TPS-63 Medium Range Search Radar Set - A Medium Range Search Radar set built by Northrop Grumman Corp., Electronic Sensors & Systems Division, (formerly Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group). A tactical radar that can detect small, low-flying aircraft in clutter, electronic interference and heavy rainfall. Used in a look-down mode from aerostat balloons. The balloon-borne version provides low-level surveillance and detection of low-flying aircraft. .
TPS-63 Search Radar
The TPS-63A(V) offered an extended range with a capability of 80/120/160 nautical miles. It features remote control and monitoring of key radar functions, and an Array Signal Processor (ASP) for digital target reports via narrow-band channels.
LASS System Aerostat Version
TECOM Inc. (Columbia, MD) offered a LASS system Aerostat equipped with a modified TPS-63(V) to detect low-flying aircraft from an airborne platform. This LASS could detect small aircraft as far away as 140 nmi. This version also provided line-of-sight radar data transmission directly to a ground Operations Center via an air-to-ground radio relay eliminating the need for cable or separate microwave system(s). LASS modifications to the original configuration include replacing the original antenna with a 12’ x 25’ parabolic reflector mounted behind the radar avionics. The TPS-63(V) was mounted on a stabilized gimbal with its own North reference mark.
The US Customs operated one LASS balloon in the Bahamas starting in March 1985. It provided coverage of the islands and the Florida Keys in a drug smuggling interdiction role. That aerostat reportedly provided 97 percent availability and was tested in late 1986 and early 1987 by the USAF Electronic Systems Division.
LASS was part of Project CARIBALL and operated from a site on Grand Bahamas Island. Other aerostats were deployed at Georgetown and Grand Turk Islands use the L-88 radar. Another LASS was procured for drug interdiction and surveillance at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.
In February 1992, just before the Air Force took over management of all the Aerostat sites, Westinghouse received a $100 million contract from the US Customs Service to produce four Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) sites. Eleven had already been put in drug service along the southern border of the US, using improved LASS radars.
The TARS system Aerostats were upgraded to the Lockheed Martin L-88 radar series starting with the Deming Aerostat Radar Site in 2000. In March 2002 Lockheed Martin announced they had been awarded a $70 million contract to supply USAF Aerostat sites with their updated L-88(V)3 radar.