Why the Navy Needs to Speed Backfit its SPY-6 Super Radar on Destroyers

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October 22, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: October 22 on

Earlier this year, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral P. S. Davidson, sent a letter to Congress and the Pentagon urging accelerated modernization of warfighting technology in his area of responsibility. That area encompasses 52{1f71c8e63fc312dbb7e68cbee9f84746085cdcbce567c037f7e85e4e98c84910} of the Earth’s surface, including the Pacific Ocean, parts of the Indian Ocean, and Australia. However, Davidson made clear in the letter that his main concern was the rising military and economic power of China.

Among the handful of initiatives the admiral identified as high priorities was deploying a new digital beam-forming radar designed to greatly enhance the effectiveness of sea-based air and missile defense. Designated SPY-6, the radar will eventually become ubiquitous across the fleet—installed in multiple variants on surface combatants, aircraft carriers, and amphibious warships. The most powerful version will increase the sensitivity of radars on future destroyers by 100 times, enabling defense against overhead threats that current sensors cannot track or target.

However, it wasn’t future destroyers that Admiral Davidson was focused on in his letter. It was the dozens of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers already operational in his command. DDG-51 Burke destroyers are the most common warship in the U.S. fleet, multimission surface combatants that can defeat undersea, surface, airborne, and ballistic threats with the world’s most advanced sea-based combat system. The system is called Aegis, after the shield wielded by Athena and Zeus in Greek mythology.

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