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Air Force Flight Standards Agency optimizes Kadena Digital Airport Surveillance Radar

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Luis E Rios Calderon
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

A specialized engineering team from the headquarters of the Air Force Flight Standards Agency arrived at Kadena Air Base to help optimize the on-base Airport Surveillance Radar and train Airmen from the 18th Operations Support Squadron, March 21 - April 16, 2023.

“This marked a significant milestone in the flying mission for this strategic air base,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Derek Miles, 18th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of training. “The team's mission was to optimize the ASR system over three weeks and provide additional training to our Airmen, both critical components of air traffic control operations at the base.”

The arrival of the AFFSA team underscored the Air Force's commitment to bringing together the best minds and technical expertise from across its various agencies to maintain both air superiority and support our neighboring Allies.

“The Digital Airport Surveillance Radar sends out radio frequency pulses into space that then reflects off surfaces giving us plots that can be seen on our and air traffic controller's screens,” said Senior Airman Sean Bradford, 18th OSS RAWS technician. “The DASR is more particular in that it avoids displaying the environment and will only track moving objects.”

Bradford said the radar corresponds with the aircraft to get their information, such as direction, altitude, distance, and identification code, and label them as friendly aircraft. Acquiring and properly applying the knowledge necessary to work with such a complex system can take years. Still, throughout this time, Airmen become highly proficient in prevention and troubleshooting when issues do arise.

“The difficulty in maintaining this system comes from the knowledge needed to accomplish the weekly, monthly, and yearly checks to ensure the calibration and troubleshooting is done correctly,” said Miles. “Since the radar uses radio waves traveling at the speed of light to determine distance like a bat uses echolocation, a small change of 12 microseconds would make aircraft appear a mile off target.”

Miles said having their Airmen train on a system like the DASR on such a high-tempo base is a luxury not afforded to most, so having the squadron commander and base be so accommodating to their technicians with system downtime is key to mission success.

“The success of the team's work was evident in the improved accuracy of the ASR-11 system. It has significantly impacted air traffic control operations at Kadena Air Base, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, and Camp Hanson,” said Miles.

The successful optimization of the ASR-11 system at Kadena was a critical moment for the mission. It also showcased the Air Force's commitment to technical excellence, innovation, and a continued free and open Indo-Pacific.