HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — This month marks the 30th anniversary of the 84 Radar Evaluation Squadron at Hill AFB. The 84th RADES, which traces its origins back to the 1940s, is the nation’s only long-range radar evaluation unit and was officially re-designated on Oct. 1, 1987, from the 1954th Radar Evaluation Squadron and placed under the Tactical Air Command.
This small Air Combat Command tenant unit, as its mission statement says, “provides the warfighter responsive worldwide ground radar-centric planning, analysis, optimization, command and control (C2) testing, and constant evaluation. The 84th RADES’s vision is one of world-class radar expertise delivering air domain awareness.” They do so by evaluating, optimizing, and integrating fixed and mobile long-range sensors for both the operational and federal communities.
Not only does the 84th RADES set the standard for radar coverage prediction and depiction, they provide data analysis support for specialized aviation activities such as counternarcotics operations, search and rescue missions, and aircraft mishap investigations. Squadron members also ensure that air traffic controllers have reliable and accurate sensor information for day-to-day operations and contingencies. Armed with technical experts, communicators, radar maintainers, specially trained surveyors, and with operating locations at three North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Air Defense Sectors, the 84th RADES is a major contributor to all facets of air detection, air surveillance, and C2 development.
The 84th RADES has experienced many changes to its mission, manning, and processes over the decades. Its mission of evaluating, integrating, and optimizing long-range radars has grown to include new system acquisition and major modification testing and fielding, including long-term trend analysis of over 450 radar systems and incident forensics. It has seen its personnel shrink from 163 billets to a lean 63, while its workload and TDYs increased to meet the demands of a post-9/11 world.
Its responsibility has grown from ensuring perimeter security of our borders to that of the entire continental United States airspace. Its expertise is used to not only enhance ACC’s mission, but also to support that of the Department of Homeland Security, NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration, and allied nations. The unit, though small, plays an ever-increasing role in flight safety and air sovereignty for our nation. It continues to lean forward, embracing new techniques and technology in order to ensure the 84th RADES mission is met as we progress toward an ever-evolving future.