Radar Squadron nears end of significant mission

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- On April 27, Hill Air Force Base's 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron finished one if it's most important missions to date.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the 84 RADES has been all over the United States optimizing air traffic control radar systems that monitor aircraft all over the skies.
"We are optimizing radar systems that have been out in the field and being used by the Federal Aviation Administration since the late '50s," said Darrell McFarland, 84 RADES, program manager. "After 911 we took a look at the radar equipment we had and basically all we saw was the perimeter of the United States. There were approximately 75 radar systems on the interior that the Air Force was not getting data from."

The 84 RADES mission is part of the Air Force implemented Operation Noble Eagle, a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that comprises, among other things, air interceptor patrols over and around cities and the mobilization of thousands of National Guard and Reserve troops to perform security missions on military installations, airports and other potential targets.

"When we took a look at all those radar systems we got data feeds from the FAA and when we looked at the data, we found that it wasn't adequate to the Air Force mission," Mr. McFarland said. "We wanted to be able to see the smaller low flying airplanes."

Over the last four and a half years, the 84 RADES crew have optimized FAA radar equipment at 75 different sites across the country, including Puerto Rico.

"It's been a very exhaustive effort," Mr. McFarland said. "Each radar system takes approximately three weeks to optimize. We are talking 12-14 hour days with a team of about 10 people. We have to make sure every little piece is put together in such a way that we have the best data picture that we possibly can out of each and every system."

According to Mr. McFarland, although the mission is complete, its significance will not be forgotten.

"We have achieved a site picture with the radar that is approximately 12-15 percent better than what we had prior to 911," he said. "The mission has been a complete success. Basically, nobody can fly an airplane that we are not aware of. The whole purpose of this mission was to ensure that another 911 never happens again."