Automation aids which increase the efficiency of the controller and enhance safety are being sought by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This paper describes the target detection algorithms developed by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory as part of the airport surface traffic automation (ASTA) and runway surface safety light system (RSLS) programs sponsored by the FAA that were demonstrated at Logan International Airport in Boston, Mass. from September 1992 through December 1993. A companion paper to this conference describes the ASTA and RSLS system demonstration. Another companion paper describes the tracking algorithms. Real-time, parallel processing implementations of these surveillance algorithms are written in C++ on a Silicon Graphics Inc. Unix multiprocessor. The heavy reliance on commercial hardware, standard operating systems, object oriented design, and high-level computer languages allows a rapid transition from a research environment to a production environment.