Covering the Skies


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Raytheon is combining its secondary airport surveillance radar with a primary airport surveillance radar made by the German company HENSOLDT. The two companies have teamed to market the result, an airport surveillance radar that can detect and display the presence and position of aircraft in the terminal area and the airspace around airports.

Airports need a combination of two radars to handle air traffic. A primary airport surveillance radar sends out a radar pulse, then listens for echoes that will bounce off any flying aircraft, typically reporting back just the distance and bearing of the aircraft. A secondary surveillance radar is an interrogation system that sends a ping out to aircraft transponders to get additional information such as identification code, aircraft type and altitude. Without a secondary surveillance radar, aircraft are just unknown targets on the primary radar. 

“HENSOLDT has invested in the next-generation primary side, while we’ve invested in the next-generation secondary side,” said Matt Gilligan, vice president of Navigation, Weather and Services at Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business. “So what we bring to market is the co-mounting of our two radars which are very, very complementary.”

The two companies bring more than 100 years of defense, radar and sensor technology under one roof.

Raytheon air traffic management systems already help control more than 60 percent of the world’s airspace, including locations in 60 countries. It has installed more all-solid-state air traffic radars than all other manufacturers combined.

HENSOLDT was part of the electronic business at the defense division of aerospace giant Airbus. It traces its corporate heritage to leading European defense companies.

The team has installed a new, co-mounted radar at a Royal Netherlands Air Force Base, and it's working on the first phases of upgrading radars at three major airports in Germany—Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg—for the Deutsche Flugsicherung, or German Air Navigation Services.

“With these first three installations in Germany, we’re proving ourselves to the DFS,” said Erwin Paulus, HENSOLDT executive committee member and head of Radar, IFF and COMMS. 

HENSOLDT’s ASR-NG® primary radar consists of a rotating, parabolic dish with three beams and a range of 120 nautical miles. It can detect position and range of aircraft, along with altitude.

“The ASR-NG’s 3D capability allows it to determine altitude when an aircraft’s transponder is off or malfunctioning,” Paulus said. “It’s also very useful when trying to see through the clutter of wind farms, which many primary radars mistake for aircraft. Our radar is able to tell controllers the difference between the rotating blades of wind turbines and aircraft. No more blank spots.”

Raytheon’s Condor MK3 monopulse, secondary surveillance radar interrogates aircraft transponders, which transmit a signal back with the aircraft's identification, altitude and an emergency status code, which is displayed on the radar screen next to the return from the primary radar. The MK3 also has built-in ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, that determines an aircraft’s position via GPS, which then periodically broadcasts it back to the radar so the aircraft can be better tracked.

“The MK2 came in two large racks," said Gilligan. "Through advancements in technology, we’ve taken that down to a single rack with virtually no maintenance required.”

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