The Boeing A160 Hummingbird that came to grief on approach in Belize at the beginning of September was testing a DARPA foliage penetrating radar.
The FORESTER is a synthetic aperture radar system with a resolution of 6 meters that is mounted inside a 21.5-foot (6.6 m) long pod and designed to be carried under a A160 Hummingbird helicopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The system is able to detect vehicles and walking soldiers underneath tree cover from a distance of
30 miles (48 km), giving battle planners the ability to detect potential ambushes. The pod is designed to swivel from its stowed in-line position 90 degrees to its deployed position. From a helicopter UAV hovering at 20,000 feet (6,100 m), FORESTER can cover a 155-square-mile (400 km2) area.
According to FORESTER project manager Lyndall Beamer, “Employing the sensor system on the DARPA/U.S. Army A160 Hummingbird unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] helicopter or other suitable platform will provide a robust, wide-area, all-weather, standoff capability.
Cost is anticipated to run US$2.5 million per unit, with a production goal of US$1 million per unit in quantities of 50 or more.
Lt. Col. Kent Guffey, Overseeing Test Flights
“In the United States we don’t have jungles, we don’t have canopy like this, so right there that’s the number one reason why Belize is ideal. The best way to explain it, it is designed to see movement under the forest, so pretty much anything that’s moving under the forest, under the jungle canopy. Right now we’re seeing stuff moving under the foliage, so we feel pretty confident that it is working.”