Navy to Equip Destroyers with Next-Gen Radar


The U.S. Navy plans to outfit destroyers with a next-generation radar that is far more powerful in detecting and locating potential threats than the system on ships today, service officials said.

The Air and Missile Defense Radar, or AMDR, now in development and slated for integration on ships by 2016, is part of a series of technological upgrades in what the Navy calls Flight III modernization increments for its fleet of DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers. 

In radar terminology, a 15-decibel increase with AMDR translates into roughly 35 times more power and sensitivity compared to the existing AN/SPY-1D radar, according to Capt. Mark Vandroff, program manager for DDG-51 acquisition. While it is being engineered to conduct a range of multi-mission radar functions, the AMDR will primarily function as an anti-air and anti-ballistic missile detection system, he said.

“It is a major leap forward in radar technology,” Vandroff said in an interview with

The Navy has 62 destroyers, with four more being built and up to 10 new DDGs on order.

AMDR consists of S-band and X-band radars and a radar suite controller. Together, the technologies are able to scan, track and search the horizon and surrounding area for threats by sending an electromagnetic signal into the atmosphere, then analyzing the return signal of what it hits. The information can provide dimensions of a missile or other incoming threat by identifying its size, shape, location and trajectory.

Similar to its predecessor, the Aegis AN/SPY-1D radar, the AMDR includes a phased-array radar, Navy officials said. The S-band radar is engineered for long-range detection, whereas the X-band radar performs the over-the-horizon search capability, according to the service. “AMDR is really optimized for the anti-air and ballistic missile defense regimes but it is capable in the anti-surface and counter-battery,” Vandroff said.

Much like today’s AN/SPY-1D radar, the AMDR will be able to scan the surface as well, assisting with the fire-control technology needed to identify where an incoming threat can be intercepted, he said.

The AMDR radar is performing very well in its current technology development phase. However, the Navy is immersed in a series of technological adjustments, known as engineering change proposals, needed for the DDG-51s to accommodate the new radar, Vandroff said.

“In order for the ship to accommodate the AMDR radar, I would need more power and more cooling,” he said.

In particular, the changes include upgrading the existing DDG 51’s 200-ton air conditioning plant to a 300-ton plant, Vandroff said. A ton of cooling is a standard unit of cooling indicating how much heat exchange is required to lower temperatures by one degree over a certain period of time, he said.

A 300-ton plant is undergoing qualification testing to ensure it’s ready for integration in a military and marine environment, Vandroff said. The testing designed to evaluate the equipment’s ability to survive a shock event, vibrations of being on a ship for years and electromagnetic interference from other rotating equipment, he said.

While Vandroff said he was confident in the development of the 300-ton AC plant, the current 200-ton AC plant has shown it can accept additional cooling capacity as well.

The engineering change will also boost the electrical capacity of the ship’s generator from three megawatts to four megawatts to fully support the power demands of the AMDR radar, he said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • BlackOwl18E

    Go Navy!

  • Big-Dean

    That’s the way you do it, take a proven platform, that can take a hit to the jaw and still fight, continually upgrade it, give it more capabilities as you go, and maintain them well, then you have an effective fighting force

    I just hope Harpoon is a part of the flight III modernization increaments

    • yap

      I imagine they’re planning on having LRASM in the VLS tubes.

  • hibeam

    Gotta love the Feds. Next Gen Radars on destroyers they can pull off. A camera on a pole near the border they can’t make work.

    • Big-Dean

      worse still, they say they build a fence but they didn’t build a fence and they can even tell us how much is built

    • SJE

      False equivalence. There are many in the USA who want a leaky border, but far fewer who want our ships sunk. There are also different technical issues: the border is thousands of miles long, and the number of border patrol employees is limited. A camera on a pole is useless unless you have the resources to monitor it and intercept people crossing the border.


        He was joking.

  • Blue

    What are the health concerns associated with such a powerful radar?

    • 78stonewobble

      I guess it’s the infront of thats the problem.

      I remember a story of a guy around here that accidentally put his hand infront of a radar. They were doing some testing and it was on.

      It was cooked from the inside like a microwave. Think he had to have it amputated.

      Nasty nasty thing to thinki about.

  • brownie

    Harpoon? Lockheed just fired the first LRASM. That’s the future here now.

