Air Defense: The Mystery Radar Headed For Iraq


May 30, 2011:  For a year now, Iraq has been trying to get radars and missile systems for air defense. Not much in the way of details have become public. It recently became known that a U.S. manufacturer was supplying Iraq with a long range radar. But the U.S. Air Force, which was handling the purchase for Iraq, refused to allow any details on the radar to be released. All that is known is that it's a "long range radar" and the purchase will cost $26 million. Given that the manufacturer (Lockheed Martin) is known, the most likely candidates are the AN/FPS-117, or the mobile version, the AN/TPS-77. However, both of these cost more than $26 million, so perhaps even the financing is not being made public.

The AN/TPS77 is a portable military radar that can cover out to 450 kilometers, and up to 33 kilometers (100,000 feet) altitude. You can set up the phased array (AESA) radar panel in a remote location, and have the radar information, and the status of the radar, monitored elsewhere. The AN/TPS-77 operates, on average, about 11 weeks before needing the attention of any technicians. The entire system can be moved using three tractor trailers. These trailers can be moved by air as well.

The other candidate is the AN/TPS-59(V)3B. This radar has a 700 kilometer range and up to 152 kilometers (500,000 feet) altitude. It can be used for air traffic control, as well as in conjunction with Hawk and Patriot anti-aircraft missiles, as well as AEGIS anti-aircraft systems used on American warships.

Either way, Iraq is seeking a radar that can look deep into its neighbors, particularly Iran. The big mystery here is, why all the secrecy? Whichever radar Lockheed supplies, it will use the same AESA technology. And Iraq is desperately seeking to build an air defense system. So Iraq is probably not getting Lockheed's new 3DELRR radar, which won't be shipping for a few years.

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