Multimission Phased-Array Radar (MPAR)

The U.S. Government operates eight unique types of radars that provide weather and aircraft surveillance for public weather services, air traffic control, and homeland defense. Because each radar type is dedicated to a single mission, there is a significant amount of overlapping coverage between them. (See Figure 1 for the locations of the current radars.) By replacing all the networks with a single network of multifunction phased-array radars (MPARs), it is possible to reduce the total number of radars required by approximately one-third. This streamlining of the nation’s ground-based weather and aircraft surveillance system could potentially save the Government billions of dollars over the lifetime of the radars.

Conceptual illustration of an MPAR in action.

The advanced capabilities of the MPAR can also lead to enhanced products for weather and aircraft surveillance. The agile beam and adaptable control characteristics of an MPAR would allow faster scanning in selected sectors to provide better quality observations where they are most needed. Unwanted ground clutter could be better avoided through fine steering, sidelobe nulling, and through the absence of beam smearing due to antenna rotation. MPAR could serve as one means of backup for the FAA’s cooperative aircraft surveillance system of the future, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) system. It could also provide non-cooperative aircraft surveillance for DoD and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) homeland defense mission. Uncooperative aircraft could be tracked in three dimensions, unlike with the current primary aircraft surveillance radars that have no vertical resolution.

Lincoln Laboratory is actively engaged in developing the MPAR concept and technology for NextGen national air space surveillance. Ongoing activities include:

  • Technology development (Group 105): Pushing the envelope on cost reduction in critical subsystem technologies (Figure 2).
  • Systems analysis: Defining requirements, conducting trade-off studies for radar and network configurations, developing a concept of operations.
  • Benefits analysis: In particular, exposing MPAR benefits for FAA weather services using the National Weather Radar Testbed.
Figure 2. MPAR low cost demonstration panel. A 64-element phased array antenna panel (left) with dual-polarization capability and projected low cost (< $20k). Critical technological developments (right) for meeting performance and cost goals.
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