Growlers for Growlers

The suggestion that the US could acquire two S-400 systems from Turkey has been unsurprisingly opposed by Russia. Such an acquisition could yield the US and her allies a treasure trove of intelligence.

A mooted plan for the US to buy S-400 SAM systems from Turkey could prompt a ELINT bonanza.

Senator John Thune, a Republican Senator from South Dakota has proposed that the US purchase the Almaz-Antey S-400 (NATO reporting name SA-21 Growler) long-range/high-altitude Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems that Turkey procured from Russia.

In 2017 Turkey procured two S-400 systems, a total of four battalions, for $2.4 billion with deliveries commencing in 2019. This threw a spanner in the works of plans by the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK/Turkish Air Force) to acquire Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning-II combat aircraft.

A total of 120 aircraft were expected to be acquired before the acquisition was cancelled by the administration of President Donald Trump in July 2019. The administration was concerned that the S-400’s sensors, principally its ground-based air defence and fire control radars, could collect sensitive information regarding the F-35A’s radar cross section and electromagnetic emissions.

The cancellation of the acquisition resulted in the four THK F-35As delivered to Luke airbase, Arizona, being rerolled to furnish the US Air Force.

Nyet from Moscow

Mr. Thune suggested that the US acquisition of both S-400 systems would remove them from Turkey and hence THK control allowing F-35A deliveries to continue. Russian lawmakers protested the proposal with Leonid Slutsky, chair of the Russian Duma (parliament) committee on international affairs, condemning Mr. Thune’s proposal as “unprincipled and cynical.”

It seems unlikely that such a purchase will occur in the near term. Such a move by Ankara would make Moscow hopping mad. Yet such a purchase by the US would offer serious benefits.

Intelligent Decision

Aside from resuming F-35A deliveries to Turkey, it would give the United States Air Force, and US armed forces in general, once of the world’s most advanced air defence systems to pour over at their leisure.

The US Department of Defence already possesses a smorgasbord of Soviet-era SAMs and ground-based air surveillance and fire control/ground-controlled interception radars. These have been sourced from a myriad of ex-Warsaw Pact countries. They are routinely used to provide realistic threats during US-based international air exercises like Red Flag.

The US Navy and USAF are both overhauling their Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defence (S/DEAD) postures. The US Navy is deploying the Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare and S/DEAD aircraft, along with Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radar Guided Missile, a  variant of the venerable AGM-88 HARM (High Speed Anti-Radar Missile) family. The US Air Force is optimising the F-35A to perform S/DEAD using Northrop Grumman’s AGM-88F HCS (HARM Control System) AGM-88 variant.

US and allied aircraft operating over Syria have flown in airspace thought to be protected by the S-400. Russia has deployed two systems to the northwest of the country since 2015.

However, there is doubt in some quarters of the NATO electronic warfare community as to whether either system has been activated in full for fear that Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) regarding their 91N6 (NATO reporting name Big Bird) S-band (2.3 gigahertz/GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz) and 96L6E (NATO reporting name Cheese Board) C-band (5.25GHz to 5.925GHz) early warning and target acquisition radar could be hoovered up by US and NATO ELINT aircraft.

For all intents and purposes much of the S-400’s design and capabilities remain a mystery. No wonder Moscow is nervous about NATO getting its hands on a couple.

New Signals Intelligence Platforms for Republic of Korea Air Force

The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) could spend up to $725 million on new SIGINT aircraft between now and 2026.

Plans were approved by Republic of Korea’s Defence Project Promotion Committee (DPPC) on 26th June to acquire new Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) platforms for the ROKAF with a budget of $725 million.

The ROKAF uses two Dassault Falcon-2000S and four BAE Systems Hawker RC-800 SIGINT gathering aircraft. The Falcon-2000S jets were delivered in 2017. The RC-800 aircraft are slightly older, entering service in the early 2000s. DPPC plans call for four of the RC-800s to be replaced with the new SIGINT acquisition.

