WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin and Israeli radar company Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, are teaming up for the U.S. Army’s upcoming “sense-off” demonstration of possible radars for its Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense System.
Lockheed confirmed via a spokesperson that it is in discussions with Elta as the companies finalize an optimal solution for the demonstration.
Elta was one of the companies on the Army’s bidder list for the sense-off, the spokesperson said, and therefore Lockheed and Elta decided to participate together “to bring the best technology from both companies.”
For Lockheed, the partnership made sense because “we saw mature technology with Elta that complemented the very mature technology that Lockheed Martin has developed,” the spokesperson said. “When the Army chose to move faster and accelerate the program, it made perfect sense for us to work with Elta.”
The Army has for years sought a radar capable of detecting threats from 360 degrees to replace its aging Patriot radar (although the service appears to be moving away from requiring that capability in a new radar).
Originally, an entire system was meant to replace Patriot, but the Army walked back on those plans roughly a decade ago to separately develop components of a new Integrated Air and Missile Defense system to include an advanced, next-generation radar.
Critics over the years have said the service was moving far too slowly on procuring a new radar, as several next-generation radar offerings are reaching high levels of technology readiness. Congress has also urged the Army to speed up the process, mandating that it procure something in the next five years.
The Army has made air and missile defense one of its top modernization priorities, so the service decided the best way to move quickly on a new radar was to hold a sense-off demonstration to reassess what is available, technologically speaking, ahead of a competitive acquisition program.
The sense-off is expected to take place between May and June this year at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Each vendor with a radar will have roughly two weeks on the range to demonstrate capabilities.
The sense-off is a separate effort to the technology-development program already in the works, in which Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have been chosen to participate.
As the result of the sense-off, the Army plans to choose one vendor to build six prototypes by the end of fiscal 2022 to prove whether the radar can be manufactured. A follow-on contract for additional radars is expected.
Elta is known for its multimission radars, and recently supplied Finland with its ELM-2311 compact MMR, but it has sold more than 100 systems globally.
In addition to its Compact MMR, Elta supplies the MMR for Iron Dome — of which the U.S. Army is buying two batteries — and David’s Sling, both air defense systems in Israel.
The company’s radars have been battle-tested, having seen thousands of rockets and missiles in the last five to 10 years on the borders of Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.
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.