Navy’s Next Generation Radar Could Have Future Electronic Attack Abilities

January 17, 2014 10:31 AM
Artist's concept of a DDG-51 Flight III with AMDR. Raytheon Photo
Artist’s concept of a DDG-51 Flight III with AMDR. Raytheon Photo

The U.S. Navy’s Air and Missile Defense radar — which is being developed by Raytheon for the service’s Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (DDG-51) — might one day be capable of performing electronic attacks with its active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna, according to Naval Sea Systems Command.

“Right now, that’s not one of the requirements of AMDR — could be in the future — but we’re not doing that right now,” said William Williford with NAVSEA’s Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) on Thursday at the Surface Navy Association 2014 symposium in Crystal City, Va.

Airborne AESA radars such as the Northrop Grumman APG-77 found on the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor already have an electronic attack capability. In the future, the Lockheed F-35 and Boeing F/A-18E/F and EA-18G will also receive a similar capability for the Northrop APG-81 and Raytheon APG-79 radars.

Similarly, all the contenders for the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer program use new Gallium Nitride-based (GaN) transmit-receiver modules, which are rapidly succeeding the older Gallium Arsenide-based systems found on the aforementioned radars.

The Navy having adopted high-power GaN based AESA radar for the Flight III ships, can leverage those technologies to use the destroyer’s radar to perform electronic attacks.

With the precise beam steering enabled by the AESA array, it would be possible for the array to attack airborne and surface target using tightly directed beams of high-powered radio waves. Potentially, such a capability would add to the Burke’s air and ballistic missile defense capabilities by blinding enemy aircraft, ships and incoming missiles.

Further, if multiple AMDR equipped ships are operating together, it would be possible to use tied the vessels together to form networked virtual radar that has much higher resolution than a single ship could provide.

“It’s feasible, you have to get radars timed and phased,” Tad Dickenson Raytheon’s program manager for AMDR told USNI News.

That would mean that the Navy could gain the equivalent—or more likely—performance far superior to the much larger AMDR radar that had been proposed for the now moribund CG(X) missile cruiser.

“One of the technologies we’re looking at in the future is linking the sensors together, not just the combat systems, but sensor to sensor so that can give you a larger picture,” Williford said.

“It will be more than AMDR. We’re going to integrate more sensors into that activity.”

With networked capabilities, in the future, surface combatant many not need to be as large since not every ship would have to have massive radar arrays to support only their own situational awareness. Instead, the combined power of multiple vessels could result in a radar picture with a incredible resolution far greater than the sum of its parts.

Sam LaGrone and Dave Majumdar

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. Dave Majumdar is a longtime defense writer.

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