Video Above: Video Report: New Raytheon Radar Destroys Maneuvering Cruise Missiles
Advanced countermeasures, maneuverable re-entry vehicles, electronic attack jamming and long-range, low-observable cruise missiles are all fast-evolving threats to the U.S. Army identified in a published report in 2019 called “Army Air & Missile Defense 2028 Vision.”
This threat equation, which has only become more significant and advanced in the two years since the Vision statement was published several years ago, could be seen as the fundamental basis for Army efforts to engineer a new generation of highly-sensitive, long-range, paradigm-changing ground radar systems.
Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Radar
The Army answer, now called Ghost Eye by its maker Raytheon, is the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Radar (LTAMDS). Unlike the more linear directional configuration of the existing Patriot air and missile defense system, the Raytheon-built LTAMDS is engineered with overlapping 120-degree arrays intended to seamlessly track approaching threats using a 360-degree protection envelope.
“We are on track with what Congress has directed to deliver prototypes to the U.S. government by the end of 2023,” Maj. Gen. Brian Gibson, Director, Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, Army Futures Command told The National Interest in an interview.
The Army’s Air & Missile Defense Vision 2028 outlines the rationale and concepts of operation informing LTAMDS, saying it “will provide dramatically improved sensing capabilities and address complex integrated attacks. LTAMDS also maximizes the full kinematics of the Patriot missile set. As a state of the art sensor, LTAMDS will mitigate the obsolescence challenges of the Patriot radar.”
Several years ago, a Raytheon program manager involved in maturing LTAMDS technology explained that a key advantage of the radar is its ability to update as threats such as cruise missiles maneuver and reposition in flight. This can make it difficult for radar system to maintain a track on the target, so the LTAMDS is engineered to operate with much greater sensitivity, improved range and ability to track smaller, faster moving targets.
This is in large measure achieved through innovative applications of a semiconducting material known as Gallium Nitride, a compound which massively increases power efficiency of radar modules to find, discriminate and track fast-approaching enemy targets. Raytheon was among the first innovators to pioneer the use of GaN for military operations.
“While GaN circuit material is used commercially in everything from LED lightbulbs to smartphones, Raytheon Missiles & Defense has a foundry in Massachusetts that produces GaN for military hardware,” a Raytheon report says.
LTAMDS uses three fixed 120-degree arrays designed to close “blind spots” or make it possible to maintain a track as an attacking missile shifts course in flight.
The speed and precision with which electromagnetic “pings” can bounce off of a target and generate a return signal determines the fidelity, resolution or accuracy of the “rendering” of the threat emerging from the radar return. Therefore, precision ground-defense radar such as LTAMDS can generate the shape, size, distance and speed of an approaching threat. Since radio frequency travels at the speed of light, a known entity, and the time of travel can be determined… a computer algorithm can then determine the exact distance of a threat object.
“Numerous countries are developing ground-, sea-, and air-launched land-attack CMs using an assortment of unconventional and inexpensive launch platforms. In addition, long-range, low-observable, advanced CMs enable our adversaries to present a complex air and missile defense problem with high-volume, high-precision missiles capable of 360-degree avenues of approach,” the Army Vision states.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox