More Help on the Way

Last week, President Biden committed the US to another $800 million in additional military aid. The timing is good because the Russians seem to be gearing up for another major offensive in embattled Ukraine. The latest package includes 10 AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder Weapon-Locating Radar systems such as the one shown below.

The compact, mobile, combat-proven AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder rapidly and automatically locates medium-range enemy mortars, artillery, and rocket launchers. Image Credit: dmitryshulgin.com
The compact, mobile, combat-proven AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder rapidly and automatically locates medium-range enemy mortars, artillery, and rocket launchers. Image Credit: dmitryshulgin.com

The radar systems will help defend Ukrainian military personnel and civilians against rocket and artillery attacks, historically the most lethal threat to Ukrainian personnel and civilians.

The AN/TPQ-36 is a mobile radar system developed by Hughes Aircraft Company and manufactured by Northrop Grumman and ThalesRaytheonSystems. It is a highly mobile short-range radar that can locate mortars, artillery, and rockets within the accuracy of that weapons system. Not exactly new technology, the AN/TPQ-36 was initially developed in the 70s and fielded in the early 80s. There are multiple variants of this radar system, and it has not been announced which variant we will be sending to the Ukrainians.

Video footage courtesy of YouTube and Crux.

The AN/TPQ-36 is a weapon locating radar designed to detect and track incoming mortar, artillery, and rocket fire to determine the point of origin for counter-battery fire. It is typically employed by battalion and higher-level units. We have provided some of these systems to Ukraine in the past, and they are thoroughly familiar with their operation.

The system weighs 2,500 lbs, and its operator shelter is carried by either a High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or a 2.75-ton truck, which can be located up to 50 meters from the unmanned antenna-transceiver assembly. In addition, the system is capable of being operated remotely 100 meters from the shelter. It is typically located close to the forward battle line in direct support of brigade operations.

The setup time for the system to be operational is 15 minutes. If necessary, the break-down time to move the radar out of harm’s way is said to be 5 minutes (or less if highly motivated, i.e., incoming rounds on your position).

The Particulars

The AN/TPQ-36 stationary antenna sweeps a rapid sequence of beams along the horizon, forming an electronic radar curtain over a 90-degree area. Any target penetrating the curtain triggers an immediate verification beam. On verification of the target, an automatic tracking sequence begins. While tracking a single target, the radar continues scanning, locating, and monitoring others. It can locate and track 10 airborne weapons simultaneously.

The radar unit is electronically steered, meaning the radar antenna itself does not move during operation. However, the antenna can be moved manually if necessary. In addition, the system offers a “friendly fire” mode to determine the accuracy of counterbattery return fire or for conducting radar registration or mean point of impact calibrations for friendly artillery. It is also capable of predicting the impact area of hostile projectiles.

Radar Capabilities

  • 24 km maximum detection range
  • 18 km mortar detection effective range
  • 14.5 km artillery detection effective range
  • 24 km rocket detection range

A Defensive Posture

Speaking in general terms on this latest military aid package, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated:

“We committed from the very beginning even before the invasion, to helping Ukraine be able to defend itself. This is a piece of that. And this is representative of the kinds of capabilities that the Ukrainians themselves have asked for and said they need as this fighting now gets focused on the eastern part of the country.”

SOFREP remains dedicated to keeping you up to date on the latest developments in Ukraine and US efforts to assist.

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