The radar at the heart of US Army's Patriot missile system is getting a bit long in the tooth, so Lockheed Martin has announced the debut of its next-generation air and missile defense radar demonstrator. The 360⁰ capable Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar for Engagement and Surveillance (ARES) will be unveiled to the public at the 2017 Space & Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

In service since 1981, the Patriot surface to air missile system is so dependent on its radar that the missile's name stands for Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept On Target. In essence it could be called a radar system with a missile rather than a missile system with radar.

Though it saw service in the Gulf War and the Iraq War, evolving missile threats are starting to leave the Patriot's MPQ-65 radar behind, so Lockheed is working on how to adapt its AN/TP/Q-53 radar system for future variants. The goal is to produce a Lower Tier Air & Missile Defense Sensor that uses a fractional array and is cheaper, modular and scalable, with a 30-year life cycle to meet changing Army requirements.

The AESA technology has the first gallium nirtride (GaN) transmitter used in a ground-based radar as well as advanced signal processing techniques and 360⁰ sensor/fire control algorithm for threat detection.

"Our solution for the U.S. Army's new air and missile defense sensor is not a new-start program," says Mark Mekker, director of next generation radar systems at Lockheed Martin. "It's a combination of technology maturation over several years and includes capability leveraged from our current development programs and battlefield-proven radars. We rely heavily on our modern radar systems such as the Q-53 and the Long Range Discrimination Radar to rapidly bring low-risk, proven technology to the warfighter. We look forward to the opportunity to participate in this competition that will ultimately drive up performance and reduce costs for the US Army."

The Space & Missile Defense Symposium runs through August 10.

The video below shows the radar demonstrator in action.