Modern missile defense sensors do not struggle to lock onto and intercept incoming missiles, rockets, or mortars. They do have trouble, however, tracking drones, as the unmanned air systems deviate from the typical trajectories their fast-moving counterparts follow. Thanks to a recent contract signing, a ground-based radar will soon be able to counter both threat types.
The recipient of a $27.8 million award from the Army, Lockheed Martin has been tasked with providing quick reaction capability to add counter-unmanned aerial system (UAS) to the AN/TPQ-53 radar system, also called the Q-53.
In a written statement, Rick Herdoes, Q-53 radar system program director, said “Thanks to open architecture and flexible designs, with simple software modifications and hardware additions Lockheed Martin can adjust the Q-53 radar system to meet multiple missions. That means Q-53 can provide surveillance and UAV detection in addition to its core counter-fire mission making it a true simultaneous multi-mission system.”
Prior to this development, the solid-state phased array radar system only functioned as a counter target acquisition system. Adding the anti-UAS capabilities and having both capacities operating simultaneously will significantly enhance the Army’s air surveillance capabilities.
The Q-53 was already well-regarded before this addition. The system deployed earlier this year as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. According to Col. John Rafferty, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon in July, the radar proved "exceptionally reliable” to his unit while they were deployed in Iraq.
It replaces the aging AN/TPQ-36 and AN/TPQ-37 medium-range radars the Army currently uses. The Q-53 mounts onto a five-ton truck, or prime mover, that increases battlefield mobility and adaptability. It only needs four soldiers to operate, too, while the older systems require six and twelve soldiers, respectively.
Lockheed first successfully demonstrated the radar’s ability to simultaneously identify and track unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and incorporate counter target acquisition at the recent U.S. Army Maneuver-Fires Integrated Experiment held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Work will be performed in Syracuse, New York, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 2018. $4 million in Army funds were obligated at the time of the award. The contracting activity is the Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
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