    • blight_

      The “Sidewinder” shares a form factor but not much else from the first versions used by the ROC Air Force against the PLAAF to the AIM-9X we use today.

      Of course, there are undoubtedly form-factor limitations that make one go “to hell with it, let’s redesign from scratch”

      • Gaylord_Gaylordson

        Harpoon is just about out of margin for growth. LRASM is going to give that long range punch and is much more survivable.

        Your point is absolutely right though.

        • d. kellogg

          Not even.
          The Harpoon airframe has considerably sufficient room for growth.
          Case in pont again, that Sidewinder comparison: the -9X is not phemonenally larger than any -9B was.
          The AMRAAM, considered superior to Sparrow, actually does it in a body diameter an inch less (7 instead of 8).

          The Patriot PAC3 missile is smaller in diameter (actually almost comparable to an ESSM) than the original 16inch diameter, 21foot long Patriots used during Desert Storm, yet the PAC3 is far superior. THAAD’s actual missile is smaller than the original Patriot, too, and goes waaay farther, waaay higher.

          Newer generations of electronics, and newer generations of efficient smallform turbine engines, suggest there is ample room for evolution in the Harpoon. There just isn’t the drive to do so, not when Tomahawk variants can fly ashore hundreds of miles more with a much larger warhead, and hypersonics are considered the future anyway.

          But, compare similar-sized missiles to the Harpoon and see what they’re capable of. Harpoon only really goes the way of the dodo in USN ship service because the brass chose it as a surface warfare sacrifical lamb.
          And I wasn’t aware the air-launched SLAM-ER derivative was defunct.

    • wpnexp

      Actually, they conducted push thru tests with the LRASM to see how it survives breaking the seal of the VLS tube. But, live shots will soon follow I suppose.

  • bigfig7

    Or maybe we talk to the norwegians and ad their new ASM. Off the subject but it also might be a great addition to the LCS class ships.

    • blight_

      If you’re thinking of the Naval Strike Missile (; apparently it fits in a JSM’s internal bays, which is news to me.

      Putting this particular weapon on my to-look-up-in-more-detail list

      • d. kellogg

        Harpoon info:

        ~According to Kongsberg, this “multi-role NSM” is the only powered anti-ship missile that will fit inside the F-35’s internal bays. Lockheed Martin and Kongsberg have signed a joint-marketing agreement for this air-launched version of the NSM, as well as an agreement committing both parties to integrating the JSM on the F-35 platform~

        Hmm…maybe Navy brass “encouraged” to forgo Harpoon on the grounds that NSM fits the F-35?
        The plot thickens.

        My money is on Harpoon’s larger warhead, please.

        • d. kellogg

          Getting off-topic, but,
          the MLRS-derived, but now defunct, POLAR (Precision, Over-the-horizon, Land Attack Rocket), is all the surface attack substance the LCS needs.
          VLS format, and fitted with multi-band seekerhead (IIR/mm wave, backed up with GPS/INS), coupled to even the current 90kg warhead of the now-standard G-MLRS, make it more than sufficient for anything in the LCS’ detection envelope.

          Better yet, this trimode seeker:

          ..on this munition:
          (currently there is the ACCULAR guidance package available for the 160, making it in effect a smaller-scale G-MLRS).

        • SJE

          Get both, for different targets. Ultimately, I’d prefer two smaller warheads to one larger warhead as you (a) make it more likely to penetrate defense systems (b) its more complicated to work around two holes.

  • Tony C.

    What about Laser’s on these new destroyers as well?

    • blight_

      In due time. Extended range conventional munitions first.


      That is for the DDG-1000s. (Maybe)

  • greg

    They should convert the designation of the ddg-1000 to a cruise. I am disappointed that they didn’ t put this radar on the deg-1000 time will tell if this was the right decision.

    I just hope that these design changes are economical. It was just a couple of years ago that the navy said that the AMDR would not work on the flight III without a major redesign.

    Either way, glad they are moving forward with BMD.

    • blight_

      I think the Navy wants to entertain a dream of someday getting a CGX back, and redesignating DDG-21 to a CG-21 would stomp on those dreams.

      CGN, CGN, CGN…!

      (Or an Arsenal ship)

    • EJ257
    • Gaylord_Gaylordson

      It basically is a cruiser already.