Wavebands

Both the Falcon-2000S and RC-800s are believed to gather Communications Intelligence (COMINT) and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) at the operational, and possibly strategic, levels. To this end, they are thought to collect COMINT/ELINT across 500 megahertz to 40 gigahertz wavebands. This intelligence maybe analysed onboard by electronic warfare specialists and/or transmitted across air-to-ground datalinks.

It is reasonable to assume that the ROKAF may choose to procure at least four new aircraft to replace the same number of RC-800s. The force could spend up to $175 million on each aircraft with a residual $25 million covering training and other ancillary costs. Local reports state that the first new SIGINT aircraft could enter service in 2026.

The Republic of Korea Air Force is looking for new signals intelligence aircraft to replace its existing RC-800 jets. (L3Harris)

King SINCGARS

The SINCGARS tactical communications waveform is in rude health despite its age. Is this thanks to its robust performance in Ukraine?

A recent article published by Forecast International touted the enduring appeal of the SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) tactical communications waveform.

The piece notes that the past three years has seen orders for radios using the SINCGARS waveform from Kuwait, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, to name just three countries. Meanwhile L3Harris, SINGARS’ prime contractor, continues to support the waveform in US Army and US armed forces service, avid SINCGARS users, along with a plethora of other NATO members.

Life in the old hertz yet

SINCGARS entered US Army service in the early 1990s, the force’s 1st Division being the first unit to get SINCGARS-compatible radios. Sales have been following ever since.

Using frequencies of 30 megahertz/MHz to 80MHz, SINCGARS was revolutionary. It can handle digital and analogue traffic, move data at rates of 16 kilobits-per-second and be used for clear and frequency-hopping communications.

The US government supplied an undisclosed number of L3Harris radios using the SINCGARS waveform to Ukraine since the latter’s decent into civil war in 2014.

Anecdotal evidence shared with the author by members of the Ukrainian tactical communications and electronic warfare communities notes that SINCGARS has remained largely unaffected by significant Russian jamming. This alone is a good advertisement for SINCGARS. Furthermore, as of 2018 the US Army is enhancing the waveform using lessons learned from Ukraine. Despite hitting its third decade, SINCGARS stills has some miles left to run.

The SINCGARS waveform is in high demand thanks in part to its robust performance in Ukraine in the face of Russian jamming. (Photo: US DOD)

Analysis: Wishful Thinking

Forthcoming USAF platforms such as the B-21 Raider strategic bomber maybe yet more resistant to radar detection than present day low-RCS platforms (USAF)

The People’s Republic of China has made grandiose claims for the performance of its JY-27A ground-based air surveillance radar. They should be treated with caution.

An article published in the Global Times, an offshoot of the People’s Daily, itself a mouthpiece for the People’s Republic of China’s ruling Communist Party, claimed on 28 May that the country’s new CETC JY-27A Very High Frequency (VHF: 30 megahertz/MHz to 300MHz) can detect aircraft with a low Radar Cross Section (RCS). The article said that, not only can the radar detect such aircraft, but can “guide missiles to destroy them.”

Low frequency radars detecting low RCS aircraft is not a new claim. This principle has been known for decades and has already been exploited in radars like Russia’s NNIIRT 1L119 Nebo-SVU VHF system. The long wavelength signals transmitted by VHF radars have meant that while low-RCS aircraft maybe detectable, they may not be detectable with the sharp precision required to guide an Air-to-Air Missile (AAM) or Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) to its target. Put simply, this is why many fighter radars, ground- and ship-based fire control radars and missile radar seekers transmit in frequencies from X-band (8.5 gigahertz/GHz to 10.68GHz) and above. What these radars lose in detection range, compared to lower frequency radars, they make up for in precision. The Global Times article claimed that Chinese radar engineers have solved this precision deficit by networking together several radars positioned a known distance from one another, looking at the same patch of sky in different directions to determine an aircraft’s location. Once detected it could be possible to guide “long-range anti-aircraft missiles” to perform precision strikes on these targets.

