Northrop Grumman’s newest air-to-ground surveillance radar, known as Vanguard, is designed around a single small panel that makes the system modular, scalable, and repairable on the flight line.
The approach has enabled Northrop Grumman to have wide-band capability on a tile, Curtis Pearson, the company’s director of strategic captures for missions systems and lead for Vanguard radar, told Jane’s .
The first instantiation of Vanguard was around X- and Ku-band, wide area surveillance long-range capability in inclement weather, able to do short-range tracking of targets. Vanguard was designed using commercial components to keep the cost down and to prevent diminished manufacturing sources from being a problem.
The Vanguard radar comprises a series of one square-foot-sized modules that can be swapped in and out. Pearson noted the one square-foot-sized panel building blocks provide flexibility in how installation would be done on an aircraft or a pod.
Designing this as a modular system enables Northrop Grumman to build larger radar systems on a shared production line with the AN/APG-81 and APG-83, the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) system.
“We can use the same processes, the same production facilities, and the same equipment, to build these large systems as we do our smaller higher volume systems,” Pearson said. “That essentially allows us to build on hot production lines, reduces learning curves, reduces start-up times, and start-up cost, allows us to share test facilities, and be able to test faster and in smaller pieces rather than having to wait until the whole thing is built.” Additionally, he said the design makes Vanguard easy to repair.
“We have gotten to where instead of replacing an entire antenna we can replace panels and actually do that right on the flight line,” Pearson said. “We don’t have to pull the entire antenna out and take it back to the factory to repair it and recalibrate.”
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