Image courtesy of Raytheon

(Image courtesy of Raytheon).

Gallium Nitride Radars Near Full-Scale Production

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Over the last decade, gallium-nitride (GaN) semiconductors have become a staple in radar technology. GaN chips are capable of boosting the amplification of microwave signals and they also carry a higher voltage than traditional semiconductor materials like silicon, allowing them to consume less power and produce less heat.

For those reasons, Raytheon is using GaN-based active electronically scanned arrays to upgrade its Patriot Air and Missile Defense System. Raytheon is aiming to replace the single forward panel on existing Patriot systems with a series of AESA radar antennas. The new generation of the Patriot system is scheduled to enter production early next year.

Measuring about 9 ft. wide and 13 ft. tall, the AESA antennas will bolt onto the front of current Patriot radar modules. Just like the current forward panel, the antenna will be oriented toward a primary target. In addition, a series of rear panel antennas will be directed behind and to the sides of the system, generating 360-degree coverage.

Equipped with AESA antenna technology, the Patriot Air and Missile Defense radar is capable of simultaneously detecting and tracking multiple airborne and ground targets from all sides. The higher resolution achieved with GaN allows the system to detect drones, advanced aircraft, and ballistic missiles from a greater distance.

To date, the main antenna’s power and cooling subsystems are complete. But additional upgrades must be made to improve operational availability. Before the system is ready for combat, more work must be done to integrate the subsystems and populate the Patriot's superstructure with GaN-based transmit-receive units (TRLRUs).

The GaN-based AESA radar system will be operated from an open-architecture common command and control (CC2) node. It will retain backwards compatibility with the current Patriot Engagement Control Station. The CC2 node will be fully compatible with NATO and the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS).

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