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.
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.