Advanced Modular Radars Are Key To An Indo-Pacific Distributed Sensing Network: The U.S. military faces an unprecedented challenge to its ability to operate in the Indo-Pacific. The proliferation of Chinese long-range, precision-guided ballistic and cruise missiles puts large, fixed facilities and significant force concentrations at a growing risk. Yet the geostrategic realities of the region will require the U.S. and allied forces, particularly the Navy and Marine Corps, to operate from within the range of this threat.
In order to counter it and thereby deter conflict, the U.S. needs, among other capabilities, a distributed sensing network that can support a full range of offensive and defensive operations. Fortunately, the U.S. military is investing in a host of new, more powerful sensors based on modular sensor arrays and software that will allow them to share data while still operating in a dispersed mode.
The future of the Navy and Marine Corps in this region centers on their ability to conduct new kinds of operations based on more widely dispersed forces that employ advanced technologies to synchronize operations, share information, and integrate effects in order to establish decisive overmatch in a future conflict. Both services have developed new concepts and associated postures that will support greater distribution of forces combined with increased concentration and synchronization of operations across multiple domains.
The Sea Services are increasingly focused on the highly lethal battlefield of the future. U.S. forces are likely to be operating forward within adversaries’ zones of precision weapons engagement. The old way of operating based on larger, fixed bases and Navy and Marine Corps units concentrated in large formations appears no longer viable. The answer to this challenge is distributed maritime operations (DMO). DMO requires the ability to operate in smaller, dispersed formations while sharing information in a way that ensures an integrated approach to operations. It also requires a concentrated employment of the full range of land, sea, and air capabilities.
The Marine Corps is pursuing a new operating concept that will tie it closely to the Navy’s idea of distributed maritime operations. As envisioned, the Marine Corps would operate as a stand-in force, based around small land formations with long-range sensors and weapons.
Now, computing, sensing, and communications technologies are at a point where they can support a concept of distributed operations. The U.S. military is beginning to deploy a new generation of sophisticated land, sea, air, and space-based sensors. Equally important is the fact that it is developing the software to knit them together, plus data storage and information management techniques to develop a common picture and a network to share that picture with dispersed forces.
The key to the creation of a distributed sensor network across the Indo-Pacific theater is the use of advanced technologies such as gallium nitride and modular design techniques to create radar systems that can equip a variety of ships and land formations. An example of the potential of modular design is the Raytheon Technologies family of radars based on the SPY-6.
The SPY-6 is the follow-on to the highly capable SPY-1. The SPY-1 is currently deployed on some 85 DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers as well as the Aegis Ashore sites in Poland and Romania.
The SPY-6 will be the primary air and missile defense sensor for the most advanced Flight III version of the DDG-51. This version of the SPY-6, variant 1 or (V)1, has four radar array faces for 360-degree surveillance, each consisting of 37 radar module assemblies (RMAs). This variant can track missiles, aircraft, and even ships, and provide a robust electronic warfare capability.
Because of its modular design, the SPY-6 technology could serve as the basis for radars of many sizes with different numbers of radar modules. The Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) consists of smaller numbers of radar modules and will be deployed in two variants. The SPY-6 (V)2, which will be backfitted on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and large amphibious warfare ships, consists of nine RMAs in a single rotating face. The SPY-6 (V)3 also has nine RMAs in a three-sided fixed array. It is intended for both Ford-class aircraft carriers and the future FFG(X) guided missile frigates. A fourth variant similar in size and complexity to the (V)1 will be backfitted on older DDG-51 Flight IIAs.
Eventually, variants of the SPY-6 could be on some 200 ships as well as multiple land sites. Given this ability to proliferate “clones” of the basic SPY-6 across the Navy, it makes sense to pursue ways of linking those sensors together. As part of the Network Cooperative Radar program, Raytheon and the Office of Naval Research have been working on the software that will connect all of the SPY-6 variants into a truly distributed sensor network.
Raytheon is employing the same modular approach to distributed sensing in its adaptation of its scalable Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS), designed to support the Army’s Patriot air defense system. The company recently demonstrated a smaller, medium-range version of the LTAMDS known as GhostEye, which could be used to support the Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System as it in turn supports the Marine Corps’ new stand-in force.
Another company in the modular radar design space is Lockheed Martin. Using advanced gallium nitride technology and a modular design, Lockheed Martin built the Long-Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) in Alaska as an addition to U.S. defenses against long-range ballistic missiles. This same modular technology is the core of the SPY-7 radar program. The SPY-7 was selected by the Spanish, Canadian, and Japanese navies.
A new generation of radars coupled with advanced weapons such as those in the Standard Missile family will provide U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region with the defensive capability to deter and, if necessary, defeat aggression. The United States needs to invest the resources to deploy these new capabilities rapidly and to ensure that key allies also have access to them.
Dr. Daniel Goure, a 1945 Contributing Editor, is Senior Vice President with the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. He is involved in a wide range of issues as part of the institute’s national security program. Dr. Goure has held senior positions in both the private sector and the U.S. Government. Most recently, he was a member of the 2001 Department of Defense Transition Team. Dr. Goure spent two years in the U.S. Government as the director of the Office of Strategic Competitiveness in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also served as a senior analyst on national security and defense issues with the Center for Naval Analyses, Science Applications International Corporation, SRS Technologies, R&D Associates, and System Planning Corporation.