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15 March 2016

Raytheon Offers Poland a New PATRIOT System

In early March 2016, Raytheon hosted a media briefing for a group of Polish military journalists and experts, focussing on the company’s current and potential offerings to Poland, particularly on the PATRIOT air defence system.

Raytheon's prototype AESA/Gallium Nitride Radar (above rendering) will be showcased for the first time at the 15-17 March AUSA Global Force Symposium & Exposition in Huntsville, AL/USA. (Photo: Raytheon)

During a hosted meeting in Andover, MA/USA, Raytheon presented in detail every element of the company’s offer to Poland, which has been modernising its armed forces under a procurement strategy worth approximately €30 billion in 2013-2022. Briefing at Raytheon’s facilities included border security and critical infrastructure protection systems, the EXCALIBUR GPS-guided 155mm artillery projectile, the NASAMS surface-to-air missile system (developed and promoted by Kongsberg in cooperation with Raytheon, who provide the missiles, such as the AIM-9 SIDEWINDER and AIM-120 AMRAAM), and SM-3 missiles, which will be installed in Poland by the US in the near future.

The most important element of the media briefing was a section focusing on the PATRIOT surface-to-air defence system, which was pre-selected by Poland in 2015 for its WISLA programme. In 2015, Warsaw announced it would procure eight batteries, however, a new government later surprisingly stated that a final decision has not yet been made and that Raytheon’s main competitor, MEADS International (multinational joint venture made up of MBDA Italia, MBDA Deutschland, and Lockheed Martin), has not been officially ruled out. Poland stated that the PATRIOT Configuration 3+ does not meet all Polish requirements.

As a result, Raytheon decided to offer PATRIOT Configuration 3+ batteries as an interim solution to Poland, and PATRIOT Next Generation (NG), tailored to particular Polish needs. One of the new planned elements incorporates multi-elevation launchers, which will provide PATRIOT NG with the possibility to engage targets from all directions.

PATRIOT 360° radar artist conception.

Significant attention during the press briefing in Andover was devoted to a new AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, which is being independently developed by Raytheon. The company plans to use it to replace the legacy radar AN/MPQ-65 PESA (passive ESA). Raytheon highlights that AESA has a lower power loss compared to PESA technology. Additionally, Raytheon addressed one of Poland’s top requirements, i.e., that a PATRIOT radar must have full 360° coverage (PATRIOT’s current radar only covers about 120° of the horizon). The company recently presented a concept of a radar with three antenna arrays – one frontal and two smaller rear panels (a quarter of the size of the primary array) for full coverage.

It is not coincidental that this shortcoming had been widely commented on by Dave Berganini, President of MEADS International, who still hopes to win a Polish contract. While Polish journalists were being briefed by Raytheon inside the company’s Integrated Air Defense Center, Berganini stated that, “only MEADS has successfully developed, integrated and system-tested 360° air and missile defence radars – under contract and to the specifications of three NATO nations.”

Raytheon added that its planned radar with three antenna arrays will provide effective coverage in all directions.

During the briefing, Raytheon officials strongly emphasised that its new radar will be much more efficient – not only because of its 360° coverage, but also due to the new technologies used to design the radar. Patriot’s AESA radar will be based on a new semiconductor material, known as gallium nitride (GaN). Due to its special properties, gallium nitride is ideal for various applications in opto-electronics, as well as high-power and high-frequency amplifiers. According to Raytheon, GaN has approximately 50% less maintenance costs compared to its predecessor, gallium arsenide (GaAs). GaN has about 5-10 times the power density of GaAs (0.5-1.5W/mm vs. 5-7W/mm). At the same time, GaN enables a reduced chip size (lower cost for a given power) with the same power as the GaAs chip. Raytheon added during the briefing that GaN-based radars also have a five times larger search volume. GaN technology has been developed in various countries, including Poland, where PIT-Radwar, a partner of Raytheon, works on developing the BYSTRA AESA radar. Raytheon also develops GaN technology for the air and missile defence radar (AN/SPY-6), currently planned to be deployed on the DDG-51 Flight III destroyer and in a developmental project involving a potential future jammer for the EA-18G GROWLER.

Raytheon, has spent more than U$200 million on GaN technology over the past 16 years (works commenced in 1999), and has also benefitted from $100 million in US government investment in GaN technology;  still needing to find a customer for this product. Poland could be one such buyer. The US Army plans to hold a competition for designing a new IAMD radar, with the desire to have a Milestone B decision in 2019  The US Army has specified that the new IAMD radar must be GaN-based AESA. For more on this, please see here.

Space-fed array. 

Additionally, all current PATRIOT users may potentially be interested in acquiring more efficient radars (this is because Raytheon’s shift away from using GaAS-based parts in PATRIOT’s radar to using GaN-based elements requires only minimal software changes, meaning that legacy radars can be easily modified and upgraded).

In 2015, Raytheon received export approval from the US Government. Raytheon told Polish visitors that while Greece, Japan, and Spain are considering an upgrade of their PATRIOT units, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Finland are all potential new customers. The company also included Romania and Turkey as potential future members of the “PATRIOT family”.

Robert Czulda