After over fifty years of operation, the United States Air Force has de-activated its Space Fence space debris surveillance system.
Correctly referred to as the Air Force Space Surveillance System (AF3S), the decision to close down Space Fence has been controversial as it will be some time until a replacement system is operational. The new AF3S is tipped to commence work in circa 2017. This has led to concerns that military and civilian spacecraft operators may be bereft of information regarding possible threats to their satellites from orbiting space debris.
Both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are competing to construct the new Space Fence. This will use S-band radars to track up to 200,000 targets, including those as small as a tennis ball in size, at a range of up to 1,930 kilometres (1,042 nautical miles).
The value of the new Space Fence system contract is estimated at €3 billion ($4 billion). On 28th September 2012 the USAF revealed that the first radar will be constructed on KwajaleinIsland, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Radar imagery from the Space Fence will be relayed to the United States Strategic Command’s Joint Function Component Command for Space at Vandenburg Air Force Base, California.
On 26th August the United States Air Force (USAF) announced that it would imminently release a Request for Proposals (RfP) to cover the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase of the force’s Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) initiative.
The commencement of the EMD phase of the 3DLERR programme follows prototype demonstrations of competing radar designs as part of the 3DLERR Technology Development (TD) phase.
As ChainHomeHigh reported in October 2012, three companies, notably Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems Division, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were all awarded contracts to develop 3DLERR prototypes.
Northrop Grumman has said that it will base its design on technology developed for its AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR). The AN/TPS-80 is equipping the United States Marine Corps with a deployable air surveillance radar which uses Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin announced on 18th September 2012 that its functioning full-scale 3DLERR prototype; “addressed 100 percent of the 3DELRR requirements, including critical extended air surveillance reach for early warning for threats from aircraft and ballistic missiles.”
Raytheon revealed on 1st August 2013 that it had completed customer demonstrations of its 3DELRR offering. The company is proposing a C-band radar using Gallium Nitride components. The firm says that its prototype: “meets the customer’s requirements, has a high level of systems availability and … is extremely affordable to purchase, own and operate.”
The 3DELRR initiative will procure a new radar to replace the USAF’s legacy Westinghouse Defense and Electronics Division/Northrop Grumman AN/TPS-75 three-dimensional air surveillance radars. This S-band radar has a range of circa 444km (240nm).
The United Arab Emirates has ordered 17 GM-200 radars from Thales for €300 million ($396 million).
The S-band GM-200 is designed as a tactical radar to perform air surveillance at a published range of 250 kilometres (108 nautical miles). The three-dimensional GM-200 provides up to 70° elevation coverage which gives a ceiling of 80,000 feet (24,384 metres). By doubling the radar’s rotation speed to 40 revolutions-per-minute its engagement range can be sharpened to 100km (54nm).
It is thought that the GM-200 could provide low-altitude surveillance coverage for the country. Existing GM-200 user nations include Germany, France and Canada.
The US Army has placed an order worth $221.8 million (€168.6 million) for the supply of up to 73 AN/TPQ-49 weapons-locating radars with SRC.
So far, the firm has delivered in excess of 500 AN/TPQ-49s to the force. The contract for the 73 radars, announced on 19th July, follows an earlier contract awarded in September 2012 worth $250 million (€190 million) to provide the maintenance and upgrade of the radar in US Army service.
The L-band AN/TPQ-49 has a detection range in the region of ten kilometres (five nautical miles), and has a point of origin accuracy of 75 metres (246 feet) at five kilometres. The radar covers 360° in azimuth and 0-30° elevation. The entire AN/TPQ-49 systems weight is 68 kilograms (149 lbs).
This month’s ChainHomeHigh will launch a new ‘Systems Profile’ section providing each month a full description of a specific radar system including its design, specifications, variants and user countries …
The Fuerza Aérea de Chile (Chilean Air Force) has sent a Lockheed Martin C-130 turboprop freighter to collect AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel X-band short-range air defence radars which have been purchased via a Foreign Military Sale from the United States.
These radars have a range of 40-75 kilometres (22-40 nautical miles) depending on the variant, and a ceiling of up to 39,000 feet (12,000 metres). Two of the radars were loaded onto the aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California, for their journey to Latin America.