24 September 2020

Mobile Air Defense and Counter-Fire Radar Systems

Author: Dr. David L. Rockwell, Drawn From: Military Electronics Briefing

Mobile Air Defense and Counter-Fire Radar Systems

Lockheed Martin’s AN/FPS-117(V) is a fixed-site version of the tactical AN/TPS-59 air defense surveillance radar. The FPS-117 is deployed mostly in long-range national air defense networks. The AN/TPS-117 and TPS-B34 are transportable air defense radars developed from the FPS-117 and TPS-59, for international sale. In 2001, Lockheed Martin announced it was renaming the TPS-117 as the TPS-77 for international sales.

The United States Air Force and Canada completed in the 1990s a purchase of 15 FPS-117(V)4s for the strategic North Warning System (NWS) and four FPS-117(V)5s for the North Atlantic Defense System (NADS). U.S. procurement funding for the NWS ended in FY92, but in 2003-2004 the USAF bought two new TPS-77s for Alaska. Funding continues for support of the Alaska Radar System.

Saudi Arabia acquired the last of 17 FPS-117(V)3s in 1995, for its Peace Shield air defense system. Brazil bought six TPS-B34 radars in 1997, and in 1998 Australia contracted for four TPS-117s for its Tactical Air Defense Radar System (TADRS) program. South Korea and Estonia contracted for radars in 2000-2001, and Denmark bought two and Pakistan six in 2005. Latvia/Lithuania/Estonia and Thailand contracted for more radars in 2007. These sales included enough support and training to make this quite a valuable program for Lockheed Martin.

The FPS-117(V) & TPS-117/77/TPS-B34 has established itself as one of the primary long-range air defense surveillance radars in the worldwide export market. It is a competitive area, with the major European radar firms also well-established internationally. Important mobile radar competitors have included Thales Raytheon Systems’ Master T Mark 2 and Northrop Grumman’s AN/TPS-78.

The FMS market for high performance surveillance radars continues, despite a lull, especially where they can be linked to existing air defense and air traffic control networks. There had been no new sales announced since 2007, but perhaps because of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, both Latvia and Romania ordered new TPS-77 Multi-Role Radars (MRR) radars in 2015-2016, and Jordan also ordered two more radars in October 2016. We suspected additional follow-on orders might occur, especially in Europe.

Eastern Europe and the Baltics have long favored U.S. systems, but some proposed major equipment purchases were put on hold in the 2000s. Instead, only minor buys and upgrades went ahead (for example, IFF upgrades for air defense and air traffic control), and more money was spent on upgrades and NATO integration procurement instead of major new radar buys.

The FPS-117 also still had a chance for any proposed Persian Gulf integrated air defense system, because of the major Saudi Peace Shield procurement (17 radars), but this also has not gone ahead. There could be more small buys by a number of countries (and this has occurred in the late 2010s), and perhaps attempts to link all radars with an international C4I system.

The TPS-77’s victories in the 2000s were a good sign for continued competitiveness, and early anti-ballistic missile modifications for Australia have also been available for upgrade to keep the FPS-117/TPS-77 up-to-date through this decade and beyond.

Now, with at least ten new TPS-77 radars contracted for five nations since 2015, all with new Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology, the TPS-77 could see continuing new production.

Maintenance and support of the FPS-117 has also provided a substantial market. Both Saudi Arabia and South Korea contracted for large FMS spare parts orders in 1995, 1996, and 1997. Peace Shield support contracts (including other systems besides the FPS-117) have been valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And the extreme conditions in Alaska have led to continued large support contracts for US radars.

For North American radars, Lockheed reported a decade ago that 65% of FPS-117 LRUs were no longer manufactured by Lockheed Martin and many subcomponents were obsolete, rendering the system unsupportable. The FPS-117 Essential Parts Replacement Program (EPRP), with substantial funding in PE# 0102325F from FY10 through at least FY15 (with substantially lower funding in FY14 and FY15), has restored the radar system capability to its original availability rates by eliminating parts obsolescence and replacing high failure rate components, to extend FPS-117 service at least through 2025. Production contract options continued, with EPRP program completion planned for 2016.

In December 2007, Lockheed Martin claimed there were 26 TPS-77 and 127 FPS-117 systems operational in more than 20 countries worldwide (14 countries for the FPS-117). Combined FPS-117 and TPS-77 sales had totaled about 175.

According to Lockheed Martin in February 2016, no FPS-117/TPS-77 radar had ever been taken out of service and the systems continued to operate well beyond their original 20-year service lives (many planned to operate for more than 40 years). In mid-2017, Lockheed again announced, “All of Lockheed Martin’s TPS-59, FPS-117, TPS-77 and TPS-77 MRR radar systems, of which there are over 180 in the world, continue to operate as designed. No system has ever been taken out of service and the radars regularly advance through new technology and sustainment opportunities. The radars have demonstrated they are capable of performing well past their original service lives.”

In June 2020, the US Government announced a contract, “worth $77 million,” to provide three Lockheed Martin TPS-77s to Malaysia and Indonesia, reportedly to be capable of simultaneously performing air surveillance and maritime surveillance missions in the South East Asian Theatre.

In mid-2020, Lockheed Martin was internally developing a new radar, dubbed the TPY-X, “to include all the mission capabilities our current [FPS-117/TPS-77/TPS-59] product family offers,” but adding a GaN antenna and other enhanced capabilities to address emerging threats. Lockheed claims the updated technology components will easily backfit into the existing product base.

About the Author

Dr. David L. Rockwell

Dr. David L. Rockwell

Dr. David L. Rockwell has been Senior Analyst, Electronics at Teal Group since 1995, where he is editor of Teal's Military Electronics Briefing (MEB) as well as co-author of Teal's annual World Military Unmanned Aerial Systems: Market Profile and Forecast. He also contributes regular monthly military electronics News Briefs to the Teal Group website.

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