Networked Radars

Distributed, networked radars to counter stealth is an established concept. The electronic warfare and radar expert Dr. Carlo Kopp discussed this approach in his seminal 2012 article in Defence Today entitled ‘Advancing Counter-Stealth Radar Technology’. He asserted that “Defeating stealth targets using networking and data fusion presupposes that some radars can see the target some of the time, also that the target’s stealth is considerably poorer in some directions compared to others, and finally that the target is visible to radars from varying aspects.” Basically, a low RCS aircraft may have a low radar signature when viewed from head on, of from a particular angle but not an equally low signature in all directions. By scattering and networking several antennas across a wide area, one of the antennas may get a lucky glimpse of part of the aircraft which is not so stealthy and thus detect it. Dr. Kopp adds that for this to be effective, the non-stealthy part of the aircraft needs to be visible to that particular radar for some time. An aircraft flying into hostile airspace is unlikely to hang around and may be travelling at very high speeds, thus only exposing itself to the radar for a very short time. To further complicate matters, aircraft such as the US Air Force’s Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit strategic bomber and Lockheed Martin F/A-22A Raptor air superiority fighter use ‘all-aspect’ RCS reduction techniques. This means that they are stealthy regardless of the angle from which they are viewed by radar. Future US aircraft, such as the forthcoming Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider strategic bomber are likely to have even better RCS reduction design configurations.

Dr. Kopp concedes that “a networked data fusion system (fusing data from several distributed radars) is thus not a panacea, but is potentially quite effective against stealth designs that do not have genuine ‘all aspect’ stealth capability.” There is an additional problem. Airframe limitations mean that low-RCS aircraft cannot be designed to defeat all radar transmission wavelengths. Instead, airframes are optimised to defeat the radar systems most likely to be used for the precision detection of such a target and for fire control. This typically includes radars transmitting in S-band (2.3GHz to 2.5GHz/2.7GHz to 3.7GHz) and above. To summarise, a network of VHF radars maybe capable of detecting an aircraft with a low RCS but lacking all-aspect stealth, yet weapons still have to be guided with precision to the target. This is where a fighter aircraft’s X-band radar would come into play, or the guidance radars and radar seekers used by AAMs or SAMs transmitting in X-band and above. These are precisely the frequencies that low-RCS aircraft are designed to defeat. Networked VHF radars may give you a good fix on where the aircraft is in the sky, but the missile’s end game still depends on higher frequency radars which stealth aircraft are designed to outfox.

Arguably this could be overcome by a salvo launch of SAMs and AAMs into the area of sky where the aircraft is thought to be. This might not be done with too much precision, but a load of missiles could be launched ballistically with the hope of scoring a lucky hit. It could prove an expensive tactic as it would potentially waste missiles at an early stage of a conflict, the moment when low-RCS aircraft are most likely to be used.

Jamming

Moreover, these VHF radars, and fire control radars operating in higher wavebands would almost certainly be subjected to heavy electronic attack at the outset of a conflict. Aircraft such as the F/A-22A, B-2A, B-21 or Lockheed Martin’s F-35A/B/C Lightning-II fighters would be accompanied by jamming platforms like the US Navy’s E/A-18G Growler aircraft as they fly into contested airspace. The Block-2 Low Band Jammer (LBJ) segment of the latter aircraft’s Next Generation Jammer, which replaces its current Harris AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system, is thought to cover a waveband of 100 megahertz to two gigahertz. The US Navy is currently selecting a vendor for the Block-2 LBJ with a team comprising Northrop Grumman and Harris, and L3 vying for selection. While VHF radars like the JY-27A maybe trying to detect low RCS aircraft, they will be a prime target for both escort and stand-off jamming for aircraft like the E/A-18G. They will also be high priority targets for kinetic weapons. Given the frequencies they use, VHF radars tend to be big. In the case of the JY-27A PRC officials have hinted that several radars are required to detect low RCS aircraft. Such targets could show up well on aerial reconnaissance imagery. They also need to transmit, and once transmitting, will reveal their position to ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) gathering assets such as the US Air Force’s Boeing RC-135U Combat Sent aircraft. Once their position is betrayed, electronic and kinetic attack can be brought to bear.

