US acquired LRD radar for all classes of ballistic missile detection

The Missile Defense Agency of the US Air Defense has finally taken possession of Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Discrimination Radar [LRDR]. This innovative radar system is capable of searching and tracking multiple small objects, including every class of ballistic missiles, over a vast distance, and can operate continuously. 

US acquired LRD radar for all classes of ballistic missile detection
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

In a press statement, Lockheed Martin announced that the Long Range Discrimination Radar [LRDR], based at Clear Space Force Station, Alaska, has reached its final approval stage, the DD250, and has been formally transferred to the Missile Defense Agency. It is in preparation for an operational capability decision [OCB] and a final handover to Warfighter. Lockheed Martin added that, even before this final transition, the LRDR had already begun collecting space domain awareness data for the US Space Force.

In an official statement, Chandra Marshall, Vice President at Lockheed Martin for Radar and Sensor Systems, shared insights about the company’s cutting-edge radar system. She confirmed that their system combines the advantages of both high-frequency and low-frequency radars, forging a unique method of detecting, tracking, and distinguishing targets. 

US acquired LRD radar for all classes of ballistic missile detection
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

A critical asset

Central to the US homeland’s defensive measures against potential ballistic missile attacks is the Long Range Discrimination Radar [LRDR] program. This critical program is the cornerstone of a multilayered strategy devised by the Missile Defense Agency to ensure the safe protection of the US mainland.

This worthwhile program is a testament to the sustained commitment from the US government towards futuristic S-Band radar, terrestrial radar, and the integration of systems. Examples of such comprehensive technologies are readily visible in Lockheed Martin’s Aegis Combat System, Space Fence, and Aegis Ashore systems. With its state-of-the-art Gallium Nitride [GaN] based solid-state radar, Lockheed Martin utilizes the power of its Open GaN Foundry model that builds on mutually beneficial relationships with core GaN suppliers. 

Tasked with the identification of harmful objects like enemy warheads and their differentiation from non-lethal decoys, the LRDR is a key component in safeguarding our interceptor supply. It essentially facilitates the preservation of necessary land-based interceptors in the US’s national defense, crucial for engaging threats adequately. 

Remarkably adaptable, LRDR operates within the S-band frequencies and boasts a versatile, open system architecture. This design is optimized for scale and expansion, ready for evolving threats without any necessary hardware alterations. 

A linchpin in the defense

US acquired LRD radar for all classes of ballistic missile detection
Photo credit: NK News

Linking into the missile defense operations through the command and control element, combined with combat management and communication, the LRDR serves as a linchpin in defense. To truly illustrate the versatility of the LRDR’s open systems architecture, take for instance Lockheed Martin’s newly added hypersonic defense support capability. This essential enhancement provides actionable insights to defense decision-makers, expediting their response times in critical situations.

Let’s break it down – the long-range discriminating radar [LRDR] can track hypersonic targets. Why, you ask? Two words – GaN technology. This technology allows the radar to function at higher power levels, while the S-band radar ensures far-reaching detection and tracking abilities. 

Now, the beauty of the LRDR is in its seamless integration with the Ballistic Missile Defense System [BMDS]. It does the heavy lifting, providing critical data such as target tracking information and threat discrimination details to the BMDS. With this information at hand, the BMDS can confidently decide which targets to engage in and the most effective deployment of interceptor missiles. 

US acquired LRD radar for all classes of ballistic missile detection
Photo credit: Glide Breaker

Engaging hypersonic targets is no child’s play, it’s a multi-layered operation. Initially, the LRDR detects and tracks a target. It then passes on this tracking data to the BMDS. The BMDS, much like a savvy defense strategist, uses this data to make the best possible interception decision in terms of timing and location to release an interceptor missile. With the precise direction provided by LRDR’s tracking data, the interceptor missile can hit the bullseye. 

Glide Breaker

Speaking of interceptor missiles, the US isn’t standing idly by. The United States is diligently working on the development of a hypersonic interceptor missile, known as the Glide Breaker. This monumental project is led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA], a dedicated branch of the Department of Defense, commissioned with the development of emerging technologies for military use. 

US is building a hypersonic rocket system with green hydrogen
Photo credit: Mil.in.ua

Designed to counter the ominous threat of hypersonic weapons, Glide Breaker is the response to those daunting missiles capable of reaching speeds greater than Mach 5, or equivalently, five times the speed of sound. This category of weapons poses a formidable problem due to their tremendous speed and unpredictable flight paths. 

So, you may wonder, how does the Glide Breaker work? Its unique workings involve a kinetic kill vehicle—a type of projectile that destroys targets through pure force of impact. Rather than depending upon explosives, it relies entirely on the energy generated from its high-speed collision with its target to ensure destruction. 

Maneuvering

US hypersonic missile reached Mach 5 and 300 mi less than 5 min
Photo credit: Sandboxx

When a hypersonic threat is detected, the interceptor missile is launched. Equipped with onboard sensors and advanced guidance systems, the Glide Breaker adjusts its course to intercept the incoming target. Subsequently, the kinetic kill vehicle separates from the rest of the missile and propels towards the target. 

Upon impact, the kinetic kill vehicle obliterates the target. The immense speed of the collision generates an enormous amount of energy, resulting in the complete disintegration of the target. This specific method of interception is commonly referred to as hit-to-kill. 

While it is true that the Glide Breaker is still in the development stage and hasn’t yet been deployed, it certainly represents a significant leap forward in the United States’ efforts to shield against the threat of hypersonic weapons.

American Dark Eagle hypersonic missile cost soars up to $41M
Photo credit: Wikipedia

However, missile defense isn’t all that the LRD radar system is good for. Interestingly, it also vigilantly monitors our space domain, continuously tracking earth-orbiting satellites, and identifying active or inactive satellites, spent missile bodies, and debris.

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