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Cobra: the European counter-battery radar is on the way.

Cobra: the European Counter-battery Radar Is on the Way

By 1992 France, Germany and the United Kingdom will start testing the first of three prototypes of a new longrange counter-battery radar designated Cobra. The multiple-function radar is being developed under a 100 pounds million (about FF1000 million) contract awarded on 14 February to the Euro-Art GmbH company in Germany - in fact a consortium composed of Siemens, Thomson-CSF, Thorn EMI and General Electric. Although the initial requirement is essentially European at this stage, General Electric was brought into the consortium because of its experience in this field and the potential market foreseen in the New World.


As seen above, the multiple-function Cobra has been primarily developed as a counter-battery radar capable of locating and identifying enemy artillery and of tracking shell trajectories so as to predict their point of impact. However, owing to its potential capabilities, the Cobra could also be used for air-defence purposes, hence its multiple-function designation.

The Cobra radar will be a completely self-contained shelter unit carried by a single lorry to guarantee the highest possible degree of mobility. The most innovative feature of the Cobra radar is that its active antenna array is built around a new miniature transmit/receive module - a gallium arsenide-based monolithic microwave integrated circuit hybrid device (c.f. S. Geisenheyner's article on millimetre-wave radars and sensors in this issue) which actually acts as a tiny coherent radar. Four of these form "Quadrapack" assemblies designed as plug-in units for easy replacement. This design also offers the advantage of progressive performance degradation, i.e. the failure of one or more Quadrapacks does not noticeably affect the operation of the radar.


The key features of the Cobra are high mobility, low manpower requirements and ease of operation. The various functions of the radar are largely automated, thus enabling the Cobra to be set up and put into operation within minutes by only one man. The antenna, which is integrated in the shelter and raised mechanically, is fixed and scans electronically. It is also self-calibrating and air-cooled. Although performance data have not been disclosed, the Cobra is expected to have a detection range of about 30 km and a coverage of roughly 60[degrees] in elevation and 90[degrees] in azimuth. It will be able to detect and identify the nature of an incoming projectile (single shells or salvoes, swarms of rockets, etc.) and locate the centre of an enemy battery with an accuracy of a few metres. Other features include protection against nuclear electromagnetic pulse and nuclear, bacteriological and chemical warfare. In addition to the highly redundant design of the antenna, survivability is enhanced by the short duration of the radar pulses and electronic counter-measures.


The three-year development phase costs are being shared equally by France and Germany (40 percent each), the remaining 20 percent being accounted for the United Kingdom. As far as the manufacturers are concerned this division is broken down as follows: 30 percent to Thomson-CSF, 30 percent to Siemens, 15 percent to Thorn EMI and 25 percent to General Electric (the latter being supported ten percent by France and Germany and five percent by Great Britain). In the production phase, each national industry's manufacturing share will be proportional to its government's initial investment.


According to present plans, the development phase will span three years - until 1993 - by which time the first two prototypes will have been delivered (in mid-1992 and 1993). The third prototype is scheduled to follow in 1994. Test and evaluation are to start shortly after the delivery of prototype 1 and stretch into early 1995, immediately followed by a one-year preproduction phase. The first production Cobra is expected to roll off the assembly lines towards the end of 1995, and current plans provide for a production rate of approximately ten units per annum, meaning that the production of the Cobra Number 50 could be celebrated by the turn of the millenium.
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Publication:Armada International
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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