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Hanscom branch provides radars to NATO, completes mission

  • Published
  • By K. Houston Waters
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A team here recently closed down their branch after providing NATO with an advanced radar capable of delivering high quality imagery for combat operations. 

Members of the Aerial Surveillance Radars Branch delivered the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP, radar to the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency in November 2019.

After supplying NATO with the MP-RTIP radars throughout 2019, the team spent 2020 providing sustainment support to NATO, repurposing spare parts to other branches in the division, and closing out all remaining contracts. With no additional contracts to support, division officials were able to shut down the branch in December 2020.

“After 20 plus years, we have successfully completed our mission,” said Lt. Col. Luis Oquendo Class, former chief, Aerial Surveillance Radars branch and current deputy chief, Complaints Resolution and Operations Division, Air Force Materiel Command. “We were created for the purpose of delivering this capability, and I am proud to say we have done that.”

In 1999, the Air Force began working on developing a radar capable of collecting synthetic-aperture radar images while tracking moving targets. SARs have the ability to create two- and three-dimensional reconstructions of objects and landscapes.  

The branch completed flight testing of the first production-ready unit of MP-RTIP in January 2011. In July of that year, the Air Force began testing the radar on the RQ-4 Global Hawk, with fielding of the first MP-RTIP radar beginning in 2014.

In 2012, the NATO AGS Management Agency began purchasing the AGS NATO RQ-4D, an aircraft based on the Global Hawk. In need of a capable SAR, the organization turned to the Hanscom team.

“When NATO purchased their similar aircraft, they wanted to include our MP-RTIP radar inside that system,” said Oquendo Class. “Throughout 2019 we provided them with several radar systems, so in a way we have become the eyes and ears for NATO.”

In addition to the SAR images, the MP-RTIP radar includes a number of additional modes that provide measurements of ground length and other critical data to the warfighter.

“The ability for the military to surveil battlespace is an important part of any operation,” said Col. Mike Harm, senior materiel leader, Theater Battle Control Division. “This capability is doing an amazing job for warfighters around the world, and this team really deserves a lot of credit for that. I just couldn’t be more proud of the people who have worked so passionately over the years to contribute to this program.”

Following the closure, all branch employees transitioned to new positions in the Digital Directorate, with most remaining in the Theater Battle Control Division.

MP-RTIP software development and sustainment efforts transitioned to the Global Hawk Program Office in September 2018.