Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program

The Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) was originally intended to be a Joint STARS (JSTARS) radar upgrade. The program would provide dramatically improved radar performance, accuracy, and revisit rate. The program requires a new datalink, a next generation data link, the Multi-Platform Common Data Link (MP-CDL). MP-RTIP was restructured in 2000 to develop a common modular, scaleable radar, in three sizes:

  • Large - Wide Area Surveillance (WAS) Platform TBD in FY02 (e.g. MMA, E-8C)
  • Medium - NATO
  • Small - Global Hawk

The US Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $303 million prime contract in December 2000 for the first phase of the MP-RTIP. Northrop Grumman teamed with the Raytheon Company on MP-RTIP. The three-year contract called for design of a common modular, scalable radar system for future integration on advanced airborne manned and unmanned surveillance platforms for the United States and NATO. The next phase would include fabrication and testing of three MP-RTIP radars suitable for integration on airborne platforms, including the Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance system, a Wide Area Surveillance platform, and a NATO Transatlantic Advanced Radar [NATAR] platform. Additionally, the MP-RTIP program conducted an Analysis of Alternatives to determine whether to install the sensor on a B-707 or on a newer aircraft. Using this analysis, the Air Force decided a B-767-400ER best suited their needs for capability and growth, which subsequently became the E-10A Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A) program.

The team would develop the design of a common, modular, scaleable Active Electrically Scanned Array or AESA radar. The entire program would cost $2 billion and would fully develop the three radars and retrofit five JSTARS aircraft with the new radar capability.

Northrop Grumman/Raytheon's new MP-RTIP high-resolution synthetic-aperture ground surveillance radar was expected to make the transition from an upgraded E-8 JSTARS aircraft to the Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft in 2009 and, finally, to the new, manned wide-area surveillance (WAS) aircraft by 2010.

MP-RTIP would give the US Air Force a tremendous increase in its ability to detect, track and identify both stationary and moving ground vehicles. This modular technology would build on the demonstrated value and capability of the JSTARS system, and was readily adaptable to both manned and unmanned systems.

Northrop Grumman would apply its experience on programs such as the U.S. Air Force F-22, F-16 Block 60 and the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter to design an AESA radar with sub-arrays that could be assembled into antennas of different sizes.

The United States was offering MP-RTIP technology to NATO to meet the alliance's stated requirement for its own AGS system. NATAR would meet NATO's need for a multinational system that is strategic and tactical, as well as completely interoperable with other similar national systems.

While MP-RTIP resolution was classified, it has reportedly improved to about one foot, from more than 12-14 feet in the JSTARS radar. Resolution and range were a function of the radar's antenna size, and were improved by the new generation of electronically scanned transmit and receive modules. The Global Hawk's antenna would be 1.5 ft. high and 5 ft. long. For a larger manned platform, the size grows to 2 ft. high and 18 ft. long for export and 2 ft. and 24 ft. for the as undefined WAS aircraft.

The MP-RTIP sensor consists of three architectural elements. These elements are the antenna, the radio frequency electronics, and the signal processor. The architectural elements allow for common interface definitions across the various host platforms. The MP-RTIP software can function independent of the physical location of the hardware that it is controlling. The software architecture is also host platform independent to the maximum extent possible. A Radar Operating Services application was being co-developed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon to provide a common interface between the common mode software and the hardware components.

Raytheon's initial share of the advanced technology Modular Scalable Radar system contract was $106 million. Raytheon would leverage its expertise from other programs such as the US Air Force's F-15 and F-22 advanced array radars, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Joint Strike Fighter to design AESA sub-arrays for assembly into antennas of various sizes. The company would also develop back-end components for a multi-channel receiver/exciter sub-system. Software for the MP-RTIP radar would be based on algorithms developed by both companies, with Raytheon drawing on experience from the U-2 ASARS II and the Global Hawk Integrated Sensor Suite.

Two sectors of Northrop Grumman would play key roles in the MP-RTIP program. ISS would serve as prime system integrator for the program, which would be managed by ISS's Air Combat Systems business area in El Segundo, which was also responsible for systems engineering and Global Hawk platform integration. ISS's Airborne Ground Surveillance & Battle Management (AGS&BM) Systems facility in Melbourne, Florida, which had been developing the RTIP system capability for several years, would have responsibility for integration on a universal test bed (UTB) for airborne testing. The JSTARS T-3 aircraft was currently planned to be the UTB. AGS&BM Systems also was responsible for the NATAR integrated product team that would ensure RTIP meets NATO AGS requirements.

The USAF was planning to use T-3 as the test bed for MP-RTIP. This would impact availability of the T-3 for E-8C Block 30 upgrade testing. Unless another aircraft aws assigned to the JSTARS program, flight testing of the planned upgrades to the E-8C would be forced to use an operational aircraft. Although they had been used for testing in the past, those tests had not required extensive aircraft modifications. To test planned upgrades, substantial modifications would be required, which had the potential to impact real-world operations. If these Low Density/High Demand aircraft were already committed to operational taskings, then the upgrades would be delayed. Thus, there could potentially be a requirement for another a dedicated test aircraft.

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