Europe's stand-off surveillance and target acquisition radar (SOSTAR-X) technology demonstrator is on track for its first flight late this year, with the modified Fokker 100 airliner's developmental antenna to be delivered by mid-year, says SOSTAR general manager Dr Anno Littmann.

The company has completed windtunnel testing of the aircraft configured with a 5m (16.4ft) -long sensor radome, has integrated its core electronics and will install its core processor within the next month.

The SOSTAR-X programme is being conducted under a ?90 million ($116 million) contract placed in late 2001 and later expanded to feed antenna and data transmission technologies into the Transatlantic Co-operative AGS Radar which will equip elements of NATO's future Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system.

Fokker's modified airliner prototype is scheduled to receive flight certification before year-end, ahead of artificial scenario flights in 2006 and an operational demonstration of the system near the programme's completion in March 2007. The airframe requires structural strengthening for the radar and associated mission stations, but will not need aerodynamic changes such as the addition of ventral fins, says Littmann.

The SOSTAR-X radar will deliver sub-metric resolution spot-mode synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery from a range of up to 50km (27nm) while providing simultaneous ground-moving target indication (MTI) data. Once in MTI mode, it will be able to classify tracked and wheeled vehicles, various helicopter types and even rotating antennas, says Littmann.

By using a combination of SAR and GMTI, it could identify ground threats such as missile transporter-erector launcher vehicles and could also deliver inverse SAR (ISAR) imagery, although Littmann says it has yet to be proved whether a land ISAR capability is operationally valuable.

Littmann urges nations backing the system demonstration to accelerate operational and procedural planning to use its sensor and datalink capabilities after 2007. "SOSTAR-X will provide the best intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in Europe, but we must work to get the best out of it," he says.

Source: Flight International