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.

Depeche Modes

Germany is modernising several of its MSSR-2000-I secondary radars to ensure Mode-5 compatibility
Germany is modernising several of its MSSR-2000-I secondary radars to ensure Mode-5 compatibility (Copyright – ChainHomeHigh)

European defence electronics specialist Airbus Defence and Space (formally Cassidian) has provided ChainHomeHigh with details regarding its planned modernisation of MSSR-2000-I secondary radars for the German Armed Forces.

In November 2013 the company revealed that it will upgrade these radars to so-called ‘Mode-5’ status. This programme will cover the conversion of existing MSSR-2000-Is used by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), Deutsche Marine (German Navy) and the Heer (German Army) to Mode-5 status. Mode-5, which is employed for Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) tasks is a secure version of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) 24-bit Mode-S protocol which is used to provide civilian aircraft identification and flight data information for air traffic control. All Mode-5 transmissions are encrypted and provide additional location information using the Global Positioning System satellite constellation.

Airbus Defence and Space has revealed to ChainHomeHigh that the contract to modernise these secondary radar systems which was awarded by the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology (known by its German acronym BAAINBw) and In-Service Support will initially cover the modernisation of 14 MSSR-2000-I systems in use onboard several German Navy ships, and in service at several airbases around the country.

A spokesperson for the firm confirmed that all of the MSSR-2000-I radars in use with the German armed forces are already Mode-5 compatible, but that the contract awarded in November 2013 will ensure their compliance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Standardisation Agreement (STANAG) 4193. STANAG 4193 Parts 5 and 6 cover performance aspects of Mode-5. In addition, the contract also ensures compatibility with the ICAO’s Annex-10 convention on International Civil Aviation which pertains to Aeronautical Telecommunications procedures and Eurocontrol (the European body tasked with developing seamless European Air Traffic Management), European Mode S Station Functional Specification requirements. The spokesperson adds that the contract will see the modernisation of the cryptographic computers equipping the MSSR-2000-I via a software upgrade to enable them to handle Mode-5 traffic to these standards, along with legacy Mode-4 transmissions which provide a three-pulse reply to an encrypted IFF interrogation.

Airbus Defence and Space declined to provide a value for the initial contract saying that it amounted to a “multi-million Euro sum,” although the spokesperson did say that initial platform integration and acceptance will commence in 2014 and conclude in 2015, with the final deliveries of the 14 upgraded MSSR-2000-I systems being completed by 2017. Additional work for the company could include the upgrade of an additional 35 MSSR-2000-I radars operated by the German armed forces in a separate contract, alongside the modification of up to 600 Airbus defence and Space transponders used by the German Airforce to ensure that they are Mode-5 compatible. This too could be awarded in a separate contract.

The MSSR-2000-I works in tandem with Luftwaffe long-range air surveillance radars principally the air force’s four Hughes Air Defence (now Raytheon) HR-3000 S-band (2.3-2.5/2.7-3.7Ghz), its eight Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117 400km L-band and six Thales GM-406 400-km S-band radars. All these systems feed radar information into the German Air Force’s MiRADNET radar network which supplies similar information into Germany’s civilian RADNET air traffic management network.

One of the key attractions of the MSSR-2000-I family, according to the Airbus Defence and Space, is that the entire radar is housed in a single box. This box is able to plug into any eight-metre (26-feet) antenna, with the whole system connecting to any air traffic control or integrated air defence network, using the ASTERIX radar data protocol.

In terms of performance the MSSR-2000-I family has an instrumented range of up to 613km (331nm), and can detect up to 1,500 targets across a 360º radius, 400 targets across a 45º segment of the sky and 110 targets in a 3.5º segment. Six radars comprise the MSSR-2000-I family including the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 500 Watt and MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 1500 Watt single chain systems, the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 2000 Watt variant and the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 500 Watt Dual Redundant radar. This latter product includes two of the single chain 500 Watt interrogators, as does the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 1500 Watt Dual Redundant radar along with the MSSR-2000-I Mode 5/S 2000 Watt Dual Redundant system which has two 2000 Watt single chain interrogators.

United States of America: AN/APG-79 Contract

A firm fixed-price delivery contract worth €6.5 million ($8.6 million) has been awarded to Raytheon by the US Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Maryland for the supply of three AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array radars.

The US Navy is upgrading its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets with Raytheon’s AN/APG-79. The upgrade will allow some of the legacy Raytheon AN/APG-73 radars outfitting early F/A-18E/F airframes to be cascaded down to other US Navy and Marine Corps Hornets which are still using the Raytheon AN/APG-65.

The AN/APG-79 gathered momentum with the delivery of the first low-rate initial production radar to Boeing for installation onboard the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in January 2005. This was followed in June 2005 with a contract worth €444 million ($580 million) for the delivery of 180 radars for installation on the Super Hornet over a five-year period.

%d bloggers like this: