Threats such as drones, aircraft, and cruise and ballistic missiles may simultaneously attack deployed U.S. forces or America's allies from multiple directions in the future.
Using Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) funding, an upgrade to the combat-proven Patriot Air and Missile Defense System's radar that provides 360-degrees of protection from those threats will soon be production ready, thanks to a recently completed series of engineering milestones.
The milestones involve upgrading the Patriot radar main array with Gallium Nitride- (GaN) based Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology. Completion of those milestones keep Raytheon engineers, who are currently constructing a GaN-based AESA full size main panel radar array, on track to having a full-scale main array demonstrator operational in early 2016.
"The Raytheon-developed GaN-based AESA radar builds on the more than $150 million invested in GaN technology, and will be a simple upgrade for the more than 220 Patriot fire units fielded by the U.S. and the 12 other Patriot partner nations," Ralph Acaba, vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business. "This upgrade is approved for export to all current Patriot partners and a number of future Patriot partner nations such as Poland. It enables 360-degrees of protection, while retaining Patriot's mobility and reducing operation and maintenance cost by as much as 50 percent."
The Raytheon-built GaN-based AESA Patriot uses three antenna arrays mounted on a mobile radar shelter to provide 360-degrees of radar coverage. The main AESA array is a bolt-on replacement antenna for the current Gallium Arsenide based antenna. The GaN-based AESA array measures roughly 9' wide x 13' tall, and is oriented toward the primary threat. Patriot's new rear panel arrays are a quarter the size of the main array and let the system look behind and to the sides of the main array, enabling Patriot to engage threats in all directions.
Earlier this year, Raytheon built a GaN-based AESA Patriot rear-panel array, integrated it with the current Patriot radar using the existing, recently modernized, back-end processing hardware and software, and tracked targets of opportunity to seamlessly create a 360-degree view.
The recently accomplished milestones include:
- Completing construction of the AESA main array structure.
- Constructing the AESA arrays' radar shelter.
- Integrating receivers and a radar digital processor into the radar shelter.
- Delivering the shelter to Raytheon's test facility in Pelham, N.H.
- Testing the radar's cooling sub-system.
Raytheon's GaN-based AESA Patriot radar will work with future open architecture as Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System and retains backwards compatibility with the current Patriot Engagement Control Station. It is also fully interoperable with NATO.