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Digital Airport Surveillance Radar identifies, locates aircraft

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Taryn Butler
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Did you know the 23d Wing has a radar system that services the airspace around Moody as well as eight other local airports?

The digital airport surveillance radar identifies aircraft up to 240 nautical miles away and transmits their location to radar approach control air traffic controllers, who monitor all aircraft arriving and departing the eight airports as well as aircraft flying through Moody’s airspace.

“The DASR provides us with the means to give pilots the most safe and expeditious routes,” said Staff Sgt. Shantia Smith, 23d Operations Support Squadron air traffic control watch supervisor. “Without the DASR, we don’t have radar capability. Without radar capability, our planes are not able to get the training they get and air traffic controllers may not be here.”

Although RAPCON air traffic controllers use the information the DASR collects, the 23d OSS radar, airfield and weather systems technicians inspect and maintain the DASR using test equipment to check signal levels, power supplies and functionality.

“We are the behind the scenes of keeping the flying mission going,” said Airman 1st Class Dillon Haas, 23d OSS RAWS technician. “The air traffic controllers can’t do their job if we don’t exist.”

Because RAPCON air traffic controllers track and separate approximately 55,000 aircraft every year, RAWS technicians have to ensure the DASR is functioning properly essentially at all times.

“Our responsibilities of the DASR are maintaining it, correcting any faults, swapping parts that go bad and checking for corrosion,” Haas said. “We have weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual preventative maintenance inspections that include using test equipment to check signal levels, power supplies and the functionality of the DASR.”

However, RAWS technicians and RAPCON do have a safety net if the DASR were to malfunction or become disabled.

“There is a backup radar that we don’t maintain that’s located north of here,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Webster, 23d OSS RAWS supervisor. “When the DASR is down, it doesn’t affect the air traffic controllers heavily, but it removes the redundancy which could cause all local airspace to shut down if the backup radar would go down at the same time.”

RAWS technicians have to complete two years of on the job training to become proficient at maintaining the $3.5 million radar system.

“Some challenges include expenses as the parts to repair the DASR are very expensive; time management as we can only work on the radar when the airfield is closed; and physical hazards such as noise, temperature, high voltage equipment and falling hazards,” Haas said. “We work in the middle of the night to utilize airfield downtime. We also have two safety representatives to train everyone on handling the physical hazards.”

RAWS technicians must overcome the obstacles the job throws at them in order to keep the DASR up and running, the pilots safe and the air traffic controllers up-to-date on the airspace.

“When the radar goes out, all of our military operations areas are unworkable,” Smith said.