management aircraft with
tactical aircraft such as the family of F/A-18s.
Coupled with the Cooperative Engagement
Capability (CEC), a software program that fuses data
from many sensors and distributes it to all nodes in a
network, NIFC-CA will enable a surface warship
equipped with the sophisticated Aegis Combat System
to fire missiles at targets it cannot see or detect by harnessing the sensor data of aircraft.
The inability of ships to fire missiles beyond the
range of their onboard sensors has been a major limitation in maintaining a defense shield over friendly
forces. The CEC was a major step forward, enabling an
Aegis ship to share target data with another Aegis ship.
NIFC-CA expands that capability by linking the fire
control of Aegis ships with aircraft operating aloft and
far from the ship.
“NIFC-CA pushes that capability
over land,” said Rear Adm. Nevin P.
Carr Jr., deputy director of surface
warfare for combat systems and
weapons in the Office of the Chief of
Naval Operations. “We extend the
defense of the sea base farther than
we could before and shoot the
archer before he can shoot his arrow,
and we can extend that defensive
umbrella over land to help protect
troops on shore.”
The advent of NIFC-CA also
means that Aegis ships will be able
to fire at a richer array of targets, including those over
land being tracked by the E-2D.
These are substantial advances. At present, the widely
deployed Standard Missile- 2 (SM- 2) that arms the service’s Ticonderoga cruisers and Arleigh Burke destroyers
must be guided all the way to its target by the ship’s radar.
In the future, a further iteration of NIFC-CA may
extend the operational range of Aegis ships inland, possibly by involving the Army and Marine Corps. Army
participation may include its surface-launched version
of the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile
(SLAMRAAM) and a radar-equipped surveillance tethered aerostat balloon called the Joint Land-Attack Cruise
Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System. Though
undecided, the Marines may participate using a version
of the SLAMRAAM on a vehicle yet to be selected.
A portion of NIFC-CA’s capability will be demonstrated
at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in fiscal
year 2008. The Army will be participating in the demonstration but in a capacity yet to be defined, Carr said.
To achieve its goals, NIFC-CA is linked to a variety
of sophisticated systems and will be fielded in three
components, called kill chains.
The first is a From-the-Air Kill Chain scheduled to
reach operational capability in 2011 with the advent of
the carrier-based E-2D, built by Northrop Grumman.
The future integration tool will enable Aegis ships to take on targets
■ Aegis ships will be linked to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye battle
■ The future SM- 6 missile will provide surface forces with new
target acquisition and homing capabilities.