The radar renaissance begins
Engineers prepare prototypes for US Army Sense-Off
The contest is about to begin.
The U.S. Army is holding a radar competition it calls a Sense-Off to help choose the next generation of its Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor.
LTAMDS will replace the current PatriotTM anti-missile system radar in the future. The Army's event, called a Sense-Off, will test competing LTAMDS proposals, each vying to be the radar for generations to come.
Raytheon, maker of the Patriot system, will be there to demonstrate its advanced technology and ability to meet the Army’s timeline for fielding a new radar in 2022.
Earlier this year, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper spoke about creating an Army renaissance, to include this next-generation radar. In Defense News, Esper said the Army is on track for this transformation.
“I want to make sure I’ve done everything I can with what (Congress has) given us to build the most ready and lethal Army,” Esper told the publication.
The Raytheon LTAMDS proposal is designed to give the Army tools to prevail against “the tyranny of distance” condition, according to Bob Kelley, Raytheon's director of IAMD Domestic Programs for Business Development & Strategy.
“The tyranny of distance is most commonly associated with the Pacific theater, where the vast expanse of ocean complicates communications and situational understanding,” Kelley said.
Transformation in real-time
Raytheon will demo its proposed future radar in a surveillance and tracking mission with live air targets at the White Sands Missile Range.
To design its renaissance radar, the company's engineers worked in a bustling, Silicon Valley-style creative space called the Agile Development Center, or ADC. The space was built to give critical teams an environment to enhance collaboration and rapidly build, innovate, and design. There, engineers were drawing equations on walls, tracking data on dozens of high-tech monitors, building LTAMDS mockups, 3-D printing prototype parts and testing every screw, bolt and handle.
Agile engineers at work
Raytheon engineers are using Agile Engineering techniques in a whole new way. The approach, which embraces a host of techniques aimed at optimizing creativity and efficiency, emerged from software development practices and is now being used for the hardware design of the proposed radar.
“In the center, we strictly focus on the highest priority, which is Sense-Off right now. It’s an incredible experience between the deployment of agile, model-based engineering for hardware product development and the novelty of an entirely new design,” said Russ Souza, a Raytheon mechanical engineer.
With that facility, Raytheon offers a space for instantaneous design updates.
“This is a new way of doing business,” Souza said.
The Army operators have a chance to touch and feel the mockups to get a real sense of using the radar, said Kristal Whelan, a demo engineer for the LTAMDS team. Whelan works in a dedicated prototype room attached to the ADC, which is filled wall-to-wall with hardware mockups intended to prove out or enhance elements of the hardware design.
The team analyzes every aspect of the LTAMDS design, according to Bryce Kirby, a principal engineer who oversees a production team working in the ADC. The facility allows the speed of development sought after by the Army; mobile, fast and innovative, as opposed to the traditional, slow, cumbersome, “waterfall way of working,” he said.
The Sense-Off itself represents an agile, thought-based approach by the Army, requiring competitors to demonstrate value, said Greg Lewis, Agile Deputy Program Manager.
“Demoing value is the essence of what we do in Agile,” he said.