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AN/TPS-70 Vigilant, AN/TPS-75, and AN/TPS-78 

AN/TPS-70 Vigilant, AN/TPS-75, and AN/TPS-78 3D radars

(United States)

Notes: Entering service in 1970, this 3D air search radar remains one of the most potent systems of it’s type in use today. It is centered on a 8’x18’ planar array that uses waveguides developed for the E-3 Sentry AWACS plane. Control is via a 8000lb control module; the whole system can be moved by two M-35 trucks or a single C-130 Hercules. It takes the six-man crew about 1 hour to set up and disassemble. The radar is very hard to jam and can track up to 500 targets at once. An integrated IFF is included.

The Vigilant has been exported very aggressively, including many customers not traditionally associated with American arms. The first export customer was West Germany in 1977 and the most recent was Rwanda in 2000.

AN/TPS-75 is the designation for Vigilants in US service; these are all slightly upgraded models of the Vigilant with better ECCM and a disposition to being transported by the M-977 HEMTT. Between 2007-2009, these are all being upgraded at Hill AFB, UT. American systems do not carry the Vigilant name, usually just being called the “Tipsy 75”.

The AN/TPS-78 is a new-build version for American use only; it has a simplified array with fewer moving parts and other classified improvements. It is known to use a mechanical cooling system which matches it’s temperature with it’s surroundings, making IR targeting difficult.

Combat use:

Iran used the AN/TPS-70 during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq. It is unknown how many, if any, of the Iranian systems remain operational today.

Somalia used the radar to track Ethiopian air traffic during their 1980s border skirmishes. None of the Somali systems survive today.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Canada used the system during Desert Storm, and the United States again during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In both cases, lack of air opposition meant it id not get a chance to prove it’s full potential.

Yugoslavia used the AN/TPS-70 during the 1999 Kosovo air war. The Yugoslav sets (which ironically were hailed as a major US arms export breakthrough in 1983) were extremely effective, tracking targets as small as BGM-109 cruise missiles and (reportedly) F-117 Nighthawk fighters. Despite being American-built systems, the USAF found the Yugoslav AN/TPS-70s very hard to jam. Yugoslavia had four operational at any time, radiating for an hour then relocating, upon which another started up. Despite dedicating numerous Wild Weasel missions specifically against them, none of the Yugoslav systems were destroyed by the USAF. As of June 2008, they are still operational.

USERS (AN/TPS-70): Australia, Canada, West Germany/Germany, Honduras, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, UAE, Yugoslavia/Serbia

USERS (AN/TPS-75 and AN/TPS-78): United States


244NM (large/high), 120NM (small/low)

Altitude envelope:

10’ - 100,000’

Probability of detection (fighter-sized plane):






(top photo courtesy Serbian Ministry of Defense)

Entry created by: Jason W. Henson

Related database records

Radar (AN/TPS-70)HutchDB 0.9 (1980-2015 Alternate)
Radar Site (AN/TPS-70)1965-1979 Database 1.08
Radar Site (AN/TPS-70)Colonial Wars (1950-64) v2.1
Radar Site (AN/TPS-70)DB2000(1980-2015)

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