The US Air Force has selected Raytheon's candidate for a next- generation airborne radar technology to undergo a basic demonstration later this year. The USAF's X-band Thin Radar Aperture (XTRA) programme is intended to develop and prove technologies that can harness the power of ground-based missile tracking radars in a smaller, airborne system.

The Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems programme is expected to be the most immediate beneficiary, but other manned and unmanned aircraft types would also benefit. The airborne radar's core mission would differ from ground-based systems by focusing on tracking shoulder-fired and air-launched weapons rather than long-range ballistic missiles. Raytheon has received $4 million from the USAF to conduct a radar demonstration in September from the rooftop of a building at its El Segundo, California site, says Barry Alexia, its business development executive for advanced concepts and technology.

The demonstrator will use an existing front-end aperture array and focus on proving components in the back-end of the radar. For example, the cooling system, radiator and manifold must be dramatically reduced in size to achieve the air force's goals for XTRA. Alexia says service officials are hoping to capitalise on a large body of knowledge of X-band tracking systems, but that alternate frequency bands could also be evaluated.


Source: Flight International