Raytheon’s AN/TPY-2 X-band mobile radar is one of the United States’ most powerful assets in the defense against ballistic missiles. That threat is an increasingly worrisome one: according to unclassified U.S. Missile Defense Agency data the number of such missiles outside the control of the U.S., NATO, Russia and China is around 6,300. That figure is forecast to grow to nearly 8,000 in the next decade.
It is not just the growing number of missiles that is a worry, but also the increasing range and accuracy that they offer. Furthermore, they are capable of being employed with more sophisticated tactics, such as mass raids, and with better countermeasures and decoys. The TPY-2 radar has introduced a sophisticated ability to detect and pick out the actual missiles in such scenarios. “You’ve got be able to discriminate threats from non-threats,” said Raytheon’s Jim Bedingfield, business development and strategy director for missile defense and space programs. “You can’t hit it if you can’t see it.”
A TPY-2 system consists of four components, comprising antenna, electronics, cooling and prime power units, although the radar can also run off commercial power supplies if they are available. The system is air-transportable in a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy or Boeing C-17. The phased-array antenna has an area of 9.2 sq m and incorporates 25,344 individual transmit/receive modules. As an integral part of the ballistic missile defense system, the TPY-2 can accept cues from Aegis systems or early warning satellites, as well as being able to self-cue. Working in the other direction, it can hand off target tracks to Aegis systems and ground-based interceptors, as well as lower-tier systems such as Patriot.
The TPY-2 has two primary modes. As a forward-based asset it is used on its own as part of a missile defense network, detecting and tracking ballistic missiles in the ascent phase to improve early launch warning capability. That data is fed into the air defense system’s command and control element for an appropriate response. As such, it has significantly improved the level of protection owing to its sophisticated X-band technology. “The earlier you are able to discriminate the target, the better chance you have of killing it,” added Bedingfield. Alternatively, when used in its terminal mode the TPY-2 is part of the integrated THAAD (terminal high-altitude area defense) system, providing high-quality firing solutions to the THAAD’s own fire control system and interceptor vehicles.
Raytheon (Chalet A294, Static D166) has received contracts for 11 TPY-2 radars from the U.S. government’s Missile Defense Agency, and delivered the eighth of them in March. Original plans called for 18 radars, but with the planned number of THAAD batteries being reduced from nine to six, the corresponding number of TPY-2 radars was reduced to 11. Recognizing the importance of the sensor in protecting U.S. forces, and also the disproportionate size of the cut, a 12th radar has been recently approved by Congress, although the contract is not yet finalized.
Of the 11 radars currently funded or completed, six are for the ‘terminal’ role for use with the U.S. Army’s THAAD batteries. In April it was announced that Alpha Battery, 4th Air Defense Artillery regiment, would deploy to Guam to help protect assets in the northern Pacific against any potential threat from North Korea. Media reports also suggest that another U.S. Army THAAD battery may be deployed to the UAE.
The remaining five U.S. radars are for deployment in the forward-based role, and four of them are already in use. According to media reports the first was installed in 2006 at Shariki in the north of the main Japanese island of Honshu, while another was placed atop Mt Keren in the Israeli Negev Desert in 2008. More recently a TPY-2 was deployed to Diyarbakir in Turkey, and a fourth to a “base in the U.S. Central Command region,” which the Wall Street Journal identified as being in Qatar. The fifth forward-based TPY-2 will be deployed to a second Japanese base.
At present Raytheon has five radars for both U.S. and FMS customers contracted and in production. It has announced at Paris that it has redesigned eight circuit card assemblies for an FMS customer to extend the radar’s capabilities. “It’s important that the U.S. and others cost-share and burden-share the development,” noted Bedingfield. The new cards will be inserted into all new TPY-2s, regardless of customer.
Although the company will not divulge details due to customer confidentiality, it has been widely reported that the TPY-2 has been sold through foreign military sales (FMS) channels, with two having been acquired by the UAE as part of its THAAD purchase, concluded last December. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress last November of a potential sale to Qatar of two more as part of a THAAD buy, while more recently Oman is also believed to have selected the THAAD system. Other nations, particularly in the Gulf, have expressed interest in THAAD and the TPY-2. A development with stacked TPY-2 radars has also been suggested as a potential sensor for a future U.S. homeland defense application.