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NEWS | Dec. 15, 2013

NRL Uses New Airborne Radar to Search for Downed WWII Aircraft Wreckage

By Donna McKinney

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) will lead a team of scientists and engineers to fly a Multi-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar (MB-SAR) to gather information to aid in the search and recovery of unaccounted for aircraft losses in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) is sponsoring the mission. It is believed many of the downed aircraft sites are located in the Northern, Central, and Morobe provinces of PNG in austere terrain under triple canopy foliage. The goal of the mission is to highlight the effectiveness of remote sensing information to aid JPAC search and recovery efforts. Similar SAR technology was employed by Fugro Spatial Solutions GeoSAR system in 2006 which resulted in production of a 5m Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the entire mainland of Papua New Guinea.

The team will fly a Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop aircraft that has been specially modified to carry the MB-SAR system. Operating from Port Moresby's Jacksons International Airport, the team will conduct daytime operations three to five times per week in a search pattern over the Central and Morobe Provinces gathering data to use in making maps of possible wreckage sites. The MB-SAR aircraft team will host a PNG Defense Force rider on the flights for project oversight and coordination with the appropriate PNG Defense Force and airspace controlling authorities.

The six-week mission will begin operations in PNG in November and conclude in mid December of this year. NRL welcomes collaboration and interaction with PNG University researchers and representatives from the National Mapping Bureau and PNG National Museum who have an interest in learning about the use of MB-SAR technology and applications. Processing of the data into maps showing the possible locations of downed aircraft will be conducted in the U.S. at the offices of NRL. The maps will be provided to the PNG government when completed.

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