USA — High-tech radar maps defeat camouflage

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — To the untrained eye, U.S. Army radar-gen­er­at­ed maps may look like a bird’s‑eye view of a city at night; how­ev­er, these images con­tain use­ful intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance infor­ma­tion that reveal con­cealed objects by pen­e­trat­ing foliage, build­ings and some ter­rain while over­com­ing cam­ou­flage, con­ceal­ment and decep­tion tech­niques.

Par­tic­i­pants take a first-hand look at posters of TRACER gen­er­at­ed images dis­played at Fort Belvoir, Va., May 19.
Pho­to cred­it U.S. Army Pho­to
Click to enlarge

These maps, which high­light bound­aries not vis­i­ble to tra­di­tion­al elec­tron­ic sen­sors, are made pos­si­ble by the U.S. Army’s Tac­ti­cal Recon­nais­sance and Counter Con­ceal­ment Enabled Radar, or TRACER. Devel­oped by the Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Command’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions and elec­tron­ics cen­ter, TRACER is a mid-range, long wave­length syn­thet­ic aper­ture radar sys­tem that pro­vides all-weath­er per­sis­tent surveillance. 

Due to its decreased size, weight and pow­er con­sump­tion com­pared to the pre­de­ces­sor Foliage Pen­e­tra­tion Radar pro­gram, or FOPEN, TRACER oper­ates on manned and unmanned plat­forms and pro­duces images on-board in less than five minutes. 

To intro­duce TRACER’s capa­bil­i­ties to Army and Depart­ment of Defense tech­nol­o­gy influ­encers and to empha­size the technology’s abil­i­ty to pen­e­trate more than just foliage, the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions-Elec­tron­ics Research, Devel­op­ment and Engi­neer­ing Cen­ter host­ed a VIP pre­sen­ta­tion May 19, at its Night Vision and Elec­tron­ic Sen­sors Direc­torate facil­i­ties at Fort Belvoir, Va. 

The pre­dict­ed chal­lenge of pre­sent­ing TRACER to the Army at large is demys­ti­fy­ing the notion that TRACER and FOPEN are only for foliage penetration. 

“In some ways, we are a vic­tim of our own suc­cess since FOPEN stands for foliage pen­e­tra­tion but does more than just foliage pen­e­tra­tion; it can reveal var­i­ous areas of inter­est that may be cam­ou­flaged or obstruct­ed and has applic­a­bil­i­ty in mul­ti­ple areas of oper­a­tion,” said Dan Kud­er­na, chief, CERDEC Intel­li­gence and Infor­ma­tion War­fare Direc­torate Radar and Com­bat Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Division. 

The TRACER pro­gram began in April 2007, but FOPEN has been in the field since the late-90s and is the result of a joint Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, U.S. Air Force and Army Advanced Tech­nol­o­gy Devel­op­ment pro­gram. FOPEN was orig­i­nal­ly used to demon­strate low fre­quen­cy radar’s abil­i­ty to pen­e­trate, but its proven suc­cess allowed it to be used for a vari­ety of mis­sions, said Kuderna. 

As a fol­low-on to FOPEN, the TRACER sys­tem can be tai­lored to spe­cif­ic mis­sions by pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of SAR images includ­ing strip maps and spot­light and cir­cle images. 

Par­tic­i­pants had a first-hand look at the TRACER pay­load inte­grat­ed on a C‑12 plat­form and posters of TRAC­ER-gen­er­at­ed images. 

“Over­all, the pre­sen­ta­tion went very well,” Kud­er­na said. “VIPs got a pos­i­tive impres­sion, and there was seri­ous inter­est in bring­ing the capa­bil­i­ty forward.” 

This fall, TRACER will be test­ed on NASA’s unmanned Predator‑B (IKHANA), and lat­er on Air Warrior. 

RDECOM CERDEC Pub­lic Affairs Office
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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