Conclusions

The PRC maybe feeling emboldened by the development of the JY-27A and its touted capabilities. The death of low RCS airframe design has been predicted umpteen times since the B-2A and Lockheed Martin F-117A Nighthawk ground attack aircraft debuted in service in 1997 and 1983 respectively. The possible shortcomings of such radars are no excuse to be complacent, and such systems should be high priority electronic and kinetic targets at the start of any conflict. The JY-27A’s attributes may be accompanied with a healthy serving of hyperbole, but that is no excuse for complacency.

HARM-ful

An AGM-88F zooms off the hardpoint of a US Air Force General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16CJ Viper Weasel during a test launch. (Raytheon)

Up to 260 AGM-88B anti-radar missiles owned and ordered by Bahrain, Qatar and Taiwan could be converted to the modernised AGM-88F configuration following a contract award on 23 May.

Bahrain, Taiwan and Qatar will receive Raytheon’s AGM-88F HCSM (HARM Control Section Modification) variants of the legacy AGM-88B HARM (High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile) as a result of a $355.5 million contract awarded to the company by the US Department of Defence.

The AGM-88F HCSM configuration of the AGM-88B is achieved through the retrofit of existing rounds with, as its name suggests, a new missile central section which includes a GPS/IMU (Global Positioning System/Inertial Measurement Unit). Although the AGM-88 series of missiles can home in on radio frequency emissions from radars transmitting across a two gigahertz/GHz to 20GHz waveband, legacy versions of the weapon have shown their vulnerability to the so-called ‘switch off’ tactic. This is used by ground-based air surveillance radar and fire control/ground controlled interception radar operators who, believing or confirming that their systems are under attack, deactivate their equipment in the hope of breaking the missile’s lock.

The GPS/INS addition enables the missile to be pre-programmed either in flight, or pre-mission with the missile’s geographical coordinates potentially rendering the switch-off tactic null and void. Similarly, the GPS/INS lets the missile to be programmed with a specific area in which it is permitted to fly. This is intended to reduce the risks of collateral damage from such weapons. During the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Operation Allied Force over Serbia and Kosovo in 1999 an AGM-88B fired at a Serbian ground-based air surveillance radar ended up hitting a street on the outskirts of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, causing damage to houses and cars, but mercifully no casualties. According to the author’s records in 1996 Qatar purchased 100 AGM-88B/C rounds, Taiwan acquired 50 AGM-88B examples with 10 training rounds in 2017 with Bahrain being cleared in early May for the acquisition of the same number of AGM-88Bs and four training rounds. These will supplement the 60 AGM-88Bs the country ordered in 2017. In total this could mean up to 260 AGM-BBB examples will be upgraded to the AGM-88F configuration. In addition, several AGM-88B missiles owned by these customers maybe converted into CATM-88B Captive Air Training Missiles. The contract is expected to be completed by 2027.

All At Sea

A variant of the FlyingFish SIGINT system will equip the UK’s forthcoming IOD-3 AMBER satellite. (Horizon Technologies)

The growing provision of private-sector signals intelligence gathering will take an important step forward with the launch of the UK’s IOD-3 AMBER CubeSat in 2020.

The IOD-3 AMBER will be the first of a constellation of satellites providing a global Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) footprint to enhance maritime security for the British government. While the exact number of satellites that will eventually be launched has not been revealed, it is expected to include less than ten spacecraft.

The satellites will possess both an L-band (1.3 gigahertz/GHz to 1.7GHz) and Automatic Identification System (AIS: 161.975 megahertz/MHz to 162.025MHz) SIGINT packages. This is derived from Horizon Technologies’ FlyingFish COMINT-gathering system. FlyingFish routinely equips aircraft particularly maritime surveillance, maritime patrol and signals intelligence-gathering platforms. These furnish several NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) navies, coastguards and border protection agencies. The L-band equipment will detect Satellite Communications (COMINT) from vessels across a waveband of one gigahertz to two gigahertz. AIS is mandated by the International Maritime Organisation for all vessels displacing in excess of 300 tonnes.

