Lockheed Martin [LMT] has demonstrated that its AN/TPQ-53 counterfire radar is capable of identifying, tracking and relaying the position of unmanned aerial systems, a capability that is at a premium over future battlefields likely swarming with enemy drone aircraft.
In the demonstration, the Q-53 radar showed it can be readily adapted to provide both air surveillance and counter fire target acquisition in one tactical sensor. The radar identified and tracked several unmanned aerial systems and provided data to Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control while simultaneously performing its original mission providing accurate targeting data on rockets, artillery and mortars.
The system is mounted on a five-ton truck that can be rapidly deployed, automatically leveled, and remotely operated with a laptop computer or from a climate-controlled command vehicle. The recent demonstration qualifies the Q-53 as a multi-mission radar. It initially was developed to identify and track incoming enemy indirect fire like rocket and mortar fire and missiles.
“The demonstration showed that the Q-53 radar can provide soldiers in combat real time awareness of air threats,” Rick Herodes, Lockheed Martin’s Q-53 program director, said in a prepared statement. “The inherent flexibility of the Q-53’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) hardware architecture allows us to constantly evolve the Q-53’s software to deal with emerging threats. This demonstration provided further verification that the Q-53 enables the warfighter to stay ahead of changing global threats.”
Having witnessed the Russian use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to aim artillery and rocket fire to devastating effect in Ukraine, the Army is scrambling to boost its ground-based counter-UAS capabilities.
The Q-53 solid-state phased array radar system detects, classifies, tracks and determines the location of enemy indirect fire in either 360- or 90-degree modes. The Army is after technologies like the Q-53 that can be plugged into common, open-architecture command-and-control systems to provide a multi-function, multi-layered air defense. The Q-53 would fit into the sensor grid that identifies and tracks incoming threats and relays that information to kinetic countermeasures like Patriot missile interceptors, high-power microwave emitters or other short-range air defenses.
Lockheed Martin is manufacturing multiple Q-53 radars per month. Since the company won the development contract for the Q-53 radar in 2007, it has won five additional contracts for a total of more than 100 radars. More than 60 have been delivered to the Army, which is expected to this year award a full-rate production contract, which will bring the program total to more than 170 radars.