US Southern Command has started final tests on a new radar for unmanned air vehicles designed to penetrate beneath triple-layer jungle canopy, Lockheed Martin says.

The first two tactical reconnaissance and counter concealment enabled radar (Tracer) pods could become operational within six months to one year, says Robert Robinson, Lockheed's senior programme manager.

The pods are expected to be carried eventually by the army's General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs. Lockheed is also in the early phases of discussions with Boeing to integrate Tracer on the A160 Hummingbird, Robinson says. Flight tests have recently been conducted using a General Atomics MQ-9 Predator B, the company says.

 Predator B Tracer - Lockheed Martin
© Lockheed Martin

Lockheed is, however, still waiting for US military officials to set a programme of record to move the Tracer pod into production, he adds.

The UHF/VHF-band pod was launched in the aftermath of the Balkan conflicts, when camouflage and trees were used by Serbian forces to hide military equipment. Although Tracer also has a capability to detect improvised explosive devices buried underground, the pods have not been in active demand in Afghanistan, where full motion video and ground moving target indicator systems have proved more popular.

Source: Flight International