Two modes, one steady defense
Why AN/TPY-2 is the world’s most capable, mobile, ballistic missile defense radar
One scans the horizon from a hillside perch over the Sea of Japan; another keeps watch from a Pacific island; a third peers skyward from the mountains of southwest Asia.
From such challenging environments, and many others, the Army Navy Transportable Radar Surveillance stands ready to sound an early warning in case of a missile attack. In addition to its forward-based mode of operation, AN/TPY-2 serves as the eyes of the newsmaking Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, known as THAAD.
Raytheon, the prime contractor for THAAD's radar, has supercharged AN/TPY-2 to defend against sophisticated ballistic missiles. As new radars are delivered to more countries, engineers have modernized the hardware and software, incorporating the latest technology into its major subsystems.
“The AN/TPY-2 was already a high performer; a Porsche of a radar,“ said Bryan Rosselli, director of missile defense programs at Raytheon. “Now we’ve gone beyond that. We are upgrading key elements to use the most advanced technology, which further enhances system performance.”
AN/TPY-2 can see ballistic missiles at vast distances. It’s designed for discrimination -- distinguishing between an actual menace and non-threats such as launch debris or countermeasures. For this critical task, the radar relies on an intricate chain of technology.
Along the surface of its antenna, transmit and receive modules generate and capture electromagnetic waves that enable the radar to see its environment. A recent U.S. Missile Defense Agency contract paved the way for AN/TPY-2 to use Raytheon’s proven gallium nitride semiconductor technology in its antenna components.
GaN transmit/receive modules will amplify signal power beyond what was previously possible, creating a radar that sees further and stops ballistic missiles sooner.
“GaN is what you want in a radar antenna, because it's better at handling the heat,” said Jim Bedingfield, director of international missile defense. We’ve refined our GaN production to get the best thermal conductivity, so the electronics are more reliable at higher power levels.”
Behind the antenna, engineers are updating the signal generation and receiver technology for improved reliability and capabilities, so the radar keeps pace with evolving threats and battle field conditions. In addition, they boosted the speed and horsepower in the “back end” signal processors.
The more powerful tech means radar operators get a clearer picture of the size, shape, direction and velocity of objects in what can often be a visually complex environment.
“The x86 microprocessors at the back end maximize the performance through the entire radar,” said Bedingfield. “And with the advanced digital circuitry, we can continue to increase the radar’s power or discrimination through additional software upgrades.”
The result of the AN/TPY-2 makeover is to raise the level of missile defense protection that we provide to the U.S. government to enable Ground Based Midcourse Defense and THAAD.
“The AN/TPY-2 was already very highly regarded, and it proved itself once again in the most recent flight test," said Rosselli. "The continued modernization ensures it will remain the most powerful ballistic missile defense radar."