Lockheed Martin [LMT] on Friday tossed its hat into the still-unofficial program to develop an upgrade to Patriot missile defense radars.

The Army on July 6 issued a request for proposals for a research-and-development effort called the lower tier air and missile defense (LTAMD) capability, which seeks to integrate a gallium nitride array antenna onto a baseline Patriot battery.

So far there is no official Army requirement or program of record for a Patriot radar replacement. The main program objective is to upgrade or replace the current phased array tracking radar to intercept on target (PATRIOT) radar to improve the operational effectiveness against the emerging threat while reducing sustainment cost associated with the current radar. Ideally, offerings will have an average production unit cost (APUC) of less than $50M.

Patriot Photo: Raytheon
Photo: Raytheon

Information from the RFI will be used to define requirements in any potential future request for proposals for such a technology. The RFI says responses will be considered by subject matter experts from the Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), Wyle-CAS, Dynetics, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), and Torch Technologies.

Lockheed said it would develop an LTAMD active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar from several technologies it already produces for the Army and other military services. The company plans to pull technologies and experience from the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), Space Fence, Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), 3D Expeditionary Long Range Radar (3DELRR), AN/TPQ-53 and Aegis.

“Leveraging our existing technology, a multi-function, 360-degree IAMD radar can be developed to exceed the LTAMDS requirement on a better schedule than a costly Patriot upgrade solution,” Brad Hicks, vice president of Lockheed Mission Systems and Training, said in a prepared statement. “Our radar solution will meet the Army’s specific requirements and extend our strong collaboration within the missile defense community.”

Lockheed claims it is the only company producing active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for the Army and is the only U.S. company producing and exporting gallium nitride (GaN)-based AESA radars. While that is technically true, Lockheed is splitting hairs because both Raytheon [RTN] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] have radars that could fit the bill. Both are expected to respond to LTAMD.

Northrop spokespeople did not respond to emails asking whether it would propose the AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) designed for expeditionary air defense, were not returne.

Raytheon will pitch its GaN-based AESA Patriot prototype that was developed solely with company funding, as a potential solution for the LTAMD.

That said, the AN/TPY-2 ballistic missile defense radar used in the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, made by Raytheon, is an AESA radar.  Technically speaking, the customer for that system is the Missile Defense Agency, but the end user is the Army.

The United States does not have a published requirement to upgrade its Patriot batteries to 360-degree coverage, but some international Patriot users do. Lockheed and Raytheon are in fierce competition to provide air and missile defense systems to Germany and Poland. Both Lockheed’s and Raytheon’s LTAMD contenders are approved for export to current and a number of future Patriot users, to include Poland.

With no Army program of record or formal competition underway, an industry source tells Defense Daily that Lockheed’s announcement is likely an effort to drum up publicity for the export market.

The Army’s published plans are to spend an initial $35 million in fiscal 2015 to begin materials development, conduct an analysis of alternatives and a business case analysis, according to the Army documents. Spending shoots up to a high of $93 million in fiscal 2018, then levels out to $85 million through 2021.

The Army’s timeline for LATMD development calls for a milestone A decision late this year. A decision to begin engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) is scheduled in the second half of 2019, meaning fielding of radars under the Army program is perhaps a decade in the future.