Sgt. Robert Huber with the Target Acquisition Platoon, counter-battery radar at 11th Marines inspects a newly-fielded Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar Block 2 radar system at Camp Pendleton, California. Program Executive Officer Land Systems recently started fielding the G/ATOR Block 2, which supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Ashley Calingo)
Sgt. Robert Huber with the Target Acquisition Platoon, counter-battery radar at 11th Marines inspects a newly-fielded Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar Block 2 radar system at Camp Pendleton, California. Program Executive Officer Land Systems recently started fielding the G/ATOR Block 2, which supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Ashley Calingo)

Artillery Marines’ new radar brings the distance on the battlefield

by Ashley Calingo
U.S. Marine Corps

G/ATOR, an expeditionary, three-dimensional medium-range radar system, is being developed and fielded in three blocks that will support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force across the range of its capabilities. 

Block 1—which began fielding a year ago—provides air defense and surveillance capabilities; Block 2 supports MAGTF counter-fire and counterbattery missions; and Block 4—a future iteration—will provide expeditionary airport surveillance radar capabilities to the MAGTF.

“This system is going to enhance the Marine Corps’ capability to do the functions of counter fires and air defense,” said Lt. Col. James Thompson, military deputy for operations in the G/ATOR program office. “On the ground side, the system is larger than the system they have now. But, it provides tremendous capabilities with better ranges and resolutions compared to the legacy system.”

Unlike other radar systems used across the Department of Defense, G/ATOR combines the capabilities previously provided by five different legacy radars, greatly enhancing the Marine Corps’ ability to perform various air defense and counter-fire functions. G/ATOR Block 2 provides Marines with ground weapons-locating capabilities for counter battery and counter-fire missions, replacing the AN/TPQ-46 fire-finder ground weapons locating radar. Artillery Marines will gain enhanced capabilities enabling them to locate and identify indirect fire weapons, such as mortars, artillery and rockets.

“The capabilities of the G/ATOR are way better than the systems of the [AN/TPQ] 46,” said Sgt. Robert Huber, a Marine with the target acquisition platoon, counter battery radar, with the 11th Marine Regiment. “The G/ATOR system multiplies the capabilities of the 46, so we can much more effectively use the radar in combat or in whatever scenario we’ll be deploying it in.”

G/ATOR enables Marines to keep their friends close, while keeping closer tabs on their adversaries. Marines will use the G/ATOR for friendly-fire registration and to provide enhanced counter-fire data that outpaces the Corps’ current capabilities, said Huber. 

“You can track multiple different rounds from different positions at further distances, which brings a huge capability to the artillery community, especially when you look at possible enemy fire and the capabilities of their fire support systems,” said Huber. 

Huber says that G/ATOR also streamlines friendly-fire tracking capabilities, compared to the legacy system.

“With the old system, you had to have all this extra information just for the radar and tracking,” Huber said. “With the G/ATOR, you can pretty much be anywhere tracking and doing what you need to do as long as you’re within range of the battery. As long as the radar sees it, you can do friendly-fire registration.”

The current Block 2 fielding is the second set of G/ATORs being distributed to the Corps. The first set of G/ATOR Block 1s, tailored for air defense and air surveillance, were fielded last year to Marine Air Control Squadrons 1 and 2 in Yuma, Ariz., and Cherry Point, N.C., respectively.

Sgt. Adam Augeson, an aviation radar technician with Marine Air Control Squadron 1 who was among the first Marines to use G/ATOR, offered insight to Marines who will receive the system in the near future.

“The tracker in [the G/ATOR] is amazing,” said Augeson. “There’s still some fine tuning that needs to be done, but overall, the tracker is second-to-none.” 

In addition to those stateside, Marines in Okinawa, Japan, will also start seeing G/ATOR as Marine Air Control Squadron 4 recently received their first system. MACS-4 Marines will undergo new equipment training and participate in a field user evaluation prior to the system being fielded.

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