NORAD, FAA long-range radar back in operation after catastrophic failure in Nevada

  • Published
  • By 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
  • 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron

The Common Air Route Surveillance Radar, or CARSR, at Battle Mountain, Nevada, suffered a catastrophic failure on Dec. 27, 2022, when snow accumulation caused the protective dome to collapse onto the antennas within. This radar supports several agencies and feeds into the overall National Airspace System, or NAS, picture used by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, executing a part of their vital mission. 

When the outage occurred, a team of about 100 people was formed to develop a strategy for reconstruction and reintegration into the NAS. Experts from the Federal Aviation Administration, NAS Defense Programs, the Department of Defense Joint Program Office, the Salt Lake City Air Traffic Control Center, AJW-L900 FAA Logistics Site Services, and the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, comprised this team. 

This 100-person team had to accomplish several significant milestones to restore radar services including clearing and restoring road access to the top of a 10,000-foot mountaintop; removing the destroyed equipment; locating and refurbishing a replacement antenna; and transporting and constructing a 60' wide x 45' tall replacement radome weighing 5.5 tons to the top of a 10,000-foot mountaintop.

All this activity culminated in the radar being brought online for testing and optimization prior to its return to the NAS. The 84th RADES's CARSR experts were called in to complete the final stage of the restoration by optimizing and evaluating the radar prior to its return to service.

"Darrell McFarland, 84th RADES Radar Evaluation flight chief, oversaw the team's efforts, ensuring that the RADES team members were staged and prepared to optimize the moment the radar was mounted," said Lt. Col. Ryan Smith, 84th RADES director of operations.

John Birchfield led the 84th RADES optimization team, which included Staff Sgt. Quinton Montgomery, Staff Sgt. Joshua Palileo, and Craig Lewis. A comprehensive radar optimization typically requires three weeks of onsite labor, the RADES team worked overtime and accomplished the task in two weeks to return Battle Mountain’s CARSR to full service.

“We wanted to get the data back into the National Airspace System as quickly as possible due to the air traffic routing commercial traffic differently than normal, air safety for the traveling public and air defense for NORAD since this radar covers all of northern Nevada and southern Idaho,” said McFarland.

The FAA recognized the hard work of everyone involved through a coining and recognition ceremony at the Air Route Traffic Control Center, or ARTCC, in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 23.

"This was a monumental collaborative effort involving multiple federal entities," said Lt. Col. Douglas Boytim, 84th RADES commander. "On July 19, the Battle Mountain CARSR was restored to the NAS, thereby closing a critical gap in radar coverage for both the FAA and NORAD."