AIS transponders equipping vessels transmit an array of regarding a vessel’s voyage, identity and location. By correlating the AIS and the source of the L-band SATCOM it becomes possible to cross reference both sets of transmissions and match them to a vessel’s location. X-band (7.9-8.4GHz to 7.25GHz/7.75GHz) downlink and S-band (two to four gigahertz) SATCOM COMINT receivers will also be carried. Interestingly the concept of operations used for the constellation does not require a number of satellites to receive transmissions and then triangulate the position of a vessel, based upon signal’s time difference of arrival at each satellite. Instead, the IOD-3 uses “a new proprietary geolocation technology which does not include groups of satellites ‘flying in formation’” to perform direction-finding, notes John Beckner, chief executive officer of Horizon Technologies.

Why is such technology needed? The high seas are home to criminal activities whether that be narcotics or people smuggling, illegal fishing or environmental damage. Sometimes such activities are betrayed by a vessel switching off its AIS transponder, or altering its transmissions. This can have the effect of making the vessel appear in a different location, or to be moving at speeds not routinely associated with marine traffic. Should AIS transmissions be spotted from a vessel that seems to be in two locations, the simultaneous collection of SATCOM COMINT will indicate the likely real location of the ship: SATCOM transmissions will not, for example, also be coming from the false position. The version of the Flying Fish COMINT system equipping the satellite can also demodulate L-band SATCOM transmissions. This means that users can directly listen to these communications. This is important for gathering intelligence on what the targeted vessel maybe doing. Secondly, AIS can be switched off by a vessel. Should this happen and then SATCOM be initiated, this could reveal that the vessel is engaged in suspect, or illegal activity. From a humanitarian perspective monitoring L-band SATCOM can enable the user to instantly receive distress calls and to immediately organise assistance given that the vessel’s location can be determined through its SATCOM and AIS transmissions. For example, satellite phones using the Thuraya (1.525GHz to 1.661GHz) network are routinely used by people smugglers in the Mediterranean. The phones are often the only means of communications with the outside world that boats carrying refugees have. In this context, aircraft equipped with the Flying Fish payload have helped saved numerous lives by intercepting distress calls from these craft when they run into trouble.

The IOD-3 Amber satellite will transmit its SIGINT to the Goonhilly teleport in southwest England. There, the data will be analysed using Horizon Technologies’ AMBER Ground Exploitation System. The IOD-3 will be launched from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. The satellite bus has been developed by AAC Clyde Space. Several undisclosed UK government agencies will receive the SIGINT collected by the satellites. The capability is being procured via a public-private partnership: Horizon Technologies and AAC Clyde has joined forces with the UK’s Satellite Applications Catapult technology incubator and Nanoracks which is organising the launch from the ISS. Meanwhile, the British government is funding the initiative and will be the customer for the intelligence.

Lanza Extravaganza

The UK’s acquisition of a single Indra Lanza LTR-25 deployable radar strengthens the British armed force’s operational/theatre level ground-based air defence.

The RAF’S procurement of a new Lanza LTR-25 radar will strengthen deployed, operational/theatre level ground-based air defence. (Indra)

The UK’s acquisition of a single Indra Lanza LTR-25 deployable radar strengthens the British armed force’s operational/theatre level ground-based air defence.

The UK has again strengthened its fleet of deployable radars. On 13 May Indra announced that the UK Ministry of Defence had procured a single Lanza LTR-25 L-band (1.215 gigahertz/GHz to 1.4GHz) ground-based air surveillance radar.

An official announcement from the company stated that the radar will equip the Royal Air Force (RAF) and delivery is expected by the end of the year. The radar has an instrumented range of 239 nautical miles/nm (444 kilometres/km). Although not articulated in the company’s press release the acquisition could be worth up to $13.4 million to the firm based on the derived price for this radar.The UK joins Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Oman, Portugal, Rwanda, Thailand and Uruguay all of which have acquired variants of the Lanza radar over the past two decades. In British service the Lanza LTR-25 will supplement several deployable ground-based air surveillance radars. These include ten Saab Giraffe-AMB C-band (5.25GHz to 5.925GHz) ground-based air surveillance radars purchased and delivered between 2008 and 2018 jointly operated by the British Army and RAF. The Giraffe-AMB has an instrumented range of up to 54nm (100km) and is arguably configured to support short-to-medium range air defence. It is expected that  the Lanza LTR-25 will be provide surveillance to support theatre-level air defence.


