Apr 25, 2011 By Michael Fabey
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va.—As competition heats up for the U.S. Navy’s Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) program, the focus will be on developing the S-band digital beamforming technology on a shipboard platform in time for the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Flight III upgrades planned for later this decade.
Digital beamforming is an approach to phased-array antenna pattern control that provides performance advantages over conventional analog beamforming techniques, including improved operations in environmental clutter, according to Lockheed Martin.
S-band digital beamforming technology was demonstrated last year and earlier this year during testing at the Naval Sea Systems Command (Navsea) testing site at Wallops Island on the Virginia Eastern Shore, Navsea and contractor officials have confirmed.
A joint U.S. and U.K. effort spearheaded by Lockheed and BAE Systems demonstrated the S-band digital beamforming for full radar operations in a littoral and maritime environment, tracking targets in both a sea and “land-clutter” environment, Navsea officials say.
The tests were part of the Advanced Radar Technology Integrated System Test-bed (Artist), which uses two advanced, multifunction S-band active phased array radars —one for each nation—“to develop technology and assess techniques for defeating emerging threats, such as smaller, faster targets in dense clutter,” according to Lockheed.
The tests also used reflectors located on Wallops and Department of Interior land north and south of the Navsea island facility, Navsea says.
The testing measured environmental data to provide evaporation ducts information and signal propagation estimates, taking advantage of NASA environmental radars and sensors, as well as Navy sea and wave buoys.
Allan Croly, director of Lockheed Martin’s naval radar programs, says Artist “leverages our combined technology experience and the open architecture inherent in our radar designs to jointly evolve capabilities, avoid duplication of efforts, and reduce cost and risk for future radar development.”
The future of radar development—at least on the U.S. Navy side—resides with AMDR. The AMDR is designed to provide ballistic missile defense, air defense, and surface warfare capabilities. It 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 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 recent report on Pentagon acquisition programs released earlier this year.
The 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 says it would cost about $2.3 billion for research and development and another $13.4 billion to buy the AMDR radar systems.
The major competitors for AMDR include Lockheed, 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 Grumman, also a major radar-program player that reportedly has been looking to leverage the technology honed for its active, electronically scanned array radar systems aboard many Pentagon aircraft.