Thales launches Search Master family of AESA radars

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A new family of active electronically scanned array radars will be produced by Thales Airborne Systems, which has launched the products under the Search Master brand name.

Intended for multi-mission applications, the new product range has been split into two main versions: a smaller design to be carried by unmanned air vehicles and helicopters, and a larger array that will be integrated with manned surveillance aircraft and medium-altitude, long-endurance UAVs.

Thales says the new products draw on the experience of its current Ocean Master surveillance radar series, but will add the benefits of using an AESA array.

"We have waited to launch this, to be sure that we are mature, reliable and lightweight," says Pierre-Yves Chaltiel, the company's head of electronic combat systems.

The smaller of the proposed new systems could be available for delivery within the next two or three years, he says, while the larger design would take five years to complete. Thales says that "five or six" potential buyers have already been identified, but declines to name them.

The company is also offering the Search Master system to equip the SDM UAV being offered to the French defence ministry in co-operation with Dassault and Israel Aerospace Industries. The design is based on a development of the manufacturer's Heron TP air vehicle.

Separately, Chaltiel says Thales has received interest in its I-Master synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indication sensor from the US Army and Marine Corps, and from US-based UAV manufacturers.

The lightweight payload equips the Thales/Elbit Systems Watchkeeper 450 tactical air vehicle, due to enter British Army service next year.