ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Airmen from the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron and 544th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer recently conducted Rapid Airfield Damage Assessment System (RADAS) on Northwest Field, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
RADAS is one of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s (AFCEC) latest research and development projects and is the first step in recovering a runway after an attack. It uses Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) designed to significantly reduce hazardous exposure Airmen might encounter while assessing a damaged runway as well as reduce the time the airfield recovery and assessment process takes.
“RADAS is meant to replace the legacy Airfield Damage Assessment Team,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan English, project programmer assigned to the 36 CES. “Both are meant to locate and measure flight line damage and unexploded ordnances on the airfield following an attack, so that a minimum airfield operating surface (MAOS) can be determined for aircraft to take off or land safely.”
The difference is that ADAT consists of teams on the ground either walking or driving on the airfield, while RADAS uses drones and integrated MAOS selection on a computer linked to the drones.
“While RADAS is much more expensive technology, it is much safer and is being developed to be much quicker than ADAT,” said English. After an attack, a MAOS will need to be identified as early as possible, and RADAS is sent during Alarm Black Initial Release. The goal for RADAS is to identify three MAOS candidates in 30 minutes or less, while ADAT may take hours.”
This new innovative technology, currently adopted by the Indo Pacific Command and fielded through Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), cultivates the region’s long-term capabilities of competing, deterring, and winning by saving lives and cutting flight line recovery times drastically in a real-world scenario.
RADAS was first introduced Air Force-wide to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea in September 2018. While Andersen has had RADAS since Nov. 2018, the program did not take off until Jan. 2021, after the AFCEC trained more operators and program managers.
“We act as guinea pigs for AFCEC,” said English. “We provide them feedback and data which allows them to better define requirements and procedures for flying the aircraft or setting up our ground control station. This way they can perfect RADAS and get closer to the goal of identifying a MAOS in 30 minutes or less. The 36 CES can also recover the airfield should it come down to it, and the 554 RHS can facilitate RADAS training during Silver Flag for TDY civil engineers.”
In operational use, the drone is capable of quickly deploying and locating airfield damage as well as UXOs after an attack. The real-time view gives both engineers and installation leaders the ability to have a clear visual of flight line images instantly allowing them to curate a recovery plan.
Since RADAS is a process still being developed, the operators and programs managers had to deal with a little adversity along the way.
“Upon operation, we saw some malfunctions with drones that were a surprise,” said English. But this new technology really takes a team effort and with the help of the 554 RHS, we were able to use their drone to complete our training, so a huge shout-out goes out to those guys.”