AN/TPQ-53 Quick Reaction Capability Radar (photo : US Army)
Fighting wars would be a hell of a lot easier if everybody still just lined up on the field of battle where we can see them. But with the advent of guerilla tactics and asymmetric warfare, you now need to keep your head on a swivel in a vicious cockfight—or just let Lockheed Martin's new mobile radar system watch your back.
Officially known as the AN/TPQ-53 Quick Reaction Capability Radar, this truck-mounted mobile radar system is designed to spot and track incoming mortar, artillery, and rocket fire, then backtrace the enemy's firing position and the round's estimated impact location based on its trajectory thanks to a suite of purpose-built ballistics algorithms. This allows our forces to respond to incoming threats faster while severely limiting the number of rounds an attacker can get off before being engaged.
The Q-53 is actually composed of two FMTV trucks; the Mission Essential Group totes the radar itself and the primary 60Kw generator while the Sustainment Group transports the radar's four operators and a backup power supply. An encrypted radio channel allows the operators to remain a safe 1km distance from the radar itself, either in the climate-controlled comfort of the SG truck or in the field using ruggedized Linux-based laptops. This may seem like a lot of resources for a simple radar setup, but the Q-53 system is actually quite svelte compared to its predecessor, the Q-36, which needed three trucks and a crew of six.
"We improved the software and improved the overall hardware of the system, incorporating lessons learned from the earlier systems," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McDonald, Training and Doctrine Command capability developer and requirements staff officer. "We developed more robust gears, a rotating platform, an automated leveling system and an improved air cooled system."
With a selectable 90 or 360-degree field of view and lightning-fast five-minute setup/two-minute teardown time, the Q-53 is already being utilized for the defense of counter insurgency operations. It can also be incorporated into a forward operating base's existing Counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) systems, which use the Q-53's ballistics information to shoot down incoming threats before they hit. The military is also considering upgrading the Q-53's tracking capabilities, which would allow it to identify and track larger targets like UAVs.
"These radars systems give a lot of capability to commanders in the field, especially since we are not fighting a linear fight anymore," McDonald explained. "This system is easier to emplace, especially in a high-optempo environment. Now it is all automated, so it reduces wear and tear on the crew and system. Also, the Q-53 enhances force protection. It uses an encrypted wireless network able to reach up to 1,000 meters away, so I can put myself in a tactical operations center, or TOC, or nearby shelter."
And any of those places should offer a terrific view of hyper-accurate return fire.