The U.S. Navy's Destroyers Will Soon Get a Fearsome New Radar (and Ballistic Missiles Won’t Stand a Chance)

August 17, 2017 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: MissilesRadarRaytheonMissile DefenseAN/SPY-6

The U.S. Navy's Destroyers Will Soon Get a Fearsome New Radar (and Ballistic Missiles Won’t Stand a Chance)

Raytheon's AN/SPY-6’s long-range detection and tracking capabilities are being pushed to the limits.

Raytheon’s AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) is performing well in tests.

The Gallium Nitride-based active electronically scanned array radar—which will be at the heart of the U.S. Navy’s Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers—has successfully searched for, acquired and tracked a ballistic missile test target during its second live-target flight test at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, according to the company.

“We are continuing to stress this radar by increasing the range and complexity of the targets and demonstrating the radar is meeting its performance requirements,” U.S. Navy Capt. Seiko Okano, major program manager for Above Water Sensors, Program Executive Office (PEO) Integrated Warfare Systems (IWS), said. “AN/SPY-6 is the nation's most advanced radar and will be the cornerstone of the U.S. Navy's surface combatants for many decades.”

According to Raytheon, this second live-fire test event “featured a more complex, threat-representative ballistic missile target” than the previous live-fire test that took place in March 2017. The idea was to “challenge” the AN/SPY-6’s long-range detection and tracking capabilities. According to the company, the radar acquired and maintained the long-range missile target track from launch throughout the entire flight.

Raytheon notes that this most recent test comes after a series of progressively more difficult trials. “Building up to that milestone, the radar was tested against targets of increasing complexity, including integrated air and missile defense targets of opportunity, satellites and aircraft,” the company said in a statement.

The AN/SPY-6 program is running ahead of schedule—which is good news. “The program remains on track for delivery to the first DDG 51 Flight III destroyer,” Raytheon said. “AN/SPY-6(V) transitioned to Low Rate Initial Production with the May 1st contract award for the first three ship sets.”

The SPY-6 radar—which is a scalable system based on Radar Modular Assemblies—is also the basis for the radar onboard all future Gerald Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. While USS Gerald R. Ford has an AN/SPY-3 dual-band radar—which was also intended for installation aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers—all future ships starting with John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) will have a new Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar that is based on the SPY-6.

“The U.S. Navy's new Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar leverages the highly-scalable design and mature technologies of AN/SPY-6 in a scaled nine-RMA configuration to meet the mission requirements of carriers and amphibious ships,” Raytheon said. “The commonality—in both hardware and software—with AN/SPY-6 offers a host of advantages, including maintenance; training; logistics; and lifecycle support.”

If the Gallium Nitride-based AMDR proves to be successful, it could be the harbinger of smaller more capable radars. Gallium Nitride-based transmit receive modules have the potential to deliver more than five times the power of a similarly sized Gallium Arsenide-based transmit receive module.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @Davemajumdar.

Image: U.S. Navy