Location, Location, Location

Raytheon’s AN/ALQ-213 is routinely used by the F-16CJ and Tornado-ECR to provide the precise geo-location of hostile radars. (Raytheon)

India might need a new electronic warfare system to accompany its NGARM anti-radar missile.

A senior source close to the Indian Air Force (IAF) Electronic Warfare (EW) community has told chainhomehigh that the force may need an emitter locator system to accompany its forthcoming New Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NGARM). This new weapon, which performed flight tests from an IAF Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter on 18 January, is under development. It represents a step change for the IAF’s Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) posture and could enter service in the next five years.

An emitter locator system would be an important addition to hone the weapon’s accuracy. SEAD aircraft such as the US Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-16CJ Viper Weasel and the Luftwaffe/Aeronautica Militaire (German and Italian Air Force) Panavia Tornado-ECR jets use Raytheon’s AN/ASQ-213 HARM (High Speed Anti Radiation Missile) and ELS (Emitter Location System) respectively. These provides highly precise targeting coordinates for the aircraft’s Raytheon AGM-88B/C/E HARMs though the geolocation of ground-based air surveillance and fire control/ground controlled interception radars using those radars’ emissions. Both systems are thought to cover a waveband of 0.5 megahertz to 20GHz encompassing the majority of the wavebands used by these radars. The ability of the AN/ASQ-213 and ELS allow the missiles to target low-band ground-based air surveillance radars routinely used to detect aircraft with a low radar cross section. Both the AN/ASQ-213 and the ELS are though to have a residual role collecting electronic Intelligence. This can be either recorded for later analysis or shared with other platforms to enable near-real time off-board kinetic or electronic attack to be directed against such targets.

While aircraft configured to deploy the AGM-88 series can do so without a locator system, the addition of the latter significantly sharpens the aircraft’s accuracy vis-à-vis the threat. It also enables threat prioritisation, and multiple threats to be engaged in a rapid sequence. This is important as it moves a platform beyond simply using an anti-radiation missile for self-protection, by which it will fire the weapon using the threat information presented by its radar warning receiver. Instead, an emitter locator system allows the aircraft to be used as a SEAD platform engaged in the identification and roll-back of an adversary’s ground-based air defences at the tactical and/or operational levels. The IAF is no stranger to SEAD. For example, it performed such missions against ground-based air surveillance radars located at Badin in southwest Pakistan during India’s 1965 war with the latter using English Electric Canberra-B Mk.56 medium bombers.

Exelis’ GCA/PAR-2020 Excels

United States-based radar supplier Exelis is looking forward to a busy year regarding the company’s GCA/PAR-2020 airport surveillance and precision approach radar family with deliveries underway, and future opportunities around the world.

GCA-2020 (Exelis)
GCA-2020 (Exelis)

The company’s GCA/PAR-2020 radar family includes an array of distinct products. The GCA-2020 series includes an Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR) that can cover ranges of 30 nautical miles (56 kilometres) and altitudes of greater than 8,000 feet (2,438 metres), an L-band (1.215-1.4 gigahertz) Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) to receive information from aircraft transponders, and the Precision Approach Radar (PAR) that can cover ranges of 20nm (37km) with eight degrees’ elevation and 30 degrees azimuth coverage. The PAR utilizes a fully Electronically Scanning Antenna (ESA) in both azimuth and elevation significantly improving system reliability, while decreasing maintenance cost and operator workload. Both radars operate in the X-band (8.5-10.68 gigahertz).

Exelis provides these radars in fixed, mobile and transportable configurations. The baseline models of the radar family are the GCA-2000, which includes an ASR, SSR and PAR. The stand-alone PAR-2000, which provides precision approach radar services, includes an optional radar-assisted ILS (Instrument Landing System – RAILS) capability. RAILS is a unique capability allowing ILS-equipped aircraft to make precision landings without the need for traditional ILS infrastructure. The GCA-2020 and PAR-2020 are updated versions of the baseline radar which add a Mode-5/Mode-S monopulse SSR to the architecture. Mode-5/Mode-S is the latest-generation military and civilian air traffic control transponder protocol which assigns a permanent International Civil Aviation Organisation 24-bit address to each aircraft and is being rolled out across the United States as part of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) civilian air traffic management initiative. Mode-S is also being rolled out across Europe as part of Eurocontrol’s CASCADE programme. Mode-5 is the cryptographically secure version of Mode-S which enables the aircraft to also transmit its location via use of the Global Positioning System satellite constellation.

