The radars of the future, smart and connected, are being built right now
They can be the size of a television. Or as big as a building. Some take to the skies attached to sleek fighter jets, while others sail the seven seas atop naval destroyers.
Raytheon’s radars — 30-plus of them, across eight mission areas — are built upon a 60-year tradition of innovation, now infused with today’s smartest technologies. It adds up to a vision for the future: rapid development of multi-function radars that can talk to each other, think, learn and make decisions.
“When you replace several systems on a naval ship with one, multi-function radar that is smaller and uses less power, suddenly you have increased overall capability, along with additional power and space that can be used for other new technology,” said Ellen Ferraro, former director of Research & Advanced Technology for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business.
The hunt for more advanced tech is always on, as evidenced by the radars used in air and missile defense. The next-generation radar for Patriot is an upgrade that allows the iconic system to see in 360 degrees, and the AN/SPY-6 is the U.S. Navy’s new stackable, scalable radar. These radars join the trusted AN/TPY-2 — the eyes of the THAAD ballistic missile defense system, currently undergoing an upgrade — in recent advancements, including:
- Gallium nitride circuit technology: increases radar power and search capability
- Active electronically scanned array technology, or AESA: boosts detection, targeting and tracking
- Digital receiver/exciter technology, or DREX: increases resolution, enhances detection and uses advanced waveforms
- Digital beam-forming software: allows radars to perform multiple tasks simultaneously
- C5ITM solutions: introduces the latest cybersecurity tech to many radars, through an advanced command and control framework
THE DIGITAL DIVIDEND
Raytheon’s radars span the frequency spectrum and handle a wide range of missions, including air traffic control at major airports, surveillance and missile defense. But the technology behind these sensors is now being connected in new ways. In addition to sharing production hardware, the brains of the radars are starting to share architecture and software, too.
“You might have an antenna that’s X-band and an antenna that’s S-band, but if you go behind that, now you have a software architecture and a digital back end that’s near-identical,” Ferraro said, adding that bringing together the tech behind different radars means “higher performance and faster (upgrades) for lower cost.”
Faster upgrades mean everything to military members whose lives depend on radar systems. They can’t wait until tomorrow for the answer to problems they face today.
A SMART FUTURE
Raytheon is working on advanced architectures that will connect radars, to provide visual coverage from multiple perspectives, and get systems talking to each other like never before. Through the use of machine learning, smart radars will make decisions on the fly, play out scenarios in advance and maximize the capabilities of the hardware.
“Multi-function capabilities will enable us to do more with existing systems, and as radars in the field become obsolete, they’ll be replaced with new capabilities,” Ferraro said.
The next decade will usher in a new generation of multi-function radars that can detect, track, define, communicate, analyze and more, simultaneously. The power of these new radars will create the defenses we’ll need for security and safety in a complex world.