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‘Eye in the sky’ surveillance at Al Udeid

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

According to Air Force doctrine, air superiority requires basic freedom of movement – the ability to operate anywhere without opposition.

Twenty three Airmen from the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, Detachment 3, here, enable this level of control, ensuring no aircraft within 240 nautical miles range of Al Udeid Air Base goes unseen or unidentified.

The team, which consists of Airmen from seven different Air Force Specialty Codes, ensure weather shielded “transportable radar system” or “TPS-75” radar systems provide a consistently up-to-date air picture.

“We’re the eyes in the sky in support of the Combined Defense of the Arabian Gulf,” said 1st Lt. Elijha Williams, 727th EACS commander. “Our main mission here is to provide long range radar surveillance that’s in support of the battle management air space for our sectors. Along with the long range radar picture, we also have long range radios that we maintain and provide to shoot out to our operators across the AOR so that they can speak to the pilots in the air.”

Airmen from the unit not only ensure radar systems function on all cylinders, they also operate the equipment. By sending radio frequency pulses toward airborne targets, Airmen can determine the object’s location by analyzing how far the pulse travels before bouncing back to the radar system.

“We create the RF pulse that goes out a full 360 degrees to give complete coverage of the area up to 240 nautical miles,” said Senior Airman Collin Tully, 727th EACS radar maintainer. “It’s a very useful radar for deployed locations because it gives us a long range and unique capability of all of our Air Force systems.”

Keeping the air picture current is a systematic process, Williams said. As such, each Airman plays a vital role in keeping the TPS-75 systems up and running.

“In order for the radars to perform like they should, it takes a combined effort. It begins with my power production technicians being able to provide sufficient generator power to fire up the system,” said Williams. “Due to the amount of technology constantly running in the radar shelter, my HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) techs ensure that this system is able to get the proper cooling to operate.  The radar maintainers perform extensive preventative maintenance and quickly respond to any faults that may occur within the system.”

Staff Sgt. Matthew Hawkins, 727th EACS radar maintenance NCO-in-charge, said helping ensure security in the Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility is a rewarding experience.

“We provide that security blanket for this area,” he said. “There’s some huge missions coming out of Al Udeid that we provide the security for at the Airman level, which is a pretty cool concept. Just feeling that impact and knowing your presence is being felt throughout the Air Force is pretty cool.”