The U.S. Army completed an almost three-month-long capabilities demonstration of prototype air and missile defense radars aimed at replacing the one currently used by Patriot missile units, on Monday.
The “sense-off” event conducted at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico, tested three different prototypes competing for the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS) program. The three prototype radars were developed by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin partnering with Israeli radar company Elta Systems and Northrop Grumman.
The radars tracked simulated incoming missiles and live aircraft scenarios as experts observed their capabilities.
A board will convene to evaluate the data collected and the test results to select a single vendor for the LTAMDS contract by Sept. 30, said Terry Young, Senior Advisor to the Director of the Air and Missile Defense Cross-Functional Team (AMD CFT) of Army Futures Command, Brig. Gen. Brian Gibson.
“We’re pleased with the conduct of the competition so far; many stellar Soldiers and civilians from varied organizations across our Army came together and worked very hard as a team to ensure a fair and thorough competition was conducted,” Young said. He made three trips out to White Sands this spring to observe each of the three vendors’ prototypes in action.
The plan is to field the new radar to the first Patriot battalion by the 4th quarter of fiscal year 2022. Eventually 15 battalions will be fielded by the end of FY 2031.
“The Patriot system has been around since the late ’70s,” he said, explaining that the radar system has been patched and updated continuously to keep pace with evolving threats over the last 40 years.
With the proliferation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and new technologies by near-peer nations such as China and Russia, U.S. air superiority on a future battlefield can no longer be taken for granted, Young said. This places increased importance on air and missile defense, he explained.
The LTAMDS is the No. 4 program of the four efforts the Air and Missile Defense CFT is currently working on. The other ongoing efforts are Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) and Maneuver Short Range Air Defense System (MSHORAD).
IBCS is a revolutionary command-and-control (C2) system developed to deliver a single, unambiguous view of the battlespace. This significantly enhanced aircraft and missile tracking improves the ability of combatant commanders and air defenders to make critical decisions within seconds.
Under IFPC, the U.S. is currently negotiating with Israel for a contract to purchase two batteries of the Iron Dome air defense system to defeat everything from rockets and mortars to incoming cruise missiles.
MSHORAD is a new Stryker variant with a turret that will hold two hellfire missiles encased in an external pod, an M230LF 30mm chain gun, a 7.62 machine gun and another external pod housing four Stinger missiles.