|JANE'S DEFENCE WEEKLY - JANUARY 18, 2006
US team achieves breakthrough with AESA radar
Tony Skinner JDW Staff Reporter
L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have successfully demonstrated the use of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for high-bandwidth air-to-air and air-to-ground communications and imagery data transfer.
On 11 January it was announced that the US team had successfully used an AN/APG-77 multimode radar aperture and a common datalink modem emulator to transmit and receive high-data-rate communications.
Northrop Grumman said that in September 2005 the engineering team at its Electronic Systems sector facility in Baltimore was able to "successfully demonstrate communications at two and four times the basic modem rate of 274 Mbit/s" using an L-3 Communications common datalink modem.
The AN/APG-77 is being produced for the F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft but the technology also has potential for possible spiral application into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft programme via the AN/APG-81 AESA radar. It is envisaged that the communications capability will support "emerging, non-traditional" intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NT-ISR) missions.
"Radar common datalink [R-CD] is a needed capability to support near-real-time NT-ISR. R-CD complements the tactical datalink capability of tactical targeting network technology to complete networking the battlespace," said the commander of the US Air Force Command and Control and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, Major General Tommy Crawford.
Northrop Grumman said the successful demonstration would allow aircraft to transmit and receive large, uncompressed data packages, such as synthetic radar images.
Building on previous experience with the AN/APG-68 and AN/APG-77 radars, Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector is developing the multipurpose (air-to-air, air-to-ground and electronic-warfare capable) AN/APG-81 AESA radar for installation on the JSF.
In March 2005, Northrop Grumman announced that it had delivered its first AN/APG-81 radar to prime contractor Lockheed Martin.