Marines to get 'ground-breaking' radar under $376M deal

The G/ATOR system, made by Northrop Grumman, combines the functions of five previous systems while using air cooling and other features to cut costs.

The Marine Corps has awarded Northrop Grumman a four-year, $376 million contract for a first-of-its-kind ground-based radar system that combines the functions of five previous systems, increasing capabilities while cutting costs.

The contract calls for nine low-rate initial productions units of the Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) system, which is designed to provide a range of detection and tracking capabilities against a variety of threats—such as manned aircraft, drones or munitions—while also providing air traffic control in support of Marine operations around the world.

Earlier this year, John Karlovich, program manager of the Marines’ G/ATOR program, said the system is a “ground-breaking capability and a significant enhancement over the existing legacy systems. In the last 30 to 40 years since those came out, we’ve gotten a lot smarter in terms of advancements in the digital electronics and active radio frequency capability that are folded into this system.”

In addition to combining radar functions and adding capabilities, G/ATOR is expected to save more than $334 million over using separate systems, according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Karlovich and Carter were speaking at a February event at Marine Corps Base Quantico during which the G/ATOR team was honored with DOD’s David Packard Award in Acquisition Excellence.

One source of the savings is the switch from using Gallium Arsenide to the less expensive Gallium Nitride to power the radar’s transmit/receive modules, which would save about $2 million  per units while also requiring less power and producing less heat.

The system, officially the AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR, uses Northrop’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), which enables it to perform multiple mission tasks at operational and maintenance costs lower than those of current systems, according to the company.

Another feature is the air cooling system, which is lighter and more mobile than the liquid system used by other ground radars. G/ATOR is the first ground-based, air cooled, mobile AESA system in the Marines’ inventory.

G/ATOR also has an open architecture that should make it compatible with DOD command and control systems.

The system has been tested by has been tested by Marines in a number of exercises and training events, and received good feedback, the Marines said. “My team’s focus is to get through the acquisition process as expediently as possible and put this capability into the hands of Marines,” Karlovich said during the February event.

Work on the contract is expected to be completed by September 2020.