Mounted on an experimental aircraft known as the Proteus, the Air Force’s Dismount Detection Radar pod underwent its first test flight above Mojave, Calif., recently.
“Not only were we able to test the system ahead of schedule, but within a couple of hours, we could see immediate results – in real time,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Cook, DDR integration and test team lead. “The radar performed just as we intended.”
However, one won’t find this system on any operational remotely piloted aircraft, or other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms for that matter. Instead, the Air Force intends to use the DDR as a model for an open systems architecture radar design.
Led by an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center program team based out of Hanscom, the goal is to demonstrate the ability of a third party developer to create software modes for an original equipment manufacturer radar.
“To have a third party contractor’s software run on another contractor’s product, that will be a big break through,” said Capt. Nicholas Castro, DDR deputy program manager.
According to program officials, the open systems architecture, or OSA, approach will allow for sustained component and software mode competition and affordable capability evolution across the radar’s life cycle. By embracing OSA, the service will enhance competition among other potential developers which will ultimately acquire improved and more affordable technologies.
Because the program will serve as a pathfinder, the program office will document business practices, requirement needs, technical and programmatic lessons learned and issues to mitigate risk on another program – the emerging Joint STARS Recapitalization effort.
Flight testing will continue this summer to verify the third party’s mode in the DDR pod and to gauge the performance characteristics of the radar.
In addition to the initial test results, the DDR team notes speed, cost savings and collaboration as indicators of success.
“Through a lot of hard work and combined effort, we were able to produce a new ground command and control station for the pod within three months,” Cook said. “Not only that, but the team accumulated a cost avoidance of $1.3 million, an estimated 25 percent below the contract proposal for the station.”
The Hanscom program office credited success of the development to the teamwork between the government, radar developer Raytheon and federally funded research centers MIT Lincoln Laboratory and MITRE.
“This represents a significant leap in radar capability, as well as OSA architecture and how we develop and acquire systems,” Castro said. “This technology will play a significant role in future development programs.”