Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System
Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS) is a system for image acquisition, data storage, and data link used by the United States Marine Corps on its F/A-18D Hornet aircraft. It consists of the Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS) with infrared and visible light sensors, two digital tape recorders, and a Reconnaissance Management System (RMS); an interface with the APG-73 Radar Upgrade (Phase II) which records synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery; and a digital data link mounted in a centerline pod. ATARS fits in the nose in place of the nose gun, with a small datalink pod mounted on the centerline station. The digital data link will transmit imagery and auxiliary data to any Common Imaging Ground/Surface Station (CIG/SS) compatible system including the Joint Services Imagery Processing System (JSIPS) or Marine Tactical Exploitation Group (TEG) based ashore and Navy JSIPS (JSIPS-N) aboard ship.
Each of the four U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18D squadrons have three ATARS aircraft, giving a total of 12 ATARS equipped aircraft altogether. The first operational use of ATARS equipped aircraft occurred in February 2000 when MCAS Beaufort based VMFA(AW)-332 deployed to Hungary in Operation Allied Force. ATARS is a considerable advance in capability on the Marines old RF-4B/C aircraft.
ATARS also is the acronym for an unrelated Air Force program, Aircrew Training and Rehearsal Support. The ATARS program acquires, sustains and supports mission qualification training and rehearsal system hardware, software and courseware (to include instructors) for Air Force Special Operations Forces (AFSOF), Combat Search and rescue (CSAR) and UH-1 operations. Weapon systems include the MH-53J/M, UH-1N, HH-60G, CV-22, MC-130E/H/P, AC-130H/U, HC-130P/N, and EC-130J.