MONS Correspondent Marty Kauchak files this end-of-the-day report from the Space and Missile Defense (SMD) Symposium, Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), under development by Lockheed Martin, is a long range radar that will provide precision metric data to improve ballistic defence discrimination and replace existing sensors in the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). Chandra Marshall, the company’s LRDR programme director, noted with a mission of protecting the homeland, LRDR will keep pace with evolving ballistic missile threats and increase the effectiveness of ground based interceptors. “It will be part of the layered defence approach of the BMDS with plans to operate for 50-60 years. LRDR is based on Lockheed Martin’s more than 40 years of work on solid state radar and ballistic missile defence; its experience in land-based radar design and construction; proven maintenance and sustainment approaches; and, its experience in S-band radar discrimination.”
In one effort to gain efficiencies, LRDR builds on the weapons and technologies that Lockheed Martin provides for all three segments of the layered BMDS being developed and deployed by the Missile Defense Agency, including the PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Marshall added that beyond these systems, “Lockheed Martin develops and operates the Command and Control network for all the sensors and weapons in the US BMDS, as well as the new interceptor guidance system for the ground-based interceptors that will engage any incoming threat to the US.”
LRDR recently passed Preliminary Design Review (PDR), indicating that detailed design on the radar systemme can move forward. Marshall pointed out: “LRDR is on track for Critical Design Review in September 2017 at which point we will be entering into low rate manufacturing starting in October 2017. From 2017-2020, the team will be focused on manufacturing, testing, construction and integration before final testing and Initial Operational Capability at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska. Additionally, the LRDR team is working closely with the Lockheed Martin C2BMC team to ensure seamless integration.”
Gallium Nitride (GaN) components are an important LRDR technology enabler. GaN technology’s higher order capabilities provide a larger detection area and improved early detection, while reducing the radar’s required size. More specific advantages to using GaN technology include: higher power density – requiring a smaller die but yielding increased range and sensitivity; higher efficiency – yielding decreased system demands for power and cooling; and higher temperature operation – allowing more robust operations including new applications.
Marshall further commented on the radar’s GaN technology foundation, pointing out, “GaN is mature, reliable, and commercially available. Working with our technology partners, Lockheed Martin has significant experience in successfully developing and deploying GaN-based products. Since 2012, Lockheed Martin has offered solid state ground-based S-Band radar utilising an open GaN foundry model that leverages relationships with strategic suppliers and leads to greater affordability.”
With respect to this Lockheed Martin-led industry team, Marshall said: “We have an outstanding team and supplier base in New Jersey, Alaska, Alabama, New York and Florida that are contributing to this critical mission. Our LRDR team is combining proven solid-state radar technologies with proven ballistic missile defence algorithms, all based upon an open architecture platform capable of meeting future growth. We built an open non-proprietary architecture that allows incorporation of the algorithms from small businesses, labs and the government, to provide an advanced discrimination capability for homeland defence.”
Also of significance, Lockheed Martin recently opened its new Solid State Radar Integration Site, a self-funded test facility that will be utilised to demonstrate LRDR TRL (Technology Readiness Level ) 7 and provide significant risk reduction for development of LRDR and future solid state radar systems. “The Solid State Radar Integration Site will be used to mature, integrate and test the LRDR design and building blocks before we deliver the radar to Alaska. Using this test site will result in significant cost savings and less risk overall,” Marshall concluded.