Stewart Penney/LONDON

Racal Defence Electronics' work with the UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA)to define a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology demonstrator for fast jet low level reconnaissance missions has handed the UK company a lifeline that will allow it to continue developing SAR technology. This is despite its not being on the winning team in the UK's Airborne Stand-Off Radar competition.

Julian Browne, Racal strategic marketing director, says that working with DERA puts the company in a strong position to win subsequent UK contracts. He says that an SAR in a pod can be fitted on any fast jet, giving it "massive export potential" as an air force can acquire the capability without the expense and difficulty of fielding a dedicated platform.

A DERA source says that a competition will be conducted early next year to build a pod based on the Racal study, with the winner starting work on a system around April. It will take about 18 months to build a podded SAR.

The source adds that the performing of the study does not necessarily mean that Racal will win the competition.

The SAR - including the antenna and the processor - must be small enough to fit in a pod, but have the power to produce suitable images. It must also be able to produce "sharply focused images in a harsh motion environment". SAR works by measuring the relative movement between the aircraft and the target. A manoeuvring aircraft increases the complexity of the algorithms needed to translate the radar data.

Racal surveillance systems consultant John Palmer says the contract allows Racal to continue its relationship with the DERA Malvern facility. The pair have worked together on developing SAR technologies since the late 1970s. Podded SAR will also be applicable to unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and multimode radar, he adds. For UAVs, the SAR needs to have similar qualities to those of the podded system.

Palmer says that Racal will continue to push its proposal to include SAR and moving target indicator capabilities in the radar, to be offered to the UK Royal Navy, to meet its Royal Navy's Future Organic Airborne Early Warning Radar (Flight International, 16-22 June).

Source: Flight International