9
Concluding Thoughts

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS

Phased array technology offers significant technical advantages for a next generation of weather and aircraft surveillance radars. A national implementation of approximately 350 Multifunction Phased Array Radar (MPAR) radars could replace existing National Weather Service (NWS) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radars and offer many performance advantages. Technical, operational, and cost issues remain to be resolved. There are, however, some agency mission requirements that cannot be met by replacement of existing radars. These agency mission requirements relate primarily to low-level weather coverage and the ability to detect and track low-level, non-cooperative aircraft.

The committee agrees generally with the five major findings in the Executive Summary of the Joint Action Group/Phased Array Radar Project (JAG/PARP) report (see Box S.1), with some exceptions. Regarding finding 2, the committee notes that some emerging requirements cannot be met with a network of 334 MPAR radars, because there will be significant gaps in low-level and regional coverage. Regarding finding 4, the committee believes that the “preliminary cost evaluation” is promising, but embryonic. In addition, the basis for determining cost effectiveness of MPAR does not consider the cost effectiveness of other alternatives to the legacy systems, as well as the legacy systems themselves. Similarly, regarding finding 5, the MPAR risk reduction program will also provide a basis for cost-benefit comparison to the other alternatives to legacy systems.

The committee also agrees generally with Recommendations 1-4 in the Executive Summary of the JAG/PARP report (see Box S.2) but notes that even though Recommendation 4 calls for the Federal Committee for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research (FCMSSR) to direct a cost-benefit analysis of the MPAR option and competing domestic strategies in conjunction with the MPAR risk-reduction program, this analysis is not explicitly found in Appendix D (the program plan). However, the Terms of Reference of the Working Group –MPAR1 (WG/MPAR Item 3b; OFCM, 2007) direct the WG to “[Perform] a cost benefit analysis to establish MPAR’s cost-effectiveness against alternative domestic radar options, considering both acquisition and total life-cycle costs.” For the JAG/PARP research plan to be effective, defined requirements and a national system architecture are required that will allow cost-benefit tradeoffs to drive the establishment of focused research objectives. The committee also believes that independent identification of alternative domestic radar strategies is needed.

1

Available at www.OFCM.gov



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9 Concluding Thoughts PRINCIPAL FINDINGS Phased array technology offers significant technical advantages for a next generation of weather and aircraft surveillance radars. A national implementation of approximately 350 Multifunction Phased Array Radar (MPAR) radars could replace existing National Weather Service (NWS) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radars and offer many performance advantages. Technical, operational, and cost issues remain to be resolved. There are, however, some agency mission requirements that cannot be met by replacement of existing radars. These agency mission requirements relate primarily to low-level weather coverage and the ability to detect and track low- level, non-cooperative aircraft. The committee agrees generally with the five major findings in the Executive Summary of the Joint Action Group/Phased Array Radar Project (JAG/PARP) report (see Box S.1), with some exceptions. Regarding finding 2, the committee notes that some emerging requirements cannot be met with a network of 334 MPAR radars, because there will be significant gaps in low-level and regional coverage. Regarding finding 4, the committee believes that the “preliminary cost evaluation” is promising, but embryonic. In addition, the basis for determining cost effectiveness of MPAR does not consider the cost effectiveness of other alternatives to the legacy systems, as well as the legacy systems themselves. Similarly, regarding finding 5, the MPAR risk reduction program will also provide a basis for cost-benefit comparison to the other alternatives to legacy systems. The committee also agrees generally with Recommendations 1-4 in the Executive Summary of the JAG/PARP report (see Box S.2) but notes that even though Recommendation 4 calls for the Federal Committee for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research (FCMSSR) to direct a cost-benefit analysis of the MPAR option and competing domestic strategies in conjunction with the MPAR risk-reduction program, this analysis is not explicitly found in Appendix D (the program plan). However, the Terms of Reference of the Working Group –MPAR1 (WG/MPAR Item 3b; OFCM, 2007) direct the WG to “[Perform] a cost benefit analysis to establish MPAR’s cost- effectiveness against alternative domestic radar options, considering both acquisition and total life-cycle costs.” For the JAG/PARP research plan to be effective, defined requirements and a national system architecture are required that will allow cost-benefit tradeoffs to drive the establishment of focused research objectives. The committee also believes that independent identification of alternative domestic radar strategies is needed. 1 Available at www.OFCM.gov 63

OCR for page 63
64 EVALUATION OF THE MPAR PLANNING PROCESS A thorough and independent cost-benefit analysis of MPAR and those alternatives would be in the nation’s best interest. OVERARCHING RECOMMENDATION The committee recommends that the MPAR R&D program be continued with the objective of evaluating the degree to which a deployable MPAR system can satisfy the national weather and air surveillance needs cost-effectively. This program should incorporate the following features: • Full evaluation of the unresolved technical issues. • An evaluation of the full operational requirements of all participating agencies and the ability of MPAR to meet these requirements. • Development of the basis for reliable and realistic estimates of acquisition and lifecycle costs of a nationally deployed MPAR System. • Independent assessment of the cost effectiveness of the R&D program itself, especially prior to commitment of major funding for the full-scale prototype.