The last twelve months have been very busy for Exelis regarding its GCA/PAR-2020 family. In October 2013, Sweden ordered its second GCA-2020 deployable radar to support out-of-area operations by the Swedish armed forces such as humanitarian relief where the deployment of airfield infrastructure, such as ASR and PAR equipment maybe necessary. The company delivered its first GCA-2020 to Sweden in the 2007/8 timeframe. The country has been an enthusiastic user of this radar family and already has PAR-2000 series radars, known locally as the PAR-08, at five sites around Sweden. There is the possibility of a third GCA-2020 unit being ordered by Sweden in the near future, according to Dennis Miller, director of air traffic management, at the company.

More recently, in January 2014, Poland announced that it has purchased nine GCA-2020 systems via a Foreign Military Sale with the United States for $76mn (€56mn). Likewise, Estonia revealed in November 2013 that it would purchase a single GCA-2020 for $8mn (€5.9mn). Looking towards the future, Mr. Miller expects to receive an order from Saudi Arabia in the second quarter of this year with plans for up to three additional systems, with a country in Southern Africa also mooted as a possible customer in the 2015 timeframe.

Closer to home, Mr. Miller adds that there is the possibility of a major acquisition from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to procure AN/FPN-68 (PAR-2020) radars to equip airbases operated by the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as a replacement for the existing AN/FPN-63 Precision Approach Radar in use at several of these facilities. Finances permitting, the company hopes for the DoD to release a Request for Proposals regarding the replacement of these radars at some point this year. Exelis has deployed and installed more than 70 GCA/PAR systems worldwide in countries such as Singapore, Spain, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Spexer Specifics

Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Cassidian) has disclosed more details regarding its latest edition to its SPEXER ground surveillance radar product line, including the new SPEXER-500’s systems architecture.

The company launched its new SPEXER-500 radar in November 2013. It is designed to perform security tasks, notably perimeter and installation protection. This X-band (8.2-12.4 Gigahertz) radar has a light weight of 34 kilograms (75 lb) making it highly portable. In terms of detection ranges, the radar provides an instrumented range of nine kilometres (six miles) and can see a pedestrian at a distance of five kilometres (three miles), a small vehicle at seven kilometres (four miles) and a large truck at nine kilometres (six miles). The SPEXER-500 can also detect air targets at a range of over four nautical miles (eight kilometres) for a light aircraft, five nautical miles (nine kilometres) for a helicopter and over one nautical mile (three kilometres) for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The radar updates its imagery every 1.5 seconds when scanning a sector 120° in azimuth, whereas its scans a 30° sector in less than 0.4 seconds. The SPEXER-500 can track over 50 targets simultaneously.

In terms of architecture, the radar uses Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technology. According to an Airbus Defence and Space spokesperson, this design feature facilitates: “Digital Beam Forming” (DBF) – a form of electronic scanning – that enables the SPEXER-500 to have a high Doppler resolution ensuring the reliable detection of very small and slowly moving targets such as people and UAVs, even in the presence of strong clutter.” In terms of design, the spokesperson adds that: “The radars have a very high availability and are robust in operation, certified to several international military standards. In addition, the false alarm rates are very low, even in harsh environmental conditions and in the presence of clutter.”

The SPEXER-500 is the “small brother” of the SPEXER-1000 radar which provides detection ranges of up to 36km (22 miles) also using Digital Beam Forming based on FMCW technology. For the surveillance of larger distances and coastlines, Airbus Defence and Space provides pulse Doppler radars such as the SPEXER-1500, SPEXER-2000 Coastal and SPEXER-2000 all of which use Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology.

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