WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army intends to hold a competition to replace its Patriot air-and-missile defense radar and plans to begin analysis of materiel solutions in fiscal year 2018, according to a service spokesman.
The service has spent years grappling with when and how it will replace its current Raytheon-manufactured Patriot system first fielded in 1982. At one point, the U.S. Army planned to procure Lockheed Martin's Medium Extended Air Defense System as the replacement, but it canceled its plans to acquire the system, opting instead to procure key components of a new Integrated Air and Missile Defense System, or IAMD, separately.
Northrop Grumman is developing the IAMD's Integrated Battle Command System, the command and control architecture for the system. The U.S. Army also plans to use the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles in the future system.
Key to the future system is to have a 360-degree threat detection capability achieved through a new radar. The current radar has blind spots.
The U.S. Army spent the past year trying to decide whether it would simply upgrade Patriot’s radar or replace the sensor outright.
"The Lower-Tier Air-and-Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) program — currently pre-decisional — is planned for a full-and-open competition to deliver the best materiel solution to that meets the U.S. Army requirements," Army spokesman Dan O’Boyle told Defense News in a statement this week.
The service plans to use a Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase, Milestone A, "to develop a mature effort, foster competition, assess industry readiness, reduce programmatic and technical risks, as well as reduce total ownership costs," he said.
While the program’s timeline has yet to be fully determined, the U.S. Army plans to conduct a formal Milestone A in the fiscal year 2018 time frame, O’Boyle added.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have been vocal about a desire to compete for the new IAMD radar, but it’s possible other companies will produce capable offerings.
Both companies swiftly responded to a request for information released in the summer of 2016 asking for possible radar capabilities for a future missile defense system with the sensor expected to reach initial operational capability prior to fiscal year 2028.
The U.S. Army spent some time over the past year conducting a number of industry visits not only to collect data, but to look at technologies as well as manufacturing capabilities and capacities, Col. Rob Rasch, the Army's deputy program executive officer for Army Missiles and Space, told Defense News earlier this year. At the time, he said, the Army was very close to finalizing a strategy for procuring or upgrading a radar.
Raytheon is expected to promote its Patriot Gallium Nitride (GaN) active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for the future radar. It unveiled its system at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, in March 2016. Fully built and functioning, Raytheon has been putting the system through its paces in tests since its debut.
Raytheon said, following the RFI release, that it had responded to the request with a comprehensive vision of the next generation of air-and-missile defense radars.
Lockheed is still developing the MEADS system with Germany and Italy after the U.S. dropped out of the program, and its MEADS 360-degree radar could be a contender for the competition, but it is also possible the company brings other capabilities to the table.
The company showcased its new TPY-X GaN-based, digital AESA radar at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, in August 2016, that it plans to bring to market this year for long-range surveillance and search.
And Lockheed recently demonstrated it could bring a new radar to the field within a few years, such as the Q-53 radar, born from urgent operational needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Long Range Discrimination Radar in Alaska, which will come online in 2020, and the Air Force’s Space Fence, which will be operationalized in the Kwajalein Atoll by 2019.
For the U.S. Army’s radar replacement, "we think we can deliver the radar pretty darn quick once we understand the requirements and go through the competition. It won’t take the war fighter seven years to get it," Brad Hicks, Lockheed’s vice president for Mission Systems and Training, said at the time of the RFI’s release.
What the Army chooses for its future radar could impact future decisions of many foreign countries looking to have air-and-missile defense systems that are interoperable with U.S. forces' equipment. Poland has been in the market for an air-and-missile defense system for many years and has wanted to ensure commonality with the U.S. system and most recently Romania announced it would buy Patriot systems. Meanwhile, Germany would like to see other foreign countries buy into the MEADS solution when it is ready for prime time.
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.