Monday, July 6, 2009

Synthetic-aperture Radar Might Perform Double Duty as High-Speed Data Links

Via -

Synthetic aperture radars have used radio frequency technology to give aircraft, ships and ground troops highly detailed tracking data. Now, they might provide a way to share that data in real time. Contractors Raytheon and L-3 Communications have combined efforts in a joint development program that might turn synthetic aperture radar systems into nodes on a high-speed, mobile ad hoc network.

Using the radar’s antennas simultaneously for radar sensing and as a high-speed data link, fighter aircraft would be able to transmit full sensor data — previously only available within the aircraft — to other aircraft and ground stations more than 100 miles away. If successful, the capability that Raytheon and L-3 are developing might transform fighter aircraft and other vehicles equipped with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars into powerful intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, sending synthetic aperture radar images at speeds as fast as 4 gigabits/sec.

“The data that [fighter aircraft have] gathered, which is extremely valuable, has been limited to use in that cockpit because there was no way to offload that amount of data,” said Lucas Bragg, Raytheon’s senior manager of advanced programs. “By now enabling their radar to act as a communications device, you're now able to offload this highly valuable data that's been gathered on the aircraft.”

“The big thing with this technology is that fighters have been limited in getting large amount of data off the vehicle, because you'd have to add an aperture, an antenna,” said James Perry, L-3's director of international business development.

“With the sleek skin of the aircraft, there's no way to add an antenna that will give you the throughput to do wideband communications.”

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