The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking a new Nose Weather Radar System for use in the agency's WP-3D Orion aircraft, according to contract documents released Tuesday.
The NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) instruments, maintains, and operates aircraft in support of a variety of meteorological and oceanographic research projects. Two of AOC's aircraft are WP-3D Orions (a variant of the Lockheed P-3C), manufactured in the 1970's. Each aircraft is equipped with a Collins WXR-700 C Weather radar system mounted in the nose of the aircraft. The system was originally installed in 1984. “This system is no longer being manufactured and some repair parts are no longer available,” NOAA said in a Request For Information (RFI) document made public Tuesday. “NOAA/AOC is considering alternatives to replace the nose weather radar system with a commercially available system. Since these aircraft are primarily used for weather research the ability of the radar to penetrate and identify severe weather is critical to the safety and success of the aircraft mission.”
The WP-3D aircraft fly in close proximity to and penetrate the severe weather in hurricanes and thunderstorms. These flights are often conducted at very low altitudes. “It is desired that the weather radar system have features that improves the situational awareness of the flight crew under these circumstances,” NOAA said in the RFI document. “It is also used to identify weather features important to the mission such as hurricane eye location. It should have features to allow the crew to adjust the system parameters to fit the mission situation in order to best map the weather hazards.”