HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — There are many organizations with high profile missions conducted here. However, few people are aware of a small, selectively manned unit known as the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron.
The 84th RADES conducts a mission that nobody else in the U.S. is capable of performing.
“This highly specialized unit consists of 81 active duty, civilian and contract personnel that ensure optimal performance of radars and sensors used in the defense of North America as well as in support of combat operations,” said Lt. Col. Frank Azaravich, 84th RADES commander. “It’s these men and women who make it happen and they prove their value every day.”
In addition to its main location here, 84th RADES also has three operating locations at Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Rome, New York.
The unit performs many unique missions supporting radar systems around the world. However, its primary task is to conduct radar monitoring, evaluation and optimization on over 230 radars within the U.S.
Prior to 9/11, 84th RADES mostly supported coastal radar systems used by the Air Force for external threat defense. But 9/11 changed the view that threats were only external, so interior radar support became a priority, resulting in a joint effort between the Federal Aviation Agency and Department of Defense to improve interior radar operation. The goal, then and now, is to ensure that non-cooperative aircraft are detected despite any measures terrorists might take to mask their intentions, like turning off their transponders as happened during the 9/11 attacks.
Key to this homeland security effort was a five-year, $291 million upgrade of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS) radar suite, which is comprised of 81 interior Common Air Route Surveillance Radars (CARSR) as well as 44 coastal Air Route Surveillance Radars (ARSR-4).
“These upgrades have increased the radar’s capabilities by more than 20 percent and our technicians are able to optimize the radar with a 90 percent or more reinforcement rate,” said Staff Sgt. Shanteen Peters, 84th RADES radar technician.
The JSS is the largest program of the over 400 radars that 84th RADES supports on a daily basis. If fact, one CARSR is located just southeast of Hill AFB on top of Francis Peak. The radar’s most notable feature is the white radome—otherwise known as “the golfball”—which protects it from the environment.
In addition to supporting the Air Force’s air defense mission, the Francis Peak CARSR, like all others CARSRs, can detect aircraft flying over 200 nautical miles away and is used heavily by the FAA to ensure safe routing of over 8.7 million flights a year.
The 84th RADES is unique in another way. The squadron develops and maintains the most sophisticated software tools for radar monitoring, analysis and evaluation in the U.S. military and arguably, the world.
Their 21 different software programs set the standard for in-depth radar monitoring and analysis. Over 700 external users in 21 countries, to include 10 U.S. government agencies, utilize these software tools, which are sustained at 43 percent below industry cost standard. Outside of its analysis functions, these software programs have proven capabilities for electronic attack detection and analysis as well as recording and playback of radar information, arming operators at our nation’s Air Defense Sectors with superior situational awareness.
All this radar information is stored at 84th RADES, the largest radar data repository in the U.S. The squadron’s systems experts can instantly access 36 months of stored radar data with the capability to reach back in its archives seven years. No other organization in the U.S. government is capable of this function.
The 84th RADES is regularly called to support federal and military agencies, including the U.S. Air Force Safety Center, to perform radar forensics in support of events such as aircraft mishaps and search and rescue missions.
All these unique capabilities support a critical mission for the U.S. government and results in 84th RADES being a true force multiplier.
“Working at the RADES gives me an awesome sense of job satisfaction,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Anderson, 84th RADES radar site evaluator. “It’s great to know our site surveys have such a great impact on national security. If you walk around the squadron, you can tell the people here take great amount of pride in what they do.”