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Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD)

NEXRAD detects, processes, and distributes for display hazardous and routine weather information. Through a joint program, the Department of Commerce’s National Weather Service (NWS), Department of Defense (DoD), and FAA developed NEXRAD.

NEXRAD systems are Doppler weather radars that detect and produce over 100 different long-range and high-altitude weather observations and products, including areas of precipitation, winds, and thunderstorms. This weather information provides the location, time of arrival, and severity of weather conditions to determine the best routing for aircraft. The NWS collects and redistributes NEXRAD weather data from radars it operates as well as some of FAA's 12 radars and creates forecasts that are used in all phases of flight. FAA's Weather and Radar Processor, Integrated Terminal Weather System, and the Corridor Integrated Weather System process NEXRAD products and services.

NEXRAD radars are essential for forecasting weather. A cooperative program with the partner agencies will upgrade NEXRAD radars with a Service Life Extension Program to modernize and renovate the existing system of radars.

Benefits

NEXRAD systems increase aviation safety with accurate and timely detection of hazardous weather conditions. They reduce weather-related arrival and departure delays, which saves fuel consumption. In-flight icing and hail detection algorithms have enhanced overall data quality in present-day NEXRAD. Additional investment into these algorithms is necessary to provide anticipated benefits.

Current Goals

The Tri-Agency partners — NWS, DoD, and FAA — plan to keep NEXRAD in full operation through 2030. They received a favorable Final Investment Decision for NEXRAD on September 19, 2012, and established a new cost and schedule baseline.

The NEXRAD program will have four main purposes:

  1. Extend the life of FAA's NEXRAD to 2030 and beyond. Four NEXRAD subsystems need replacement or refurbishment:
    • Signal Processor (replace)
    • Pedestal (refurbish)
    • Transmitter (refurbish)
    • NEXRAD shelters and facilities (refurbish)
  2. Provide continued support for product improvements to the Legacy NEXRAD program under the Tri-Agency Memorandum of Agreement. Each year, FAA pays its pro-rated share of NEXRAD Product Improvement Science Evolution costs.
  3. Install hardware and software technology refresh updates on the 12 FAA-owned radars. In particular, the Radar Product Generator and Radar Data Acquisition computers and peripherals require technology refresh.
  4. Optimize and validate FAA-specific algorithms as decision-making tools for avoiding or mitigating airborne threats due to the presence of airborne icing and hail.

Current Challenges

Technical upgrades are necessary to enhance NEXRAD and provide air traffic control with weather detection equipment to improve safety by detecting and characterizing hazardous weather phenomena. NEXRAD requires a major Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) to remain in operation.

NEXRAD SLEP is a 9-year refurbishment program to extend the service life of FAA-owned NEXRAD systems. With NWS as the lead agency, the Tri-Agency partners use currently 160 NEXRAD systems. FAA owns and operates 12 of the NEXRAD systems with 7 located in Alaska, 4 in Hawaii, and 1 in Puerto Rico.

FAA's NEXRAD SLEP program will provide funds for FAA's share of the overall NEXRAD mission and will ensure that FAA's priorities are included in the planning for NEXRAD sustainment.

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This page was originally published at: https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/weather/nexrad/

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