Airpower Above Water: Air Force Tests New Surveillance Capability

By on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE: The Air Force successfully completed the first Maritime Modes program risk reduction flight last week as the Service moves toward providing a new air-sea battle surveillance capability.

The test flight, which took place in the airspace above the Navy’s Point Mugu sea range in California, consisted of an 11-and-a-half-hour sortie on a test Global Hawk Block 40 remotely piloted aircraft.

Maritime Modes is comprised of two components: a Maritime Moving Target Indicator and a Maritime Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar, or MISAR, that function together to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information on vessels traveling on the water’s surface.

During the flight, the MISAR collected data on assets and moving targets on the water, ultimately testing more than 100 items of interest.

“We’re very pleased with the initial results of the test flight,” said Lt. Col. Michael Harm, the program’s materiel leader. “A good majority of the items met with success.”

Flight test data is being analyzed in order to determine initial performance, stability and necessary fixes before entering the development test and evaluation phase.

The system, which is being developed by a Life Cycle Management Center team out of Hanscom AFB, Mass., will integrate with other modes currently residing in the radar system called the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP. The MP-RTIP detects moving ground vehicles and can produce high quality synthetic aperture radar imagery.

Currently, RQ-4B Global Hawks are the only aircraft equipped with the MP-RTIP radar system.

“This capability will augment the MP-RTIP’s existing ground surveillance, and provide the warfighter with a complete ground, coastal and open seas picture,” said Frank Hertler, Maritime Modes program manager. “The system will be able to detect, track, classify and build a profile from where the vessel came from as well as have the ability to see much smaller marine vehicles.”

Maritime Modes is a NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program requirement that will eventually be integrated with the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk Block 40 baseline. The AGS program intends to procure five Global Hawks equipped with MP-RTIP, and the corresponding ground segment, providing the Alliance with both airborne ground and maritime surveillance capability.

“Maritime Modes will significantly increase the warfighter’s ability in observing moving and stationary targets of interest in open and littoral waters,” Harm said. “These targets can then be categorized and tracked, and their respective details distributed via appropriate channels.”

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