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FIREFINDER Family of Target Acquisition Systems (FTAS)

Firefinder is a highly mobile, counterfire radar designed for automatic first round location of weapons firing projectile-type rounds. The system operates in a hostile mode by tracking enemy fire, then the weapon’s location coordinates are interfaced to a tactical fire control system that directs counterfire. Firefinder also tracks friendly weapons, providing impact prediction, registration, and fire adjustment information to the fire control center.

The radar detects in-flight projectiles; determines and communicates firing point locations of mortars, artillery, and rockets with a high degree of accuracy; and classifies the hostile fire weapon’s location. It provides early warning of incoming fire and allows for the direction of counterfire when providing sense and warn in the C-RAM construct.

FIREFINDER initially comprised of the AN/TPQ-36 and AN/TPQ-37 Mortar and Artillery Locating Radars. The AN/TPQ-36 H fielded to both the Army and Marine Corps. These radars are organic to separate infantry and armor brigades, to the Target Acquisition Battery (TAB) at Division Artillery (Div Arty), and/or Corps Target Acquisition Detachments. FIREFINDER radars are currently operational and are used in all military operations to include Operation Desert Shield/Storm and the Implementation Force (IFOR) in Bosnia.

AN/TPQ-36(V)8 Electronics Upgrade was a Materiel Change [MC] that improved the Operations Control Group (OCG), now called the Operations Central (OC), through the installation of state-of-the-art electronics including Common Hardware/Software (CHS) Lightweight Computer Unit Version 2 (LCU V2) equipment in the Lightweight Multipurpose Shelter (LMS). The upgrade was an open architecture design and allowed FIREFINDER to communicate on the digitized battlefield. The OC also incorporated an Environmental Control Unit (ECU) and a Gas Particulate Filter Unit (GPFU).

Major subsystems of the OC include an Operator Control Station (OCS), a Control/Display Terminal (CDT) and a radar processor. The OCS served as the man-machine interface and is a windows type display. Using the CDT, the operator was able to control system operations from a site up to 100 meters remote from the shelter. The radar processor performed all systems processing functions not assigned to the OCS. It was reprogramable and reconfigurable to maximize system performance under varying target and operating environment conditions. The new OCG enhanced the man-machine interfaces and electronics environment by providing 50 percent more interior space and improved environmental control. A full scale production contract was awarded in August 1996 after a successful MS III Decision in June 1996.

Antenna Transceiver Group (ATG) Mobility Improvement MC improved the mobility of the AN/TPQ-37(V) ATG in sand, mud, and soft earth by applying a tracked suspension system to the M-1048 trailer. This reduced ground contact pressure and drawbar pull force, and eliminated tire wear problems.

Enhanced FIREFINDER Block I MC upgraded mechanical deficiencies, incorporated improvements in the software, reduced the number of false locations, improved the reliability of the transmitter, increased the organic capability of C-130 transportability, and improved the survivability against ARMS. The software improvements were provided to Ft. Sill Software Engineering Directorate for incorporation and testing in the Version 11 update to the FIREFINDER system software. Two preproduction survivability suites developed during Enhanced FIREFINDER Block I were put into contingency storage.

The FIREFINDER P3I program improved performance of the AN/TPQ-37 by replacing the Antenna Transceiver Group (ATG). This is in response to the approved MNS for the Advanced FIREFINDER System and an approved ORD dated Sep 96. The new ATG will double the detection ranges of all targets, add a Tactical Ballistic Missile detection capability, increase the target throughput tenfold, increase mobility and transportability by C-130, and decrease the crew requirements from twelve (12) to nine (9). The program leveraged off the funded AN/TPQ-36(V)8 Electronics Upgrade program which provided a common man-machine interface.

“Enhanced Q-36”

The Army deployed into Iraq and Afghanistan and the legacy radars — Q-36 and Q-37 — which were 30 years old, were starting to have some problems in that environment with the dust, the dirt and the type of threat that faced. The threat was a 360-degree threat, and those were 90-degree radars. So the Army decided that it needed a more capable radar, a modern radar that could do both 90-degree and 360-degree search.

That identified need resulted in a 2006 competition for an “Enhanced Q-36” system that would be capable of both 90- and 360-degree searches, identification of both long- and short- range targets, and detection of mortar, rocket and cannon threats. Following a slightly extended proposal / award / protest / protest-over-turn process, in January 2007 Lockheed Martin was awarded the EQ-36 contract, which included the delivery of several engineering models as well as options for a possible 12 initial production systems and software upgrades.

The biggest challenge was not simply meeting the requirements; it was doing it in a very short period of time. While a normal radar development process may take five or six years, this prgram had 30 months to deliver the first two engineering models. In fact, the first two engineering models were delivered in July 2009, which was actually a little earlier than 30 months after the contract was awarded.

At the same time that these activities were under way, the Army released a 2007 operational needs statement, out of Iraq, calling for a 360-degree radar capability. They needed it fast to meet the operational threat. So in July 2008 — 18 months into this contract at that point — the Army exercised the option for the 12 initial production systems. They were supposed to be exercised in groups of six — six originally planned in January 2009 and six in January 2010 — but in July 2008, the Army awarded all 12, so they accelerated the program pretty dramatically.

The first engineering models were still being built at that point. Following the delivery of the first two engineering models in July 2009, a third engineering model was delivered in November 2009 and a fourth in January 2010.

While the production deliveries were taking place, April 2010 saw Army award of another contract for 17 additional initial production systems. Although the original Army approach envisioned EQ-36 as an upgrade to existing Q-36 Firefinder radars, the actual EQ-36 is a completely new hardware system with no reutilization of components.

From a very basic look at the system differences, the old Q-36 had a crew of six people and at least three vehicles. The old Q-37 had a crew of 12, and it had at least three or four vehicles, depending on how the section was organized. By comparison, the EQ-36 reduces the crew size to four and requires just two 5-ton trucks, with generators and the radar itself mounted on one of those trucks and the shelter on the other.

The EQ-36 team included: SRC [formerly Syracuse Research Corporation] and its subsidiary, SRCTec; Burtek; and Lockheed Martin divisions and facilities in Moorestown, N.J. (antenna); Akron, Ohio (rotating platform and many key antenna components); Clearwater, Fla. (circuit boards); and Orlando, Fla. (embedded training package). Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Syracuse served as the systems integrator.

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Page last modified: 22-11-2014 20:52:37 ZULU