Marine Corps Declares ‘Early Fielding’ on G/ATOR Radar System

G/ATOR undergoes cold weather testing, one of many steps in the rigorous process of ensuring that the radar is ready to support the Marines’ missions. Northrop Grumman photo. This post has been updated to include information from an interview with the G/ATOR program office.

The Marine Corps declared “early fielding” for its AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) after the service certified that two operational units had the training and logistics in place to sustain the new radar.

Prior to the declaration, the Marine Corps conducted extensive testing with the radars at Wallops Island and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, an interoperability demonstration between G/ATOR and the new Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) system, and operational assessments with Marine Air Control Squadron (MACS-1) in Yuma and MACS-2 in Cherry Point.
MACS-1 and MACS-2 will continue working with one radar system apiece for operational use, with plans to bring the radar to the spring and fall Weapons and Tactics Instructor Courses (WTI) in Yuma and to an exercise in Norway later this year, deputy program manager Roy Barnhill told USNI News today.

Barnhill said MACS-1 certified last week that it was fully ready to sustain the new system, and MACS-2 made a similar certification about a month ago – which normally would have led the Marines to declare Initial Operational Capability. Contractor Northrop Grumman said in a news release that the milestone proves “production systems, spares, logistic support items and documentation have been tested and validated through a rigorous process.”

In this case, however, the Marines are declaring “early fielding” instead; beginning with Lot 3 units, the service is switching to a Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductor to replace the Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) semiconductor used in Lot 1 and Lot 2, and Pentagon acquisition officials decided the IOC declaration would have to wait on an assessment of the GaN technology, Barnhill said. The deputy PM added that contractor Northrop Grumman is on track to deliver the three Lot 3 radars with the GaN technology in mid-August. The Marines would spend about a month doing a scaled-down developmental test period, since the hardware and software are all the same as the Lots 1 and 2 units, aside from the semiconductor material. After that month-long testing, MACS-1 would conduct initial operational test and evaluation with the radar in October, allowing the Marines to officially declare IOC on the G/ATOR Block 1 capability, which covers air defense and air surveillance missions.

The Marine Corps and Northrop Grumman are also pursuing a Block 2 capability, which would track ground-based artillery, rockets and mortars – primarily to identify and attack the source of incoming fires, but also for use during Marine Corps training events, so artillery units can track the accuracy of their outgoing rounds. The remaining four Lot 1 and 2 radars are currently being used for G/ATOR Block 2 development, Barnhill said. As with Block 1, the Block 2 IOC declaration must wait until the Lot 3 radars with GaN semiconductors are delivered. Barnhill said Block […]