Printer Friendly

AIRBORNE RADAR: Military Systems Redesigned For Commercial Applications.

The commercial market for ground-surveillance aircraft equipped with side-looking radar has been a tough nut to crack for U.S. defense contractors seeking to make international sales, said industry experts. The reasons for the slow business, sources said, are the high costs and a lack of understanding of the benefits of this technology.

Airborne radar includes three major categories: air-target surveillance and cueing radars mounted in rotodomes, nose-mounted fighter radars and side-looking radars for ground reconnaissance and surveillance. The latter is the smallest sector of the airborne radar market and is dominated by SAP. (synthetic aperture radar) and GMTI (ground moving target indicator) sensors.

SAR, an active all-weather sensor, primarily is used for two-dimensional ground mapping. Radar images of an area help detect fixed targets. GMTI radar picks up moving targets or vehicles.

Raytheon Co., a leading U.S. airborne radar provider for the U.S. military has had a tough time selling its commercial SAR-GMTI technology internationally, to civilian customers, said David Rockwell, senior analyst at the Teal Group, a business intelligence firm in Fairfax, Va. Raytheon makes several imaging and surveillance radar systems for U.S. military platforms, such as the radar for the U-2 spy plane and the APS-137 maritime surveillance radar for the U.S. Navy's P-3 aircraft.

In recent years, it began marketing a commercial version of its SAR-GMTI, called HiSAR, an X-band radar that can see from about 60 miles away. The company also is marketing a commercial derivative of the APS-137, called the SeaVue. SeaVue is sold to Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy.

The target customers for HiSAR, said Raytheon officials, are governments or commercial organizations with a budget of between $10 million and $30 million, for each system. Applications for airborne SAR-GMTI include detection of oil spills in the ocean, ice movement, changes in deforestation patterns, border surveillance and maritime patrol.

The HiSAR technology is about 10 years old, but Raytheon only started marketing it internationally four years ago. "Sales have not been huge," said Rockwell. "The market is moving along at a slow rate. It's been questionable for several years. [Raytheon] could make some major sales but they haven't yet." The company inherited the HiSAR technology from Hughes Corp., which was acquired by Raytheon.

It has been hard for the international non-U.S. markets to accept SAP., said Jorge L. Ramirez Jr., manager of business development at Raytheon Electronic Systems.

The reasons, he said, are "costs and lack of understanding." The technology has been around for 50 years and still, "many don't understand the benefits of SAR-MTI technology, Ramirez said. Unlike photographs or video, SAR images are not intuitive, meaning that only trained operators can understand them and interpret them.

According to Rockwell, the obvious target market for airborne SAR-GMTI is military customers, rather than civilians. In the military sector, Joint STARS is "the 800-pound gorilla" among airborne SAR systems. Joint STARS is a U.S. Air Force high-performance ground surveillance system mounted on a Boeing 707 jet. The prime contractor is Northrop Grumman Corp.

The Teal Group estimated that annual sales of airborne SAR systems worldwide will remain steady at about $600 million.

"Whether HiSAR will develop a commercial market is a bigger question," said Rockwell. "There is certainly a military market."

HiSAR has been installed in the U.S. Army's RC-7B reconnaissance aircraft and the Beech King Air. A HiSAR derivative was developed for the Air Force Global Hawk UAV.

According to Raytheon officials, HiSAR is much less sophisticated than the $300 million Astor aerial surveillance system that the company is developing for the United Kingdom, under a $1.2 billion contract. Astor has a much higher resolution and other advanced features, which are classified.

In the global marker for SAR, there is no dominant prime today, said Rockwell. He is not sure which company would be in a position to rake that role. Raytheon faces tough competition from European and Israeli firms. In the United Stares, it competes against Telephonics' Corp. for military airborne SAR business. Telephonics' future market share of airborne SAR largely is tied to the U.S. Navy's SH-60R helicopter. If the Navy does nor buy as many helicopters as planned, "then Telephonics is nor very well placed to rival Raytheon," said Rockwell.

A Telephonics spokesman said the company does not plan to develop commercial SAR-GMTI systems for international sales.

Northrop Grumman's role in airborne SAR is limited to Joint STARS, for the most part, said Rockwell. NATO is considering buying a new airborne ground-surveillance aircraft. One of the bids for that system includes a radar jointly developed by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

During the 2001 Paris Air Show, Raytheon marketed the HiSAR on two fronts. It kicked off the so-called HiSAR Institute, a seminar, designed to teach potential customers about the benefits of SAR-GMTI. And it also introduced a HiSAR 2K system; which has longer range and higher resolution than the baseline system.

Justin C. Monger, manager of business development at Raytheon, said the company estimated that there is an international HiSAR market worth about $1 billion over five years, not including platforms. "Half our customers have their own platforms. We also provide used platforms," said Monger.

