Ground Surveillance Radar

One often overlooked piece of “own the night” gear that the Army has long used is ground surveillance radar. We’ve all seen ships and aircraft detected by radar, but the Army uses small portable radars to detect, locate, and track vehicles and even dismounted troops at long range and under limited visibility. In the era before widespread adoption of image intensification devices (starlight scopes) and thermal imagers, spotting enemy movement at night was limited to the naked eyeball, or relying on artillery illumination rounds. GSR was able to penetrate the darkness and spot movement at ranges of up to several miles. While they were of limited utility in close terrain such as forests, they were quite capable tools in the hands of skilled operators, particularly in open terrain such as rice paddies, or the farm lands of Western Europe.

I particularly recall during my one and only rotation to the National Training Center (NTC) we had a GSR team working in support of our company once. My squad of dismount infantry was located about 4 kilometers forward of the company defensive position. We were supposed to detect and destroy any reconnaissance forces the Opposing Forces (OpFor) sent in against us. We had been briefed to expect teams of two or three men. We had plenty of night vision goggles, but it was a particularly dark night, and they only offered a range of a couple hundred meters. The GSR team was able to spot OpFor recon teams two or three kilometers out, and even guide us to intercept the enemy. They also gave us early warning when the OpFor sent in two companies of light infantry to destroy us. At least we knew we were doomed.

One long serving set was the AN/PPS-5 GSR. A product of the mid-1960s, the Pips Five was relatively light and quite simple to operate (though achieving best results required an extensively trained operator). They were assigned to GSR teams located in the Military Intelligence Battalion of each division.

This is all a pretty long winded way of introducing this video.


5 thoughts on “Ground Surveillance Radar”

  1. interesting piece of equipement… a bit of an early warning can save a platoon’s -or even bigger units – ass

  2. Wow, just wow. Those few of us who have been radar mechanics seldom get to see a video like this. I want one.

  3. A couple of GSR fun facts…

    The GSR guys used to put the C ration cans about a meter in front of the dish to warm the chow…big microwave.

    In the central corridor at NTC (back in the 1980s) we used to team up a GSR team with an MP jeep and an M60 tank. The OPFOR divisional recon used M880 pickup trucks made to look like BRDMs. They way the used to like to break into the Blue forces lines was to drive down the paved road at about 30 mph at night fully blacked out. Units were not allowed to obstacle the road so the OCs/fire markers could get through and it could be used for MEDEVAC. We used the GSR to detect movement…the team alerted the MP…who used his radar gun to get the speed. If it was faster than 15 MPH the tank would pump main gun rounds straight down the road…OCs went 15 MPH…anything faster was PPFOR.. We kept those pesky buggers away all rotation.

    1. Great technique; though today’s OC’s are the fastest drivers in the box and it wouldn’t work anymore. One thing has not changed, and that is the OCs’ inability or unwillingness to rein in the OPFOR.

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