The Buzz

Railguns and Lasers: The Navy's New Destroyer Could Have Some Killer Weapons

The Navy has now placed it first three unit orders for a Raytheon-built AN/SPY-6(V) radar, a system reported by developers to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar systems; the technology is widely regarded as being able to detect objects twice as far away at one-half the size of current tracking radar.

The Navy has nearly finished design work on a fleet of high-tech ,newly-engineered guided missile destroyers intended to accommodate emerging weapons such as lasers, railguns and advanced radar able to detect attacking anti-ship cruise missiles from more than twice the distance, service officials said.

Navy officials with Naval Sea Systems Command tell Scout Warrior that design work is almost completed for the services’ Flight III DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyers – warships slated to enter service in the 2020s.

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The new destroyers are engineered with advanced sensors, weapons, ship-defenses and radar technologies to keep pace with emerging threats and help the Navy maintain technological superiority over potential adversaries, Navy developers said.  

“The DDG 51 Flight III design is currently 91% complete and on track to be 100% complete by the start of fabrication,” Colleen O’Rourke, NAVSEA spokeswoman, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.

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A new, super-sensitive radar emerges as a distinguishing characteristic of Flight III destroyers, representing a technological advance beyond an existing fleet of DDG 51 Flight IIA destroyers.

The Navy has now placed it first three unit orders for a Raytheon-built AN/SPY-6(V) radar, a system reported by developers to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar systems; the technology is widely regarded as being able to detect objects twice as far away at one-half the size of current tracking radar.

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“Preliminary design efforts are in progress and the development is on schedule for initial multi-element testing in summer of 2018,” O’Rourke added.

The AN/SPY-6 radar, also called Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), is engineered to simultaneously locate and discriminate multiple tracks. O’Rourke said the system has completed a System Functional Review for integration with Aegis Baseline 10 radar and software systems.

“Concurrent with SFR, prototyping efforts integrating Baseline 9 and an AMDR tactical backend successfully simulated weapon engagement loops,” O’Rourke added.

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 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.

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

Software development for AMDR is being done through what Raytheon describes as an “agile” process, meaning it is built incrementally in order to keep pace with rapid technological advances and integrate effectively with existing and future systems, Dickenson explained.

AN/SPY-6 technology, which recently completed a Critical Design Review, is designed to be scalable. Therefore, it is entirely plausible that AMDR or a comparable technology will be engineered onto amphibious assault ships, cruisers, carriers and other platforms as well.

Raytheon statements say 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.

The new radar uses a chemical compound semi-conductor technology called Gallium Nitride which can amplify high-power signals at microwave frequencies; it enables better detection of objects at greater distances when compared with existing commonly used materials such as Gallium Arsenide, Raytheon officials explained.

Raytheon engineers say Gallium Nitride is designed to be extremely efficient and use a powerful aperture in a smaller size to fit on a DDG 51 destroyer with reduced weight and reduced power consumption. Gallium Nitride has a much higher breakdown voltage so it is capable of much higher power densities, developers said.

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.In total, the Navy plans as many as 22 Flight III DDG 51 destroyers, according to a previously completed Navy capabilities development document.

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