Last year, he said, Raytheon sold 10 systems, worth about $200 million, to international customers. "They were commercial sales, but we are not allowed to reveal the buyers or they threatened to cancel the contracts." In today's marker, he said, 10 systems is a huge number.

"I agree with Raytheon that there should be a market for this technology," said Rockwell. "But it hasn't really panned out in the last five years. It could still be there, but they may not make it for five or 10 years." HiSAR is a pricey system, he said.

"Even at $10 million-$30 million, these systems are still too expensive for commercial users," he said.

For $11 million, Monger said, his company can provide the radar, the airplane, a ground station, training, spares and a logistics package. "That is how we are going to break into the marker," he said.

The HiSAR 2K system has as 1-meter image resolution, which is derailed enough to be able to classify vehicles on the ground, Monger said. The baseline HiSAR resolution is 6 meters.

A SAR image of oil tanks in the ocean, for example, can be used to determine whether oil supplies are decreasing over time.

A HiSAR 2K radar can operate in two different modes. At 1-meter resolution, it has a range of more than 120 miles, but can only cover a narrow field of view. At a coarser resolution--8 meters--it can cover a broader area, about 35 miles wide.

For border surveillance, a SAR aircraft typically would fly at an altitude of 25,000-30,000 feet and from about 40 miles away.

It took several years to develop HiSAR 2K, said Monger. "We steal from other programs within Raytheon." In the future, he said, "We have new modes coming out that we have nor announced yet, because they are nor ready."

The system has an 80 percent probability of detection. Targets are not detectable when they are positioned parallel to the radar, Monger explained. "You need to line up your mission plan, so you are not parallel to your roads."

Improving the performance beyond 80 percent is nor an option for Raytheon at this time, because the technology to do that is not licensed for non-U.S. sales, he said.

For other surveillance applications, radar can be mounted on aerostats, said Monger. "We believe that there is a market for aerostat systems," he said. For missions such as early warning, which requires around-the-clock surveillance, aerostats are suitable platforms, he added. The caveat, however, is that aerostats only should operate in a "low threat environment" and in areas where the winds don't exceed 100 knots. "It's a niche within the surveillance market," said Monger. There are 12 aerostat systems along the U.S. Southern border (between New Mexico and Florida) watching airborne drug runners coming in from the South, he noted.

Raytheon built an early-warning aerostat, funded by the U.S. Army, for cruise-missile defense. The aerostat is tethered to the ground. A fiber optic link sends the data down to the ground station for processing. The company is working on a mobile mooring ground station, on wheels, for possible military use.

Air Force Sponsors Work on Foliage-Penetrating Radar

Experts from the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, N.Y. awarded a nearly $100,000 contract to a small company, to develop technologies that could help radar operators locate ground targets hidden under trees and bushes.

Under a nine-month contract, Integrated Sensors Inc., in Utica, N.Y., will work on foliage penetration synthetic aperture radar (SAR) enhancements. The work is funded by the federal government's Small Business Innovative Research program.

"Current radars have an inherent problem with 'seeing' through trees and vegetation that provide cover to vehicles traveling along the roads," said Jon Jones, program manager in the directorate's information and intelligence exploitation division. "The problem with maintaining surveillance on vehicles under these conditions is they can maneuver in ways that are unpredictable--like stopping for periods of time or turning directions."

The contract will allow scientists to investigate radars capable of seeing through foliage. That data will be combined with information from other sensors, in order to develop a capability to track vehicles through move-stop-move conditions within the foliage cover, said Jones.

Jones said two primary radar modes will be investigated--synthetic aperture and ground moving target indication.

SAR develops radar images of the area to detect fixed targets. The ground moving target indication radar helps detect moving vehicles.

"Integrated Sensors engineers will conduct research on algorithms that will fuse those two types of radar into a composite picture that maintains a track of the vehicle through the foliage," said Jones.

The company is a subcontractor on major airborne surveillance radar programs such as Joint STARS, E-2C Hawkeye and AWACS. ---Air Force Materiel Command News Service
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Defense Industrial Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Evaluation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Previous Article:Radar Upgrade for Hawkeye Could Bolster Sales Abroad.
Next Article:Aging Avionics Spell Doom For Air Force, Study Warns.

Related Articles
Northrop Grumman.
Simulation Aids Surveillance Mission Planning.
Coalition Aerial Surveillance and Reconnaissance Project.
Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Primagraphics wins major contract to supply U.S. Navy with radar equipment for aircraft carrier fleet.
Integrated Defense Technologies Subsidiary, Metric Systems, awarded $3.2M contract by TAMSCO.
Pushing the edge of the virtual envelope.
Wedgetail radar tests.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |