Same punch, longer reach
Raytheon adds range to meet demands of expanding battlefield
They pack the same power, but now they fly even farther.
Raytheon’s line of weapons – from the fighter-jet fixture AMRAAM to the 33-pound Griffin missile – are gaining range by way of rocket boosters, high-tech sensors and advanced algorithms. The added distance keeps troops and sailors farther from the fray, and it buys commanders critical time to make decisions in an ever-expanding battlefield.
Raytheon officials discussed the upgrades at the 2015 International Defence Exhibition and Conference, or IDEX, in Abu Dhabi. The improvements are especially important to Middle Eastern customers looking to protect oil fields, shipping lanes, water plants and other strategic infrastructure. Many of them face threats from militant groups and hostile nations that are acquiring more sophisticated weapons of their own.
“Planes are flying higher and faster. They’re gaining in their countermeasures or evasive capability. And cruise missiles, which are cheap and readily available to a potential adversary, are also proliferating,” said Robert Lescanec, who leads business development efforts in Europe for Raytheon Integrated Air and Missile Defense. “A good way to deal with that environment is to be able to engage those threats at greater distances, because it allows the warfighter more time to neutralize the threat.”
And the stakes are only going to rise as ballistic missile technology proliferates, the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center wrote in a 2013 report.
“Current trends indicate adversary ballistic missile systems are becoming more mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate while also achieving longer ranges,” the center said, warning that the missile threats “are likely to continue to increase and grow more complex over the next decade.”
Raytheon is also finding new ways to broaden the reach of radars. JLENS, a system of aerostats, or tethered blimps, can spot cruise missiles and other threats from hundreds of miles away. The system began a test flight over Washington, D.C., in late 2014 and can watch over an area the size of Texas. The company's AN/TPY-2 radar gives commanders unprecedented warning of faraway missiles shortly after launch, and its complex computer algorithms can distinguish a warhead from other objects.
Raytheon’s weapon upgrades include:
- AMRAAM Extended Range: A new, ground-launched version of the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile will enable intercepts at longer distances and higher altitudes. The missile, designed specifically for ground-based air defense, will also be integrated into the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System, or NASAMS launcher. Raytheon announced the improvements and integration at IDEX.
- Griffin: The laser-guided precision missile has been outfitted with an extended-range motor that nearly triples its previous flight distance.
- Standard Missile-6: The SM-6 expands warships' ability to defend against attacks by adding over-the-horizon ability to Raytheon's Standard Missile family. The missile combines the power of the Standard Missile series with a guidance system from the AMRAAM. The U.S. Navy recently expanded the use of SM-6 from five ships to more than 35.
- Excalibur: The precision projectile – it strikes within two meters, or six and a half feet of its target – is already considered an extended-range weapon. A laser-guided version, engineered to prevent GPS jamming, scored a direct hit on a target during a test in 2014. The projectile was first directed toward a target through GPS programming, then was re-directed with a laser designator mid-flight to a separate target.
- Sidewinder AIM-9X: The missile’s Block II variant has new electronics including a datalink that supports engagements beyond visual range. Plans are also under way to boost the missile’s range by up to 60 percent
- Tomahawk: The cruise missile is set to receive a new infrared seeker that will enable it to strike moving targets on land and at sea, from as far as 1,000 miles away. Two other major improvements are in the works for the latest version of Tomahawk, known as the Block IV variant. A Joint Multi-Effects Warhead would allow commanders to control the size of the blast – either to minimize collateral damage or to penetrate hard surfaces such as concrete. And a new data link would enable the missile to send up-close images an instant before it strikes a target. Those images allow commanders to see if they've struck a target and avoid unnecessary follow-up strikes.
Improving the features of long-standing weapons systems, as well as boosting their range, is a major part of Raytheon's innovation strategy.
"It's all about bringing them the capability they need to protect their forces and prosecute their threats," said Laura J. McGill, deputy vice president for engineering at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona. "The landscape is changing all the time, so we have to be adaptive."