A radar's journey

SPY-6 radar ready for US Navy's new guided destroyer

It was a journey—1,503 miles to be exact—that began in Andover, Massachusetts, and ended in Pascagoula, Mississippi, home of naval shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries.

The mission: to provide the first SPY-6 radar array to the U.S. Navy for installation on its new, high-tech Aegis Flight III guided destroyer, the USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125). The delivery marked a new era in missile defense, said Wes Kremer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies.

"Our multi-mission radar's ability to detect and track ballistic missiles, air and surface-borne threats simultaneously in a contested environment is an evolutionary step forward in the Navy's warfighting capability," he said.

About SPY-6

SPY-6 is a family of advanced naval radars that can find and track enemy jets and cruise and ballistic missiles while resisting interference, like noise from rough seas.

"Fulfilling all of these mission capabilities while providing unmatched range and high sensitivity for naval forces – that's really the magic of SPY-6," Kremer said.

The Navy's newest radar has more than 30 times the sensitivity of its 40-year-old predecessor.

"It’s like replacing a rooftop TV antennae with an HD digital receiver," said Jack Arbeiter, SPY-6 radar hardware lead for Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Each SPY-6 radar for the DDG class ship includes four arrays, a power system, cooler to remove excess heat, and a back-end processor to compute array signals.

A special delivery 

Building the radar wasn’t easy. Neither was delivering it.

The SPY-6 radar, along with its 16-foot-by-18 foot transport fixture, weighed 38,000 pounds – a "super load," in trucking parlance.

Adding to the challenge, each of the 11 states on the journey required a special permit and has different rules governing transport. Some prohibit travel during adverse weather, and some require police or civilian escorts. All prohibited nighttime travel. And because the radar shipment is classified, the company's two-person, bonded driving team stays with the truck and trailer the entire trip.

Drivers keep Arbeiter updated on miles covered, where they stop and when they expect to arrive at the shipyard.

Production of the remaining radar arrays for the USS Jack H. Lucas is on schedule, with the last one expected to be delivered in October. Operational tests to evaluate system performance on the new ship is slated to start in 2022.

Raytheon Missiles & Defense completes near-field range testing on the SPY-6 radar.

The company completes near-field testing on a SPY-6 radar.

Through the paces

Before departing for the shipyard, each radar array undergoes extensive, near-field range testing at the company’s 30,000 square-foot Radar Development Facility.

The company uses a radio frequency scanner to calibrate and measure each array’s 5,328 radiating elements – essentially like little antennas. Testing an array of this complexity typically takes six to 12 months, but automation reduces that timeline to two months.

Automated testing will be key since Raytheon Missiles & Defense is tapped to build 36 SPY-6 radar arrays in the next three years as part of low-rate initial production.

The company is contracted with the Navy to deliver nine DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer SPY-6 radar shipsets to Huntington Ingalls Industries, and Bath Ironworks in Bath, Maine.

A perfect pairing

When the USS Jack H. Lucas sets sail, SPY-6 will allow sailors to see farther and react faster with guided missiles that can take out drones, incoming boats, cruise missiles and even ballistic missiles.

The new ship will carry the Standard Missile family of interceptors, Tomahawk® cruise missile, ESSM® missile and the Phalanx® weapon system among others.

"The Navy's new radar paired with an arsenal of precision weapons gives it a one-two punch to counter future threats," Arbeiter said.