WASHINGTON — The Long Range Discrimination Radar that will be operational in Alaska in 2020 has passed the preliminary design review phase, hitting a major milestone for the program in less than 18 months from the contract award in October 2015, Lockheed Martin announced Thursday.

The LRDR is a gallium nitride-based, solid-state active electronically scanned array radar. Lockheed’s other gallium nitride, or GaN, projects include the U.S. Air Force’s Space Fence — to be built at Kwajalein Atoll on the Pacific island — and new long-range radar it expects to bring to market as well as offer to the U.S. Army’s potential Integrated Air and Missile Defense radar in a competition planned for this year.

The very large and powerful radar will support the ballistic missile defense system, primarily for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, set up to defend the homeland against missile threats from North Korea and Iran. It will be networked to the company’s Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications system.

The Missile Defense Agency awarded the $784 million contract in fewer than two years to Lockheed after an intense competition. Lockheed beat out Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

The LRDR will be positioned in Clear, Alaska. GMD interceptors are buried in the ground at both Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Passing the preliminary design review means Lockheed demonstrated a Technology Readiness Level of 6, which means it’s no longer developmental, and a Manufacturing Readiness Level of 6, "putting the team on a path to achieve TRL 7 later this year," which would allow the program to transition to the manufacturing phase, according to a company statement.

Lockheed used a "scaled" LRDR system to demonstrate technology in an environment relevant to its real mission, the statement noted.

The company also has a new Solid State Radar Integration Site, which is self-funded, to test technology readiness and offer risk reduction as the radar continues down the development path. Future solid-state radar systems will be tested there as well.

"The Solid State Radar Integration Site will be used to mature, integrate and test the LRDR design and building blocks before we deliver the radar to Alaska. Using this test site will result in significant cost savings and less risk overall," Chandra Marshall, Lockheed’s LRDR program director, said in the statement.

LRDR construction in Alaska is scheduled to begin in 2019, and Lockheed will begin integrating the radar into the ballistic missile defense system by the end of the 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 in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.

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