Examining MP-RTIP for Joint STARS

The Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $5.8 million contract to study the feasibility of installing the multi-platform radar technology insertion radar on the E-8C ground-surveillance platform, the Department of Defense announced Nov. 4. MP-RTIP, being developed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, is a sophisticated, modular advanced electronically scanned array radar system that is already being integrated onto the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. It will be much more capable than existing overhead surveillance radars for generating synthetic aperture radar images and tracking moving targets, the companies have said. The Air Force had already invested about $1 billion in developing a larger, more capable MP-RTIP variant for integration on a large, widebody manned platform, but those efforts were sidelined several years ago due to more pressing priorities. The larger radar would have the capability to track cruise missiles in flight, something of which the smaller Global Hawk-sized MP-RTIP variant is not considered capable. Northrop made the pitch earlier this year to leverage the investment already made in the larger version and integrate a derivative of it on the E-8C since the platform’s current 1980s-era surveillance radar will become unsupportable early next decade due to lack of replacement parts. (The MP-RTIP variant on the E-8C would be smaller than the original widebody version, but larger than the Global Hawk variant.)