In 1990, Saab introduced the Sea Giraffe Agile Multi-Beam (AMB) radar system, a medium-range, multi-role, surveillance radar for naval applications. The sensor technology was originally developed for the Swedish Navy, but Saab quickly proved that it could be adapted to meet the national security needs of numerous countries – including the United States.
The U.S. Navy became Sea Giraffe AMB's first U.S. customer in 2005. That year, General Dynamics selected Sea Giraffe AMB to provide air and surface surveillance for the U.S. Navy's (USN) Independence-class littoral combat ships (LCS).
To best serve its new U.S. customer, Saab decided to retain a U.S. entity for its work on the LCS program, thus allowing for system growth and modification to be done domestically. Saab began partnering with Sensis Corporation – an air defense and air traffic management systems provider in Syracuse, New York – to adapt the Sea Giraffe AMB to meet the USN's needs. This U.S. version of Sea Giraffe AMB became known as AN/SPS-77.
Following Saab's acquisition of Sensis in 2011, Saab's U.S. business – Saab Defense and Security USA LLC – created its Syracuse-based Sensor Systems Division. Today, Sensor Systems designs, develops, maintains and upgrades Saab's military radars for U.S. customers.
Flexible Design = Affordability
The SPS-77's flexible design is now being used to meet multiple USN needs. As part of Naval Air Systems Command's SPN-50 program, Saab is adapting the SPS-77 to meet air traffic control requirements for aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships. The company has also developed an SPS-77 derivative, the Multi-Mode Radar (MMR) for the U.S. Coast Guard's new Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC). That means the SPS-77 and its derivatives will be on five classes of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships.
As the SPS-77 has evolved, more and more of its components are being made in the United States. While the radars for the first two LCS ships were made entirely in Sweden, Saab Defense and Security USA has taken on increasing responsibility for the remaining LCS radars, SPN-50 radars and OPC radars. In fact, 63 percent of the upcoming OPC radar contract will be U.S. content.
Commonality = Value
By leveraging one radar system for five classes of ships, the USN has embraced commonality and added value across several of its programs. This commonality will lead to efficiencies for the U.S. government in terms of spare parts, training, upgrades and back-fits to existing installations.
This post is part of Saab USA's Pushing Boundaries blog series, where we explore a specific example of Saab's innovative thinking edge.