No blind spots
Coming soon: Patriot radar with 360-degree sight
A missile-defense radar with no blind spots.
That’s the vision Raytheon engineers share for the Patriot™ Air and Missile Defense system, the constantly evolving technology that has successfully defended combatants in conflicts around the globe. Their goal is a radar that constantly peers at the entire horizon – all 360-degrees of it – and allows a Patriot interceptor missile to knock a danger out of the sky.
Air defenders around the world need it. Military forces demand it. And Raytheon is just about to deliver it.
“We have started building a 360-degree, Patriot AESA radar that is no kidding, ready to go into production,” said Doug Burgess, Raytheon’s Patriot AESA program director. “This isn’t a prototype or a technology test bed. We’re building this radar with the same processes, hardware and software that will go into the system that rolls off the assembly line.”
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. But the team followed a detailed roadmap.
“We built a prototype radar, and logged more than 3,000 hours of testing it,” Burgess said. “We did all sorts of things, like tracking tactical targets, demonstrating 360-degree capability, running it in extreme heat and extreme cold. We really put the prototype through the paces, so that when we started building the production-ready radar, we knew exactly how it would perform.”
Just like the prototype, the production-ready radar draws on two powerful new technologies:
The first is Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA. It changes the way the Patriot radar searches the sky.
Instead of shining a single, powerful transmitter through many lenses, the new array uses many smaller transmitters, each with its own control. The result is a system that is not only more flexible, with an adjustable beam for many different missions, but also more reliable; it still works even if some of the transmitters need to be replaced.
The second tech is based on gallium nitride, or GaN, a material used to build the Patriot’s new circuits. It is a powerful semiconductor component that efficiently uses energy to amplify the radar's range and search capability. Raytheon has spent more than 20 years and $300 million pioneering GaN technology, and has built gallium nitride circuits for a number of products, including jammers and other radars.
The technology is mature. But the team’s work is not yet done.
“We’re building on that foundation of 3,000 hours and improving the system by doing things like preparing the production-ready radar for testing against live tactical targets,” said Burgess.
Raytheon is funding the proposed Patriot upgrade using company money, and is drawing on the experience gained and technologies developed across its broad portfolio of capable AESA GaN radars. This approach is all about getting the system fielded quickly.
“The threat is evolving at a blistering pace,” said Tom Laliberty, Raytheon's vice president of Integrated Air and Missile Defense for the company’s Integrated Defense Systems business. “To deliver technology at the speed of relevance, Raytheon is leaning forward on this. We know 360-degree capability is something militaries around the world want, so we’re doing our part to ensure the radar can go into production."