In fall 2012 The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Air Force award Raytheon a $125.3 million contract to modernize and upgrade the US Air Force’s early warning radar (EWR) system at Clear AFS, AK. The existing phased array radar face will remain, but new electronics and back-end software will improve performance. The difference is not a small one – with the upgrades, the upgraded EWR (UEWR) can start providing targeting data to interceptor systems.
The US military is slowly stitching together its missile defense program…
Work on radars and back-end command systems isn’t quite as glamorous as the missile interceptors, but it will become more and more important as enemy threats become more sophisticated. Even when upgraded, the UEWR’s “range resolution” won’t be enough to deal with advanced missiles carrying decoys. What UEWR will do, is offer an immediate improvement in defensive odds against simple missile attacks from rogue nations, given their current level of technology development.
Raytheon developed the original set of large solid-state phased array radars, and has already worked to upgrade the companion BMEWS (ballistic missile early warning system) installations at Beale Air Force Base, CA; Thule Air Base, Greenland; and RAF Fylingdales, United Kingdom. Work at Clear AFS is expected to be complete by the end of 2017, and the radar will remain in continuous operation while the upgrades take place.
Beyond UEWR, several options exist. As one example, a recent National Research Council report on missile defense noted the need for a system that could help cut through clutter and identify enemy warheads by combining data from radars like UEWR, with infrared sensor data from the UAV-mounted ABIR, SBIRS satellites, and missile interceptor kill vehicles.