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Evaluation of the Multifunction Phased Array Radar Planning Process
terminal weather and aircraft surveillance functions could be met by a single multifunction phased array radar system, though cost was then prohibitive. Taking a fresh look at this technology makes sense for them, as industry advancements over the last decade have enabled new radar designs and greatly reduced PAR costs. Finally, with existing radar assets 10 to 40 years old, both agencies will have to initiate large scale radar replacement activities in the next decade, with some early key decisions required in the next few years.
Although NOAA, FAA, and some DOD current and future requirements for radar surveillance are fairly detailed (Chapter 3), the gathering of requirements from the other agencies appears to be more problematic. Briefly, FAA near-term requirements include sustaining current surveillance capabilities while reducing overall FAA cost of ownership (e.g., via consolidation of assets, reduced O&M costs, or agency cost sharing). Future FAA requirements include a decrease in weather volume coverage update intervals from ~5 minutes to 1 minute and detection of icing, turbulence, and volcanic ash. NWS near-term requirements also insist on sustaining current or soon-to-be implemented surveillance capabilities (including hydrometeor identification). Emerging requirements include increased volume refresh rates and spatial resolution, decreased data latency, and mobile radar operations for improved hazardous weather detection and warning lead time. However, it is not clear that any agency is seriously addressing any requirement for systematic widespread coverage of non-cooperative aircraft targets or of low-altitude storm intensity that correlates well with quantitative precipitation measurements. Also, the JAG/PARP report notes other surveillance functions performable by radar but not currently articulated as federal requirements, such as fire weather, airborne toxic releases, or spaceflight weather support.
The central core of the JAG/PARP report (Chapters 3-5) solidly reflects the planning of NOAA and FAA primary stakeholders. These chapters include comparison of alternatives for future civilian radar functions, technical aspects of meeting surveillance radar needs, and cost considerations. These chapters were presented in the spirit of providing some specificity, while neither expecting nor intending them to be taken as more than preliminary point examples of the types of analyses that a properly conducted MPAR research and development (R&D) program would tackle. Chapter 6 outlines an R&D plan to support technical risk reduction studies for the various surveillance capabilities, to document the basis for cost/benefit tradeoffs of various surveillance systems, and to lay out the required R&D program if an MPAR does appear feasible (Appendix D provides time lines and cost estimates for this plan). Chapter 7 then rolls up the key findings and recommendations of the JAG/PARP. More thorough discussion of these chapters can be found elsewhere in our report.
The JAG/PARP report was issued in June 2006 and MPAR planning and R&D activities have continued since that time. As recommended by the JAG/PARP report, the Interdepartmental Committee for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research established a Working Group for the Multifunction Phased Array Radar (WG/MPAR) under the OFCM standing Committee on Integrated Observing Systems to develop an implementation plan for MPAR research and development. Current membership is defined as “stakeholders”, the loosely-defined membership of this committee is charged with oversight of the MPAR research program until a joint program office is established.