With the first on-board radar running, Raytheon is looking to upgrade SPY-6 for distributed operations

WASHINGTON — Even as Raytheon Missiles and Defense builds and installs its first SPY-6 radars, it is also working with the US Navy to add new functions to the radars with a software tool that would connect ships’ radars for a better view of threats. potential on the ocean.

Four versions of the SPY-6 radar will equip seven types of ships in the Navy’s future fleet. It’s still early in the program: only one destroyer, the Jack H. Lucas, has had its large V1 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) installed and turned on to begin integration testing. Installation of the first V2 and smaller V3 Enterprise Air Surveillance Radars (EASR) is planned for 2022.

But Raytheon foresees the day when dozens of these radars will be at sea, with the potential to communicate with each other and provide a clearer view of the battlespace for Navy and joint forces operators.

Raytheon, the Office of Naval Research and the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) Above Water Sensor Office recently completed a demonstration of the Cooperative Networked Radar concept, which, according to them, is the foundation of the Navy’s distributed maritime operations. concept.

Bryan Cavener, director of advanced technologies at Raytheon Missiles and Defense, told Defense News this month in an email that the project shows “how multiple radars can communicate and cooperate together on targets. Network Cooperative Radar aligns with the U.S. Navy’s vision for Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), which is based on distributing forces across the battlespace and then linking those units together in a robust network architecture .

With this more complete picture of the area of ​​operation, the Navy can make better decisions to achieve and maintain sea control and draft power, he said. “They could, for example, track an object together, communicate information to each other about what each radar ‘sees’.”

This capability could become critical in the future as adversaries become better at concealing ships, aircraft, and weapons in both the physical and electromagnetic environments.

“One of the key benefits of distributed sensing is the ability for forces from different parts of the battlespace to share their tactical data, creating a more complete picture of the force,” Cavener said. “RNC-enabled sensors will have a vastly improved collective ability to see through operational factors that could obscure an adversary unit; where a ship might not see a contact, a ship in another part of the battlespace might be fine-[positioned] to track the contact and then share that information with the rest of the force.

Although Raytheon and the Navy have not detailed the next steps for this effort, which began in 2016 and falls under the Navy’s future naval capabilities science and technology program, Cavener said the demonstration of flexible hardware with software-defined capabilities is an important first step in achieving distributed distribution. maritime operations.

“Our new ‘software-defined aperture’ radar development model means we can deploy smarter radars every day through cyber-hardened software upgrades,” he said. “Programs like Network Cooperative Radar and [the Radar Modular Assembly-based Flexible Distributed Radar] are so exciting because they prove this pattern. In the case of NCR, these are SPY-6 radars for which we have developed new software to perform distributed detection.

In a press release, PEO IWS Rear Adm. Seiko Okano hailed the distributed sensing demonstration as a catalyst for future operations.

“SPY-6 will provide an unprecedented level of protection to naval forces, and software updates like this demonstrate that it only gets better,” she said. “Programs like NCR ensure that SPY-6 will be the backbone of our distributed detection capabilities in the future.”

But first, the radars will have to be commissioned.

Jack H. Lucas, the first Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, has her AN/SPY-6(V)1 air and missile defense radar installed and operational. The ship completed the “light off” of its Aegis combat system on December 17, marking the start of onboard combat system testing and crew training. This is the first time the new radar and Aegis Baseline 10 software have interacted on a ship, although they have undergone extensive and continuous land testing.

At Raytheon’s manufacturing facility in Andover, Massachusetts, workers produce one array of radars per month, a rate of three sets of ships per year.

“We’re really starting to turn the crank on production,” Scott Spence, director of naval radar programs at Raytheon Missiles and Defense, told Defense News over the summer.

A future production plan calls for a maximum requirement of 59 ship sets over five years, or about 12 per year for the four variants – the largest V1 being for Flight III destroyers; the small rotary V2 that powers America-class amphibious assault ships, San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks, and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers; the small fixed V3 supporting Ford-class aircraft carriers and Constellation-class frigates; and the large V4 being retrofitted on the Flight IIA destroyers.

A separate production line builds the smaller V2 and V3 radars, Spence said, and that line also gets up and running before a surge in demand. Spence called 12 a year the upper limit of what they expected — especially given funding challenges that could put frigates and DDG retrofits on a slower track, and the fact the Navy won’t. will not engage in a multi-vessel purchase on amphibious vessels due to the uncertainty of the number of vessels the service requires.

Still, he said, Raytheon is doing what it can to make those sales attractive. On the DDG retrofit side, Spence said Raytheon had worked hard to reduce the time it would take to install the new radar into a maintenance availability.

The large four-sided radar, with each side consisting of 24 2-foot-by-2-foot modular radar assemblies – compared to the even larger V1 radar which has 37 RMAs per side – will replace the older AN/SPY-1D. Spence said the designs are already done and match the power and cooling capabilities of the Flight IIA destroyers; now they are working on the installation and integration plan.

“It’s really about trying to get this ship in and out of its [availability] as soon as possible and collect it from the service. We were therefore able to reduce this time considerably. … And that was probably one of the Navy’s biggest concerns, I think, is that they didn’t want the ships sitting down for a long period of time, as you can imagine,” Spence said. .

Installing the first V1 radar on Jack H. Lucas helped refine that plan, he said.

“One of the questions we really looked at was how do you actually attach the array to the structure of the vessel and create an essentially bolt-on configuration that allows you to install that array there very quickly. So we took a lot of the lessons learned on how we lifted and loaded the SPY-6(V)1 on the Flight IIIs and said, let’s duplicate that kind of infrastructure.

On V2 and V3, Raytheon conducted extensive testing in 2021 to prepare the radars for installation and integration in 2022. The summer testing event at the Wallops Island Test Facility in Virginia focused on anti-aircraft warfare, air traffic control operations and power system modeling. , Spence said, adding that testing was cut short due to common hardware and software shared with the V1, which had already conducted extensive testing before it was installed on a ship.

The additional capabilities being tested over the summer are necessary for amphibious assault ships and aircraft carriers to control fixed and rotary wing aircraft coming and going, and because of the increased threats they may face in as capital ships.

Megan Eckstein is a naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on US Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported on four geographic fleets and is happiest when recording stories from a ship. Megan is an alumnus of the University of Maryland.