by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
10/21/2015 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- A
Battle Management program to improve the reliability and
maintainability of U.S. Air Force long-range radar systems reached full
operational capability recently when all the operational long-range
radar sites were certified and deemed suitable and operationally
The AN/FPS-117 is a three-dimensional radar system that provides
advanced warning and air traffic surveillance. The Essential Parts
Replacement Program replaces four major subassemblies: the Maintenance
and Control System, the Beacon System, the Uninterruptable Power
Supply/Communications Rack and Local Control Terminals, which allow
remote monitoring, troubleshooting and control of the radars.
According to program officials, it also reduces the line-replaceable
unit count by approximately 80 percent, easing maintenance and the
number of parts on the shelf.
"Prior to the EPRP modification, the radars, which were originally
installed in the 1980s, suffered from excessive parts obsolescence and
diminishing manufacturing sources," said Capt. Nicholas Cusolito, former
program manager. "The focus of the program was to eliminate many of the
obsolete components in the radar and to ensure continued supportability
through 2025 to meet NORAD mission objectives. Furthermore, the
modification provides the hardware necessary for the eventual
implementation of Mode 5 [identification, friend or foe] capability."
More than 25 radar systems were upgraded, including the Hill AFB
Engineering Facility, with the last site in Hawaii being returned to
service in late June after all personnel overseeing operations and
maintenance had been trained.
As many of the sites are in locations that experience severe weather, the teams faced many challenges.
"Install teams had to brave exceptionally harsh conditions in the
Alaskan and Canadian Arctic, including sub-zero temperatures, during the
dead of winter in order to keep the install schedule on track," said
Cusolito. "Once on station they were isolated and confined to relatively
tight quarters for five to six weeks at a time and had to remain
self-sufficient during that timeframe. Many members were not able to go
home for months."
In addition, a change to the Canadian radar O&M contractor during
the middle of installs was also a challenge. According to Cusolito, the
team had to shift their focus entirely to the Alaskan theater until the
new contractor was in place and up to speed.
He added that users in the field and the prime contractor, Lockheed
Martin Mission Systems and Training, also came up with innovative
solutions to challenges faced during the installs, including how to move
electronics cabinets, which weigh several hundred pounds each, up
narrow stairwells without damaging the walls, cabinets or sensitive
"Our exceptionally dedicated and passionate users out in the field were
extremely flexible in adapting and accommodating to help solve the
predicaments that came up," Cusolito said. "This truly was a team effort
where all stakeholders contributed equally to the successful outcome of
the program, allowing the capability to be delivered on time and well
And Cusolito said the improvements are showing their worth.
"It was critical that these upgrades got completed in order to maintain key situational awareness for the U.S.," he said.
From here, software updates will be ongoing. Also, a contractor
logistics support program will be established to continue sustainment of
the system's hardware and software beyond the current warranty period.
During this time, the program office will also look at transitioning to
organic sustainment of the hardware to meet the Air Force's core
logistics capabilities and save on repair and replacement costs.