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DSEi 2011: AESA radar, wideband technologies and the expanding mission envelope of UAV platforms

by Asif Anwar | 10月 24, 2011

This year's Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition, played host to over 29,000 attendees who converged in London to view possibly the world's largest display of land, sea and air applications of defence and security products and technologies. The exhibition featured almost 1400 exhibiting companies representing 46 countries and included 30 national pavilions.

Key trends observed at the show confirmed Strategy Analytics assertions related to AESA radar, wideband technologies and the expanding mission envelope of UAV platforms.

BAE Systems and Cassidian were both showcasing examples of how quickly AESA technology is now taking over the radar landscape.  A visit to the BAE Systems stand provided a brief overview of the company’s radar portfolio based around AESA technology utilizing GaAs T/R modules. In air defense radar the ARTISAN 3D system includes “e-stab” and along with compact variants, the company currently has 19 systems on order with the UK Royal Navy. On the naval front, BAE Systems has the SAMPSON multifunction radar and the company is also targeting air surveillance and commercial air traffic control requirements with variants of its EWACS multifunction land radar.

Cassidian was showcasing the launch of the TRS-4D naval radar. The TRS-4D is a surveillance and target multifunction radar.  The TRS-4D is an AESA radar combined with mechanical rotation in azimuth to provide continuous 360 degree scanning combined with the ability to direct the electronic beam towards areas of interest for a “deep look” as the beam is deflected. Other benefits cited included the ability to detect more targets and smaller targets down to 0.01m2.

Electronic beam deflection also allows the TRS-4D to significantly improve on the detection offered by conventional mechanically scanned rotating radars which can typically be as high as 6 seconds. Detection target verification time is reduced to 1 second with the TRS-4D. Added flexibility is achieved by stopping the antenna rotation so that a docked ship can perform a horizon search and be used to counter asymmetric threats as well as be used for search and rescue operations. 

Significantly, the TRS-4D is using GaN T/R modules and reportedly represents the first implementation of GaN technology for radar applications at 5~6GHz. The system utilizes a low noise receiver array on GaAs technology and is configured to enable digital beamforming.

Elektrobit is a Finnish company that has worked with the domestic armed forces and international partners for over 15 years. The company’s focus is on tactical communications, EW and SIGINT. While the company has many years of experience, the company has only recently started to productize its portfolio and used DSEi to showcase some of its capabilities, which included wideband sensors for SIGINT and COMINT applications. Elektrobit is also offering a counter RCIED platform that the company is marketing to OEMs and systems integrators for development of products. The company has a roadmap towards networked multifunctional products that will be able to monitor the spectrum and jam intelligently, working collaboratively with a sensor network.

Another company showcasing its products for the EW sector was Netline. An Israeli company, Netline is focused on the development and manufacture of counter IED and RF jammers. Products cover the VHF and UHF frequency range and extend through to 6GHz. Products range from vehicle-based solutions and man portable and include an emphasis on reactive portable jamming. The company uses off-the-shelf PA technology including GaN and LDMOS.

Looking at the expanding mission envelope for UAV platforms, Insitu was present at DSEi to woo international customers, having already achieved some measure of success in Australia, Canada and Poland. The company has introduced a ScanEagle variant which incorporates a dual-bay to allow additional sensors to be fitted with the additional sensors sitting in a bay behind the EO-IR sensor bay. Insitu believes this will allow the company to to offer new mission capabilities to both existing and new customers as well as providing (improved) existing mission capabilities for existing and new customers. 

The dual-bay will allow the company to incorporate radar, communications, camera and EW capabilities. Insitu has implemented X-band AESA radar in this format where the radar can be used to cue the EO-IR sensor to provide additional classification opportunities for maritime surveillance and other homeland security/border applications. Field exercises of this capability have been implemented.

The dual-bay format also allows implementation of comms relay capabilities at UHF/VHF frequencies, connecting voice/data for troops that do not have LOS (line-of-sight); this could also be used for humanitarian/disaster relief scenarios where existing infrastructure may not be operational. Insitu is also looking at the potential for air-to-air communications.

Finally, the dual-bay capability also opens the possibility for other payloads to be implemented targeting electronic warfare. Insitu is considering the use of both passive and active payloads and is working with customers and partners to develop these capabilities.

Overall, DSEi offered an insight into how the next generation of radar, EW and comms systems will make use of technologies to enable wideband, net-centric operations while maintaining a focus on SWaP (size, weight and power). When DSEi returns to London in 2013, we should expect to see AESA technology established as the primary form of radar across all domains, and wideband, high power requirements from communications and EW driving continued demand for RF technologies.

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