ESC completes key flight milestone for advanced radar system

A Proteus aircraft flies over Southern California carrying the Global Hawk variant of the new Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program radar. An Electronic Systems Center organization, the 851st Electronic Systems Group, has recently reached a key flight milestone for MP-RTIP by completing Radar System Level Performance Verification on two modes. Program officials aim to turn the sensor over to Global Hawk Air Force 18, the service's Block 40 test bed.  (Courtesy photo)

A Proteus aircraft flies over Southern California carrying the Global Hawk variant of the new Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program radar. An Electronic Systems Center organization, the 851st Electronic Systems Group, has recently reached a key flight milestone for MP-RTIP by completing Radar System Level Performance Verification on two modes. Program officials aim to turn the sensor over to Global Hawk Air Force 18, the service's Block 40 test bed. (Courtesy photo)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Equipping warfighters with the technology to detect moving targets in combat gained momentum when the Electronic Systems Center, in concert with prime contractors and other organizations, recently completed a key flight milestone for the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program.

"At this point we're delivering on the promise of advanced radar capability for the Global Hawk with completion of GMTI and SAR modes," said Col. Jim Shaw, commander of the 851st Electronic Systems Group, which is leading the effort. "This is a capability that the warfighter needs in the overseas theater today."

Radar system level performance verification testing on the advanced electronically-scanned array radar system verified performance of the Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, and Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, modes. SAR imagery includes collection of high-resolution spot images, while GMTI focuses on moving ground targets. The testing was conducted on a Proteus test aircraft.

"The sensor performed very well on SAR, and clearly exceeded warfighter requirements in the GMTI modes," the colonel said.

The testing included 186 flights with 1,063 flight hours on Proteus. Of those, 64 flights and 376 flight hours were needed to complete the testing, referred to as RSLPV, after a focus on calibration issues in late August and early September 2008.

Program managers hope to incorporate the sensor onto the first production Block 40 Global Hawk.

The Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system with an integrated sensor suite that provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability worldwide. Its mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. The Global Hawk complements manned and space reconnaissance systems by providing near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence sensors.

The sensor brings with it the capability to detect targets - either in air, land or sea - and then establish a communications link. This allows the Air Force to conduct ground surveillance and track things like suspicious vehicles, troop movement and other potential threats.

"The war we're fighting in Iraq, and particularly Afghanistan, requires us to find the moving targets and activity in the combat theater," Colonel Shaw said.

The testing included examining software, controlling and operating the radars and ensuring the different modes were optimized to run on the developed hardware.

Flights were also completed with no mishaps and little down-time, according to the colonel.

Mode development is slated to continue, along with additional focus on issues detected during government testing. The sensor will also undergo structural modification and re-calibration, with plans to turn it over to Global Hawk Air Force 18 -- the service's Block 40 test bed.