U.S. Army set for Operational Testing of Ground, Foliage Penetrating Airborne Radar

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Lockheed Martin is discussing potential operational deployment of airborne, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) foliage penetrating radar next year. The UHF-band Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar (Tracer) has completed 15 months testing on an Army C-12 aircraft and is currently undergoing flight testing on a NASA-operated Predator B unmanned aircraft. That can spot targets under camouflage or buried underground objects.

The initial operational application of TRACER would be on a manned aircraft, designed to perform automated, wide area surveillance detecting changes in the scene being inspected. By the end of 2010 the company is expected to deliver the last of four radars ordered under the U.S. Army contract. One of the four systems will be deployed for operational evaluation. Pending positive results of the evaluation, Lockheed Martin could enter low-rate production under a new contract.

The company also considers introducing certain enhancements to TRACER, including ground moving-target indication (GMTI) and a “circle-SAR” feature, enabling the radar to sharpen the image processed from a target through frequently repeating scans. Tracer was developed as a dual-band system, enabling effective ground and foliage penetration using UHF and VHF frequencies. The compact UHF antenna has been integrated on the unmanned aircraft while the VHF antenna began flying on a surrogate manned platform in October 2010. Packing the antenna into more compact module is already underway, matching medium size platforms such as the C-12, Predator and Gray Eagle UAVs.