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What are the benefits of AESA Radar Technology? What lies ahead?

Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars are currently a hot topic amongst militaries across the globe. In response, the major industry primes such as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Selex Galileo have all been looking to furnish the market with AESA radar platforms for maritime patrol aircraft, UAVs and helicopters.

Before knowing though the direction in which AESA radar technology will take us, we have to know the challenges and issues of our immediate future (for which the Download Centre at provides reports and presentations). The AN/APG-81 AESA radar for the F-35 Lightning II is just one of these platforms looking to meet operational challenges. In conjunction with Northrop Grumman, the US Armed Forces have sought to effectively engage air and ground targets at long range, while also providing situational awareness for enhanced survivability. The capabilities of the AN/APG-81 AESA radar for the F-35 Lightning II have enabled this.

The benefits of AESA radar vary ranging from operational supportability, reliability, maintainability, sustainability, availability and coalition interoperability. According to Dr Stephen Moore, Principle Radar Scientist & Technical Lead at the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) of the UK MoD, “The ability of AESA based radars to use rapid electronic inertialess scanning allows fast reaction times.” With the rapid scanning within the field of regard that this empowers, this results in a much broader range and quicker track formation than that of mechanically scanned radar. As Dr Moore summarises, “These tracks permit high accuracy tracking of multiple, fast manoeuvring targets…to enable multiple target engagement whilst maintaining other functionality.”

The reliability of AESA radar is another feature which being increasingly championed. Technically speaking, as Dr Moore explains, “The large number of transmit/receive modules (TRMs) and the design of the antenna architecture mean that the radar can tolerate a significant number of TRM failures, with individual TRM failures only marginally affecting antenna performance meaning a large mean time between critical failure (MTBCF).” Overall, this has enabled AESA radar converts to enjoy what the industry is describing as “fit and forget” technology so coupled with the advances in reliability are whole life cost savings, ideal for through life capability management (TLCM) of a platform or project in these austere economic times.

Dr Moore will be building on his report on “UK Airborne AESA Radar Research” at the Military Radar 2010 conference in London on 29th – 30th November 2010. Looking at the way ahead for AESA radar technology, he will give an overview of key worldwide programmes, the current situation of UK airborne AESA technology development and lead a discussion on growth areas such as fast jets and UAVs. Dr Moore will be joined by David DeMauro, Branch Head, Radar Branch, Mission Systems Evaluation Division (Pax River) of the US Navy, who will be sharing his insights on the operational challenges answered and the test results and trialling of the AN/APG-81 AESA radar for the F-35 Lightning II. For more information, you can download further information at

These are exciting times for AESA radar technology. The faith in them by international militaries has spurred a wave of activity amongst industry suppliers. This, in turn, can only mean that AESA radar popularity will continue to grow and neither side, military or industry, seems to be complaining.


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