The current radar systems at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) struggle to meet the advanced support requirements for current and emerging testing, that is where the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) sponsored Range Radar Replacement Program (RRRP) provides a way to satisfy YPG's future testing needs.
The Army program is scheduled to replace most of the outdated instrumentation radar systems at YPG, U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center, U.S. Army Redstone Test Center, and White Sands Test Center. "Out of the four ATEC Test Centers, YPG is scheduled to receive 23 highly advanced radar systems," explains Herb Kiser, Tracking Radar Subject Matter Expert for Yuma Test Center.
That means each and every radar on YPG will be phased out, to bring in highly mobile radars that provide increased accuracies, enhanced resolution and greater track distances to meet, or exceed all foreseeable facets of radar supported testing.
YPG's aging fleet of radars have supported the test mission admirably, but even with improvements and modernization through the years YPG still struggles to address obsolescence and limitations. The systems become less effective and more costly to operate and sustain through the years. The current fleet of radars at YPG range in age from the 1960's through the early 1990's, which may seem old to some but these systems have been well cared.
The MPS-25 is YPG's oldest radar, which was originally designed to support the U.S. Space Program in the 1960's. When the program ended, the radars were repurposed as instrumentation radars at different test centers around the world, with many still supporting the U.S. Space Program.
YPG utilizes 23 different radar systems to support the high operation tempo testing conducted. These system support in all climates from the humid tropics, dry heat of Yuma's desert to the frigid regions of the Cold Region Test Center.
The systems are broken down into three categories: long range, medium range and short range systems.
The workhorse for YPG is the medium range radar, this system is placed in close proximity to the test location and along the predicted flight trajectory, and even at the impact so flight characteristics (such as time, space and position Information and signature phenomenology) can be extracted from the data. All this test information is vital to the end user when fielding a safe, effective and reliable system.
The ATEC RRRP program has looked at the programs at YPG, reached out to the test offices to identify future testing and developed use cases (test scenarios) to develop requirements to choose the best system to support YPG's long term test mission.
"One of our requirements was high-mobility. These systems need to be able to support a shoot and scoot type mission mentality. Where you fire, fire, fire, then you're off to another test" says Kiser.
Mobility is vital because the large amount of range space (larger than the state of Road Island), limited radar resources and volume of testing administered at YPG. The new RRRP radars will provide that mobility along with additional capabilities for YPG's test community.
Currently, YPG has one radar, the FPS-16 which is part of the RRRP program but is a rebuild and not a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system. The FPS-16 radar is self-contained and can be operated remotely via a remote console. It also does not need an instrumentation shelter attached, it is equipped with infrared and visible cameras to allow for RF/optical tracking, security cameras and satisfies risk mitigate framework security requirements.
The first medium range COTS radar was delivered in early August and YPG is currently building the system to move into a Site Acceptance Testing phase before the radar is fielded. This is a long process where YPG tests the system accuracy, resolution, and other key capabilities to verify that the system meets or exceeds requirements identified at the start of the program.
A lot of planning and work has went into this program from the ground level all the way to ATEC to support the test community. Between the original requirements, vendor selection, development and fielding of the systems it has taken roughly five years to get to this point. All of YPG's new radars should be fielded in the next six years.
Work still to be completed is replacing the 1960's Radar Maintenance Facility. The Range has elevated this and is working diligently to have the facility in place to support these new systems.
All systems will be new Kiser says, that's a huge deal, "We are going to have a lot of capabilities that we didn't have in the past…we are going to have systems here that will support for the next 20, 30 years or even 40 years."
Kiser also adds, while YPG will have roughly 125-million dollars in assets with these new radars, "Our biggest asset is not our equipment, it is our trained experts. Without their expertise, their ability to adapt and desire to excel it would be just another piece of expensive hardware."