The next-generation multimission U.S. surveillance radar network
November 1, 2007
Current U.S. weather and aircraft surveillance radar networks vary in age from 10 to more than 40 years. Ongoing sustainment and upgrade programs can keep these operating in the near to mid-term, but the responsible agencies National Weather Service (NWS), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Homeland Security (DHS) recognize that large-scale replacement activities must begin during the next decade. The National Weather Radar Testbed (NWRT) in Norman, Oklahoma, is a multiagency project demonstrating operational weather measurements capability enhancements that could be realized using electronically steered phased-array radars as a replacement for the current Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D). FAA support for the NWRT and related efforts address air traffic control (ATC) and homeland defense surveillance missions that could be simultaneously accomplished using the agile-beam capability of a phased array weather radar network. In this paper, we discuss technology issues, operational considerations, and cost trades associated with the concept of replacing current national surveillance radars with a single network of multimission phased array radars (MPAR). We begin by describing the current U.S. national weather and aircraft surveillance radar networks and their technical parameters. The airspace coverage and surveillance capabilities of these existing radars provide a starting point for defining requirements for the next-generation airspace surveillance system. We next describe a conceptual MPAR high-level system design and our initial development and testing of critical subsystems. This work, in turn, has provided a solid basis for estimating MPAR costs for comparison with existing, mechanically scanned operational surveillance radars. To assess the numbers of MPARs that would need to be procured, we present a conceptual MPAR network configuration that duplicates airspace coverage provided by current operational radars. Finally, we discuss how the improved surveillance capabilities of MPAR could be utilized to more effectively meet the weather and aircraft surveillance needs of U.S. civil and military agencies.