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Video Above: Army Research Lab Scientists... Tells Warrior About Engineering New Explosives

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

(Washington, D.C.) Armed with advanced lasers, cruise missiles and ship-defense interceptor weapons, the Navy’s emerging DDG 51 Flight III destroyers are designed to conduct and win major ocean wars against advanced, high-powered enemies.

As part of an accelerated effort to prepare these new ships, the Navy has now begun construction of the first new Flight III DDG 51 surface warfare destroyer built at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Maine. Similar to its predecessor ship, the USS Jack Lucas (DDG 125), the BIW-constructed future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG 126) will be armed with improved weapons, advanced sensors and new radar significantly more sensitive than most current systems, changing attack and defensive options for the surface fleet.

Recognizing the seriousness of fast-increasing enemy threats, the Navy is working with industry partners to integrate an entire family of new software, fire control and radar systems across its emerging fleet of DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers…. and a wide swath of its surface fleet. The goal is to not only arm surface ships with a new generation of highly-sensitive, discriminating radar technology but succeed in networking them to one another.

With this technology, targets from beyond the horizon can be detected by one ship’s radar system, which can then share the “track” information with vulnerable ships miles away. Target data can be passed along, or networked, enabling ship commanders to have more time to identify the best response to the attack. Is a rapid counterattack the best option? Perhaps an interceptor missile might be the better option with which to defend a ship?

As a new class of warship, Navy Flight III Destroyers have a host of defining new technologies not included in current ships, such as more on-board power to accommodate laser weapons, new engines, improved electronics, fast-upgradeable software and a much more powerful radar.

The Flight III Destroyers will be able to see and destroy a much wider range of enemy targets at farther distances, due to the integration of a new, advanced technology radar system called AN/SPY-6 radar. This means that the ship can succeed in more quickly detecting both approaching enemy drones, helicopters and low flying aircraft as well as incoming ballistic missiles.

The Navy’s Above Water Sensors Program Manager, Capt. Jason Hall, explained that the success of the radar systems are inspiring the service to explore new platforms for the technology and pursue a series of weapons and fire control network upgrades moving forward.

Hall said that DDG 51 Flight III Destroyers set the technical foundation for the entire fleet, bringing the possibility that the new combat system and radar built into Flight III may expand to other surface ships. “We plan to leverage this combat system as we look at Frigate, amphibs and carriers,” Hall said Jan. 15 at the Surface Naval Association Annual Symposium, Arlington, Va, referring to SPY-6 radar integration.

The SPY-6 family advances the technical curve in a number of tactically significant respects, in part because it can combine ballistic missile defense and air and missile defense into a single integrated system. This synergy gives the system an ability to track and help destroy enemy drones, aircraft, cruise missiles and long-range incoming ballistic missiles.

“A lot of this is in the back end in the digital processing, so it is a huge change. Digital is a big change from the analog of old days, which gives you a lot of the improved discrimination, sensitivity,” Hall said.

Hall said this back-end digital processing and a radar suite controller operate in tandem with a next-generation X-band solid state radar.

“We are building the arrays for this ship. We have run the gamut as to what this radar can do. We have simultaneous weapons support functions. We have electronic protection and environmental protection,” Hall explained.

The Navy’s Flight III Combat Systems include the SPY-6 radar and an integrated warfare system called Aegis Baseline 10; The Baseline 10-SPY-6 integration will drive a new technical ability for the ship to combine air-warfare and ballistic missile defense into a single system, improving ship defenses, counterattack options and command and control decisions.

The SPY-6 has already been built into the Navy’s first Flight III destroyer, DDG 125, a ship tol be named the USS Jack H. Lucas.

Service officials say the Flight III ships use newly integrated hardware and software with common interfaces, something which will enable continued modernization in future years. Called TI 16 (Technical Integration), the added components are engineered to give Aegis Baseline 10 additional flexibility should it integrate new systems such as electronic warfare or laser weapons, according to Navy statements.

Raytheon’s SPY-6 development is designed to align with the Navy’s existing Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) strategy; the Navy’s DMO research and development approach, which has been progressing over the past year, is intended to better enable “localized sea control to generate larger combat effects through increasing the offensive power of individual components of the naval force,” as explained in a Naval Postgraduate School Research Summary by Paul Berry.

The Navy strategy also calls for the analysis of “operational and force design requirements when implementing DMO concepts simultaneously with Integrated Air and Missile Defense operations,” something which synchronizes with the Navy-Raytheon SPY-6 strategy to combine ballistic missile defense with air and missile defense onto a single system.

The radar, able to simultaneously track multiple threats, has also successfully completed several simulated weapons engagement loops, verifying the technical ability to track both ballistic missiles and closer-in threats like enemy drones. The additional sensitivity and range enables the radar to detect, and enable Commanders to destroy, smaller threatening objects at much farther ranges - changing the tactical and strategic equation for Destroyers. Naturally, the farther away a threat can be detected, the greater the chance it can be intercepted or destroyed; this changes the mission scope for Navy Destroyers, enabling them to operate in higher threat areas in some instances and expand their ability to protect other ships and assets.

