China/United States

Navy eying new, powerful radars to defend against faster, ‘carrier-killing’ anti-ship missiles

By Jonathan Davis

Aware that peer competitors are developing faster, more lethal anti-ship ballistic missiles, the U.S. Navy is eying severe options including powerful new radar to defend against them.

As reported by Warrior Maven, the Navy is working with major defense contractors including Raytheon “to integrate an entire family of new radar systems across a wide swath of its surface fleet.”

The objective is to not only build powerful new air defense radar, but to be able to integrate and network the systems with each other to protect entire fleets.

In this way, the website reported, targets can be detected from beyond the horizon by one ship’s radar, then shared with other ships in the battle group as the incoming threat is tracked.

With more time and better tracking information, ship captains and fleet commanders can have more time to decide on the best course of action, such as a rapid counterattack or launching an interceptor missile.

Warrior Maven noted further:

The new radars, reported to bring an exponential increase in sensitivity and mission effectiveness to sea-based air and missile defense, are in the process of being built into large portions of the fleet to include emerging new DDG Flight III destroyers, amphibious assault ships and even aircraft carriers. They are called the SPY-6 family of radars, the most powerful of which, the SPY-6 (V)1, is now being engineered into the Navy’s first-of-its kind Flight III Destroyer, the USS Jack Lucas (DDG 125).

The Navy’s Above Water Sensors Program Manager, Capt. Jason Hall, explained that the success of the radar systems are inspiring the service to explore new platforms for the technology and pursue a series of weapons and fire control network upgrades moving forward.

“The DDG 125 Jack Lucas sets the technical foundation for the fleet. We plan to leverage this combat system as we look at Frigate, amphibs and carriers,” Hall said Jan. 15 at the Surface Naval Association Annual Symposium, Arlington, Va, referring to SPY-6 radar integration.

“A lot of this is in the back end in the digital processing, so it is a huge change. Digital is a big change from the analog of old days, which gives you a lot of the improved discrimination, sensitivity,” Hall said.

“We are building the arrays for this ship. We have run the gamut as to what this radar can do. We have simultaneous weapons support functions. We have electronic protection and environmental protection,” Hall noted further.

China’s DF-26 long-range ballistic missile is said to be a potential “carrier killer,” though some have expressed doubt that the weapon can actually penetrate existing U.S. naval missile defenses or successfully track a fast-moving American flattop.

But the hype associated with the missile might just be what Beijing is hoping will be enough, according to the National Interest in April 2018:

This week Chinese state media reported that a new brigade of Beijing’s most advanced intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) has been “activated.”

The newly commissioned brigade is armed with the Dong Feng-26 (DF-26) IRBM. According to the Diplomat, “Video footage carried in Chinese state media showed at least 22 integrated six-axle DF-26 transporter-erector-launchers along with their crews.” What do we know about this missile?

The DF-26’s antiship variant is likely to garner a lot of attention in the Western press. The DF-21D—which is the antiship variant of that missile—has received many headlines over its purported ability to sink U.S. aircraft carriers.

In theory, the DF-26’s greater range could force U.S. carriers to operate far outside China’s second island chain, whereas the DF-21D might be limited to the first island chain. Still, both missiles’ ability to perform this mission are currently questionable.

As Andrew Erickson has noted, “limitations in China’s reconnaissance-strike complex, along with evolving American and allied countermeasures, continue to render their [DF-21D and DF-26] operational effectiveness uncertain.”

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