US Navy reports successful tests of newest ship radar

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Navy’s newest shipboard radar has detected targets that older radars cannot during two recent tests, according to the Program Executive for Integrated Warfare Systems.

Rear Adm. Seiko Okano told Defense News in a December interview that the Navy learned a lot from these major test events — the first live-fire test at sea in September and an air strike test event in December — aboard the Flight III Arleigh Burke – Jack H. Lucas class destroyer.

Raytheon’s AN/SPY-6 radar “performed as we expected, which is great,” he said, repeatedly calling its performance “fantastic.”

The new air and missile defense radar was previously used in a series of land trials and had some operational time at sea during Jack Lucas’ previous sea trials. This work culminated in the event in September, where the destroyer located a target with the SPY-6 and then shot it down with a Standard Missile-2.

Mike Mills, Raytheon’s senior director of naval radar programs, said the Jack Lucas will travel in the coming weeks to Hawaii, where it will continue to test its new radar ahead of the planned declaration of initial operational capability in August.

Okano noted that the radar had only seen about 30 days of sea trials at the time of the interview. The Navy and Raytheon will continue to learn about what the radar can detect during the upcoming development testing period.

“Every time you put a radar out to sea, you just set her on pace [and] radar tuning. You adjust it for the environments: a lot of clutter or atmospheric or whatever – you adjust the sensitivity of the radar because you have a very sensitive instrument” that can pick up more than the sailors on board have to see, he added.

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Update a family of systems

SPY-6 is a family of radars. The Flight III destroyers were designed around having the SPY-6(V)1 air and missile defense radar, which is the largest and most capable radar of the family.

The SPY-6(V)2 is a smaller rotatable corporate air surveillance radar that will be carried aboard amphibious ships and Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. The first (V)2 radar is already installed on the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock Richard M. McCool Jr., which used the radar at sea during the manufacturer’s recent trials.

The (V)3 is a fixed operational surveillance radar that will be carried aboard Ford-class frigates and aircraft carriers. The first has already been installed on the new aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, which is still under construction. Raytheon will help activate the radar this spring, Mills said.

The (V)4 is a smaller air and missile defense radar retrofitted to Flight IIA Arleigh Burke destroyers through an upgrade program called DDG Mod 2.0.

The first destroyer to go through this program, Pinckney, received the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block III system at a recent shipyard availability at the General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. After more testing and development, the ship will return to receive the SPY-6(V)4 in a second availability. Mills said that will likely happen in late 2026.

Ultimately, Flight IIA ships will receive both the radar and electronic warfare package in the same two-year period, said DDG Mod 2.0 program manager Capt. Tim Moore, in a presentation at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference in January.

Mills said the lessons learned from Jack Lucas – including efforts by the Navy and Raytheon to refine the radar and tweak its software – will apply to the other variants as well. When Richard McCool and John F. Kennedy begin their sea trials, he said, the radars should require less adjustment.

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Navy SPY-6 program manager Capt. Jesse Mink said in a separate presentation at the conference that “the idea is that we continue to learn every time a ship goes to sea, every test that happens — maybe it’s not in the same class of ship. maybe not the same version, but this code will be reused so we don’t have to try it again.”

On the manufacturing side, Okano said Raytheon’s heavily automated manufacturing facility builds radars, so “we have them now stacked in warehouses.”

Mills said the company has almost completed the work assigned to the first low-cost initial production contract signed in 2017.

In 2022 and 2023, the Navy awarded Raytheon options for hardware production and maintenance contracts — essentially a full-rate production contract, but not officially called that until the radar reaches initial operational capability, Mills said. It said it expects the next one in the coming months and then a final option in March 2025, before a full price production contract in early 2026 that will allow continued production.

Megan Eckstein is the naval war reporter at Defense News. Covers military news since 2009, focusing on US Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs, and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest reporting stories from a ship. Megan is a graduate of the University of Maryland.

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