WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin has beaten out Raytheon and Northrop Grumman to build a new long-range discrimination radar (LRDR) for the Missile Defense Agency, a vital component to intercepting possible intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea and Iran.

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a $784 million contract to build the radar.

MDA issile defense leaders have called the radar one of their biggest priorities in beefing up homeland ballistic-missile defense, along with improving the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), a key part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System in California and Alaska.

Sequestration still threatens the LRDR. MDA Director Vice Adm. James D. Syring said earlier this year that sequestration-related cuts would mean having to delay the fielding of the radar.

The radar is expected to be positioned in Alaska.

The schedule to get the radar in place is an aggressive one. Brad Hicks, a vice president of business development at Lockheed Martin, told Defense News the plan is for the radar to become operational in the ground in Clear, Alaska, by the end of 2020. The schedule, he said, includes some margin to cope with potential issues, such as weather.

The fast-paced schedule is also possible, Hicks explained, because Lockheed has driven some of the risk out of the system by bringing technology developed to high readiness levels through other programs into the long-range radar program.

The radar Lockheed has been chosen to design is a ground-based sensor using Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology that will provide 24-hour coverage. The sensor will increase the effectiveness of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System by adding the capability to discriminate debris and decoys in order to identify lethal objects "to improve the probably of kill, or engagement success," Hicks said.

Lockheed used experience from programs like its Space Fence, a space surveillance sensor to be situated in the Kwajalein Atoll that will become operational in 2019 and developed for the Air Force. Lockheed is also feeding technology expertise into the radar's design from its Aegis ballistic missile defense systems and Aegis Ashore sites, being built in Romania and Poland, as well as its Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system, Hicks said.

Raytheon, an international leader in radar development and production, proposed an LRDR solution that capitalizes on the company's "extensive experience and proven performance across a broad spectrum of high-performing radar programs," according to Keri Connors, a company spokeswoman.

On whether Raytheon would consider protesting the award, Connors added the company will attend the post-award debrief and "will assess the decision factors before making any such determination."

Northrop Grumman, according to spokesman Randy Belote, is "understandably disappointed" with the Missile Defense Agency's decision.

"We firmly believe that our offering provides the government with the best value, most affordable and technically innovative solution to help defend our nation from ballistic missile attacks," Belote said, citing the company's heritage in active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar technology.

Belote would not comment on whether the company was considering filing a protest. He said the company is waiting for its debrief with the government.

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