For fifteen years now, the US Navy has been looking at the opportunities on the market to acquire more advanced radars, comprehending their own desires. In 2010, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were finally chosen and asked them to develop a radar in the decimeter and centimeter wavelength (S-band) frequency range.
They were given the task of increasing the time so that the ships had time to respond to the emerging threat. Modern weapons are becoming more and more long-range, fast, stealthy and accurate. Accordingly, the new radar had to see further, despite the interference of the enemy and nature, and be more sensitive.
In 2013, the Missile Defense Agency chose Raytheon from the proposed options and provided it with $ 386 million to bring the project to perfection. In 2016, the first SPY-6 was tested at a test site in Hawaii.
As far as the new radar is able to withstand interference, the company is silent, revealing only some details of the contract and the characteristics of the system.
The fleet will receive radars belonging to the SPY-6 family. Their variations are indicated by a number from 1 to 4 attached to the Latin letter V.
The V1 air and missile defense radar is the largest in the family. It is motionless, has four faces with 37 radar modular assemblies each. The Arleigh Burke Flight III class destroyers under construction will be equipped with these radars. V2 is a small rotating radar with one edge for nine modules. It is planned to be used on amphibious ships and aircraft carriers of the Nimitz class. V3 has three surfaces of nine blocks each. It will be installed on new Ford-class aircraft carriers as well as Constellation frigates. Radar V4, like V1, has four surfaces, but 24 blocks each. It will be installed on the upgraded Arleigh Burke Flight IIA class destroyers.
Radars are assembled from separate blocks, similar to a honeycomb cell. Each module is a self-contained radar with a volume of about 0.2 cubic meters. From these blocks, Raytheon assembles four antenna options.
The cells integrated by the software make the SPY-6 30 times more sensitive than the recently released SPY-1D. It is able to detect and track a target half the size and twice the range. The antenna, consisting of only nine units, provides the same sensitivity as the previous generation SPY-1 radar currently deployed on ships of the US Navy.
The new radar is fully compatible with the Standard Missile family, also developed by Raytheon. And besides, if necessary, the radar can concentrate the electromagnetic pulses emitted by the blocks into a directed beam and blind the electronics of enemy aircraft, ships and missiles with it, that is, it can itself be a weapon.
The radar is connected to any combat control system. Through several different networks, it communicates with other manufacturers' radars and weapons systems. SPY-6, in any configuration, detects and tracks ballistic and cruise missiles, aircraft and surface ships in any direction for 360.
The appearance of SPY-6 is a new stage in the development of radar equipment for the US Navy. “For the first time, a single family of shipborne multifunctional radar stations has been developed,” writes The Defense Leak columnist, probably hinting at the impending unification. And this is a simplification of the system of maintenance and supply of spare parts, training of operators and their interchangeability, saving, finally.
But it is unlikely that Spy-6 will be installed on all ships of the US Navy. In this case, within 40 years, such is the life of the radar, this market will be closed to other companies. Raytheon Technologies' competitors, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin and some others, will hardly agree with such a prospect. They, too, are developing detection systems, spend a lot of money and, it's not hard to guess, would like to recoup their costs.