The system is a low power, long range (200-250 nautical miles), L-band pencil beam, solid-state transmitter and beacon interrogator search radar. System design includes a redundant architecture with computer software remote controlled and monitored operations to minimize manning requirements.
The AN/FPS-117 is in use as part of the American-Canadian North Warning System of radars stretching across North America from Alaska via Canada to Greenland. This North Warning System is designed to provide long-range detection and coverage for drug interdiction support and tactical command and control.
Implementation of the North Warning System has resulted in a reduction in Operations and Maintenance (O&M) spending by up to 50% compared to previous systems. Due to extreme northern locations of these radars, the physics of radiowave propagation in the 1215-1400 MHz frequency range is even more critical for target detection requirements. The Air Force and the FAA also operate a limited number of AN/FPS-117 radars within the continental United States. The AN/FPS-117 radar is capable of randomly hopping among 18 channels in the 1215-1400 MHz band.