Monday, July 24, 2017

Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar

The Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) is the radar system that is replacing the ill-conceived Dual Band Radar (DBR).  EASR is intended to replace the DBR on the Ford class carriers and the older rotating SPS-48/49 systems on a variety of ships.  It appears that the Navy intends the EASR to become the standard for non-Aegis ships such as amphibious ships, carriers, LX(R), and others.  Aegis SPY-x will remain the primary anti-air radar system for Burke class destroyers. 

Unfortunately, information on the EASR is scarce but website offers a glimpse of the system (1).

Raytheon is developing the EASR and the Navy has conducted a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the system.

As with any new system, Raytheon/Navy claims that the new radar will perform better, be easier to maintain, require fewer personnel to operate, be more reliable, and cost less.  Of course, history assures us that most of these claims will turn out to be marginal improvements or totally false but at this stage of development, claims are typically unlimited and bordering on magical so this is nothing new or noteworthy.

The interesting aspect of this radar system is that it will be modular and scalable.

“The new air surveillance radar is designed on Radar Modular Assembly (RMA) technology, which has been matured through development and recent test successes of the US Navy’s AN / SPY-6 air and missile defence 3D radar for the DDG 51 Flight III destroyers.

Each RMA is a self-contained radar housed in a 2ft by 2ft by 2ft box, and the systems can be linked together to form radar chains of various sizes.

The EASR will be offered to the US Navy in two variants: Variant one, which will be a single face, rotating radar, and Variant two, which is a three face, fixed-array unit.” (1)

The concept of a rotating version is fascinating and leads one to wonder how and why it will be a significant improvement over the older rotating SPS-48/49 units?

EASR Variant 1 - Rotating

The system is, apparently, derived from the SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) (2).  In fact, Raytheon claims that the AMDR and EASR are built with the identical AMDR cubical 2 ft. building blocks which leads one to wonder how and why the two systems are different and why we’re spending more money on an AMDR with a different name?

According to Raytheon, the difference between the systems is simply the number of RMAs, with the AMDR having 37 and the EASR having 9 (2).  As Raytheon describes it (2),

AMDR is comprised of 37 RMAs – which is equivalent to SPY-1D(V) +15 dB in terms of sensitivity. To give this perspective, it means that SPY-6 can see a target of half the size at twice the distance of today’s radars.

EASR is a 9 RMA configuration – which is equivalent to the sensitivity of the current SPY-1D(V) radar on today’s destroyers, and at only 20% of the size of the legacy SPS-48. These are considerable enhancements over the radars in service on current (and future) EASR-designated ship classes.

Raytheon stresses the reliability and maintainability of the system, citing the commonality between the AMDR and EASR due to the identical radar modules.

Raytheon also claims that the system will be more affordable due to having only a single radar type across the entire fleet.  They claim that training, logistics, spares, etc. will be streamlined and cheaper.

Of course, what new system in history hasn’t made those exact claims?  Some pan out, to a degree, many don’t.

So, if the AMDR and EASR are identical, differing only in the number of RMAs, why are we paying for an EASR “development” program?  From USNI News website,

“Radar maker Raytheon has been awarded a $92 million contract to develop a new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar for the U.S. Navy’s new Ford-class carrier fleet and big deck amphibious warships, company officials told USNI News on a Monday conference call.

Based on Raytheon’s SPY-6 S-band Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) planned for the services Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) guided missile destroyers, the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) will be the volume air search radar for most of the Gerald R. Ford-class carrier (CVN-78) — starting with John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) and the planned LHA-8 amphibious warship.

“It’s using identical hardware, identical signal processing software, data processing software.  It’s as near identical as possible. The goal of the program to drive affordability and commonality,” Tad Dickenson [Raytheon company spokesman] told reporters.”

Again, if it’s identical, why are we paying for a new developmental program?  It seems like $92M is a lot of money to simply change the number of RMAs.  But wait, there’s more money coming!

“Following the EMD phase, there are up to $723 million in contract options to support 16 ship sets of the radar – 6 fixed face for the Fords and 10 for amphibious ships.” (3)

And, of course, there’s always the actual construction/purchase funds still to be had! 

Interestingly, the EASR does not completely meet the Navy’s radar requirements.

“The service also plans to procure a separate X-band radar to compliment the EASR for both the future carriers and the amphibs.” (3)

I believe the separate X-band radar is intended to cover the low level, short range (horizon) region, meaning sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.  Currently, the SPQ-9B performs this function.

Raytheon has a nice little gig going for itself.  They’ve managed to direct the Navy into a single radar, sole supplier situation in which they can dictate unlimited prices and exorbitant “developmental” costs.  That’s nice work if you can get it!  The Navy now has no choice but to keep shipping barges of money to Raytheon.

There’s always the more mundane aspects of this arrangement to consider, as well.  If Raytheon’s facilities should suffer a major catastrophe like a fire or sabotage, the Navy will have no source for radars for, potentially, years while Raytheon rebuilds.  A prime target for sabotage at the start of a war with China, huh?  But, I digress …

In summary, the EASR seems to be just a renaming and repackaging of the already developed AMDR.  That leads to questioning the need for additional developmental funding.  Raytheon can’t have it both ways.  They claim the EASR is identical to the AMDR and, therefore, offers all kinds of commonality benefits and yet they want barge loads of money to “develop” the EASR.  Which is it?  Are the two systems identical or not?  I think the Navy is being gouged and has, through mismanagement, backed themselves into a no-choice corner.


