The Americans are getting closer to making a decision on the final shape of their anti-missile system, officially referred to as the “lower level” (in practice, it is the short-range air defense system). Currently, the Patriot system serves that purpose. The modernization of such a system is one of the Pentagon’s priorities, however, its final configuration is yet unknown.
As noted by Inside The Army, in the draft budget for the 2017, the pool of funds for the expansion of the lower level’s air defense capabilities has, for the first time, been separated from the funds associated with the ongoing maintenance of the Patriot systems. Among others, a special fund in the amount of $35m has been proposed for the replacement of the passive antenna, PESA (Passive Electronic Scanned Array), which is currently being used in the radar, for an active antenna, AESA (Active Electronic Scanned Array), built using gallium nitride technology, and for its integration. According to the US ground forces, it will increase the system’s range of detecting threats. Another $26m is planned to be allocated for “bringing gallium nitride technology to maturity and reducing risk.”
According to analysts, this may suggest that American ground forces “are moving more in the direction of modernizing the Patriot system’s sensors.” However, Inside The Army’s information shows that an important role in the decision-making process regarding the anti-missile system will be played by the analysis of alternatives, which must be approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Barry Pike, project manager for missile and space defense, noted that the final documents, resulting from the analysis, may alter the plans for antiaircraft and antimissile systems.
In the analysis process, modernizing the Patriot radar, using another type of existing system (including the MEADS radar system) or building an entirely new system was taken into account. Earlier information suggests that, for example, building a rotational radar (omni-directional), based on gallium nitride technology, was taken into account. The process of analyzing alternatives in terms of modernizing the US Army’s air defense system also includes launchers – being considered, among others, are modified Patriot system components and MEADS mobile launchers.
According to the adopted budget law for the 2016 fiscal year, the Department of Defense may not spend funds earmarked for purchases associated with the development of capabilities of the Patriot radar, as well as the modernization of launcher electronics systems before the presentation of the (approved) AoA. At the same time, expenditures for the modernization of Patriots are to be consistent with the recommendations found in the Analysis of Alternatives.
As emphasized by Inside The Army, currently, according to unofficial information, representatives of the US ground forces are leaning towards a solution that will provide omnidirectional defense, although it has not been established whether this would be done through the modernization of a system already available on the market, or an entirely new system. The whole process will probably end with the invitation of several entities that would build a prototype in the spring of next year.
Inside The Army’s information suggests that the choice of radar for the US Army’s air defense system has not yet been made. Any decision taken in Poland faces the risk of incurring the costs of building a system different from that which will be built in the United States. Some experts say that the timing of the decision on the Wisla system should be in line with the decision on a system in the United States. At the same time, it could prove the desirable acceleration of the implementation of the short-range Narew system, which in the future should be fully integrated with the Wisla system, thus creating a comprehensive antiaircraft and antimissile system.