WASHINGTON — The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has issued a request for information on a new long-range discrimination radar (LRDR) to identify threats from the Pacific region, according to a March 14 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The radar is one of the pillars of the effort by the MDA’s director, U.S. Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, to “dramatically improve” the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, which serves as the primary U.S. territorial missile shield. The other pillars are a new missile warhead-busting kill vehicle and improved target discrimination capabilities.

According to the notice, the LRDR will “mitigate threat evolution, as well as improve discrimination capability in the Pacific architecture, increasing the defensive capacity of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense interceptor inventory.”

The MDA’s budget request for 2015 describes the radar as providing a “persistent 24/7 precision tracking and discrimination capability.”

MDA officials hope to have the radar operational in Alaska by 2020, the request said. In order to meet that deadline, the agency likely would need to issue a final request for proposals to develop and build the system within the next year, an industry source said. 

Syring said in a March 4 press briefing that the MDA’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 includes $79.5 million to begin development of the radar. He described it at the time as a “mid-course tracking radar that will provide persistent sensor coverage and improved discrimination capabilities against threats to the homeland from the Pacific theater.”

Syring also said the LRDR will give the MDA’s Sea-Based X-band radar, an important cuing tool for the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system, “more geographic deployment flexibility for contingency and test use.”

A final location for the radar has not been determined, the notice said, but respondents were to assume Clear Air Force Station in Alaska as a point of reference.

Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., a key supplier of missile defense radars, is among the companies that plan to respond to the request for information.  

“As the world leader in radar discrimination and with a proven track record as demonstrated by the success of multiple ballistic missile defense radar programs, Raytheon looks forward to responding to the LRDR [request for information] and helping the Missile Defense Agency solve an issue of vital importance to the defense of our homeland and our national security,” Mike Nachshen, a Raytheon spokesman said in March 18 email.

Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems is also interested in the request and is evaluating its response, said Yolanda Murphy, a company spokeswoman.

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Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...