Qioptiq logo Raytheon


By Julian Nettlefold

22 Feb 12. BATTLESPACE was briefed five years ago at AUSA on the Company’s Foliage Penetration (FOPEN) radar. This year we were briefed by John Beck, Business Development Manager for Lockheed Martin IS&GS Defense on the next iteration of that system, the Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar (TRACER). FOPEN was developed in 1997 using DARPA, US Army and USAF development funding, one system was deployed in 2005. Lockheed Martin won the TRACER development contract in 2007.

“What differentiates TRACER from FOPEN?”

“TRACER replaces the operationally proven FOPEN system, which has completed more than 1,400 flights since going operational in 2005. While smaller and 75% lighter than FOPEN, TRACER’s system design still incorporates all the capability of its predecessor, which uses an advanced detection capability to suppress background clutter. The dual band (VHF/UHF) capability increases target discovery over a variety of terrain and concealment scenarios to reveal positions of mobile and stationary targets.”

After successfully completing operational demonstrations, Lockheed Martin’s penetrating radar capable of detecting objects that are buried, camouflaged or concealed under dense foliage was deployed to support U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Lockheed Martin’s Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment-Enabled Radar, TRACER, will support SOUTHCOM missions in counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue to support SOUTHCOM’s mission,” said Jim Quinn, vice president of C4ISR Systems with Lockheed Martin IS&GS-Defense. “As our foliage penetration system has for many years, the TRACER system stands ready to serve and deliver SOUTHCOM with unique actionable intelligence products 24/7, 365 days of the year, day or night.”

“What are the key TRACER technologies?”

“TRACER is a light weight, low-frequency synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) that can peer through foliage, rain, darkness, dust storms or atmospheric haze to provide real-time, high-quality tactical ground imagery. Prior to this deployment, TRACER successfully completed more than 160 flight tests on manned and unmanned platforms. For its SOUTHCOM mission, TRACER will operate on a U.S. Army C12 aircraft.”

There are currently four qualified TRACER systems available for deployment on manned or unmanned platforms. TRACER was developed for the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, based at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

“What other applications do you foresee for TRACER?”

“We are currently developing the system for a Grey Eagle UAV. The weight of the system lends itself to UAV applications; we have already flown it on an Ikhana and Predator B UAV. The Ground Station which is STANAG compliant is also lightweight, it can be carried in a suitcase with 2 workstations. TRACER has the ability to process images and download immediately to the Grounds Station rather than wait until the completion of the mission.”

“Is Lockheed planning enhancements to TRACER?”

“Yes, the next stage is an MTI feature which we are ‘Tower Testing’ in March and flying in a Blackhawk helicopter in the summer. We have added an extra antenna for this capability which will hugely enhance the ability of TRACER not only to detect through foliage but also track. We are also adding spot search to 360 degrees which allows the system to circle the target area in a designated Box. Another addition is a cueing sensor to change detection systems as TRACER is deployed with other sensors.”

“Is TRACER ITAR protected and can it be exported?”

“Yes it was developed under ITAR regulations but we have had expressions of interest from a number of customers who see the true value of TRACER not only for military applications but also for illegal logging detection, disaster relief and Police tracking.”

Back to article list