The U.S. Government operates seven distinct radar networks, providing weather and aircraft surveillance for public weather services, air traffic control, and homeland defense. In this paper, we describe a next-generation multimission phased-array radar (MPAR) concept that could provide enhanced weather and aircraft surveillance services with potentially lower life cycle costs than multiple single-function radar networks. We describe current U.S. national weather and aircraft surveillance radar networks and show that by reducing overlapping airspace coverage, MPAR could reduce the total number of radars required by approximately one-third. A key finding is that weather surveillance requirements dictate the core parameters of a multimission radar—airspace coverage, aperture size, radiated power, and angular resolution. Aircraft surveillance capability can be added to a phased array weather radar at low incremental cost because the agile, electronically steered beam would allow the radar to achieve the much more rapid scan update rates needed for aircraft volume search missions, and additionally to support track modes for individual aircraft targets. We describe an MPAR system design that includes multiple transmit-receive channels and a highly digitized active phased array to generate independently steered beam clusters for weather, aircraft volume search, and aircraft track modes. For each of these modes, we discuss surveillance capability improvements that would be realized relative to today's radars. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has initiated the development of an MPAR “preprototype” that will demonstrate critical subsystem technologies and multimission operational capabilities. Initial subsystem designs have provided a solid basis for estimating MPAR costs for comparison with existing, mechanically scanned operational surveillance radars.
Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lexington, Massachusetts
Federal Aviation Administration, Atlantic City, New Jersey