WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin’s AN/TPQ-53 counterfire radar’s versatility is expanding to meet the U.S. Army’s most pressing capability gaps.
The Q-53 radar program — which has deployed with soldiers since 2010 to detect, classify and determine location and impact points of enemy indirect fire — has had several recent successes. It was awarded a $28 million quick-reaction capability contract in November 2016 to add the ability to counter threats from unmanned aircraft systems while simultaneously performing its counterfire mission.
And in March, the company won a $1.6 billion indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract from the Army for more Q-53 radars to include Foreign Military Sales options and support, Rick Herodes, Lockheed’s program director for the Q-53 radar, told reporters Monday.
At this point Lockheed has delivered 95 systems under a contract for more than 100 radars, and the new contract will allow the Army to meet its procurement objective of more than 170 systems, according to Herodes.
The company also minted its first foreign military sale this year. While Lockheed is obligated not to divulge the country, it has been reported that the buyer is Singapore.
After addressing the counter-UAS need through software changes to the radar, Lockheed is looking to address another gap in Army capability: short-range air defense, otherwise known as SHORAD.
After the U.S. Army identified SHORAD as a critical gap, particularly in Europe, the service has been moving at lightning speed to bring the neglected capability back to the forefront on the battlefield.
Herodes said the Q-53, with its active electronically scanned array, has the "flexibility to adapt to changing missions."
Beyond counter-UAS, "we see [an] emerging need for SHORAD," Herodes said, adding that "just as the Q-53 has the flexibility to support C-UAS missions, we know it has the flexibility to support the SHORAD mission, and we are in talks with the Army to help them understand the potential that the Q-53 provides in that space."
Lockheed is hoping to demonstrate the radar’s capability to meet the SHORAD mission at several demonstrations this year, he said.
The company has submitted a white paper for a SHORAD "rodeo" in September at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, where industry can bring capabilities and demonstrate them to help inform the Army's way ahead. "We hope we are in consideration for that," he said.
The Army is looking to demonstrate a maneuverable SHORAD capability. According to Herodes, the Q-53 fits the bill for that since the system is resident within the highly maneuverable brigade combat teams and can be put in place and made operational within five minutes.
In the November or December time frame, Lockheed expects to demonstrate the Q-53 as a SHORAD capability during one of the Fires Center of Excellence’s famed Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiments exercise at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
To configure the radar to operate as a SHORAD system, "our vision," Herodes said, "would be to create a separate mode that allows the radar to be dedicated to SHORAD in addition to its dedicated counterfire and multimission — kind of a third blade in the Swiss Army knife, so to speak."
While the radar is capable of operating in all three modes at once, the company will initially demonstrate just the SHORAD mode alone so the Army can get a clear view of what the capability looks like, according to Herodes.
The path Lockheed is on to show the Army the radar is capable of meeting the SHORAD need is not unlike its path to show the Army it could perform the C-UAS mission. The quick-reaction capability contract to add the C-UAS capability to the Q-53 came as a result of its performance during another Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiments exercise last year at Fort Sill.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.