“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guarantee of peace." ~ President Theodore Roosevelt.

In a time of converging global economies, 80 percent of the world's trade travels by water.  Here in the United States approximately 73 percent of imports and 27 percent of our exports are waterborne.  The world’s oceans serve as critical highways for all maritime nations.  Only a strong, technologically advanced Navy will protect our lines of communication, defend our maritime interests, and maintain stability throughout the world.

Since the end of the Cold War, the bi-polar standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union has quickly dissolved into a multi-polar world where each nation pursues its own interests – usually to the detriment of global stability.  

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With the reduction of U.S. Navy ships from 529 in 1991 to our present level of only 285 ships the U.S. Navy must do more with less to counter these challenges.  Challenges that not only include asymmetrical threats and acts of terrorism emanating from the Middle East but, more importantly, the belligerency and rise of traditional powers such as Russia and China.  

However, unlike the United States that implemented a reduction of military forces, our adversaries have taken a different message from the end of the Cold war and have instituted a renewed military buildup.  

China has increased her military spending 10.7 percent over last year, giving China the second-highest military budget after the United States. That increase in spending has made the Chinese navy the biggest in Asia, with 79 surface ships, 55 submarines and a commissioned aircraft carrier. 

And with Russia’s takeover of the Crimea peninsula Russia plans to complete a second naval base near the city of Novorossiysk by 2016.  And by 2020 augment their Black Sea fleet with more than 80 new warships bringing their total number to 206 in the Black sea alone.  

With the recent antagonism of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and China’s implementation of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone nations, big and small, will continue to test the resolve of the U.S. and our allies. 

Because of these growing and evolving threats the Department of Defense has instituted the strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific, placing an increased emphasis on U.S. Naval and Air Forces in the region. With this shift and the increased material and technological capabilities of our adversaries, the U.S. Navy’s needs are also shifting. 

With growing and evolving threats the Navy is committed to upgrading their radar capabilities, with the Air and Missile Defense S-Band Radar (AMDR) that provides greater coverage and sensitivity on our Arleigh Burke destroyers and Aegis cruisers. 

As the Navy transitions the fleet AMDR will provide the Navy an increased technological advantage that will allow us to stay one step ahead of our adversaries. The AMDR will enhance the Navy’s multi-mission capabilities. With its adaptive digital beam and radar processing functions, it can be reprogrammed to adapt to new mission criteria or emerging threats.  It will simultaneously support the long-range, exoatmospheric detection and tracking of ballistic missiles, while also providing self-defense capabilities for battle groups against air and surface attacks. 

While the S-Band radar provides volume search and missile communications, the X-Band radar will provide horizon search, precision tracking, missile communication and terminal illumination of targets, making AMDR thirty times more sensitive than the AN/SPY-1D radar currently employed on our Arleigh Burke class destroyers. The AMDR can also be adjusted to suit any size aperture or mission requirement.  Using individual radar modular assembles or “building blocks” stacked together, the AMDR can fit the required array size of any ship, thus becoming the Navy’s first truly scalable radar. 

With our focus on and rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, along with the events of sequestration still fresh in the minds of policy makers and Pentagon planners, we as a nation must ensure that every penny allocated by Congress be spent diligently and wisely.  These realities are what make the U.S. Navy’s new Air and Missile Defense Radar indispensable.  As a maritime nation the U.S. must guarantee that we have the technological edge when confronting adversaries around the globe.  With this new radar to counter these growing threats, the AMDR is the right tool at the right time for the U.S. Navy.   

Feldkamp is a retired Naval Electronic Counter-Measure Officer (ECMO).  He flew combat missions in Desert Storm off the U.S.S. Midway and served as the international outreach officer for the National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office and the Office of Global Maritime Situational Awareness in Washington, D.C. He currently is an adjunct professor teaching the theories and politics of terrorism at George Mason University.