Navy Builds New Radar for Carriers, Amphibs

The Navy plans to put a new ship radar system on both next-generation carriers and amphibious assault ships as a way to reduce costs and increase commonality, service officials said.

The new radar, called the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, or EASR, is slated to go on the Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier, the USS Kennedy, as well as the services’ third big-deck America-class amphib, called LHA 8.

Engineering the new EASR for the USS Kennedy, or CVN 79, will save the Navy $180 million in the cost of the ship, said Rear Adm. Thomas Moore, Program Executive Officer, Carriers.

“The radar that we choose is going to be an off-the-shelf radar that we tailor to the ship. There are a number of radars out there that appear to meet the specs. This will not be a developmental issue. LHA 8 will be the first ship to get AESR,” Moore said.

In total, the USS Kennedy is slated to cost $11.4 billion – more than one billion less than the cost of the first Ford-class carrier, the USS Ford, which has received much criticism for cost overruns.

The Office of Naval Research is currently working on a $6 million EASR study and development contract with Raytheon, however the Navy plans to conduct a competition for the new radar in coming months. A formal request to vendors for EASR designs is currently slated for May of this year, Moore said.

The decision for the new radar emerged out of a special radar commonality and affordability study conducted by the Navy which looked at finding technologies that would work across multiple platforms.

Also, the decision to put the new EASR radar was in large measure motivated by a desire to lower the cost of the Dual Band Radar currently configured on the first Ford-class carrier, the USS Ford, CVN 78.

“The benefits of commonality across multiple ship types as well as forward and backfit were considered in laying out the strategy for the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar.  This did not, however, directly result in CVN 79 having a different radar than CVN 78. Acquisition cost of remaining CVN 79 radar components was also a driving factor for the change,” said Dale Eng, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command.

The highly capable Dual Band Radar, which Moore said may be more radar power than what’s needed on a carrier, was originally slated to go on 27 new, high-tech DDG 1000 destroyers. However, when the Navy changed plans and only decided to procure three DDG 1000s, the price of Dual Band Radar went up, Moore explained.

Moore also added that new EASR radar could be back fitted onto Nimitz-class carriers, which will be around through 2057.

“We are looking for a backfit solution for carriers and amphibs,” he added.

While requirements are still being refined for the new radar system, it will be engineered as a 3D phased array radar designed to be adaptive and rotate, Moore said.  EASR will, among other things, be configured to perform the functions of existing ship radars such as the AN/SPS-49 and the three-dimensional AN/SPS-48 anti-aircraft sensor currently on Navy destroyers and cruisers.

The Navy’s new dock landing ship replacement amphib, called the LXR, will also be outfitted with the EASR as well, Moore said.

Carriers do not need radar as sensitive and powerful as Dual Band Radar, in part because carries will always have a destroyer or a cruiser nearby to help protect it by providing a defensive radar envelope. At the same time, the EASR will not have some of the technical capabilities of the Dual Band Radar such as fire control radar capability, Moore said.

The EASR radar is slated to go onto the USS Kennedy in the 2023 and 2024 time frame due the Navy’s new dual-phased plan to have the ship ready for service by 2025. The idea is to deliver the ship for an initial phase without some of the on-board technologies and combat systems in order to ensure that that latest technologies get built into the platform, Moore explained.

The two-fold plan is in part inspired by the fact that the USS Kennedy is slated to replace the USS Nimitz which will not retire until 2025 – thereby allowing some additional time to maximize the effectiveness of efforts to develop the Kennedy, Moore explained.

“We can have Newport News build the ship and deliver the full propulsion and demonstrate the flight deck. Then we can come back into a second phase and install the combat systems and C4ISR gear. If I had to deliver the complete ship in 2022, I would not have the opportunity to put the new radar in,” Moore said. “If we wait until phase two in the 2023 or 2024 time frame –we will get later generations of the technology. We will not have to change it our as early on the ship’s life. “

This strategy, while criticized by some lawmakers for delaying the delivery of the ship, is also intended to lower the costs of acquiring technologies for the ship by increasing competition.