Power at sea
A resurgence of US Navy tech to restore the fleet's competitive edge
Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis had a warning: The military's lead over adversaries was shrinking.
“Our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare — air, land, sea, space and cyberspace — and it is continuing to erode,” Mattis told a John Hopkins University audience in early 2018. So it was not surprising when the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy clearly called for developing technologies and tools to keep that edge sharp.
For the U.S. Navy, that means more ships that can take on increasingly complex missions. New weapons that can stop waves of attacks from manned and unmanned craft. Advanced sensors that can help sailors see further and give them more time to make potentially life-saving decisions.
That last one is important. You can’t stop what you can’t see. Recent advances in weapons ships must face, including ballistic missiles, fighter jets and enemy ships, mean U.S. naval radar systems must do more than ever. Radars need to see further, see more clearly in complex, clutter-filled environments and quickly offer critical information across the fleet.
So among the tools the Navy needs is new radar tech, not only to meet that meet the perilous future, but to outpace the changes that are coming, according to Scott Spence, director of Naval Radar Systems at Raytheon.
“In the past, the Navy had an overwhelming technological advantage, which has been shrinking as the threat has increased," Spence said. “We need to flip the equation. One way to do it is with a radar that can see farther...and share information.”
The sailor's eye
All commanding officers must ensure their ships and crews are prepared for combat at all times.
“There is a certain job satisfaction knowing you are helping...sailors stay safe while they’re out [at sea],” said Gary Parriott, former commanding officer of the USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), a Ticonderoga-class, guided missile cruiser.
Parriott, now a senior manager of Naval Radar, Business Development for Raytheon, remembers using an earlier radar known as SPY-1B on the ship.
Such legacy radar systems can't deliver what the Navy needs today. Radars now need increased range and clarity, anti-jamming capability and reliable data-sharing across a battle group. The key is fielding mutually compatible radars across the fleet, Parriott said.
A new, modular radar like AN/SPY-6 – variants of which will sit upon DDG 51 Flight III destroyers, amphibious ships and aircraft carriers – will bring big changes.
SPY-6 gives operators and commanders more time to react by identifying more threats faster and at farther distances.
“If you don’t have enough time to react, then suddenly, the threat is upon you and it’s a scramble,” Spence said. “SPY-6 helps extend reaction time, which is critical, as every second counts.”
A radar is born
SPY-6(V)1, destined for DDG 51 Flight III destroyers, is now in production at Raytheon’s advanced Radar Development Facility. The U.S. Navy is putting the first such radar through its paces at the fleet's test range in Hawaii. The radar continues to take on more complex air-and-missile-defense missions in ongoing tests.
Another version,the Enterprise Air and Surveillance Radar SPY-6(V)2, will be installed on amphibious ships and aircraft carriers. It is currently finishing the integration and testing phase. Once complete, in early 2019, the radar will travel to Wallops Island, Virginia, for system-level testing.