Lockheed Martin Tactical Reconnaissance Radar undergoes test flights aboard Predator B MQ-9 unmanned aerial system

WASHINGTON, 28 Oct. 2010. Lockheed Martin's Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar (TRACER) has taken flight aboard an MQ-9 unmanned aerial system. The event also marks the first time a penetrating radar has flown on a fixed wing unmanned aerial system. TRACER, a dual-band synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), detects vehicles, buildings, and other manmade objects that are buried, camouflaged, or concealed under foliage in real time. TRACER will continue flight testing and system validation in multiple environments.

Oct 28th, 2010

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

WASHINGTON, 28 Oct. 2010. Lockheed Martin's Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar (TRACER) has taken flight aboard an MQ-9 unmanned aerial system. The event also marks the first time a penetrating radar has flown on a fixed wing unmanned aerial system. TRACER, a dual-band synthetic-aperture radar (SAR), detects vehicles, buildings, and other manmade objects that are buried, camouflaged, or concealed under foliage in real time. TRACER will continue flight testing and system validation in multiple environments.

TRACER's design is predicated on Lockheed Martin's proven foliage penetration (FOPEN) technology, which incorporates dual-band synthetic aperture radar and provides high-resolution images to ground units in all-weather, day or night conditions, as well as operating in various collection modes. TRACER has already completed approximately 100 test flights on manned platforms.

"This demonstrates the maturity of penetrating SAR and that TRACER is clearly deployment ready," says Jim Quinn, vice president with Lockheed Martin's Information Systems & Global Solutions-Defense. "When deployed, this ‘hunting’ sensor can use the penetrating RADAR capability to provide ground commanders with intelligence not available from a traditional optical sensor."

The purpose of the test flights is to demonstrate the ability to operate the radar remotely utilizing a high-endurance platform. The TRACER configuration aboard the MQ-9 also uses an external unpressurized pod to house the RF portion of the system. The tests aboard a NASA-operated Predator B (Ikhana) unmanned aircraft is underway.

During flight testing, the system will collect high-resolution SAR imagery. The Ikhana performed as a surrogate for the Army's "Gray Eagle" (MQ-1) unmanned aerial system, which was not available because of current mission critical needs. The flight tests on the Ikhana focused on the radar's performance in the harsh environment of the unpressurized pod, and are intended to mitigate risk for eventual installation on the Army UAS.
TRACER will provide the Army with tactical penetrating radar that is deployable on both manned and unmanned platforms in a variety of environments. The dual band capability of TRACER increases target detection over a variety of terrain and concealment scenarios; its data link technology enables airborne processed results to be down-linked to ground stations immediately. The system includes a portable ground station to plan, collect, support missions, and exploit imagery.

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