Raytheon has moved closer to producing a Gallium Nitride (GaN) based active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology equipped Patriot air and missile defence system.

To date, the company engineers have assembled the main radar array’s superstructure, as well as completing development work on the power and cooling sub-systems.

Scheduled to be performed in the coming months, additional upgrades will focus on integrating the sub-systems and populating the array superstructure with GaN-based transmit-receive units (TRLRU).

Built at the company’s Massachusetts-based GaN foundry, the GaN TRLRUs are the heart of the radar and are identical to the ones used for the rear-panel arrays.

The GaN-based AESA radar is capable of protecting soldiers from a range of threats, including ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as unmanned aircraft.

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems business Integrated Air and Missile Defense vice-president Ralph Acaba said: "A GaN-based AESA radar benefits netted sensors, and gives Patriot greater capability and reliability while significantly reducing operations and sustainment cost.

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"Raytheon recognises how important this capability is for the warfighter and is investing its own resources to bring Patriot’s GaN-based AESA radar to the point where it can enter engineering and manufacturing development with low risk."

"A GaN-based AESA radar benefits netted sensors, and gives Patriot greater capability."

The radar will work with an open-architecture common command-and-control node, which will be fully interoperable with Nato and the integrated air and missile defence battle command system. The system will also retain backwards compatibility with the current Patriot engagement control station.

The engineers are currently building a GaN-based AESA full size main panel radar array, with the aim to have the system fully operational in early 2016.

The main AESA array is a 9in-wide and 13in-tall bolt-on replacement antenna, which is oriented toward the primary threat.

Patriot’s new rear panel arrays, which are a quarter the size of the main array, enable the system to look behind and to the sides of the main array, allowing Patriot to engage threats in all directions.

Earlier this year, Raytheon built and integrated a GaN-based AESA Patriot rear-panel array, with the current Patriot radar using the recently upgraded, backend processing hardware and software, and tracked targets of opportunity to seamlessly create a 360° view.

Image: A Patriot surface-to-air missile system stationed at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. Photo: courtesy of Robert Barney, US Air Force.