Systems of Systems: What, Exactly, is an Integrated Air Defense System?

Mattes notes the term “integrated air defense system” (or IADS) is often defined incorrectly or out of the proper context for modern warfare. In order to solve the problem of highly capable air defenses, it is critical that both military mission planners and requisite intelligence personnel “have a common and correct understanding of what constitutes an IADS,” in order to be operationally relevant. Mattes works to clarify the definition of IADS in 21st century military operations, and highlight flawed assumptions about these systems that could lead to obsolete “IADS rollback” approaches in future conflicts. A modern IADS, he notes, is “far more complex than a singular surface-to-air missile,” and ties together often disparate elements other than a fire control radar and missile battery. These elements often include battle management tools, air surveillance, wireless networks, and air-to-air fighters. American military leaders and planners should encourage new thinking by harnessing both lethal and non-lethal effects across domains to defeat IADS, Mattes argues. More realistic effects that disrupt, degrade, or delay IADS—simultaneously applied—may aggregate effects to allow targeting and destruction of enemy centers of gravity more effectively in the future.

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