WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army sees a faster path to get a radar that can detect threats from 360 degrees to replace the current Patriot air-and-missile defense system’s sensor. And the service plans to funnel more than half a billion additional dollars into the program to move it forward, according to fiscal 2019 budget documents released this week.
“Since this time last year, engagements with industry have enabled refinement of the schedule to accelerate the capability,” the Army’s budget justification documents read. “Utilizing [Department of Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium] DOTC contract agreements with four consortium members have better informed the Army. Through this refinement and agreement, the net effect is acceleration of schedule and capability.”
Compared to the service’s FY18 budget, the FY19 five-year plan shows a robust injection of cash. While the Army allocated $419.6 million from FY19 through FY22, the FY19 budget documents show an increase of $535.5 million across the same timespan for a total of nearly a billion dollars — $955.1 million. The Army wants an additional $241.5 million in FY23.
The increase in funding is for early software design development and testing and will also help “the Army to be better informed enabling acceleration of capability,” according to the documents.
Replacing the radar grows more critical as the Army looks at dealing with different threats: ones that fly slower, faster or maneuver differently. Threats are smaller and more lethal now. A radar that can detect reliably in a 360-degree field of view is necessary to handle increasingly complex threats. The current Patriot system has blind-spots.
The DOTC awarded contracts to four companies to come up with concept designs in October that have helped inform the Army’s requirements for its Patriot radar replacement.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin both received contracts, which came as no surprise because each have spent years developing and testing 360-degree capable radars. Raytheon is Patriot’s prime contractor and Lockheed developed what was supposed to be Patriot’s replacement the Medium Extended Air Defense System. The U.S. abandoned plans to buy it, but Germany is proceeding with plans to continue its development and to procure it.
Northrop Grumman and California-based Technovative Applications also received contracts.
The contracts are expected to last over 15 months.
After spending years debating when and how it would replace Patriot’s radar with one that can detect threats coming from any direction, the Army decided to hold a competition for a brand new radar in 2017 and the DOTC contracts are the first step.
The Army offers more clarity on its development and procurement plans in the FY19 justification.
While Barry Pike, the Army’s program executive officer for missiles and space, told Defense News in an interview in October that he thought it would be possible to bring the radar online in the mid-20s, he said the Army was waiting to see if the timeline was viable based on further information from industry.
The service is planning to award “up to three contractors” to build prototypes for the technology maturation and risk reduction phase of the program, according to the budget books.
The TMRR phase is slated to begin now, a chart in the documents show, and will progress over a four year period ending in the third quarter of FY22. The Army is doubling the time spent in TMRR when compared to the timeline charted in the FY18 budget documents.
Preliminary design reviews are due in the second quarter of FY20 and the critical design review is scheduled for the second quarter of FY21.
The Army will reach an engineering and manufacturing development phase in the third quarter of FY22. The phase will last just two years, ending in the fourth quarter of 2024.
It is unclear why the Army chose to extend its TMRR phase and shorten the typical EMD timeline, but Pike acknowledged in October that integrating the radar into the future Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense (AIAMD) architecture it is building is complicated.
The service is already developing the brains of the future system — the Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) — with Northrop Grumman as the prime and will use Patriot Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missiles from Lockheed Martin.
Pike said the service wants “to integrate all the piece parts, and you have to integrate with the multiplicity of of systems that we are trying to pull together into the overall architecture. So generally speaking, those end up being in a fairly comprehensive test program.”
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.