Euronaval: Thales Unveils Surface Scout

Thales has unveiled its new Surface Scout naval surveillance radar at this year’s Euronaval exhibition in Paris.

This new X-band system has been developed using some of the technology fielded on the company’s Sea Watcher 100 naval radar, such as algorithims for detecting small surface targets.

The Surface Scout’s Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technology enables it to perform simultaneous transmit and receive functions. Surface Scout also exploits the phenomena known as Evaporation Ducting by which the radar’s waves are trapped in a band of moist air which can reach between ten and 20m above the sea surface. This enables the radar waves to bend with the curvature of the Earth, this extending its range, although this is dependent on the height of the antenna above the surface.

In terms of enhancing the radar’s resistance to countermeasures, Thales has designed the Surface Scout with a low output power of five watts, although this can be reduced to five miliwatts if required. Frequency agility is built into the design, along with low antenna sidelobes; all helping to reduce detection.

While the Surface Scout is not equipped with an integral Identification Freind or Foe antenna, it can take aircraft transponder information from other ship-mounted systems such as a vessel’s standard Very High Frequency (VHF) communications fit.

Advanced Dopplar processing is included in the radar’s software, plus an automatic surveillance and tracking system. The Advanced Dopplar Processing enables the radar to determine targets in high clutter environments such as low-flying helicopters. The speed, and possible type of helicopter can be determined by the radar by measuring the relative speeds of the tips of the aircraft’s rotorblades and its spinning rotorhub.

In terms of performance, the radar has an instrumented range of between 16m up to 40km (52ft-22nm), depending on its operating mode (small target surveillance, navigation or helicopter guidance). Much use is made of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf components such as standard PC processing, along with solid state technology which dispenses with a wave guide.

In terms of programmes, the company is currently in discussions with the Royal Netherlands Navy with a view to equipped the fleet’s forthcoming Joint Support Ship logistics vessels with the Surface Scout.

Taiwan – Second-hand News?

The Taiwanese government has abandoned plans to procure a second modified Raytheon AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS air surveillance radar from the United States.

The Ultra High Frequency AN/FPS-115 operates in the 420-450 megahertz range, and is said to be capable of detecting incoming ballistic missiles at a range of circa 4,827km (2,606nm).

In February 2004 the US Department of Defense notified Congress of its intention to sell Taiwan two of these radars for a total of €1.4 billion ($1.8 billion). A single radar was then purchased from Raytheon via the US Air Force in June 2005 for €583 million ($752 million). This radar was then installed at Loshan Mountain in northern Taiwan, where testing commenced in November last year.

Reports surfaced in late September from the Agence France Presse news agency that plans to procure a second radar had been abandoned by the country’s Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu, according to a spokesperson from the Taiwanese Air Force. So far including its procurement, installation and preparation the radar at Loshan is said to have cost €930 million ($1.2 billion).

The Agence France Presse report went on to note that an additional €105 million ($136 million) has been requested by the contractor to complete the installation at Loshan. These funds have been requested for maintenance, and additional research and development for the radar. The total costs of the radar so far, including the recent payment request, now total an estimated €1 billion ($1.4 billion).

The sums spent on the purchase of the radar, its construction and its testing have been the cause of political controversy in Taiwan, with members of the Taiwanese parliament’s defence committee criticising the amount of money spent so far.

However, a report in the Taipei Times on 1st October cited the C4ISR Journal and a report by the US Congressional Research Service noting that plans to acquire the second radar had actually been abandoned back in 2007.

Regardless of when the decision was made to abandon this procurement plans, it seems that for now Taiwan will have to rely on its single AN/FPS-115 to provide ballistic missile early warning over the north of the island.

United States – Space Fence Location Named

The United States Air Force (USAF) has named the first location for its forthcoming replacement Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSS), more popularly known as the ‘Space Fence’ cosmic debris tracking capability.

The new AFSS replaces the legacy architecture. It will use a network of radars to monitor objects which could pose a hazard to space navigation. On 28th September the USAF revealed that the first radar will be constructed on Kwajalein Island, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

As reported in the May edition of ChainHomeHigh, the new AFSS architecture will utilise S-band radars to provide a sharper resolution to the current AFSS network of radars. Presently the AFSS uses three VHF transmitting systems based in Texas, Arizona and Alabama. Receiving elements are based in California, New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia.

Crucially, the new radars will be able to see small-size debris which escapes the gaze of the legacy system. As a means of comparison, the legacy AFSS is said to be capable of tracking around 20,000 objects, whereas the new system will track up to 200,000. It will detect objects the size of a tennis ball at a range of 1,930km (1,042nm).

Currently, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are completing an 18-month Space Fence Preliminary Design contract each worth €83 million ($107 million) awarded to the firms in January 2011. This award eliminated Northrop Grumman which had been nominated, along with the two companies mentioned above, in June 2009 to provide the ‘Phase A’ AFSS development in June 2009 under the terms of a contract worth €23 million ($30 million) to each firm.

Either Raytheon or Lockheed Martin will be selected by the end of the year to develop the full AFSS replacement architecture. This is expected to be declared operational by 2017. The full value of the forthcoming Space Fence contract is earmarked at €2.7 billion ($3.5 billion).

Iran: Thunder and Consolation

Iran has commenced production of its Ra’d (‘Thunder’) ground-based air defence radar, according to a statements made by Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the country’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The radar is said to have a range of 27nm (50km) and a surveillance altitude up to 21,336m (70,000ft).

Little else is known regarding the capabilities of this new radar, although its reported range and altitude capabilities seem to suggest that it is intended as a medium-range ground-based air surveillance system.

To make matters more confusing, Iran also reportedly produces an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle known as the Ra’d.

United States – AN/FPS-115 Upgrade Award

AN/FPS-115 (US DoD)
AN/FPS-115 (US DoD)

Raytheon has netted a contract worth €96 million ($125 million) to upgrade the United States’ Air Force AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS ground-based early warning radar located at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska which is operated by the 13th Space Warning Squadron.

The low-frequency AN/FPS-115 radar provides space surveillance to detect incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles heading for Canada and the Continental United States. It provides track assessments to this end to US Strategic Command (US STRATCOM) Headquarters at Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska. The AN/FPS-115 based at Clear is one of two other similar radars located at Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts, operated by the 6th Space Warning Squadron; and the 7th Space Warning Squadron-operated radar at Beale Air Force Station, California. Both these radars also send data to US STRATCOM.

The site at Alaska provides coverage over the Arctic and north Pacific Oceans. The Beale site provides coverage over the Pacific coast while the site at Cape Cod covers the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

The upgrade will allow the radar at Clear to send targeting information to ground-based missile defence systems. Raytheon will upgrade this radar with new software and electronics, with the upgrade scheduled for completion in 2017.

ChainHomeHigh reported in February that the USAF was expected to launch the upgrade of the AN/FPS-115 system, together with the service’s Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterisation System and the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.

Denmark: Cambridge Pixel Supply RDAF

The Flyvevåbnet (Royal Danish Air Force/RDAF) will obtain HPx-200 PCI-based primary radar acquisition cards from United Kingdom-based radar specialists Cambridge Pixel.

The HPx-200 receives standard and moving target radar video imagery. This video footage is then compressed and distributed using the company’s SPx Server software.

The company is supplying the systems to DSE Airport Solutions, a Danish company which is rolling out its RADIS advanced air traffic management radar display system at three RDAF airbases.

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