Show me the radar

What you need to know about the future of missile defense radar

You might have heard that the U.S. Army is replacing the Patriot™ missile-defense-system radar with something called LTAMDS – short for the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor. Well, Here's what you need to know about it. 

1. The "D" is silent

It's LTAMDS for short.If you want to sound like an insider, call it “Ell Tams.”

2. It's brand-spanking new

As the world becomes more complex, the need arises for a new radar.

“You can’t just update or redesign an already fielded radar,” said Doug Burgess of Raytheon Technologies, who works in the LTAMDS program. “You really need something brand new if you want to defeat what’s coming down the pike."

That’s why Burgess and his team took a clean-sheet approach to the LTAMDS proposal.

“We started with two thoughts: What does the Army want, and what is the threat? And then we built a new radar around that,” he said.

3. It simply plugs in

When the Army connects radars and interceptor missiles onto a giant network, the company's LTAMDS acts like a smartphone. It’s ready to connect to the network. No need to retrofit. No need to upgrade. When the first radar rolls off the assembly line, the Army will be able to turn it on and it’ll connect automatically.

4. The Army held a dance-off, but for radars

The company brought its LTAMDS to an event called the LTAMDS Sense-Off in the summer of 2019 to show it could meet the Army’s 2022 fielding schedule.

The testing took take place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and included realistic scenarios against simulated threats. And thatis where the LTAMDS showed off its moves.

5. It's all part of Army modernization

Army leaders have talked about a modernization Renaissance. But they’re not talking about art appreciation – part of what they’re referring to is a renewed focus on getting operators what they need in the field.

“The Army wants the LTAMDS solution fielded in 2022,” Burgess said. “We know how important LTAMDS is to the men and women on the front lines."

6. Engineers got the most out of the missiles

Today’s Patriot uses two different kind of missiles, depending on the threat. The Army has many types of missiles in its inventory, but it doesn't have to replace all of those interceptors when it replaces its radars. Since the LTAMDS works with both kinds of missiles, its engineers figured out a way the Army can keep using the GEM-T interceptor. 

7. Not all chips are silicon

The LTAMDS uses chips made out of gallium nitride, or GaN, a semiconductor material that will help this radar last longer and see farther and wider than radars using traditional compounds.

While GaN is used commercially in everything from LED lightbulbs to smartphones, Raytheon Technologies has a foundry in Massachusetts that only makes one thing: GaN for military hardware.