Apr 14, 2011 By Michael Fabey
Northrop Grumman has proven the increased duration of gallium nitride-based high-power transmit/receive (T/R) modules — a development that could pay dividends in the company’s efforts to secure major military radar-related contracts, including the U.S. Navy’s Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).
AMDR is considered the brass ring of U.S. military sensor contracts, a next-generation radar system designed to provide ballistic missile defense, air defense and surface warfare capabilities. AMDR will consist of an S-band radar for ballistic missile defense and air defense, X-band radar for horizon search, and a radar suite controller that controls and integrates the two radars.
The Navy expects AMDR to provide the foundation for a scalable radar architecture to defeat advanced threats, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notes in its report on Pentagon acquisition programs released earlier this year.
GAO estimates the cost of the AMDR program at about $15.7 billion — a price tag that has many shaking their heads, including contractors vying for the program. GAO reports $2.3 billion for research and development and another $13.4 billion to buy the radar systems.
The major competitors for AMDR include Lockheed Martin, which developed and deployed the stalwart Aegis defense system; Raytheon, which developed a dual-band radar system for the truncated DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer program; and Northrop, also a major radar-program player that reportedly has been looking to leverage the technology honed for active, electronically scanned array (AESA) systems developed for U.S. combat aircraft.
The recent successful tests of the gallium nitride-based high-power T/R modules “prove that the AESA is capable of reliable operation while producing much greater radar sensitivity, at higher efficiency and lower cost,” Northrop says in a statement.
The T/R modules were tested by using high-stressing operational long-pulse waveforms, which operated on the modules nonstop for more than six months in tests conducted by the company’s Advanced Concepts and Technology Div.
The modules operated more than 180 days during continuous high-power testing, essentially proving they can last six months, or 4,000 hr.
“This new level of maturity also supports technology readiness for the next generation of Northrop Grumman’s high-performance, low-cost AESA radars, and opportunities for cost reduction and performance upgrades to our current AESA product line,” says Steve McCoy, vice president of the Advanced Concepts business unit within the company’s Electronic Systems sector.