Col. Robert Kelley, US Army Ret., director of integrated air and missile defense business development and strategy at Raytheon, discusses improvements to the company’s Patriot air and missile defense system with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian. The interview was conducted at the Association of the United States Army’s 2019 Global Force Symposium and Exhibition in Huntsville, Ala., where our coverage was sponsored by L3 Technologies and Leonardo DRS.
Vago Muradian: Welcome to the Defense and Aerospace Report. I’m Vago Muradian here in Huntsville, Alabama for the Association of the United States Army’s annual Global Force Symposium, the number one winter gathering of U.S. Army leaders from around the world as well as the industry that supports the service, media, thought leaders, and more. Our coverage here is sponsored by L3 Technologies and Leonardo DRS, and we’re over here at Raytheon, home of the Patriot franchise, to talk to retired United States Army Colonel Bob Kelley who is the Director of Business Development and Strategy Director for Air and missile Defense. Bob, it’s a pleasure seeing you.
This is not a Patriot behind him, it’s a threat system. You guys have been investing considerable amounts of money over the decades to ensure that the Patriot system remains on that front edge. Still very popular with our allies. Sweden signing up to it, obviously Poland as well.
Talk to us a little bit about the sensor part of the weapon, as you guys continue to try to refine and ensure that the Patriot remains a front-end weapon system.
Bob Kelley: Certainly. Earlier this year the United States Army announced a competition for a new sensor, one that will replace the Patriot radar on the battlefield. That sensor is called the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor.
This competition is being run through a sense-off which will occur April, May, June timeframe at White Sands Missile Range, and we’re looking forward to, we’re 26 days away from heading out to White Sands right now to show the Army what we have in terms of those technologies.
Mr. Muradian:: And what do you think is going to give you guys the edge? It’s a very competitive field out there. A lot of companies are very hungry. Everything is about stealing somebody else’s cheese in this business, and you have a big piece of cheese.
Mr. Kelley: That’s true.
As you mentioned, we have spent a lot of time and a lot of investment in this mission area over the past several decades, specifically in the last five to six years we’ve invested over $300 million in the technologies that we’re going to bring forward here at the sense-off. The primary technology that we’re incorporating into our LTAMDS solution is gallium nitride. Raytheon has its own government-certified foundry, right at the factory in Andover, so we make high power, reliable, military grade GAN, and that’s what we’ll be using to go into the front end of this radar.
Mr. Muradian:: And what is the big advantage? I remember when the gallium arsenide revolution happened. I remember talking to none other than Taylor Lawrence about that many, many years ago who at the time I think was the chief scientist over at Northrop, and then obviously joined Raytheon where he continues to serve augustly today.
Talk to us a little bit about sort of the difference in technology and the capability. And more broadly, what’s the advantage, Bob, of your solution as opposed to everybody else’s?
Mr. Kelley: I think it is our experience with gallium nitride. But what you’re really getting out of that is the power efficiency. So one of the challenges you have with a radar, there’s a fixed amount of input power that comes from whatever your prime power source is. Being able to take that power and maximize the amount of RF energy that you’re putting out of the front end is really the trick to making a radar of this type. And our gallium nitride is incredibly power efficient.
Mr. Muradian:: What do you think are some of the other advantages that are going to differentiate you guys in this exercise?
Mr. Kelley: Well, we’ve been paying attention to this competition from the very beginning, working with the United States government over the past six to eight months, developing the concept plan, working on refining the requirements. We have a very good understanding of the threats they’re going to face in this mission area, and we’ve designed this sensor to greatly expand the battlespace over, compared to a Patriot radar of today.
Mr. Muradian:: And talk to us a little bit about the other investments you guys are making, both in the interceptor, the rocket, the overall system, because it is a fast-changing threat environment. Everybody’s focused on integrated air and missile defenses at this point, going from the very, very low end all the way up to the high. Folks looking at it from lasers to take out drones which constitute both a kinetic but also a reconnaissance threat all the way up to the highest end.
Mr. Kelley: We are focused, as you know, the Army named Air and Missile Defense one of its top six priorities. There is a Cross-Functional Team in Army Futures Command to support that. So we’ve been trying to work very closely with them to understand what their needs are going into the future. You mentioned a couple of them there. Certainly directed energy is an area that we’re heading down. The Army wants to look at getting the cost per kill of an enemy aerial threat down to something that’s more manageable than it is today, and directed energy is certainly a way to do that.
We’re also expanding into the National Defense Strategy last year, talked about really a shift on the services from focusing, to start focusing on the near peer peer type competitors, so really understanding those threats and understanding what kind of technology’s going to be needed to combat those threats in the future is where Raytheon’s focused.
Mr. Muradian:: From the standpoint of the budget, we talked a little bit to Tom Karako of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was not as enthusiastic about the budget. From the standpoint of somebody on the [BD] side of things, were you satisfied with some of the things you saw in the administration’s request when it came to missile defense investment, and particularly the Patriot line?
Mr. Kelley: Absolutely. I thought what we saw coming out of the budget was aligned with the seriousness that the Army has taken with regards to air and missile defense. We’re seeing high priority programs like LTAMDS funded very, very well going forward, to ensure that we can get that capability into soldiers’ hands at a much faster pace than we’d ever thought possible before.
Mr. Muradian:: And the Army is all about moving faster. Talk to us about what the schedule for that would be, when we’re going to be, you know, talk to us about the sense-off, how long that period’s going to be, and then what the schedule’s going to be to go to contract award and then to delivery of the first article? And IOC eventually.
Mr. Kelley: We head out to the range in 26 days. Raytheon’s the first team in the shoot to go forward. Each contractor will get a fixed amount of time with live targets. A combination of live targets and some digital target injections to show what capability you’re bringing to the table. And then our expectation is that by the end of FY19 there will be a down-select to one and we will get on with the manufacturing of production readiness units that, six of them in this first contract. All leading up to a test and evaluation plan that will lead to an initial operating capability in FY22.
Mr. Muradian:: Pretty aggressive schedule.
Let me ask you one last question. You’re a career air defender, spent a career in the United States Army. We’re looking now at Futures Command and the Cross-Functional Teams as you mentioned. What sort of a change is that, how does that change how you interface, for example, with the customer? Because it’s a very, very unique — you’ve got the PEO’s on one side now. You’ve got the requirements guys on the other. You still have the Headquarters Army folks. You have MDA folks who are involved in this. How does the creation of Futures Command change how you interface with the customer?
Mr. Kelley: I can speak specifically to this particular program with the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor. What we’ve really seen is the PEO’s and the Cross-Functional Teams really working together in a collaborative fashion with industry to try to make sure that we’re getting the requirements right for what soldiers need in the near future out in the force. I think it’s been very productive. I think the LTAMDS solution that we’re going to deliver is a better solution because of that collaboration that we’ve had with both the PEO’s and the CFT’s.
Mr. Muradian:: Retired United States Army Colonel Bob Kelley, an air defender who is now a Director for Air and Missile Defense Business Development and Strategy at Raytheon. Sir, thanks very much.
Mr. Kelley: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.