US manufacturer completes critical design review of tactical targeting technology

Raytheon has passed a design milestone on a new targeting technology that could upgrade many US Air Force fighters into enemy radar hunters.

The critical design review for the Advanced Tactical Targeting Technology (AT3) system was successfully completed in July, says Rob Deaton, Raytheon’s AT3 programme manager. Raytheon then received a $10 million contract to conduct a flight demonstration in 2007 using three Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 30s.

The technology is regarded as a potential upgrade for USAF F-16s and Boeing F-15s, as well as US Navy Boeing F/A-18E/Fs.

AT3 is designed to allow a package of three aircraft to locate the source of enemy radar transmissions much faster and with more accuracy than even digital radar warning receivers (RWR). It is a follow-on development programme to the Raytheon ALR-69A(V), which introduced the single-ship passive location and identification (PLAID) capability now being installed on Lockheed MC-130s.

The AT3 system uses the aircraft’s on-board datalink first to synchronise the global positioning system receivers on the three aircraft. After a hostile radar emission is detected, the system triangulates the emitter’s location using techniques called time difference of arrival and frequency difference of arrival.

The forthcoming flight demonstration will involve Air National Guard F-16s, which use the Situation Awareness Data Link, which was the EPLRS network. AT3 also has been demonstrated in the past using the Link 16 family.

Raytheon’s AT3 has grown from its roots as a project sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). It is now managed by the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, which is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the USAF’s aircraft inventory.

If the demonstration flight is successful, the USAF may seek to add the AT3 system as a funded fighter upgrade programme. The first opportunity may be with the F-15 programme, which plans to seek funds to upgrade to a digital RWR after fiscal year 2008. The F-15 acquisition office has asked contractors to demonstrate current RWR technology with both a single-ship radar locating capability, such as PLAID, and a multi-ship capability, such as AT3. The USAF, however, has not yet determined which technology it intends to buy.

However, digital RWRs that combine the capabilities of radar detection and precise location of the source of such emissions are called for under a new USAF concept of operations called Sensors Forward.

The concept mandates that “all platforms will have the ability to sense and attack targets with a robust ability to share information”, according to the USAF.


Source: Flight International