03 September 2018
This month we have updated most of our UAV radar systems, as well as other UAV sensors including SIGINT systems. Next month we will update many more UAV systems, including EO/IR.
Although the AN/APY-8 Lynx was the best of the first generation of production-ready small SARs (Northrop Grumman’s TESAR was the only other major system, and that was removed from service on Predators without a replacement), Teal Group has long believed there has been a chance that Lynx production could have been cancelled or greatly reduced for the USAF Reaper procurement. But the first published Lynx/Reaper contract in a long time – the Air Force’s contract for 72 Block 20A Lynx upgrades in May 2015 – gave us new confidence that Lynx would continue to serve on Reaper. In February 2016, USAF FY17 budget documents indicated there were about 250 Lynx radars procured or planned for Reaper – basically one per Reaper.
In February 2018, the USAF also still planned to retrofit all Lynx radars to the current production configuration of the Lynx Block 20A SAR, to enhance fielded capability, significantly improve reliability and maintainability, provide the capability to locate and track dismounted targets, resolve Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS) issues with the fielded radars, address security concerns, and facilitate future growth of capabilities.
International sales have also ramped up considerably in the past few years, beginning with The Netherlands’ contract in February 2015 for Lynx on its new maritime-capable Reapers (a maritime-mode radar was a key requirement for the buy). In November 2015, General Atomics planned to begin deliveries of five Predator XPs to the United Arab Emirates in mid-2016, which were to be fitted with Lynx and a high-definition EO/IR system with an automatic identification system (AIS) for tracking ships. Since December 2015, there have been three more substantial orders for Reaper, likely all with Lynx, for France, Spain, and the United Kingdom (UK). We added back our speculative Undetermined line for future Lynx production.
And in 2018, the USAF committed in an even bigger way to continue upgrading Lynx indefinitely, with hundreds of millions of dollars now scheduled for the newest version of the Lynx Block 20A, as well as a new “DR” upgrade.
In February 2018 in the FY19 budget, the USAF began a major new project for a new Dismount Detection Radar (DR), with continuing RDT&E funding of $103.0 million in FY19 and $95.5 million in FY20, following just $1.0 million in FY18. Although not mentioned by name, Air Force sources report that most or all of this program funding will go toward upgrading the MQ-9 Reaper’s existing General Atomics Lynx radar. The DR project will design, develop, integrate, test, field, and sustain a Moving Target Indicator (MTI) capability for improved dismount and moving target detection, identification, tracking, and classification.
According to the Air Force, the Dismount Detection Radar project will design, develop, integrate, test, field, and sustain a Moving Target Indicator (MTI) capability for improved dismount and moving target detection, identification, tracking, and classification. This sensor will be employed on airborne platforms, such as the MQ-9 Reaper. Activities also include studies, analysis, and technology development, maturation, and demonstration to support current and future program planning and execution.
This program is in Budget Activity 7, Operational System Development because this budget activity includes development efforts to upgrade systems that have been fielded or have received approval for full rate production and anticipate production fielding in the current or subsequent fiscal year.
RDT&E efforts will fund design, develop, integrate, test, field, and sustain a persistent MTI capability in theater for employment on airborne platforms and various technical studies/analysis to support future advanced radar development.
In FY18, the USAF will initiate risk reduction on sensors for integration on airborne platforms to provide Moving Target Indication (MTI) capability, to include up to maturing architecture & design; developing subsystem prototypes; and improving manufacturing readiness.
In FY19, the USAF will award a contract to begin design, development, integration, and testing of an upgraded MTI capability on medium altitude airborne platforms. Funding in FY19 has increased due to ramp up from initial risk reduction activities in FY18 to contract award in FY19.
What this new DR program means for General Atomics is, they will now lead the UAV radar market – ahead of long-time leader Northrop Grumman. Northrop has dominated the UAV SAR market for the past decade, with the majority of Global Hawk MP-RTIP funding as well as the Grey Eagle Starlite and the Triton MFAS.
Now, with the Dismount Detection Radar program, General Atomics will lead the unclassified UAV SAR market every year from FY18-FY21 (keeping in mind that when including classified programs – see other reports in the MEB, as well as Teal Group’s new Military UAV forecast book – Northrop Grumman may still be the overall leader,