84th RADES optimizing the nation’s LRR systems for air surveillance and national defense

  • Published
  • By Deb Henley, 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
  • 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron

The 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, headquartered at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, evaluated the Air Route Surveillance Radar system version four, or ARSR-4, on a mountain top in Paso Robles, California, Aug. 23 - Sept. 4.

This one-of-a-kind unit evaluates and optimizes the joint surveillance system, or JSS, long-range radars, or LRR, all over the continental United States, Alaska, and Northern Canada. 

“One hundred forty nine of these systems are used for air surveillance and defense of the U.S., along with being jointly used by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] for air safety and route control for commercial air traffic,” said Leonard Stephens, 84th RADES radar evaluation flight chief. “This network of sensors is made up of the CARSR [Common Air Route Surveillance Radar] in the interior of the country and the ARSR-4 around the perimeter of the country.”

The ARSR-4’s outward looking mission became even more important after Sept. 11, 2001, to ensure homeland security from anyone attempting to enter U.S. airspace.

“After 9/11 even more emphasis was placed on radar performance and optimization. It became evident how important the national radar grid was and since then, U.S. leadership has ensured proper maintenance, sustainment, and evaluation of our long range radars was adequately funded and available,” according to Lt. Col. Jesse Scott, 84th RADES commander.

Realigning and updating the ARSR-4 and CARSR systems provide an uninterrupted radar grid covering 200 miles offshore and blanketing the entire interior of the U.S.  Systems are evaluated with a disciplined schedule, whenever degradation or modifications are required, or as operational priorities change.

“Each evaluation effort is an arduous year-long process,” said Stephens.

The primary evaluation team began preparing 90 days prior by analyzing the data retrieved from recorded raw and performance data for the site for the past three years. 

“Our analysts can look how the live system is running and compare it to how it operated last week, last month, or any day for the past three years,” said Jerry Joseph, 84th RADES ARSR-4 team lead and technical director. “This allows valid expectations to be developed for this system’s configuration and current performance, thus equipping the on-site team with valuable information.”

The evaluation team comprised of an 84th RADES team and our FAA joint partners traveled to the Paso Robles LRR located in central California on a mountain top at 3,577-foot elevation.

“Our combined work with other federal agencies, such as the DHS [Department of Homeland Security] and the FAA, on these systems ensures uninterrupted air surveillance in support of the joint Homeland Defense mission,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Boytim, 84th RADES director of operations.  “Our work ensures the air defense sectors and NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] deliver airspace sovereignty throughout North America and Hawaii.”

The joint team traveled to the site two to three weeks before the evaluation to prepare the sensor. The team was on-site for about ten days, checking and replacing degraded or faulty components, so the system was fully operational before the evaluation/optimization.

The 84th RADES’s site evaluation/survey team traveled to the site to gather environmental impacts. The team uses state-of-the-art laser terrestrial scanner equipment, the only ones in Department of Defense, to accurately capture site configuration, antenna measurements, and 360-degree horizon screening for obstacles. 

“All of the environmental information collected is used to understand the capabilities of the sensor and the surrounding area for radar coverage calculations,” said Staff. Sgt. Austin Marshall, 84th RADES survey team lead. 

The joint FAA and 84th RADES baseline evaluation team thoroughly evaluated the ARSR-4 sensor, its data integration, and operational use during these two weeks.

“The radars we optimize are used for national defense, air traffic control, search and rescue, counter-drug surveillance, and other applications,” said Joseph. “It’s a great feeling knowing that my job plays such an important role in so many missions.”

Joseph continued, “There is a sense of pride amongst most, if not all, of the members of the squadron knowing we have such an important resolve in ensuring the nation’s long-range radar systems meet DOD, FAA, CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol], and NTSB [National Transportation Board] missions.”

During the Paso Robles visit, the team measured and investigated all system areas, then optimized the ARSR-4 radar for environment and mission.

“Our radar evaluators are the best in the world and are proud to work with our joint partners, the FAA, DHS, NORAD, NTSB, CBP, to evaluate and optimize the air defense grid of the United States to ensure national security,” said Scott.

The 84th RADES at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, reports to the 505th Test and Training Group, which is assigned to the 505th Command and Control Wing; both are headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Florida.