New Radar Stretches Navy’s Reach to Track More Threats, Faster Threats & Smaller Threats [Sponsored]

 In China, Iran, GDI, Defense, Sea, Indo-Pacific, Air, Space, Information

SPY‑6 is the U.S. Navy family of radars that per­form air and mis­sile defense on seven class­es of ships.

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WASHINGTON: In the coming weeks, the Navy is slated to unveil a new plan for what ships plans to put to sea in the coming decades, and how it wants those hulls con­fig­ured. One of the “must haves” in the emerg­ing era of small drones, bal­lis­tic mis­siles, stealthy air­craft and unmanned ships is the abil­i­ty to see fur­ther and react faster, as coun­tries from China to Iran to North Korea throw a dizzy­ing array of advanced weapons into the mix.

In November, the Navy laid down the keel for its first Flight III destroy­er, one of the ships at the fore­front of this mod­ern­iza­tion plan. The USS Jack H. Lucas will take to sea armed with new weapons, advanced sen­sors and a more pow­er­ful AN/SPY‑6 radar system that can see three times fur­ther than pre­vi­ous radars. 

The Raytheon-made system is capa­ble of track­ing incom­ing mis­siles, small drones and ships at dis­tances, and at a volume, that exist­ing radars can’t, the Navy and com­pa­ny rep­re­sen­ta­tives say.

SPY‑6 in pro­duc­tion at Raytheon’s Radar Development Facility in Andover, MA.

The new SPY‑6 will also be installed on the USS Bougainville, a new America-class amphibi­ous assault ship slated to head to sea in 2024, and the USS John F. Kennedy, the second Ford-class air­craft car­ri­er which was chris­tened in December. 

Scott Spence, Raytheon’s Senior Director of Naval Radar Systems says that the new SPY‑6 the com­pa­ny is putting on these ships is mod­u­lar, so they’ll be upgrad­able through soft­ware upgrades, allow­ing ships of mul­ti­ple class­es to receive new ver­sions and tech­nol­o­gy upgrades rel­a­tive­ly easily and reg­u­lar­ly through­out their decades in the fleet.

“It is a true air and mis­sile defense radar,” Spence said. It simul­ta­ne­ous­ly does both the anti-air mis­sion as well as the bal­lis­tic mis­sile mis­sion “so it can track incom­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles at the same time as look­ing at low-flying cruise mis­siles, at the same time as track­ing air­craft and pro­vid­ing all that infor­ma­tion to the combat man­age­ment system.” 

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Crews won’t have to shut down one func­tion of the radar in order to per­form anoth­er func­tion, and they’ll be able to inter­face with the system installed on other ships, giving com­man­ders a vastly expand­ed field of vision. That’s a crit­i­cal capa­bil­i­ty when oper­at­ing across the vast expanse of the Pacific as China adds dozens of ships to its fleet, and as the Navy oper­ates in the Arctic more reg­u­lar­ly, putting hun­dreds or thou­sands of miles between ships in the North Atlantic. 

The newest ver­sion of the radar, AN/SPY‑6(V)1 com­plet­ed its final round of devel­op­men­tal test­ing last February, having suc­cess­ful­ly tracked its 15th bal­lis­tic mis­sile target.

The SPY‑6 radar is a key part of the Navy’s Aegis system’s latest upgrade, Baseline 10, which will be installed on all Flight III destroy­ers. 

While the Navy waits for those ships and their new radar sys­tems, some mil­i­tary lead­ers want the system now. Last March, Indo-Pacific Command com­man­der Adm. Phil Davidson sent a letter to Capitol Hill asking to “accel­er­ate the mod­ern­iza­tion of the Aegis DDG fleet with solid-state (AN/SPY‑6) air search radars, to com­pete against the advanced threat of hyper­son­ic and bal­lis­tic mis­siles.”

Raytheon says it can back­fit the SPY‑6 system on to cur­rent Flight IIA destroy­ers, and given that mil­i­tary offi­cials like Adm. Davidson are advo­cat­ing for the new SPY‑6 capa­bil­i­ty now to meet the emerg­ing chal­lenge of China and North Korea, Spence said “we’re look­ing to get on con­tract for the back­fit ships, right now the plan would be to get on con­tract in FY21,” though plans are still in the works.

The Flight IIA destroy­ers cur­rent­ly in the fleet aren’t able to accom­mo­date the 37 radar mod­u­lar assem­blies that make up the full SPY‑6 — each con­sist­ing of 2×2×2 boxes. The cur­rent destroy­ers can accept 24 RMAs, due to power and space con­straints. But the small­er con­fig­u­ra­tion can still pro­vide a whop­ping 30-fold increase in sen­si­tiv­i­ty, allow­ing the ships to detect and track every­thing from small drones to bal­lis­tic mis­siles. 

As it stands, the Navy plans to begin equip­ping 15 Flight IIA destroy­ers with the 24-module vari­ant of the radar, with first deliv­ery occur­ring in 2024.

Learn more about SPY‑6.Advertisement

Source: Breaking Defense

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