Past and present unite in a new modern radar
Raytheon Missiles & Defense upgrades early warning system
The Early Warning Radar has come a long way since the Cold War.
The radar, which provides early detection of ballistic missile launches and precise tracking of incoming attacks, has received continual upgrades that preserve its place in a modern missile defense system.
“We have completely modernized this radar in terms of reliability, maintainability, robustness and anti-jamming, but it also has the benefits of being a very well-established legacy design,” said Paul Ferraro, vice president of Air Power for Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a business of Raytheon Technologies.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense has updated the EWR array with gallium nitride technology, or GaN, a powerful and efficient semiconductor.
“This particular radar technology is ideally suited for the sophisticated threats that countries in the Middle East are facing,” Ferraro said. “They need persistent surveillance because they never know when a threat is going to launch.”
The EWR plays an important role in a larger air and missile defense system. It works with other sensors such as Patriot; the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor, or LTAMDS; and the AN-TPY-2 radar; in a layered defense architecture.
One factor that sets the EWR apart is its use of the ultra-high frequency band, or UHF. That band allows the radar to track out to 5,500 kilometers (3,000 miles), and it is resistant to jamming.
“Now we can detect targets coming in from different directions much farther away and we have more time to respond to them,” Ferraro said.
Radars that operate in the UHF band have several advantages over S-band radars. Specifically, they can simultaneously track and classify a greater number of targets, and they require about 10 to 12 times less power to operate.
With S-band radars, “you’re talking about a very substantial bill,” said Dave Woodward, director of Strategic Warning and Surveillance Capabilities for Raytheon Missiles & Defense.
In 2019, the U.S. Air Force awarded Raytheon Company a $500 million contract to replace the solid state transmit and receive modules with the latest GaN technology.
This update will improve module efficiency by 67 percent for all operational AN/FPS-132 EWRs, allowing systems to operate cooler and with less power. It cuts operating costs and improves accuracy of tracking and classification.
Another advantage of the new modules: There’s no down time to replace them. They can be pulled from a working system and replaced without interruption.
The EWR carries out multiple functions simultaneously. For example, it can track a mass raid of missiles while finding and following satellites and air-breathing threats like fighter jets or cruise missiles.
The primary EWR mission is missile warning and missile defense. A secondary mission for the system is space surveillance, the detecting and tracking of satellites in low-Earth orbit, as well as the International Space Station.
“Depending on the location of the radar, it will see space launches from unique parts of the world and can track them much earlier than before,” Woodward said.
EWR is designed to be operated and maintained by allied nations once they are trained on the system.
Countries purchasing a new EWR get the latest technology- information that is shared with other customers as they move to the next generation of their contract. The program helps lower engineering costs and keeps the radar ahead of future threats.
“It’s a tried and true system, and it’s continually being advanced,” Ferraro said. “The innovation never stops.”