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Orange Air National Guard Station receives radome prototype

Airmen from the 103rd Air Control Squadron raise a fiber composite radome to the top of the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014.  The maintenance free radome, which gets its name from a blend of the words radar and dome, is a protective shield that encompasses a radar antenna eliminating the need to fold and protect the $2 million antenna within from possible wind damage during severe weather.  (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

Airmen from the 103rd Air Control Squadron raise a fiber composite radome to the top of the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014. The maintenance free radome, which gets its name from a blend of the words radar and dome, is a protective shield that encompasses a radar antenna eliminating the need to fold and protect the $2 million antenna within from possible wind damage during severe weather. (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

An Airman from the 103rd Air Control Squadron secures a strap to a fiber composite radome moments before it’s lifted to the top of the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014.  The radome is a maintenance free protective shield that protects the $2 million antenna within from possible wind damage during severe weather.  (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

An Airman from the 103rd Air Control Squadron secures a strap to a fiber composite radome moments before it’s lifted to the top of the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014. The radome is a maintenance free protective shield that protects the $2 million antenna within from possible wind damage during severe weather. (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

Airmen from the 103rd Air Control Squadron raise a fiber composite radome on to the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014.  The maintenance free radome, which gets its name from a blend of the words radar and dome, is a protective shield that encompasses a radar antenna to eliminate the need to fold and protect the $2 million antenna within from possible wind damage during severe weather.  (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

Airmen from the 103rd Air Control Squadron raise a fiber composite radome on to the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014. The maintenance free radome, which gets its name from a blend of the words radar and dome, is a protective shield that encompasses a radar antenna to eliminate the need to fold and protect the $2 million antenna within from possible wind damage during severe weather. (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

A newly installed fiber composite radome shields a tactical radar antenna at the top of the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014.  The maintenance-free radome is a protective shield that eliminates the need to fold and protect the $2 million antenna within from possible damage during severe weather, enabling the Airmen of the 103rd Air Control Squadron to focus on other mission priorities.  (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

A newly installed fiber composite radome shields a tactical radar antenna at the top of the radar tower at the Orange Air National Guard Station, Orange, Conn., Oct. 25, 2014. The maintenance-free radome is a protective shield that eliminates the need to fold and protect the $2 million antenna within from possible damage during severe weather, enabling the Airmen of the 103rd Air Control Squadron to focus on other mission priorities. (Photo courtesy of Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. -- A radome was raised and installed on the radar tower at the 103rd Air Control Squadron in Orange, Connecticut, Oct. 25, 2014.  A radome, named with a blend of the words radar and dome, is a protective shield that encompasses a radar antenna.

"The ACS received the radome through the Small Business Innovation Research Program," said Senior Master Sgt. Keith Haessly, mission systems superintendent with the 103rd Air Control Squadron.  "SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages U.S. based small businesses to engage in research and development with the potential for commercialization."

It took from Oct. 6 to Oct. 24 to build the fiber composite radome, said Master Sgt. Bruce Przygocki, NCOIC of ground radar systems maintenance. The radome, built by the Ebert Composites Corporation out of San Diego, CA, is 32 feet in diameter and 27 feet high. It is has 45 individual panels and is held together with over 2,500 fasteners. A lightning protection system composed of five lightning rods is affixed to the top of the radome along with a warning light, said Przygocki.

"Ebert began work on this project in early 2010 by designing the specialty material.  In late 2012 they were awarded a contract to fabricate a rigid radome prototype for installation at an existing radar site," said Haessly.  "The ACS was selected as the show-place location in mid-2013 and design and construction began shortly thereafter."  

The radome installation required three employees from the Ebert Composites Corporation, nine Airmen from the ACS, and the assistance of the Smedley Crane Company out of Branford, Conn. Although the installation of the radome took significant coordination between two civilian companies and the ACS, the successful project will result in reduced labor for Airmen moving forward.

"We are now saving over 300 man-hours per year with the new radome installation," said Przygocki.

Located on the Connecticut shoreline, the site receives high winds and a wide range of environmental conditions from extreme heat to bitter cold and the snow and ice that goes with it, said Haessly.  Being located in close proximity to major industrial areas, the dome will be exposed dirt when blown in by weather.  Fortunately the dome's material enables it to repel dirt, mitigating a downside to more traditional domes.

Anytime there was a weather warning for high winds, we would have to fold the antenna to protect it from possible wind damage. Now, we no longer have to fold the antenna and we feel secure in knowing that the $2 million antenna is being protected by a radome capable of withstanding 140 mph winds, said Przygocki.

One outstanding feature about this particular radome is its completely maintenance free design.

"This is the first radome of its kind," said Przygocki. For the next 25-30 years, the radome requires no maintenance.

Now that we have the radome, we are able to focus entirely on our mission instead of having to worry about changing weather conditions, protecting the antenna, or even maintaining the radome itself, said Przygocki.