Electronic Weapons: Aegis For The Masses


September 13, 2009: U.S. defense electronics firm Raytheon has developed a radar that will incorporate a lot of the phased array technology pioneered by the Aegis system (used in warships.) The new Raytheon SPY-5 could be described as "Aegis Lite" (it can be used in smaller ships, of under 1,000 tons displacement). The SPY-5 (SPY-1 is Aegis, SPY-2 is the anti-missile version of Aegis, while . SPY-3 and 4 are for the new DDG-1000 destroyer) is, in effect a smaller version of SPY-3, which was also designed to replace five different types of radars. In effect, SPY-5 takes care of air and surface search, plus fire control, and anything else you need radar for. The smaller (than SPY 1-3) uses only three flat phased array surfaces to cover all around the ship. The SPY-5 was also designed to be compatible with existing power supplies and electronic systems in Western ships. With SPY-5, Raytheon is trying to bring "Aegis technology" to the masses.

There over a hundred Aegis equipped warships. Aegis was new and expensive, but potentially revolutionary, when it entered service three decades ago. It was a powerful, 3-D radar. It used phased array technology, where the radar consisted of thousands of tiny radar transmitters, that could be electronically aimed in different directions. Aegis can track over a hundred targets, nearly 200 kilometers from the ship. Aegis was more than just a radar system, it was a tightly integrated combat system that gave the captain unprecedented "situational awareness" of what was around the ship (in the air, on the surface, and under water.) The Aegis radar not only tracked targets, but controlled Standard anti-aircraft missiles for long range shots, until the missiles onboard radar could pick up the target and destroy it. The phased array radar was more difficult to jam and, in general, was way ahead of what any other navy has, and it still is. The latest version of Aegis and Standard missiles can shoot down ballistic missiles and low orbit space satellites.

Development on Aegis began four decades ago, and in 1973 the first seagoing Aegis radar (for testing purposes) was at work. Ten years later, the first Aegis equipped warship, the cruiser USS Ticonderoga, entered service (and was decommissioned 31 years later).


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