General Atomics/Sandia National Laboratories-developed radar approved for export to UK

The US government has given its approval to the possible export of the General Atomics/Sandia National Laboratories-developed APY-8 Lynx synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to equip the UK's future Watchkeeper tactical unmanned air vehicles.

Confirmed earlier this month, the decision could see the UK acquire unrestricted systems able to provide a 100mm (4in) imaging resolution from an altitude of 35,000ft (10,700m) and a full ground moving-target indication (GMTI) capability. The UK will not, however, be offered co-production of the US payload.

The Lynx system has been offered to both prime contractors contesting the UK's Watchkeeper requirement, worth around £800 million ($1.4 billion),for possible future integration with the Firescout UAV promoted by Northrop Grumman or the Hermes WK450 being offered by Thales. The system has already been used during flight demonstrations at the rotary-wing Firescout system in the USA, but could not be demonstrated with the Elbit Systems/Silver Arrow Hermes 450 in Israel due to export restrictions. Elta- and Thales-supplied SAR payloads are also being considered for the fixed-wing WK450, which will have an operating ceiling of around 16,000ft, according to Thales.

If selected for use by the UK armed forces, the Lynx system will use the current payload's three-axis gimbal, with the radar electronics assembly to be drawn from the reduced weight Lynx II system now under development for the US Army. The 39kg (86lb)system recently passed its preliminary design review and development work is scheduled for completion in May 2005. The design will then undergo six months of integration work with the RQ-8B Firescout, which has been selected as the Class IV UAV for the army's Future Combat Systems programme.

General Atomics has, meanwhile, disclosed a number of new developments being pursued for future enhancements of the Lynx system. These include the availability of 3D digital terrain elevation modelling and automatic man-made metal object detection, plus maritime moving-target indication, maritime SAR and high-resolution brick-map imaging modes.

The company is also developing a larger Lynx XR (extended-range) payload for use with its Aeronautical Systems division's MQ-9 Predator B, which will offer the current imaging resolution from an increased altitude of 45,000ft.

A number of additional countries have shown interest in acquiring the Lynx SAR, including Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and a number of other NATO member nations. However, a General Atomics source says none of these countries are likely to receive approval to obtain systems with a full GMTI capability or imaging resolution better than 300mm, making the UK the only country in line to receive US-standard equipment.


Source: Flight International