United States Of America: Extending VADER

The United States Army plans to award a sole-source contract to Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems for the continued operation of the Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar (VADER).

Northrop Grumman has designed VADER to equip Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and conventional aircraft with a capability to track pedestrians and vehicles using a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI). Among other platforms, VADER has been designed to equip the General Atomics MQ-1C Grey Eagle UAV.

The US Army’s contract will require the company to continue its support of two forward-deployed VADER systems in use in Afghanistan, and a single system operating in the United States until the end of the year. VADER radars deployed to Afghanistan are flown onboard conventional fixed-wing aircraft. The contract also covers the optional deployment of a third VADER radar to Afghanistan and to possibly extend the operation of the radar until the end of 2014.

Northrop Grumman won the contract to develop the VADER radar in 2006, completing flight tests in February 2010. The VADER programme is sponsored by the Army Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate’s Defense Microelectronics Activity, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Office.

Since winning the contract in 2006, Northrop Grumman has been awarded successive work, notably in January 2009, to enhance the systems’ performance and to assist the US Army in testing VADER. In July 2012 it was awarded a contract work €57.3 million ($76.7 million) for accompanying VADER engineering and technical services.

The VADER radar, when used on a UAV, is housed in a pod of around 1.5 metres (five feet) in length. The pod carries the radars’ antenna, with its accompanying receiver, exciter and processor located in the aircraft’s fuselage.

Details regarding the performance of the VADER are scant. No information has been released regarding the systems’ range, resolution, wavelength or the inhabited platform that it equips. This is perhaps unsurprising given the importance of its task in Afghanistan vis-à-vis the detection and tracking of persons who may be involved in the planting of improvised explosive devices aimed at International Security Assistance Force personnel and materiel.

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