HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The U.S. Army has begun developmental testing of its future missile defense radar in a new, two-phased approach, according to Brig. Gen. Frank Lozano, the service’s program executive officer for missiles and space.
The Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor, or LTAMDS, will serve as the radar in the Army’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defense system. Congress mandated that the Army field an LTAMDS battalion of four sensors by December 2023.
The Army awarded Raytheon, an RTX company, a contract to build LTAMDS prototypes in 2019. But program officials have had to make some adjustments over the past few years in order to meet congressional requirements because of integration challenges and supply chain delays caused by COVID-19.
The Army has since made progress with the LTAMDS program, Lozano told Defense News in an interview at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium here. The service received the six required prototypes from Raytheon and completed contractor verification testing a few weeks ago, he said, adding, “That went very well.” Five of the systems are at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and the sixth remains with Raytheon at its Andover, Mass., facility for testing.
The service has now begun developmental testing, but will proceed in two waves, Lozano explained. The LTAMDS radar has three arrays; a main one and two in the back that give it the ability to see threats from 360 degrees. “Last year, when I first came on board, through some system engineering reviews, we realized that trying to do all 360 degrees of tracking was too much to take on at once,” he said.
As a result, the first year of testing will focus on the main array and the second year, in 2024, will be dedicated to full-sector capability testing, incorporating the back two arrays, Lozano said.
In order to meet congressional requirements, the Army is providing the first four LTAMDS prototypes to the formation designated as the “first unit equipped” with primary sector capability by December 2023, Lozano said. That step will provide “residual combat capability” that already “exceeds legacy radar capability,”he said.
Once the second phase of developmental testing is complete, the Army will conduct an operational assessment in the first quarter of FY25 that will lead to an Engineering and Manufacturing Development decision in FY25, a preliminary step toward eventual serial production.
The Army is also required to field three additional LTAMDS for the defense of Guam. The service plans to procure five total systems in FY24 to cover the Guam requirement; the other two will be test assets, Doug Bush, the Army’s acquisition chief said earlier this year.
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.