Simulated weapons engagements enable the new radar to close what’s called the “track loop” for anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense simulations. The process involves data signal processing of raw radar data to close a track loop and pinpoint targets.The AN/SPY-6 platform will enable next-generation Flight III DDG 51s to defend much larger areas compared with the AN/SPY-1D radar on existing destroyers.

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The SPY 6 radar has built upon and extended some of the core technical aims of the original SPY-1D, a system which first emerged years ago as a way to counter the low-altitude anti-ship cruise missile threat, according to an interesting essay from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Technical Digest. A key element on this aim, according to the paper, is to assess the “impact of surface clutter on system performance.” (Johns Hopkins Univ. APL, "Radar Development for Air and Missile Defense" 2018)

-- In 2000, the U.S. Navy established the Surface Navy Radar Roadmap, which, among other things, recognized the need for increased radar sensitivity beyond the current AN/SPY-1 to meet evolving BMD needs, increased clutter rejection to address small targets in littoral environments, and wide instantaneous bandwidth for BMD discrimination -- Johns Hopkins Univ., APL, “Radar Development for Air and Missile Defense."

This multi-year developmental emphasis outlined in the essay is significant, as previous efforts established a key technological foundation for the SPY-6; the additional radar sensitivity includes an ability to better discriminate clutter, debris and other objects from actual threats. Higher fidelity radar, such as a SPY-6, can discern threats in adverse weather and operate in congested combat circumstances to a much greater extent than previous systems, a technology sought after for many years by the Navy as cited in the John's Hopkins essay.

This ability, much of which rests upon high-frequency signals, helps give the SPY 6 its ground-breaking scope. The SPY-6 can distinguish approaching enemy anti-ship missiles close to the surface from less relevant objects and also track higher-altitude ballistics missiles -- on the same system. Given this scope, the SPY-6 radar systems streamline otherwise disparate fire-control technologies; the SPY 6 can cue short-range, closer-in interceptors as well as longer-range ballistic missile interceptors such as a SM-3. This shortens sensor to shooter time and offers war commanders a longer window with which to make decisions about which countermeasure is needed.

The radar works by sending a series of electro-magnetic signals or “pings” which bounce off an object or threat and send back return-signal information identifying the shape, size, speed or distance of the object encountered.

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Raytheon photo SPY 6

The development of the radar system is also hastened by the re-use of software technology from existing Navy dual-band and AN/TPY-2 radar programs, Raytheon developers added.

Raytheon engineers explained that the AN/SPY-6 is the first truly scalable radar, built with radar building blocks - Radar Modular Assemblies - that can be grouped to form any size radar aperture, either smaller or larger than currently fielded radars.

“All cooling, power, command logic and software are scalable. This scalability could allow for new instantiations, such as back-fit on existing DDG 51 destroyers and installation on aircraft carriers, amphibious warfare ships, frigates, or the Littoral Combat Ship and DDG 1000 classes, without significant radar development costs,” a Raytheon written statement said.

Mills explained that all variants of the SPY-6 are architected on a common software baseline, thus enabling the possibility for further integration on additional Navy platforms. In fact, different variants of the radar have been scaled for a range of different mission sets on various platforms. Alongside the integration of AN/SPY- (V)1 for Flight III Destroyers, Raytheon and the Navy are now integrating several additional variants for carriers and amphibs, specifically tailored to their respective mission scopes. The SPY-6 (V) 2, for instance, is a smaller rotating radar and a SPY-6 (V) 3 has three fixed radar faces on the deck houses. These variants will go on both Nimitz class and Ford-class carriers. The (V) 3 has nine radar module assemblies. The v3 has three fixed spaces looking out at a different angle, covering 360-degrees with 120-degree panels each. Finally, there is a SPY-6 (V)4 which will be integrated onto existing DDG 51 IIA destroyers during a mid-life upgrade. The (V) 4 has 24 Radar Module Assemblies, compared to the v1, which has 37.

The Navy’s DMO strategic approach calls for a common systems architecture intended to better accommodate upgrades and new variants as SPY-6 technology continues to progress. The ONR and Naval Postgraduate School papers on DMO explain that future research will focus on what’s called “Adaptive Force Packages,” meaning developers will tailor innovations, systems engineering and emerging technologies to specific combat applications such as anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare.

All of these SPY-6 radars, which bring a sensitivity expanded beyond legacy or existing radars, have their power, cooling and scope adjusted to fit the specific missions of various platforms. Destroyers, for instance, will need to conduct Ballistic Missile Defense to protect carriers in Carrier Strike Groups. Amphibs and Carriers, which are receiving a different SPY 6 variant, have different mission needs.


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 News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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--- Kris Osborn, Managing Editor ofWARRIORMAVEN (CLICK HERE) can be reached