Long-range missile defense radar ready to be “plugged in” to NORTHCOM in “months”
SMD 2022 – Northern Command is completing testing of the Long Range Discrimination Radar for missile defense and expects it to be operational within “months,” Brig. Gen. Joey Lestorti, chief of the command’s J3 operations directorate.
“We are literally months away from being able to integrate Long Range Discrimination Radar, LRDR, into the missile defense operational architecture. From the tests conducted so far, we are seeing positive results for what this radar can do for us, discriminating threats against the continental United States to make ground-based interceptor engagements more deadly,” he said. he told the Annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala. , today.
Lestorti said domain awareness is the “top priority” of NORTHCOM Commander General Glen VanHerck, and noted that LRDR would help make substantial progress.
The primary purpose of S-band radar is to distinguish between intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by opposing nations toward the United States and decoys or other harmless objects moving through space. In addition to protecting the country from legitimate attack, the ability to differentiate real threats from decoys helps preserve the Pentagon’s precious supply of interceptors.
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) deployed the LRDR to Clear Space Force Station in Clear, Alaska late last year, and once operational, the system will be handed over to the Space Force for operations. The $1.5 billion radar system, built by Lockheed Martin, has been delayed by COVID-19. MDA requested $75 million for LRDR in its 2023 budget request.
Lestorti explained that not only can the software-enhanced radar system play a vital role in missile defense, but because of its advanced capabilities, it can also support other missions, including helping Space Command keep an eye on the ever increasing number of satellites and dangerous. garbage in orbit. Indeed, SPACECOM Commander General Jim Dickinson told the SMD 2022 conference on Tuesday that the number of objects currently tracked by command that are larger than the size of a baseball has increased from 25,000 to 47,000 in August 2019.
“LRDR’s size and power allow for mission sharing,” Lestorti said. “Not only will it contribute daily to the ballistic homeland defense mission, but it will support our US SPACECOM partners in the space domain awareness mission.”
But beyond these two missions, how could radar help the military get a more complete picture of what’s going on above their heads? Especially if something is flying at hypersonic speeds? This is a question Lestorti is still pondering.
“If a sensor like the LRDR acquires a track that is not a ballistic missile or a satellite, where does that data go? Should the radar drop it, or could this data be passed to the architecture and increase awareness in the air domain? ” he said. “We need to explore the possibilities of future sensors contributing to expanded domain knowledge in hypersonic tracking. It is imperative that we incorporate, leverage and leverage every bit of radar data, regardless of source, and distribute it as needed to the joint force and selected partners.