WASHINGTON — Incumbent Raytheon will build the U.S. Army’s new missile defense radar to replace the Patriot air and missile defense system’s current radar as part of the service’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defense System.
The company has taken its years of experience refining gallium nitride, or GaN, technology at its Massachusetts-based foundry to help design a new radar system that will provide the Army 360-degree threat detection capability in a configuration that includes one large array in the front and two smaller arrays in the back.
The contract is worth roughly $384 million to deliver six production-representative units of the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor, or LTAMDS.
“Our clean-sheet approach to LTAMDS reinforces Raytheon’s position as the world’s premier air and missile defense radar capability provider,” Ralph Acaba, president of Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, said in a statement.
The service earlier this year held a “sense-off” at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, between three working radars from Raytheon, a Lockheed Martin and Elta Systems team, and Northrop Grumman. The service analyzed the results and was in contract negotiations with the winner as the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference, which kicked off Oct. 14.
Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson, who is in charge of the service’s air and missile defense modernization effort, told Defense News in an interview ahead of the show that negotiations were ongoing and that the award would happen soon.
Without public knowledge of the win, Raytheon brought its offering for the LTAMDS competition to the show and passed out red lanyards advertising LTAMDS that said: “No time for a blind spot,” referring to the 360-degree coverage capability.
Replacing the Patriot radar has been a long time coming. The radar was first fielded in the 1980s, and the Army previously attempted to replace the system with Lockheed Martin’s Medium Extended Air Defense System through an international co-development effort with Germany and Italy. But that program was canceled in the U.S. after closing out a proof-of-concept phase roughly six years ago.
Since then, the Army studied and debated how to replace the Patriot radar, while Raytheon continued to upgrade its radar to keep pace with current threats. The service has acknowledged there will come a point where radar upgrades will be unable to keep up with future threats.
Taking years to decide, the service moved forward on a competition to replace the radar in 2017 and chose four companies to come up with design concepts for the capability — Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Technovative Applications.
Toward the end of 2018, Raytheon and Lockheed were chosen to continue technology development under that program. But then the Army redirected its plans into a sense-off competition last fall.
Raytheon is expected to build six prototypes by the end of fiscal 2022.
The radar that Raytheon specifically designed for the Army uses next-generation GaN and is 7 feet longer but 11 inches more narrow than the current radar unit. But it no longer requires outrigger stabilizing legs. Rather, the system is held stable by jacks underneath, which means it takes up less space on the sides, according to Bob Kelley, Raytheon’s director of domestic integrated air and missile defense programs for business development and strategy.
The radar meets all of the Army’s mobility and transport requirements, Kelley said, including fitting in a C-17 aircraft.
The smaller arrays are about 50 percent of the size of the legacy Patriot system’s array, but are twice as capable due to the advancements with GaN technology, he added.
Though the Army backed off its 360-degree detection capability requirement for the competition, Raytheon has been steadfast about keeping that capability in its offering.
In addition to being able to constantly cover 360 degrees, the radar can see farther than the currently fielded Patriot radar. That radar is unable to fully support the maximum kinematic range of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement that it fires. The Army claims that its effort to tie the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System with Patriot would help the MSE missile reach its full potential.
The LTAMDS will be able to fully support current missile systems including PAC-3 MSE range capability and future missiles ranges, Kelley said.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.