(1) website, retrieved 8-May-2017,

(2)Raytheon website, retrieved 8-May-2017,

(3)USNI News website, “Raytheon Awarded $92M Navy Contract for Future Carrier, Big Deck AESA Radars”, Sam LaGrone, 22-Aug-2016,


  1. AMDR was designed to be a stationary billboard like Aegis. EASR can be mounted in a rotating platform so the hardware is different. Its also newer so they might have corrected bugs that was in AMDR or dumbed it down by taking out unneeded things.

    It looks like EASR could be like the SMART-L radar a lot of the Euro ships have.

    If this EASR works maybe the FAA/NWS could buy it for the NEXRAD/Air Traffic Control radars. They want to see if they can use one radar for both jobs. They are testing a SPY-1 face they got from the USN in Oklahoma. The data difference in the weather radar from what they have today is huge.

  2. Some background on the new radars based on Raytheon's work on the new magic gallium nitride semiconductors, GaN, R&D and production plant funded by government. (SAAB use GaN in their new radars amongst others)

    Arstechnica PR write up after visit to Raytheon plant June 2016

    "Raytheon in a semiconductor fabrication facility, built to resemble a giant integrated circuit produces many of the chips that go into its modern radar systems, including monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs). These tiny radio frequency amplifiers, gallium nitride (or, in chemical shorthand, GaN). GaN is what is known as a "wide band gap" semiconductor. It can be used in devices that operate at much higher voltages, temperatures, and frequencies than other semiconductors. As a result, GaN chips are more power-efficient, and they have a longer life than other semiconductor chips because of their heat tolerance.

    If we take a radar and swap out GaAs for GaN in the power amplifiers, we can provide more [direct current electrical] energy to the radar. Suddenly, we can search five times the volume of space in the same amount of time or track five times the number of targets as with the old radar simply with that upgrade. Another thing we can do is that same radar would be able to see 50 percent farther out—it could detect and track targets 50 percent farther away because more of that RF energy we're generating is being combined out in space."

    Additionally, the transition from GaAs to GaN means that smaller radars using less power can perform as well or better than current systems. "We can make it smaller and lighter, make it fit on new platforms, and maintain or even improve its capability over what it had previously been able to do with gallium arsenide. The reality of how we're using it today is a combination of all of those.

    There's also the reliability boost of GaN components. While GaAs tested to a mean time to failure of a million hours, GaN components tested to 109 hours—114,155 years. "So we have a one thousand times margin, why would you want that kind of margin? When you look at the statistics for putting 50,000 chips in a system, you need that kind of reliability. That's one of the things that differentiates Raytheon's GaN from the rest of the world that's developing GaN."

    Cost savings are yet another GaN advantage. As a result of the manufacturing research, Raytheon's GaN MMICs are 75 percent less expensive than GaAs chips designed for the same job. Raytheon got DoD approval for low-rate production of the new GaN MMICs in 2009, and now the process has matured enough that GaN is being rolled out as the transmitter amplifier for two radar systems: the upgraded Patriot Missile System radar and the Navy's Air & Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).

    USNI "The SPY-6 radar is much bigger than the old SPY-1D(V), which means it makes more heat and requires more cooling capacity. The Flight IIA ships could handle the bigger radar, Vandroff said, but would again leave no margin. // The five AC plants to put out 300 tons of cooling each, rather than 200."

    1. Nick, I discourage wholesale quotes and copy/paste of other writings without an accompanying value-added writing such as your opinion/evaluation of what you pasted. In other words, I want your analysis. What does any of this mean to you and the Navy?

    2. I just thought the technical background to the new radars would be beneficial in understanding this new technology and as no expert thought quotes the best way.

      My view it's the current future way forward for radar but Navy seems to have locked themselves into a monopoly supplier in Raytheaon which will be expensive.

      CNO I can see your point so please delete as you feel appropriate, it's your blog :)

    3. Nick, I have no problem whatsoever with pulling quotes from somewhere to support or illustrate an analysis or opinion that you've offered. The problem is that if no analysis is offered then people just start quoting long passages with no value added.

      You have a nice start to some value-added analysis. Here's some related questions you might tackle for us.

      -Do you believe the manf's claims in light of the history of manf's claims being, generally, wildly exaggerated?

      -How does reduced chip cost translate to overall radar installation costs since chips are only a (small?) part of the overall product? Will there actually be any significant overall cost savings?

      -Where do we get our GaN? What country controls the supply in the event of war?

      -If GaN is so clearly superior and by such a wide margin, why isn't everyone using it and why isn't the Navy engaged in an emergency, urgent program to upgrade every existing radar?

      Address one or more of those questions and then you've added something of value to the copied material! Take a shot at it! You'll have to do a bit of research but it's fun.

    4. CNO - All good questions, do not have many answers at the moment.

      Some info re the AMDR/SPY-6 reported by GAO that in actual testing able to achieve a sensitivity improvement of +17 dB over SPY-1, rather than the originally targeted +15 dB improvement factor to achieve a range performance improvement of 266% rather than the original target of 237%.

      So technically appears to be achieving what was promised though has other problems.

      "why isn't everyone using it" It appears that they are, as mentioned previosly SAAB plus Thales & Leonardo and the updated TRS-3D used on the LCS Freedom, the fixed panel TRS-4D. Northrop Grumman latest version of nine G/ATOR systems use GaNs as do some of the LM radars. Think though not certain NG & LM use GaNs supplied from the Raytheon plant funded by US military.

  3. Unrelated topic, I guess.....