Lockheed Martin has upgraded its AN/TPQ-53 counter-fire radar's software giving it the ability to identify and track unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and relay that data to a command and control node.
The Q-53's active electronically scanned array hardware architecture enables Lockheed Martin to exploit the radar's energy for different tasks, Rick Herodes, programme director at Lockheed Martin, told IHS Jane's on 28 June.
"That flexibility has given us the foundation to not only see those Counterfire Target Acquisition Radar (CTAR) targets but also see other things in the airspace," he said. "What we did here was on Lockheed Martin's investment. We looked forward and recognised the potential need for air surveillance [capability] in the Q-53 footprint."
The Q-53 received a software upgrade to enable it to track and identify UAS. Lockheed Martin then demonstrated the capability during the US Army's Maneuver Fires Integration Exercise (MFIX) 2016, held in May at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
During the demonstration at Fort Sill, the radar identified and tracked several UAS and provided data to a Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control (FAAD C2). Simultaneously, the Q-53 provided targeting data on rockets, artillery, and mortars, further demonstrating a multi-mission radar capability, according to Lockheed Martin.
Although Herodes could not discuss any specifics of the demonstration, he did note that now, both air surveillance and CTAR can be done simultaneously, in one tactical sensor.
Lockheed Martin is expected to receive a full rate production contract from the army, for 70 Q-53 systems, in September. The company was awarded its first Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) contract in fiscal year (FY) 2012. That award was followed by additional LRIPs in FY 2013 and FY 2014. Counting those systems plus the initial production systems the army obtained between 2008 and 2010, Lockheed Martin has contracts for more than 100 systems and has delivered more than 60.
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