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Artillery: ARTHUR Makes A Comeback
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November 14, 2009: Italy us buying five Swedish ARTHUR mobile artillery-hunting radar systems, for about $24 million each. ARTHUR was developed in the 1990s, and was found wanting during its first combat use recently in Afghanistan. Canadian forces there reported that, of 3,200 "incoming objects" ARTHUR reported, only two turned out to be real. There were other problems as well, but the large number of false positives was particularly worrisome. These were often caused by friendly aircraft, or distant electric transmission line towers, being mistook for incoming fire. The Swedes hustled to fix these problems, at least to the satisfaction of potential customers.

ARTHUR is carried in a Bv206 tracked vehicle. The radar can detect shells or rockets fired from up to 40 kilometers away. Within a few seconds, the systems computer can calculate the location of the firing artillery to within two meters. Given the availability of GPS guided shells (Excalibur) and rockets (GMLRS), you can have return (counterbattery) fire on the enemy artillery within a minute. But Italy, like other ARTHUR users, wants to use it to detect and go after irregular forces firing mortars and rockets at bases during peacekeeping operations.

ARTHUR has been selling to many NATO countries, as it is of more recent vintage than the American FireFinder, and has gotten rave reviews from existing users. But these reviews were based on peacetime tests, not actual battlefield use. The Canadian experience had a chilling effect on ARTHUR sales, at least for those nations planning to use it in peacekeeping operations.

The combat experiences of FireFinder and ARTHUR should inspire developers of this kind of equipment to come up with more realistic testing procedures, especially for peacekeeping operations. Both the U.S. and Sweden modified their artillery detection systems based on the problems encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For example, FireFinder often failed to catch incoming fire, either because of equipment failure, or because the enemy was using tactics that fool the radar. For example, in Iraq, American bases were generally on higher ground than the mortars firing at them. Putting bases on the high ground enables you to watch more of the surrounding area. But FireFinder needs a line-of-sight to get a good fix on the firing weapons position. If the mortar is too far below the radar, FireFinder cannot accurately spot where the fire is coming from.

Another problem is that if the mortar is too close, FireFinder is much less likely to quickly determine where the fire is coming from. So the enemy mortar teams get as close as they can before they open up. This still makes the mortar teams vulnerable to counterattack by coalition troops, but not the immediate (in a few minutes) artillery fire that FireFinder can make happen under the right conditions.

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giblets       11/14/2009 6:39:23 AM
If these radars can track the artillery shells and mortars already, it is not long before the F-35 is in danger, as its RCS is said to be around the size of a Golf ball.
 
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LB    Threshold   11/14/2009 4:56:07 PM
There are no invisible aircraft.  The only question is at what range a given radar can lock up a given aircraft.  The SR-71 was often seen on radar- the trouble was it crossed the small area the radar could "see" it quick enough that there was no time to do very much with the very limited duration track.
 
The F-35 can be seen on radar.  The issue is can it detect you and shoot you down before you can detect it and gain a firing solution or can you get and maintain a lock long enough to shoot it down with a SAM before it passes through the engagement window, interferes passively or actively with your signal, or you you eat a HARM or other weapon?
 
To put it another way if you can detect a golf ball (F-35) at 3 miles range and said golf ball is traveling at 600mph then you have around 30 seconds to get a lock with your fire control radar, launch, and get the SAM close enough for it to gain a lock before it falls below your detection threshold.  Note that your radar however is able to be detected at many times your detection threshold and that the golf ball will not fly the length of your detection cone and will maybe skirt it thereby not giving you enough time to do a thing- other than again eat a guided weapon from something flying somewhere outside your detection threshold.
 
In any case what really happens most of the time is that the AWACS vectors the fighter in behind you and you never know what hit you.  Since WWI around 90% of all air to air kills occur when one side is not aware of the enemy killing him.  An aircraft that is much harder to detect than yours is much more likely to shoot you down before you ever aware of him than the other way around.
 
In any case there have been SAM systems shooting down artillery shells for 30+ years now.
 
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neutralizer       11/20/2009 11:24:09 PM
UK deployed Arthur into Afghanistan in 2002, several years before the Canadians.  They also used several in Iraq in 2003.  No problems were reported and they were successfully used.  Sounds like the problem was lack of training among the Canadian operators rather than the radar.  Given that Canada had no expericnece of CB radars and hence no expereinced instructors this isn't too surprising.  Note that like UK they leased their Arthurs, reportedly demanding the same price as UK got, and UK was planning to buy an upgraded version to meet their MAMBA requirement (so the vensdor had an incentive in the case of UK but not with Canada), which was subsequently marketed as Arthur B by the supplier, with improved performance.
 
Meanwhile France is using the much bigger and more powerful and capable COBRA in Afghanistan (also used by Germany and UK).  However, the reality in Afghanistan is that the lightweight counter-mortar radar AN/TPQ 48 is proving ideal for the circumstances, in only needs a couple of operators (instead of 6 - 8) and can be deployed in company positions and be used to direct immediate return fire by company mortars.
 
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