According to a recent report, the Army may have to “borrow” a TPY-2 X-band radar from a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery for use in future missile defense tests.
This seems like a good occasion to take another look at where the United States is in building and deploying these radars. In particular, a more detailed look at the current status of and potential future requirements for these radars indicates that substantially more than the currently planned twelve radars may be needed to meet requirements.
A TPY-2 radar and associated equpment at Kwajalein for the FTI-01 test (image source: http://www.mda.mil).
The TPY-2 radar is an air-transportable radar X-band radar (X-band refers to its operating frequency of about 10 GHz) that can be configured either as a forward-based radar (FBX) for detecting, tracking, and discriminating ballistic missile targets or as a fire control radar for a THAAD theater missile defense battery. A TPY-2 radar can be switched between the either configuration in no more than about eight hours. As a forward deployed radar, a TPY-2 can be used simultaneously both as part of a regional defense system and, in some cases, as an element of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse (GMD) national missile defense system.
Prior to 2012, plans called for a total of 14 TPY-2 radars, nine of which were intended for THAAD batteries. The FY 2013 MDA budget, released in February 2012, reduced the number of planned TPY-2s to eleven (corresponding to a decrease in the planned number of THAAD batteries from nine to six). In 2013, Congress provided funding for a twelfth TPY-2.
The U.S. Army has so far accepted delivery of eight TPY-2s. A TPY-2 takes about 30 months to build under normal circumstances. In March 2013, it was reported that TPY-2s numbers nine and ten were about halfway completed, and that construction of number eleven was just beginning. TPY-2 #12 is not yet formally under contract.
Thus, in approximate order of deployment, the current status of the existing and currently planned TPY-2 radars is:
(1) Recently used for testing. This is the oldest of the TPY-2s.
(2) FBX – Northern Japan
(3) FBX — Israel
(4) FBX — Turkey
(5) THAAD battery – now at Guam
(6) THAAD battery – now at Fort Bliss, TX
(7) FBX – Qatar
(8) THAAD battery #3 (in training) – Fort Bliss
(9) (~mid-2014) THAAD battery #4
(10) (~mid-2014) THAAD battery #5
(11) (~late-2015) THAAD battery #6
(12) (2016, not yet under construction) FBX #6
At present, then, all eight already-completed TPY-2 radars are committed, four as FBXs, three as THAAD radars, and one for use in testing. At the very least a TPY-2 operating as an FBX will be needed for the FTO-01 integrated system test planned for later in 2013 (another TPY-2 will be used as THAAD fire control radar during this test).
However, in February 2013 the U.S. announced that a second FBX would be deployed to Japan in the near future. This commitment was reiterated at the March 15, 2013 Department of Defense Press Conference announcing plans to deploy fourteen additional GBI national missile defense interceptors in silos in Alaska. Since it appears unlikely that the ninth TPY-2 will be available before mid-2014, once this second radar is deployed to Japan, it thus may become necessary for testing purpose to “borrow” one of the TPY-2s assigned to a THAAD battery.
In the somewhat longer term, it appears that more, and possibly many more, TPY-2s will be needed to meet DoD requirements. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Admiral James Syring recently stated that he was working to find funding for a seventh and possibly eighth THAAD battery (each of which would require a TPY-2). At least several additional TPY-2s also seem likely to be deployed as forward-based radars. In September 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that in addition to the second FBX to be deployed to Japan, the United States was evaluating potential sites, such as the Philippines, for a third FBX deployment to eastern Asia (see my post of September 27, 2012). Given the limitations of the Aegis Ashore radars planned for Romania (by 2015) and Poland (by 2018), additional TPY-2s will also likely be needed for deployment in Europe. The September 2012 National Academy of Science (NAS) Report stated that the MDA has proposed deploying a TPY-2 at both Aegis Ashore sites (although possibly this could be accomplished by deploying a THAAD battery to either or both sites).
In addition, four TPY-2s have been sold to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (two each) as part of THAAD batteries. Production of these radars may not yet begun, as the twelfth U.S. TPY-2 was funded by Congress earlier this year in part to prevent a temporary shutdown of the TPY-2 production line in FY 2014.
Finally, the September 2012 NAS Report proposed the deployment of five new X-band radars for precision tracking and discrimination. Each of these proposed radars would be built using two TPY-2 antennas stacked one on top of the other. Five such stacked TPY-2 radars would thus consume production resources equivalent to ten TPY-2 radars. A February 2013 MDA report stated that such a stacked TPY-2 radar would take 30 months to develop and produce “assuming that two existing radars were made available for testing and integration.” If two already existing radars were not made available (which seems unlikely given the short supply of such radars), at least 63 months would be required to build such a stacked TPY-2 radar, “based on current radar production times.” The report estimated that a stacked TPY-2 would cost “at least $500 million.” While building such a network of stacked TPY-2 radars would clearly have a huge impact on TPY-2 production, they do not currently appear to currently be MDA’s preferred option for adding new radar capabilities, at least based on the MDA’s February 2013 report’s conclusion (presented without any supporting analysis) that “alternative concepts would provide a more robust capability for less cost.”
Jen Judson, “Army Could Borrow THAAD AN/TPY-2 Radar for Future Missile Tests,” Inside Defense SITREP, July 22, 2013.
Hearing of the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, July 17, 2013.
 NAS Report, Page 273, Table E-42, note c.
 Missile Defense Agency, “Stacked AN/TPY-2 Array Concept Report to Congress,” February 2013.