All-round radar

The world’s first radar system capable of providing simultaneous 360 degree ground surveillance has been developed in Europe.

The active phase array tactical radar ground surveillance system (TRGS) is the first device of its kind to be able to send out multiple radar beams of different types for different scanning modes at the same time, according to its developer EADS.

The system achieves this by using 10,000 miniaturised radars, known as transmit-and-receive modules. By combining numbers of these modules in different configurations, a variety of radar beams can be transmitted.

This, the company claims, will provide a more flexible approach to ground surveillance, which is normally used for monitoring borders, coasts and areas surrounding military facilities and for low-altitude air surveillance.

Bruno Tonelli, EADS’ defence electronics programme manager for ground surveillance radar, said that although the technology is more expensive than conventional radar, it can do the job of several radars at once.

‘This is the first TRGS to use phased array radar. Previously reflective array radars have been used. Comparing cost on a system level, TRGS is 12 per cent more than reflective systems but we have the effect of many radars, not just one. The next phase of our research will be the realisation of the technology with a demonstrator between 2005 and 2008.’

Conventional reflective radar systems are based on a satellite dish-like device that sends out a beam of electromagnetic energy at a certain frequency. This is bounced back and collected by the dish and its receiver and then analysed by computer. However, radar technology has now been miniaturised, and the dish-type device has been replaced by a tiny transmit-and-receive module.

Such a radar, said Tonelli, could be used to counter enemy jamming systems. The TRGS would be able to avoid enemy jamming signals by sending out radar beams between the incoming ‘jamming beams’. This is because its combination of individual transmit-and-receive modules gives system-precise control over its transmitting radar beam. The TRGS is also expected to be able to identify incoming targets as people, wheeled or tracked vehicles, or aircraft.

The TRGS will operate from an armoured vehicle that has nuclear, biological and chemical warfare protection systems, its own power generator and a 6m mast – which is folded down during travel. This command-and-control vehicle will have two workstations for radar control and a communications unit for voice and data transmission as well as inertial and GPS navigation.

In an ideal terrain with no hills, it could detect tracked vehicles and helicopters up to 40km away, infantry at 23km, fixed-wing aircraft at 27km and a UAV at 8km.