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Northrop Grumman to support vehicle- and man-hunting radar in Afghanistan

Posted by John Keller

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., 28 May 2013. Radar experts at the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems segment in Linthicum, Md., will support a radar system for manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) designed specially to detect and track moving land vehicles and even detect and follow people traveling on foot under terms contract action announced Friday.

Northrop Grumman received a $15.7 million contract modification from Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., for operational services in support of the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar System (VADER). The cumulative total face value of this contract to support the man-hunting radar is $140 million, Army officials say.

Friday's contract calls for Northrop Grumman to operate and maintain two VADER systems for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and one system in the U.S., through the rest of this year.

The has options to add a third VADER man-hunting radar system in Afghanistan to ensure 24-hour operations, and extend operating and maintenance of the UAV radar through the end of 2014. These particular VADER systems will be operated from manned fixed-wing aircraft that Northrop Grumman will supply.

Army officials first announced their intention to award this contract to Northrop sole-source last February. VADER is designed to track vehicles and foot traffic over a wide area from UAVs and manned aircraft, and provide Army ground commanders with real-time ground moving target indicator (GMTI) data and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery.

The system is designed especially for the General Atomics MQ-1C Grey Eagle UAV, but also can be installed on manned small aircraft such as the twin-engine Britten-Norman Islander, on which Northrop Grumman initially flight tested the VADER in 2008.

A Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) transmits VADER data to an exploitation ground station with the remote radar control, mission planning, and exploitation equipment.

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Northrop Grumman won the VADER development contract in 2006. The project has sponsorship from Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Office (JIEDDO), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA), as well as from the Army Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate.

VADER's exploitation suite includes the DARPA NetTrack tool for persistent reconnaissance, surveillance, tracking, and targeting of evasive vehicles and people moving on foot in cluttered environments.

The system operates in two modes: as a synthetic aperture radar for high-resolution still images, and as a real-time ground moving target indicator for detecting and tracking moving targets-particularly moving vehicles and humans on foot.

The overall idea of the VADER system is to detect teams planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to destroy or damage U.S. military vehicles and personnel. VADER also has been demonstrated to track animals and boats.

The VADER's ground moving target indicators detect the Doppler shift that moving objects produce in radar return signals, Northrop Grumman officials say. Doppler shift is a change in the frequency of the radar return caused by the motion of the target. Because there is no shift caused by stationary objects, the shift reveals moving objects.

VADER transmits processed signals from the aircraft to ground stations, where operators can view still, high-contrast, black-and-white synthetic aperture radar images, or moving targets displayed as dots on a map.

For more information contact Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems online at, or the Army Contracting Command at

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