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Greater Vision: G/ATOR pulls together multiple systems to see complete battlefield

22 Dec 2010 | Jim Katzaman 10th Marine Regiment

As current Marine Corps radars systems approach the middle age of an average person, the upcoming Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) promises a system of new technologies and enhanced mobility and reliability while also providing large reductions in operating and maintenance costs.

The new radar will not only stand on its own, according to Lieutenant Colonel Pete Charboneau, G/ATOR Military Deputy Program Manager, it will also replace five current radars with one multi-mission system.

This system is the first ground-based, multi-role radar to be developed for the Department of Defense. By virtue of its ability to intelligently and adaptively allocate its resources, G/ATOR will detect and track a wide variety of threats, including manned aircraft, cruise missiles and unmanned autonomous systems, as well as mortar, rocket and artillery rounds.

"G/ATOR represents a new era in critical air and ground warfighting capabilities for the Marine Corps," Charboneau said. "When deployed, G/ATOR will deliver unprecedented mission functionality and versatility the Marine Corps needs to fight in the modern battle space."

Program Executive Officer Land Systems manages G/ATOR along with seven other programs. Preliminary work is being done to make G/ATOR an Acquisition Category I program, based on its priority and cost. The Marine Corps is also conducting discussions with the Air Force and Army, who are interested in a possible joint system for all the military services.

“G/ATOR will sell itself,” Charboneau said. “There would be cost savings for each product. We’d have the advantage of a joint secure capability, giving us one single integrated air picture of the battle space.”

He cited added manpower advantages of a joint system, including a single schoolhouse, common operators, common repairmen and shared logistical resources. He noted that there would be one distinct manager for all three military services.

“This would be the first time the warfighter came to the arena with a common ground radar solution,” Charboneau said. “G/ATOR could give us a very good joint perspective of the air space.”

Mechanical and electrical integration of the G/ATOR Radar Equipment Group (REG), the heart of the G/ATOR system, has already taken place. The REG includes the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) antenna, all AESA control electronics, the integrated receiver/exciter and all data and signal processing. The REG has been integrated onto a mobile pallet and trailer for maximum mobility and ease of deployment.

Looking ahead as G/ATOR moves through its final stages of development, Charboneau said, “I believe we’ll be tracking targets early in 2011. By the end of next year the Marine Corps will take possession of the radar and conduct two and a half years of operational and developmental tests. Our plan is to have 10 systems ready to carry us through all elements of the test and evaluation phase of the program.”

G/ATOR, he explained, represents a family of systems being designed to exchange information. The Common Aviation Command and Control System, known as CAC2S, would provide connectivity for G/ATOR, giving the warfighter the capability for short- to medium-range air defense, air surveillance, counter-fire target acquisition and air traffic control.

“Our focus is on getting the radar fielded,” Charboneau said. “We hope to achieve initial operational capability in 2015. The Marine Corps is all in on G/ATOR; all the bumps have been cleared.”

G/ATOR’s activation will be timely and necessary, he added.

“Our radars today, as they continue to meet our warfighting’ needs, have become unreliable due to diminishing manufacturing sources as well as obsolescence," Charboneau said. “They need constant care and feeding to keep them operating, and the logistics tail for the radars is down to a single, and in some cases, no sources. G/ATOR brings long-term reliability and sustainability to the battlefield with unprecedented performance in both range and accuracy.”

Marine Corps Systems Command