Iraq Orders a Long-Range Radar
Aug 5/13: The US DSCA announces Iraq’s request for an Integrated Air Defense system worth up to $2.4 billion, and seems to confirm that the radars in question were AN/TPS-77s.
May 9/11: Lockheed Martin Corp., Lockheed Martin MS2 Tactical Systems in Eagan, MN receives $26 million firm-fixed-price/cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide a turn-key “Long Range Radar 2” site for the Iraqi Air Force, as a Foreign Military Sales contract. At this point, $13 million has been committed by the Electronic Systems Center/HSGK at Hanscom AFB, MA (FA8707-11-C-0007). See also: FedBizOpps. The question is, what radar are they referring to?
After some back-and-forth, Lockheed Martin consulted the USAF and replied that “We can’t provide any more details about this in theater project. Sorry.”
Having said that, the likely options fall within a specific family of Lockheed Martin radars.
One likely option is Lockheed Martin’s long-range AN/FPS-117. This L-Band, solid state, 3-D pencil beam radar is designed to operate unattended if necessary, and using the L-Band is said to help the radars work through inclement weather. How inhospitable? They’re used as part of the American-Canadian North Warning System of radars, stretching across Alaska, Canada’s far north, and Greenland. The FPS-117 also includes air traffic control functions that would be very useful to a country in Iraq’s position, and some are operated by the civilian FAA in the United States.
An even better option for Iraq might be the L-Band AN/TPS-77 radar, a transportable version of the FPS-117. Like its counterpart, it can be stationed at fixed sites within radomes. It can also be moved, using trucks or even a C-130 Hercules aircraft, if redeployment becomes necessary. The antenna array and electronics shelter are both standard ISO packages. When set up, it works at ranges out to 280 miles and at elevations up to 100,000 feet, providing 360 degree azimuth coverage for 24 hours a day, through weather and clutter, even with no on-site personnel. These characteristics would make it a very good option for a 4-site set.
This turned out to be Iraq’s choice.
The highest-end choice within this radar family would have had potential strategic uses within the region, and beyond. The most recent versions of Lockheed Martin’s AN/TPS-59 radar are classed as ballistic missile defense radars, and one is already operated by Iraq’s Gulf neighbor Bahrain. It supports enroute traffic control to a distance of 300 nautical miles, and its full 360 degree azimuth scan over a 740 km/ 400 nautical mile range. A single well positioned TPS-59 radar could nicely cover Iraq, and see into Iran.
The TPS-59v3 is designed to operate with Patriot or Hawk missile batteries, and even naval AEGIS systems. In August 1996, at White Sands Missile Range, the AN/TPS-59v3 system was teamed with older Hawk air defense missiles, and completed a test program in which it intercepted and destroyed a LANCE short range theater ballistic missile and 2 air breathing drones simultaneously in an operational test.