Dubai Airshow

Patriot Looks To The Next Generation

 - November 9, 2015, 9:00 AM
Raytheon’s planned Next Generation Patriot radar (foreground) is much smaller than the current array.

Raytheon’s Patriot air defense system is being tested with new AESA radar arrays based on GaN (gallium nitride) semi-conductors. GaN technology not only significantly improves performance of the radar, but also offers lower life-cycle costs. As well as developing a fixed version, Raytheon is also working on a multi-array radar to provide the 360-degree coverage required by some customers.

A GaN radar is one element of what Raytheon (Stand 1240) is calling Next Generation Patriot, with which the company seeks to introduce a new baseline system to take Patriot forward and keep it ahead of threats. In its fixed form, the GaN radar would have a single large array facing toward the main threat. In this form it could be ready for fielding within a year. The 360-degree version divides the array into one large and two smaller “quarter-plate” arrays. The larger panel would typically be placed facing the main threat, with the two small arrays facing backward and outward to provide 360-degree coverage, which could also be augmented by mutual support between Patriot units.

Development of the 360-degree system was driven by the requirements of Poland, which recently became the 14th nation to sign up for Patriot. But the capability is also of interest to several other existing operators, including Qatar and the UAE. Raytheon could have developed a system with three full-size arrays, but the quarter-plate arrangement supplies the required coverage at a much lower cost.

Another element of Next Generation Patriot is a common command and control system with open architecture to allow integration of local systems, and which can be mounted on a truck or in a building or tent. This has already been demonstrated to Patriot partners.

As another element of the next generation, Raytheon is examining a low-cost interceptor (LCI) for the Patriot system, which currently is capable of firing GEM-T, PAC-3 and PAC-3 MSE interceptors. LCI would offer enough of the capabilities of the other options to effect intercepts against many classes of threat, but at a reduced cost.

In the meantime, improvement of in-service systems continues. Configuration 3+ is the current baseline, introduced in 2008 following an order from the UAE. Emirati development funding helped with a major overhaul of the existing system to design out obsolescence. The major element was the development of an RDP (radar digital processor) that is cheaper, better-performing, more reliable and easier to maintain than the analog unit it replaced.

Many of the Patriot operators have opted to upgrade to Configuration 3+, including Germany, despite that nation selecting the MEADS system for its future air defense requirements this year. The U.S. Army has been upgrading its Patriots to the new standard, and announced this week a contract modification that will complete the upgrade of the fleet. The U.S. operates around 60 of the 220-plus Patriot fire units in service around the world.

Recent geo-political developments have raised the perceived need for missile defense, and Raytheon is in serious discussions with several nations, including the Czech Republic, Finland, India, Romania and Sweden. Patriot is still in contention for the delayed Turkish requirement, which Raytheon understands may be examined again early in 2016, following Turkey’s recent election. The improved offer made to Turkey via U.S. Foreign Military Sales has been extended until the end of January.