HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Raytheon debuted its first full-sized prototype of a next-generation Patriot radar here on Tuesday at the AUSA Global Force Symposium and Exhibition.

The company's new technology is called Gallium Nitride (GaN) Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and its designed to provide the Patriot with a 360-degree view on the battlefield.

So what is GaN-based AESA? Raytheon explains:

GaN: This is the material used to build the radar's circuits. It is a semiconductor that uses energy efficiently to amplify the radar's high-power radio frequencies.

AESA: This changes the way the Patriot radar searches the sky. Instead of shining a single transmitter through many lenses, the new array uses many smaller transmitters, each with its own control. It increases flexibility. And t still works even if some of the transmitters do not.

"This is technology that's ready today," said Ralph Acaba, the company's vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense. "It's ready to be fielded."

Indeed, it will be fielded for further testing later this year, Acaba told a crowd that had gathered for the big reveal.

Raytheon has invested over $200 million to develop GaN technology over 16 years, augmented with US government investment over time, Acaba told Defense News in February.

The Patriot system was fielded to the Army in 1982 and Raytheon has continuously upgraded the system with investments from the US and 13 partner nations. The system is expected to stay fielded until at least 2040.

Raytheon has not been able to rest on its laurels. Lockheed Martin developed a competing air and missile defense system called the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) and is directly competing with Raytheon stateside and abroad for future deals.

The Army is funded in fiscal year 2017 to hold a competition for an IAMD radar. It hasn't publicly laid out requirements or how it might conduct a competition. Acaba said existing systems could easily be upgraded in forward depots.

Other notable features include:

•Rear-facing arrays to provide the 360-degree view.

•Room for future growth to accommodate Future Army Integrated Air Missile Defense.

Raytheon is waiting for the service to detail its plan and is "positioned to respond to anything from an immediate upgrade to the current radar to a clean-sheet, brand new radar to everything in between," Acaba said last month.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

Tony leads a team of more than 30 editors, reporters and videographers dedicated to covering the news that affects service members and their families. Tony is responsible for strategy of the Military Times digital brands, the print publications, video and multimedia projects for Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times.

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