Business

December 5, 2012

Modernized Patriot: Smarter, faster, tougher


Deep inside the factory where Patriot defense systems are made, Ken Arruda stopped beside a rolling cart and pointed to a white card sprinkled with what looked like grains of sand.

They were computer chips for the Patriotís radar system ñ parts that since 2006 have shrunk to one-eighth their previous size.

ìNow theyíre as small as a speck of pepper,î said Arruda, operations director for Raytheonís air defense programs. ìThatís how far Patriot has come in the last few years.

And tiny chips are just the start. From the tip of its nose cone to the base of its radar, designers have invested more than $400 million into Patriot in the last four years as part of a massive program aimed at making the legendary air and missile defense system faster, smarter and tougher.

Miniature components have replaced racks of equipment. Touchscreens have replaced control panels. New machines in Raytheonís Andover, Mass. factory are making parts lighter, stronger and longer-lasting.

The U.S. government and other partners in the program have helped fund the modernization, but it was an order for new Patriot systems for the United Arab Emirates that gave designers the chance to reengineer Patriot from the ground up in late 2008.

The system had already gone through several upgrades since its debut in the first Gulf War. But designers now gave the Patriot missile a faster, more accurate guidance system known as Guidance-Enhanced Missile ñ Tactical, or GEM-T. They rewired circuits in the radar and command stations, shrinking and speeding up components.

The missileís mobile control room got a major makeover, with huge touch screens, faster computers and sleek black keyboards replacing banks of controls.

New way of building
Work crews ripped out whole sections of the factory and installed brand-new machinery to build the redesigned system.

In the brightly lit circuit card department, sleek ìchip shooterî machines, each capable of installing 30,000 components an hour, now hum away beneath a white banner emblazoned with a Patriot missile.

The machines make cleaner, more consistent connections, said Tom Thrower, the operations manager for the department. That results in faster and more reliable electronics for the Patriot.

In the radar, one assembly that took 435 circuit cards is now down to five, Thrower said. Sixteen power supplies were combined into one. Wiring that used to require 31 cables now takes 10.

In the factoryís cavernous assembly bay, manager Maria Bonnin opened the side doors of an olive-green Patriot radar to show a refrigerator-sized void where circuit cards used to go.

ìIt created all this added space, these slots, for added future capability,î Arruda said.

In a nearby corridor, white radomes made of a new ceramic material waited to be fitted over the sensors of new GEM-T missiles.

Elsewhere in the plant, new computer-controlled tools have taken over the high-volume, high-precision work of cutting beams to support the radarís antenna. The machines can make microscopic adjustments, even compensating for tiny variations in room temperature that could cause miniscule differences in each part.

ìIn the end it all improves the reliability of what weíre making,î said Steven Warshafsky, a manager in the metal fabrication department.
New advances have also made the Patriot easier to maintain, Warshafsky said. Antenna elements no longer have to be sent back to the factory for repair. They can be replaced right in the field.

Taking flight
The first new GEM-T missile streaked into the sky at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in August 2011, followed by a test firing of the first complete, new-production Patriot system in March 2012.

Engineers are now giving Patriot the ability to see further by connecting it to Raytheonís system of radar-carrying airships, the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS. In April, a Patriot missile used information from a JLENS to smash a target out of the sky at a test range in Utah.

With so much new technology under the hood, designers are confident the new Patriot can take on any threat in the world, said Glenn Walker, a business development manager for Raytheonís Integrated Air and Missile Defense.

ìPatriot was state-of-the-art in 1982 when it was delivered into the U.S. Army inventory, and Patriot is state-of-the-art in 2012 when it was delivered to the UAE inventory,î Walker said. ìHow we have prepared it for success in the future is really remarkable.î




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
U.S. Chamber of Commerce photograph

Boeing, Embraer to collaborate on ecoDemonstrator technology tests

U.S. Chamber of Commerce photograph Frederico Curado, president & CEO of Embraer, and Marc Allen, president of Boeing International, at the Brazil-U.S. Business Summit in Washington, D.C. The event occurred during an offici...
 
 
LM-Legion

Lockheed Martin’s Legion Pod™ takes to skies

Lockheed Martin photograph by Randy Crites Lockheed Martin’s Legion Pod recently completed its first flight test, successfully tracking multiple airborne targets while flying on an F-16 in Fort Worth, Texas. Legion Pod was in...
 
 

Raytheon wins U.S. Army contract award

Will provide R&D for ground vehicles, ground robotics The U.S. Army Contracting Command ñ Warren recently awarded Raytheon the TACOM Strategic Service Solutions indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract. The five-year multiple-award vehicle has a ceiling value of $634 million. The agreement covers future work on sensors, fire control systems, active protection systems, and robotics...
 

 

Lockheed Martin’s EW pod delivers proven ability to protect, control electromagnetic spectrum

Lockheed Martin is testing an electronic warfare pod in the company’s advanced anechoic chamber. The pod is designed to fit a variety of platforms, and is a self-contained electronic warfare package, encompassing an entire suite of capabilities in one unit.  Electronic warfare is the art and science of controlling the electromagnetic spectrum—from jamming enemy communications...
 
 
Northrop Grumman photograph

Northrop, Navy successfully conduct E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aerial refueling CDR

Northrop Grumman photograph An E-2C test aircraft assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 conducts an aerial refueling dry-plug engagement with an F/A-18. Northrop Grumman along with the U.S. Navy have successfully...
 
 

Northrop, Navy celebrate legacy of EA-6B Prowler

Northrop Grumman photograph by Edgar Mills The U.S. Navy’s last operational EA-6B Prowler, designed and built by Northrop Grumman, lifts off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. in a ceremonial fly-away June 27 from its long time operational base. The Navy is retiring the Prowler after nearly 45 years of service.   The U.S....
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>