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A watchdog of the sky destroys targets and saves lives

When insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan began using hit-and-run mortar or rocket strikes against U.S. forward operating bases (FOBs), the Army adopted U.S. naval warfare technology, modifying its ship-based Phalanx system to a land-based version known as the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) Land-Based Phalanx Weapon System (LPWS) to protect personnel and critical assets from indirect fire (IDF).

The LPWS’ multiple radars detect incoming IDF, and its infrared camera is used by the crew to classify the target. Once a potential threat has been confirmed, the LPWS’ six-barrel M61A1 Gatling gun intercepts the target, firing 75 20 mm high-explosive rounds per second, lighting up the sky and turning the threat into a hail of harmless scrap. And it does all that in less than 10 seconds.

In 2009, Ohio’s Joint Task Force 1st Battalion, 174th C-RAM, was the first National Guard battalion in Iraq to work with the C-RAM system. Today, LPWS intercept capabilities are deployed in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Click on the image above to enlarge it. 



• Radars detect and classify IDF

• C-RAM Command and Control correlates detections and automatically issues warning

• Operator (man in the loop) makes visual confirmation of target using forward-looking infrared (FLIR) thermal imaging camera

• Operator verifies airspace is clear and authorizes engagement

• LPWS tracks and intercepts target

• LPWS distinguishes IDF from aircraft, and its fratricide avoidance system precludes the gun from firing at or near aircraft

• 20 mm ammunition self-destructs before impact with ground



• Over 175 rockets and mortars intercepted and destroyed in Iraq over six years

• Over 50 rockets and mortars intercepted in Afghanistan in less than one year

• 5,000 warnings of rocket, artillery or mortar IDF at more than 50 FOBs in Iraq and Afghanistan


Information provided by the C-RAM Program Directorate and PEO (Program Executive Office) Missiles and Space, Redstone Arsenal, AL; video footage compilation courtesy of DVIDS