World first radar test breakthrough at Leonardo

Leonardo engineers have created a fully automated end-to-end fighter jet radar array test facility, a development thought to be a world first.

Mark Stead (Left) And Brian Kerse (Right) In New Test Facility
Mark Stead (Left) And Brian Kerse (Right) In New Test Facility - Leonardo

The engineers at Crewe Toll in Edinburgh have created Production Near-Field Range (PNFR), a so-called ‘one button’ solution to achieve a 24 to 30 hour radar antenna test that has been completed and commissioned into full service earlier this year.

In a statement, project leader Brian Kerse, chief engineer- antenna test, said: “The purpose of this ground-breaking automated near-field range is that it literally allows us to take a freshly built radar array, fully test it, and get to the point that we are ready to deliver it without any human interference. So half an hour's work to set things up, and 30 hours later we have a fully tested and functional array.”

Kerse continued: “We shared our design concept with our supplier and asked them to build a capability that would allow us to swap between the alignment laser and different waveguide RF Probes, creating the first of type technology of its kind in the world. We believe it is the only automatic radar antenna test solution facility that exists in industry at present.”


Radar antenna measurements must be undertaken in a carefully secured, calibrated and controlled environment, as the radar transmits and receives high power Radio Frequency (RF) energy. Because PNFR is fully automated, it is repeatable in the site’s manufacturing hall and no longer needs to be run by antenna specialists.

“Our team completely automated the entire process, removing virtually all human intervention,” said Kerse. “In the past, it would take on average 120 hours over 5 – 7 days to test and produce a test report for each array, with someone present all the time. This has been reduced to around 30 hours duration with no need for any presence except the very beginning and end.”

Leonardo engineers regard the PNFR as a step forward in manufacturing technology, since more radar antennas can be processed over a shorter period with more consistent controlled results.

Mark Stead, SVP, Radar and Advanced Targeting said: “We believe key aspects of the PNFR’s design and implementation are firsts in the industry anywhere around the world in terms of that fully automated array testing procedure. We’re excited about the different future applications of this technology across our current and future product range.”