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Marine Corps radar technicians with the Early Warning Control Crew install the arms of the Ground/Air Task Oriental Radar during a Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course exercise Sept. 16, 2015, at Cannon Air Defense Complex (P111), Yuma, Ariz. G/ATOR is a next-generation radar that provides air surveillance/air defense, counter-fire target acquisition, and air traffic control capabilities. The G/ATOR team at Program Executive Officer Land Systems recently received the Defense Department’s David Packard Award in Acquisition Excellence for their efforts to get the system ready for fielding. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Summer Dowding)

Photo by Cpl. Summer Dowding

Award-winning G/ATOR team will provide ‘ground-breaking’ capability to Marines

1 Mar 2016 | Monique Randolph, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication PEO Land Systems

Members of the Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar team received the coveted Department of Defense David Packard Award in Acquisition Excellence during a Feb. 19 ceremony at the Pentagon.

The G/ATOR team is part of Program Executive Officer Land Systems, the Marine Corps acquisition organization for major land programs. G/ATOR is a next-generation radar that provides air surveillance/air defense, counter-fire target acquisition, and air traffic control capabilities.

The Packard Award is named in honor of David Packard, a deputy defense secretary during the Nixon administration, and co-founder and chairman of the Hewlett-Packard Company. As the Defense Department’s premier acquisition award, the Packard Award recognizes organizations and teams whose programs have achieved acquisition excellence, efficiency and productivity.

“This is a prestigious award and tremendous recognition for the team’s hard work to get this system where it is today,” said John Karlovich, G/ATOR program manager. “There was pressure from external stakeholders, budget pressure—we had sequestration and other challenges, but the G/ATOR team overcame every one of them. They continued to keep this program on track, on schedule and on budget to deliver this capability to the warfighter. So it’s a tremendous honor to be recognized for the excellent work they do every day.”

G/ATOR is the first ground mobile, air cooled, Active Electronically Scanned Array radar in the Marine Corps inventory. The cooling system makes G/ATOR lighter and more transportable when compared to other AESA radars which use liquid cooling.  

Additionally, the AESA radar technology enables it to conduct multiple roles, compared to the legacy systems which all had a single primary role.  As an AESA radar, G/ATOR can see small objects in cluttered environments—a critical enabler for Marines, according to the program manager.    

“G/ATOR is a ground-breaking capability and a significant enhancement over the existing legacy systems,” Karlovich said. “In the last 30 to 40 years since those came out, we’ve gotten a lot smarter in terms of advancements in the digital electronics and active radio frequency capability that are folded into this system.”

G/ATOR replaces five legacy radar systems with a single solution that better protects Marines in the field, while saving more than $334 million, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the Feb. 19 ceremony.

The program office also achieved a cost avoidance of approximately $2 million per unit by switching from Gallium Arsenide, or GaAs, to more efficient Gallium Nitride, GaN, to power the radar’s transmit/receive modules. Although the change was initiated as a cost-saving measure, the G/ATOR team also found that GaN uses less power and produces less heat than GaAs with the same power output.

To date, G/ATOR has been tested by Marines in numerous exercises and training events, and feedback from Marines in the field is positive, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 William Kelly, a project officer on the G/ATOR team.

“Marines in the fleet want it now,” he said. “We have to tell them it’s a prototype and there are still changes we need to make. We have to take it the rest of the way before we can give it to them.”

The G/ATOR system is currently in low-rate initial production, with the first six systems under contract and due to be delivered in February 2017. Those systems will ultimately support air defense and air surveillance missions. Additional systems will support a phased testing and fielding approach for Marine Corps ground combat elements and the rest of the Marine Corps through 2024.  

“My team’s focus is to get through the acquisition process as expediently as possible and put this capability into the hands of Marines,” Karlovich said. “This team has done a phenomenal job of balancing the cost, schedule and performance requirements to keep this program on track, and that’s what the award acknowledges. It’s a phenomenal team and I couldn’t be more proud.” 

Other Packard Award recipients included the Joint Program Office Joint Light Tactical Vehicles team and the Space-Based Infrared Systems Geostationary Earth Orbit 5/6 team.

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